Friday, June 29, 2007

Two Views of the Howard University "Debate"

Roger Simon (Politico):
Who won the Democratic debate at Howard University Thursday night?

The American people. As always.

But if you want a more reckless, immature and irresponsible view, you have come to the right place!

Once again, here are the winners and losers with Simon Scores that are guaranteed accurate to three decimal places:
FIRST PLACE: Hillary Clinton

Analysis: Hillary was chewing nails and spitting out tacks. In the first Democratic debate in April, she vowed “as swiftly as is prudent to retaliate” against any terrorist attack on the United States. Now, a few months later, she is way into air war. To protect those suffering genocide in Darfur, she would create a no-fly zone over Sudan. “If they fly into it, we will shoot down their planes!” she said with such relish it was almost scary.

The debate was explicitly devoted to “issues that matter most to black America” and, of course, it was a panderfest, but not to any greater extent than Democratic candidates pander to organized labor (or Republicans pander to the business community).

And, once again, Hillary, as her campaign officially refers to her, looked like she was in charge, with a command of the issues and even some soaring rhetoric now and again: “Yes, we have come a long way. But, yes, we have a long way to go. The march is not finished.”

She seemed to get carried away only once, when she said, “Nonviolent offenders shouldn’t be serving hard time in our prisons!”

You mean like Scooter Libby?

But time and again, she spoke clearly and compellingly. At the beginning of this campaign, her opponents had hoped she was going to turn out to be Humpty Dumpty, just waiting to fall and shatter into a million pieces. Instead, she has turned out to be King of the Hill. If anybody is going to really challenge her, they better find a way to do it in these debates.

Simon Score: 93.044 points (out of 100).

SECOND PLACE: Barack Obama

Analysis: Spoke with passion and conviction and has gotten better and more confident with each debate, which bodes well for him because we have plenty of debates to go. He had a certain kind of homefield advantage as the only African-American onstage, but he used it modestly. While others could show sympathy, he could show empathy. “We have made enormous progress,” he said, “but the progress we have made is not good enough.”

And he did speak with refreshing candor when he talked about the high incidence of HIV/AIDS in the black community, and said: “We must overcome the stigma that still exists. We don’t talk about this. We don’t talk about this in our schools. We don’t talk about this in our churches. It is an aspect of homophobia that we don’t talk about it.”

But that was about the only thing less than a pander in the entire debate. I am not saying Obama had any responsibility to pull off a “Sister Souljah” moment. He did not.

But it could have been very dramatic and memorable if he had. Bill Clinton enjoyed considerable black support each time he ran for president, and he still has considerable black support now. Which was why it was dramatic, when he used to emphasize to both black and white crowds: “Opportunity for all is not enough. For if we give opportunity without insisting on responsibility, much of the money can be wasted and the country’s strength can still be sapped. So we favor responsibility for all.”

Still, Obama comes in a very close second.

Simon Score: 93.000

THIRD PLACE: Dennis Kucinich

Analysis: Hey, what can I say? The numbers don’t lie. This guy has a command of the issues and a slick bunch of one-liners. (Which is what debates are about, aren’t they?)

“If Sudan had oil, we’d be occupying it right now.” “Government leaders say, ‘Pull yourselves up by your bootstraps,’ and then they steal your boots!” “Stop financing the war; start financing education!”

He could get some traction until people find out Ralph Nader really likes him. Then he’s finished.

Simon Score: 85.708

FOURTH PLACE: Chris Dodd and Joe Biden

Analysis: As always, solid jobs, but these guys are beginning to blur. If I didn’t have my notes, I might not remember which one said what. But I do have my notes. Dodd said: “The new frontiers of the 21st century are the barrios, ghettos and reservations.” And Biden said with praiseworthy frankness, “How do we prevent 17-year-olds from getting AIDS/HIV? I am trying to get men to understand it is not unmanly to wear condoms and women to say no. I got tested for AIDS, and I know Barack got tested for AIDS.”

