Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Thoughts on the Democratic Debate

There's a Democratic Debate on CBS this morning. I did "live commentary" for a couple of these on En Banc in the past, since the comment function sort of made that more fun, but since En Banc is no more... thought I'd do it here. (Incidentally, in the past, Pandagon has done some very nice Live Debate Commentary -- don't see anything up there yet today, but you may want to check them out for more. Daily Kos also has a thread of comments on the debate.)

1. Dan Rather got a terribly short haircut. He looks weird.

2. Sharpton nodded hello facing the wrong camera.

3. John Kerry looks and sounds really tired. John Edwards just asked a question about religion with his standard "Two Americas" stump speech. Sounded canned. They all look and sound tired. Maybe it's the 11 AM thing. Maybe one of them will be too tired to realize what they're doing and say something stupid. That's the only reason to watch. George Carlin has a routine where he says the only reason people watch car racing is for the accidents. Same thing here, I think.

4. Kerry really, really looks and sounds tired and cranky, and his Botox seems to have worn off. He's channeling the crankiness of Bob Dole. And that really worked in '96. John Edwards is trying very hard to sound very knowledgable about Haiti, but the political reporters asking the questions seem to know more than he does.

5. Sharpton is arguing with the moderator, who's trying to move on from Sharpton and Kucinich back to Kerry and Edwards. Why do they have to invite Sharpton and Kucinich when no one really wants to hear from them?

6. They've moved from Haiti on to "Super Tuesday" and whether Edwards wants to attack John Kerry, basically. Edwards is invoking Trade as the big difference between the two candidates. I don't know if Trade really resonates with every voter. I know I don't think all that much about trade. Tell me he's too rich, or he's too mean, or he's too old. Trade agreements are too abstract.

7. What a dumb question Edwards just asked Kerry when given a chance to point out differences. "Do you believe we're going to change this country from Washington, DC?" Kerry said, "Yes. And John Edwards has been in the Senate for 5 years, in Washington too." Edwards blew this question, I think. But Kerry still sounds old and cranky this morning, so I don't know that he's capitalizing as well as he could be on Edwards being off his game.

8. Edwards is still trying to point out differences in position on these different trade agreements that I have no idea what they mean and nobody does. Why is he emphasizing trade so much to the exclusion of any other differences these two candidates may or may not have? Is this the best he can come up with? This is not working for Edwards. Although he's energetic and trying and interrupting.

9. Dennis Kucinich is now saying NAFTA shouldn't exist and everyone else likes it, and he's the only one who doesn't. Actually, Kucinich is the only one up there who sounds well-rested and articulate this morning. He's crazy, but he's coming off well.

10. Kerry is arguing over budget numbers that were printed in the Washington Post. Not so useful.

11. Al Sharpton is arguing for time and accusing the debate moderators of favoring Edwards and Kerry. And he's getting effectively mad. He's doing great. He's super-entertaining. He's complaining that he has to fight for time, and flustering Dan Rather.

12. Kerry is saying there's no difference between what he would do on trade and what Edwards would do on trade. And saying that Edwards has talked in the last 5 weeks more about trade than ever before. And that he didn't vote in 1994, which has little to do with trade but sounds good anyway. He's got the last word in on this, at least so far, and even though he sounds cranky he sounds persuasive on this point, and is rendering Edwards' trade differences argument pretty much useless. Edwards needed better differences to draw than on trade policy, I think. His advisors should be feeling bad about this one, I think.

13. Moderator is asking Edwards if he can quantify the amount of jobs he'll save from going abroad, and he says "Of course not, no one can." Which sounded weak. But now he's making trade a personal issue -- "my family... an issue about families..." yeah, but everything is. Trade is not the *biggest issue facing families* today. It's facing workers, and, yeah, it's facing families, but eh...

14. Moderator has just asked Kerry about the National Journal survey that showed him as the #1 liberal in the Senate. And he won't admit he's liberal, and he's saying labels are bad, and he's never heard anything so silly. Come on, that's not realistic.

15. Kucinich just took advantage of the exchange and announced himself as a liberal and proud of it, a liberal for universal health care, etc. Nice. He's not doing badly in the very limited time they're giving him to talk, even though it won't actually get anyone to vote for him.

16. "This is actually a subject that John and I agree about" is something Edwards wins no points by saying. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Edwards is refusing to call Kerry a liberal, refusing to call himself a liberal. Sharpton has the best comment on this issue -- "compared to President Bush, most everyone in this country is a liberal" or something to that effect.

