Friday, January 23, 2004

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Open debate thread

Feel free to debate the debate here -- click here for the full transcript. Useful blogging on the subject from Kevin Drum and Robert Tagorda. I was watching intermittently while giving Sam a bath, so I can't claim my focus was 100%. With that caveat, my impressions:

1) I agree with James Joyner -- the best line of the night came from Al Sharpton:

I wanted to say to Governor Dean, don't be hard on yourself about hooting and hollering. If I had spent the money you did and got 18 percent, I'd still be in Iowa hooting and hollering.

2) Wesley Clark's response on Michael Moore seemed particularly lame:

I think Michael Moore has the right to say whatever he feels about this. I don't know whether this is supported by the facts or not. I've never looked at it. I've seen this charge bandied about a lot. But to me it wasn't material.

Clark is correct about Moore being able to say what he wants. However, for Clark not to have a comment on Moore's comment seems like a complete cop-out. [Mark Kleiman disagrees, but I'm not sure if his two posts on this can be reconciled. Last week he admitted that Clark's non-response to Moore's accusation concerned him:

Moore was simply wrong to use the word "deserter." Clark, who surely knows that better than I do, should have corrected Moore's very bad mistake when asked about it. Having failed to do so, he should do so now.

Post-debate, he backtracks on Clark's response:

As to Clark, his answer tonight seemed to me quite sensible: Moore is at liberty to say what he likes, and Clark doesn't have to agree with him or disagree with him.]

3) More generally, I found Clark pretty weak and defensive -- I suspect his support is going to start dropping. The big question about New Hampshire should be, where are Dean and Clark supporters going to go? Are they all going to go to Kerry, or do they propel Edwards as well?

4) John Edwards' articulation of his "no" vote on the $89 billion appropriation for Iraq was coherent and compelling. His response to the Islam question was a bit wobbly. His response to the Defense of Marriage Act question was sound on substance but really wobbly on process -- by which I mean that he got his facts wrong.

4) John Kerry looked like he had lost ten pounds since his Iowa victory.

Go and discuss!!

UPDATE: Matthew Stinson has a great description of Dennis Kucinich's performance:

Kucinich and his charts. What’s there to say about that? Those scientists who decided to gene-splice Ross Perot and Noam Chomsky must be really proud of themselves right now.

posted by Dan on 01.23.04 at 10:24 AM


I think you'd have to say Kerry did well. He was particularly strong and forceful early in the debate. Half-way through I would have called him the "winner" in pure debate terms, not taking into account the fact that he's the frontrunner (and therefore becomes the default winner if nobody substantially outshines him).

Dean did a decent job of counteracting his image. He's the kind of guy who sounds really strong and startling and fresh on a few issues, but stumbly and awkward on others. Not a bad night for him.

Edwards did well. He was in danger of scoring big points on the Islam question, in spite of it being singled out as a problem answer in your analysis (and many others). The thing is, he managed to turn the question into a "how many foreign Muslim leaders have you met with" question -- and he ticked off the whole lot of them and sounded not just competent but sharp and experienced on foreign policy.

True, he didn't answer the question, and he sounded a little vaguer with his "get to know the people, not just the leaders" shtick.

On the whole, quite good though. There's a reason Kerry tried to cut him off at the end of that answer -- he knew Edwards was countering his problem area.

I agree that Clark sounded wobbly. Strong in a few places, wobbly in several ... and he has a slightly defensive tone a lot of the time.

Finally, I'd like to say overall that this was a really good debate. The questioning format was clever -- let the questioner set up the issue at length ... let the candidate talk about it ... then pose a natural follow up. That, and the fact the candidates decided to avoid personal attacks, made for quite an informative, substantive evening. Dontcha think?

posted by: William Swann on 01.23.04 at 10:24 AM [permalink]

If you hold Clark responsible for every misstatement by Michael Moore you've really sunk the poor guy's campaign.

posted by: Xavier on 01.23.04 at 10:24 AM [permalink]

I am now convinced that Senator Joseph Lieberman should be our next President. The fact that he is Jewish is the deciding reason for my decision. This would send a strong message to the Islamic militants and other anti-Americans that we will not back down.

