My thoughts on the Democratic debates (very long entry)

The Democratic candidates got together for a debate this evening in South Carolina. There were a few bits of solid information interspersed among the political huffing and puffing going on. I’ll give my views of each candidate. (All quotes are from TheDenverChannel.com’s recap.)

Howard Dean
My favorite Democrat candidate is Howard Dean. Dean has done a great job riding his grassroots campaign from longshot to the number two guy. Dean is one of the only candidates whose passion for correcting the ills of this country ring true. He is a fiery guy, and I like that in a candidate. It seems so much more real than the constantly controlled, calm facade most candidates show.

Dean has been against the war from Iraq from the start. He did not fail to mention this fact during the debate:

“What we do know is this: The president was not candid with the American people when we went to war. That’s why I did not support going to war, even though I did support the first Gulf War and I did support the Afghanistan war.”

Dean continued arguing that our war against Iraq is wrong, and also threw in a jab at President Bush at the same time:

“The president and the secretary of state have recently admitted that there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, that there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida. In that case, why are we in Iraq?”

I think that Dean’s best policy is his fight for civil rights. Dean is not afraid to point out that the current administration used the September 11th attacks as an excuse to take away civil liberties from our citizens.

“In some ways, the terrorists have already won. We have an act that allows American citizens to be held without knowing what they’re charged with and without seeing a lawyer. That hasn’t happened since 1798 with the Alien and Sedition Acts.”

Dean spoke out about, but not quite against, NAFTA. Dean is one of the only candidates who pointed out that, while NAFTA created a lot of opportunities for corporations, it created major problems for citizens and the environment.

“We ought to change NAFTA. We’ve only done half the job with globalization. We’ve globalized the rights of international corporations to do business anywhere in the country. Now, we now need to globalize the rights of workers, labor unions and environmentalists and human rights.”

Dean’s two main planks in his platform are disapproval of the war in Iraq and the restoration of civil liberties. While these planks will assure Dean support from progressives and liberals, they may sound too out-there for mainstream America.

Dennis Kucinich
Dennis Kucinich is another candidate who sits very well with progressives and liberals. However, he does not seem to have the charisma that Dean has. Kucinich does agree with Dean regarding Iraq:

We have 130,000 troops in Iraq. It was wrong to go in and it is wrong to stay in. They are staying in there on the basis of lies that were told to the American people and lies should never be the basis for international policy.

Kucinich also agrees with Dean on NAFTA and corporations:

“By and large the American people are not aware about how trade has changed dramatically. It’s no longer about protectionism vs. free trade. It’s about global corporations who are accelerating a race to the bottom, trying to get cheap labor wherever they can get it.”

Kucinich and Dean are probably going to end up cancelling each other out. The two men have very similar beliefs, and a very similar platform. I am personally hoping that Kucinich drops out of the race and endorses Dean. I would personally elect Kucinich president in a heartbeat, but he doesn’t have the charisma needed to beat Bush. I do love the idea of Kucinich running for vice president with Dean: I think a Dean/Kucinich Democratic ticket would be the best possible result.

John Kerry
John Kerry is the current front runner, but I am not sure why. Kerry doesn’t seem real at all to me. He’s a prototypical politician. All bluster and cheer, saying what the people want to hear, but never seeming like he means it. For example:

“People in the South care about their jobs; they care about health care; they care about safety; they care about cops on the street; they care about their children. I’m going to talk about mainstream American values and I intend to campaign in the South and all across America.”

This is typical pol-speak. There’s nothing to that quote. Kerry doesn’t say he believes in any of the things he mentions, he just says that those are what “people in the south care about.”

I fear that Kerry is just more of the same. I cannot imagine him doing anything but going with the status quo if he were elected president. His policies (what little we have been told of) are very mysterious. I am not even sure what many of his policies are. A great quote is:

I will renew our alliances, I will rejoin the community of nations, I will build the kind of cooperative effort that we need in order to be able to win.

Kerry is toeing the middle line. He is moderate in everything that I’ve heard him say. My fear is that he will win the nomination, get elected president, and then nothing will change. Who cares if a different man is in the White House if everything is exactly the same as it was before? Kerry is John Jackson to Bush’s Jack Johnson.

Joe Lieberman
I don’t have a lot to say about Mr. Lieberman. He is a Republican who just claims to be a Democrat. Mr. Lieberman is one of the only candidates who defends the war on Iraq:

“The fact is that Saddam Hussein himself was a weapon of mass destruction. ? I will never waver in my conclusion that the world is a safer with Saddam Hussein in prison and not in power.”

Mr. Lieberman also supports and defends NAFTA:

“NAFTA has netted out 900,000 new jobs. The jobs that are leaving South Carolina, very few of them are going to Mexico and Canada

Lieberman is basically a clone of Bush. Put him in the White House and there’d be zero changes. Things might actually get even worse than they are now. Fortunately, there’s no way in hell that Democratic voters will give Lieberman the nomination. Everyone except for Democrats in his home state know Lieberman for what he is.

General Wesley Clark
The General is an interesting fellow. I have to admit to an innate distrust of anyone who has been as high up in the military ranks as Clark. However, on paper, he does sound sensible. Clark called out Congress for giving Bush carte blanche in spending for the war on Iraq:

“There should never have been a congressional authorization for the president to have a blank-check to take this country to war. It was a politically motivated timetable.”

Clark also stated that President Bush needs to stop blaming everyone else in the world for the Weapons of Mass Destruction debacle and point the finger at himself:

“This administration did not have its priorities right and the president, not the intelligence community and not the previous administration, President George W. Bush must be held accountable for that.”

Still, I do not think I am ready to vote for Clark. Between his military ties and his association with high-ranking Republicans, I don’t think we can trust Clark. Maybe I’m wrong.

John Edwards
John Edwards is probably the most likable guy chasing the Democratic nomination. He is very personable, and can work a crowd:

“(South Carolina) is a place where I can and should win. ? I think it’s an enormous mistake for us to ignore the South.”
“The Republicans take the South for granted and too many times the Democrats ignore the South. We can’t do that.”

Clark also scored the night’s best shot at the president:

“This president thinks that his presidency is only about the war in terrorism […] but there’s a lot that the president is not doing about jobs lost and about a health-care crisis in this country. The president has to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.”

Edwards seems like a really nice guy, and a possibly great candidate in future elections. I think he’s too far back in the pack to be a factor this year, though.

Al Sharpton
Last, but definitely not least, is Al Sharpton. Unfortunately, Sharpton doesn’t have a chance in hell of winning the nomination. Which sucks, because he is such a character. Sharpton was not afraid to play the race card:

I’ve been inspired in this campaign hearing John Edwards talk about how he’s the son of a millworker. Well, I’m the son of someone who couldn’t be a millworker because of the color of his skin, but his son could be the president of the United States.”

Sharpton was also not afraid to attack the conservative Christian groups that have too much control over our current administration:

“Mr. Bush and some of his crowd have said that they represent the Christian view against the Islamic view. I don’t think that Christ could join most of their churches. Supporters of the Bush administration talk about how they represent Christianity. I don’t think that they represent Christianity any more than some of these murderers represent Islam.

Sharpton isn’t afraid to pull any punches. I think that Al knows that these debates are going to be his only time in the spotlight, so he is going to get his message out with them. I fully approve of that, and look forward to what Sharpton may say in upcoming debates.

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