Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Hot Air Blasts Northeast: Another Democratic "Debate"

The hot air blasting the Northeast could be coming out of Chicago where the Democratic Presidential candidates “debated” under the friendly auspices of the AFL-CIO confederation of labor unions. Newt Gingrich might not be your type of guy but his comments at a recent National Press Club talk were right on the money. How could anyone call this kind of format a “debate”? Gingrich suggested a mano-a-mano “direct conversation” of leading candidates over a 90 minute format.” A conversation. A frank back and forth would eliminate a great deal of the bilious clouds of smoke applied to just about every issue as the candidates play to the camera under the solicitous attentions of their handlers.

Joe Biden was booed in that crowd for mentioning some compelling facts, the most compelling of which is that they are no easy answers. Telling hard-core union types the truth apparently causes the popularity meters to go down, not up. Biden was undeterred as the other candidates huffed and puffed popular generalities about health insurance, trade, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The distinguishing characteristic of the August 7 “debate” was that important “questions” were skirted, bloviated, panegyricized, circumvented, ignored or any other adjective describing political minds rendered dead or inoperative in the face of hard realities.

Somebody asked the question: “If you get out of Iraq and Al Qaeda takes over, what will you do?”

I imagined a silent scream from the behind-the-scenes puppet-masters shouting “NO!... DON’T ANSWER THAT!”

Richardson was astoundingly clueless. Obama wandered aimlessly without answering the question and revisited the possibility of bombing Pakistan. For Dodd, the answer was diplomacy, diplomacy, diplomacy. Edwards said he’d get right out of Iraq but if “genocide breaks out…(he would)….prepare for that.” Thank goodness! Biden, at least, pointed out the bitter results of any course of action. Hillary, as usual, placed herself squarely on all sides of the issue, ending with Aunty Nanny’s perpetual all-purpose bromide: “Stay focused and keep them on the run.” Gee, isn’t that the Bush doctrine? Was President Bush there? I must have missed that part.

The “post-forum” analysis with Chris Matthews provided a high moment of the ridiculous when Chris Jansing explained the boos that followed on one of Hillary Clinton’s comments as “voicing displeasure with the Bush policy.” Was President Bush even there? I didn’t see him, did you?

Newsweek editor Jonathan Alter blanched at Jansing’s comments and quickly moved to reign her in. He said that Hillary’s comments presaged a lack of “openness about foreign policy” and that Americans expected that transparency from their leaders.

What was most transparent about this sorry offering of candidates (with perhaps the exception of Joe Biden) was that they were more concerned with exploiting dissatisfactions in order to gain power than with dealing with the harsh realities of leadership.

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