What about Lieberman’s advocacy of liberal social and economic policies? Get real, the Republicans will almost certainly still control both houses of Congress. My home state of Texas has made sure of that. Some cynic humorously remarked that the redrawn congressional boundaries to favor the Republicans is the “gift that will keep on giving.” Any Democrat President will thus have to eat crow and get nicey-nicey with Tom DeLay. I can see it now:

“Tom, I’m sorry that I said so many bad things about you during the campaign. Would you like for me to shine your shoes? How may I grovel before you, the beginning and end of my political existence. Am I bowing low enough to satisfy you?”

posted by: David Thomson on 01.23.04 at 10:24 AM [permalink]

John Kerry did look like he lost weight. Maybe someone can explain how the TV alters these perceptions.

Actually I go one better than that. I think he looks like a figure out of El Greco - it's like he's a normal guy who's just been stretched vertically.

posted by: Brad Pickar on 01.23.04 at 10:24 AM [permalink]

If you hold Clark responsible for every misstatement by Michael Moore you've really sunk the poor guy's campaign.

He should have thought about that before touting Moore's endorsement on his official campaign site:

posted by: Thorley Winston on 01.23.04 at 10:24 AM [permalink]

The line of the night comes from Lieberman:

"They can't say I flip-flop because I don't. They can't say I'm weak on defense because I'm not. They can't say I'm weak on values because I'm not. They can't say I'm a big taxer and a big spender".

Which explains why Lieberman won't win the Democrat nomination.

Which, in turn, explains why the Democrats won't win the White House.

posted by: Bithead on 01.23.04 at 10:24 AM [permalink]

I personally don't understand Clark having a lovefest with Michael Moore. Moore is the most annoying, least factual, ridiculously critical leftist around. I also think coming out and sayin that while Bush wasn't exactly a deserter, he didn't have the guts to go to battle would've been a better response.

The tenets of Islam question was a rather deep background question. Perhaps saying "I'm not an expert, but I do know that Islamic culture did not spawn everything evil in modern day society" would've worked. I thought Edwards' spin was good, although he repeated himself a few too many times while answering.

Kerry either looks like Lurch or Lincoln. Maybe he'll defeat the theory that Lincoln couldn't win in our television-based elections. Although he is a Boston Brahmin, at least he makes being a liberal sound tough.

Lieberman needs to turn in his party card. He is running after windmills, trying to convince Dems that Iraq was a just war. Plus, he's an embarrassment to the majority of Jews who aren't right wing conservatives.

posted by: C.J. on 01.23.04 at 10:24 AM [permalink]

I think Clark is having a "turn the battleship" problem.

He got Moore's endorsement when it looked like the only way to win was to gravitate left for the nomination process. So he was using Moore as a counterweight to Dean's lefty pedigree, what with Al Gore and Tom Harkin and Jeaneane Garofalo getting on board.

(For his part, Moore got a chance to snuggle up to a company military man who went to war but felt really really dirty about it; a good guy to put on a book cover.)

Anyway, now that it's become clear that, oddly enough, skewing far left is NOT the best tactic, Clark is going to have a tough problem shedding the two-ton anchor. He might not be able to reroute the ship.

posted by: Steve in Houston on 01.23.04 at 10:24 AM [permalink]

Do you think it has ever occurred to the Democratic Candidates that in a split electorate, they are going to have to do more than get out the base, and win all the Democrats? Has it ever occured to them that they are going to have to attract moderate Republicans as well?

From a moderate Republican point of view, preferences are Lieberman, Edwards, & Kerry, in that order. And Kerry is a big stretch. If electability and beating GWB are really the number one goals of Democrats, then why do they keep implying that those of us who support our war effort are just just a bunch of mindless simpletons somehow duped by an ignoramous evil leader? Is it even possible for Democrats to entertain the notion that intelligent, thoughtful people might disagree with their conclusion that the War in Iraq was wrong?