17. A reader just e-mailed: "I'm going to vote for the Democratic nominee, but I can't imagine these four are persuading anyone this morning. "labels are so silly in American politics." -- Kerry. Um, if you're running for the Democratic nomination, shouldn't you want at least the (D) behind your name?" Nice summary. Thanks.

18. Dan Rather just accused Edwards of being rich. And he joked that if you're going to list assets, he should list Kerry's assets too. And now Kucinich is defending Edwards, and saying that even though he's made money that shouldn't disqualify him. Sharpton did great to turn this into a bigger issue -- Edwards could go from poor to rich, but a lot of people can't, there are more than two Americas. Edwards: "running so that millions of Americans get the same chances I got." And now he's into his two Americas speech. He's doing very well on this question, because it can go to his stump speech. "Those of us who've had great luck moving up---" I'm not sure he really believes he's been successful because of "great luck," but I suppose it's not fair to quibble on that point. He did a nice job witj the question.

19. Edwards has this finger-pointing thing that works better at a podium than sitting around a table.

20. Kerry -- "no draft, I will get us out of Iraq." Kerry does sound reasonably intelligent on war issues. He still sounds cranky, but he sounds more comfortable on defense and Iraq than he's sounded on the other questions. "You can't just cut and run, Dennis." "But I'm not." "Then you've adopted my plan, Dennis." Kerry's solid talking about this one.

21. Kerry is criticizing President Bush not going to any funerals of killed soldiers, or reaching out to the families. Sharpton: "It's not about going to the funerals, it's about showing compassion... the real question though is why they were killed in the first place... you [in the Senate] gave him a blank check."

22. Edwards hasn't talked in a while. Oh, there they go, they're asking him a question about terrorism. Is no terrorist attacks since 9/11 luck or the President? "President has done something... not done enough." We need better jobs in our ports, he says. Ports are boring. Nuclear chemical plants that are vulnerable -- and now he's launching into special interests changing Bush's positions. Chemical plants being attacked would be bad. Edwards wanted to take action, Bush was swayed by special interests.

23. Sharpton says we can't give the President credit -- he was president when 9/11 happened, and shouldn't they have done more. It's a nice point given the question. But now of course they're all going to say we should have done more, he could have done more... and now Kerry is making an artless transition into job programs for minorities. Nice point, bad segue.

24. Kucinich: "we are not safer because we attacked a country that did not attack us [and more al Qaeda has erupted...]."

25. Moderator asking Kerry about his likability. What has be learned from Edwards about what's important when campaigning. This is a horrible question -- why are they asking him why people don't like him, when he's winning all these primaries, and no one is going to admit they're not likable and talk about themselves in the critical third person in a presidential debate. Weird question. Which got an answer that of course it would get, "I'm likable. Watch me on the campaign trail."

26. Followed up by a dumber question to Edwards -- does Kerry have enough charisma to beat Bush? Stupid question. Edwards: "I don't think this is a personality question... the American people are looking for someone who... shares their values." Solid way to answer a stupid question. "They know in their gut when someone's telling them the truth... they know who they can trust..." This sounds like an argument from "Shady Lawyers 101." I don't trust Edwards when he says people should trust him, even though I like Edwards generally.

27. Gay marriage. Kerry: "I believe marriage is between a man a woman... I'm for rights, not for terminology or status. SPousal rights... inheritance, taxes... being afforded to everyone." Kucinich: "Equal protection clause... many Americans believe equality of opportunity should not be denied by sexual orientation... enable those privileges to be extended to everyone... show a capacity to expand... protect those people about to be excluded by the President." They're asking Kerry what he would do if one of his children wanted to marry someone of the same gender: "I've been to weddings... I just have a difference of opinion as to what to call it... I think all the civil rights should be afforded." Sharpton: "I think that's states rights... I am for a constitutional right for human beings to decide who they want to be... it's not just who runs against the President, but what runs against the President, human rights." Edwards: "I believe the Federal government should recognize the state decisions... definition of marriage has been defined by states... this is one place where Senator Kerry and I agree... up to the states to decide if marriage." John Edwards: even if you and Kerry agree, STOP SAYING IT.

28. Foreign policy. North Korea. Middle East. Edwards: "The Israelis have a right to protect themselves." Kucinich: "Peaceful coexistence, restart the peace talks."

29. Last question. "Is God on America's side?" Kerry: "We pray that God is on our side." Edwards: "[Lincoln said] I'll join you in a prayer that we're on God's side." Nice answer. And sounded prepared, but that's ok I guess.

And that's it. Hope someone's reading... Debate parody coming later today. :)