According to a poll released today, 65% of Americans still believe invading Iraq was the right thing to do - and we really do know that 1) Iraq did not drive the planes into the Trade Center, and 2) there haven't been any significant finds of WMD in Iraq. Yet we still support the war. Have democrats ever sat down a really asked the question "Why?" Or is it enough to dismiss all of us by saying we are stupid.

When GWB ran on "compassionate conservatism" in 2000, there were plenty of right quartile Republicans who were appalled by the implications of such a program. But since electability was a real desire, they supported Bush despite his promise to skew left. But in the Democratic party, there seems to be no tolerance for any skewing to the right at all.

Maybe I'm naive, but I don't really believe that a large portion of Democrats really want to get elected in 2004. They would rather vent their rage for the imaginary "theft" of office and "hard right" positions of GWB. And frankly, other than GWB's positions on taxes, abortion and Gay lifestyle issues, there is not a hairs worth of difference between his policies and Clinton's. That's alright by me because I rather liked Clinton.

The right quartile of Republicans were convince that Clinton was the incarnation of Be-elzabub. The left quartile is convinced Bush is the Devil himself. Sheesh. The willingness to imagine conspiracies and demonize opponents is rather childish to me.

posted by: Scott Harris on 01.23.04 at 10:24 AM [permalink]

I just don't understand why Liberman does so poorly in polls. I'm not a democrat , but I would vote for the guy in the general election. Maybe that's it - he's too moderate.

posted by: Jeremy on 01.23.04 at 10:24 AM [permalink]

I also don't understand why Moore supports Clark.

I mean, Clark is a guy that not too long ago, apparently was a republican (or sounded like one). He was also a big Clinton guy, and head of the Kosovo operation.

All things Moore hates. Unless he's realized that Clark is a bit nuts, and so they share a common bond.

posted by: Jeremy on 01.23.04 at 10:24 AM [permalink]

When I wrote my earlier post, I was focusing on the criminal-law definition of "deserter," which Bush's behavior clearly doesn't fit. But it turns out that administratively a soldier is classified as a "deserter" if he's AWOL more than 30 days. So Moore's charge may be have been wrong, but it wasn't absurd.

Of course Clark looked "defensive" in the debate: he was being attacked, and defending himself.

posted by: Mark Kleiman on 01.23.04 at 10:24 AM [permalink]

“So Moore's charge may be have been wrong, but it wasn't absurd.”

Mark Kleiman is playing fast and loose with the English language. He must have been taught by Bill Clinton on how to define the word “is.” George W. Bush fulfilled his military obligation and it is slanderous to suggest otherwise without some slam dunk evidence. Does either Kleiman or Moore offer any? Of course not. At best, they are indulging in wild speculation. Wesley Clark had a moral obligation to distance himself from Moore’s despicable charges. He failed to do so, and now deserves to be severely criticized. His falling poll numbers suggest that Clark won't be around much longer. Mark Kleiman will have to find another candidate.

posted by: David Thomson on 01.23.04 at 10:24 AM [permalink]

Hehe. First of all, let me say that I admire Edwards and don't believe a word that Drudge says. However, I've always felt that Edwards' "politics of hope" or "possibility" was naivete that would get crushed by the other dems much less Rove. As soon as he started becoming a threat, the oppo guys would cut him apart. No sooner than the oldman has spoken, then the hatchet work has begun - seen hereas Drudge kicks dirt in Edwards' face.

As I said, I automatically discount as improbably anything Drudge says - but sometimes things are true even if he reports them: like the sun rising in the east. However if it's true it could damage Edwards' reputation as being clean and bring down FEC sanctions. Even if it isn't true, it may damage his rep. While I expect that Edwards won't go wimpy like Muskie did, his commitment to "clean campaigning" will tie his hands. If Dean attacks somebody, they may not like it - but it's hardly hypocrisy and he can even claim it's warrented by the attacks on him. If Edwards whines about getting attacked ... yeah.

posted by: Oldman on 01.23.04 at 10:24 AM [permalink]

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