Obama looked disturbed by that and said to the audience, “I just wanted to make clear, I got tested with Michelle. I don’t want any confusion here.”

Everybody laughed but I still don’t know exactly what the joke -- or the point -- was.

Anyway, if Dodd and Biden are going to really run for president and not somebody’s cabinet, they are going to have to make their differences with the top tier much more explicit. As in: Stop being so polite and give us a reason to vote for you.

Simon Score: 80.666

SIXTH PLACE: John Edwards

Analysis: Edwards wants to own the “two Americas” inequality issue, but he didn’t really seem to own it. He just kept trying to remind us that he did. “This is the cause of my life,” he said. And, “This is an issue I care about personally and deeply.” And, “This is something I don’t have to read about in a book, I’ve seen it up close.”

Me, me, me.

Simon Score: 75.007

SEVENTH PLACE: Bill Richardson

Analysis: The perils of live TV. Asked about how to deal with HIV/AIDS, Richardson said, “We have to use needles” and “Finding a way to increase needles.”

I am going to assume this was Richardson’s endorsement of a national needle-exchange program, in which addicts turn in used needles for clean ones. Such a program would be very expensive and very controversial, since some view a government needle exchange program as abetting illegal drug use. But it is an issue that needs serious discussion. Richardson really didn’t help with that.

I must subtract points. My hands are tied.

Simon Score: 70.700


Analysis: This guy has a superiority complex without the superiority. “The next president of the United States must have moral judgment,” Gravel said. “Most of the people on stage with me don’t have that judgment.”

But perhaps their real lack of judgment is agreeing to standing on stage with him.

Simon Score: 65.678

"Live Thoughts on Tavis Smiley Presidential Debate Tonight" (Think On These Things):
* One thing that annoys me about Tavis’s events is that they spend too much time on introductions and pleasantries. The State of Black America forums spend at least the first hour and a half on introductions. We only have an hour and a half to hear from the candidates and there are 12 of them. I wish they could just get to the questions!
* By the way, I really like Tavis Smiley’s latest hairstyle.
* Stop! Tavis stop it! This is not about Cornel West this time, as much as we love him. Get to the questions and the candidates!!
* Yay for the kids washing cars. That’s beautiful.
* Ruby Dee is there!
* Deval Patrick!!! Woohoo!! Love him!
* Obama/Patrick ‘08? Nah. That would be too much for most Americans. Also, Patrick just got in office.
* Michael Eric Dyson’s there?
* Dag!!! Folks calling out Obama!!! Goooobama! Was that Cornel West?
* So Hillary signals that she read, The Covenant.
* I don’t think anyone is going to say that race is the most intractable problem. I think everyone’s just going to say that it is a problem, as one of many problems. Are they calling on people?
* What’s left for Obama to say? You better bring it!
* Good response by Obama. Thanks everyone. Howard University was where Thurgood Marshall and all did Brown and is why he’s here.
* You got to love Dennis Kucinich. He’s too cute. Kucinich: “They say pull yourself up by your bootstraps…and then they steal your boots.”
* You also gotta love Mike Gravel. He just spoke the truth on drugs in the black community.
* Iyanla Vanzant is there…Victoria Rowell…
* Now…from the questions by the “everyday persons” to the questions by the “non-everyday persons”
* Harry Belafonte is there…I hear he’s not too keen on Obama yet.
* Mike Gravel is right. There is linkage between the people on the stage and the problems.
* Chris Dodd touts his experience. Called “Senator of the Decade” by national Head Start.
* Hillary has fought “for over 35 years” for early childhood education she says. White House years and now in the Senate, she has continued.
* Poor Richardson. I don’t think he was ready for that question on HIV.
* Edwards was ready though. Had his statistics ready. He gave a really good 3 point prescription for attacking AIDS.
* Senator Obama though responded and got me choked up. At first I thought this contrast of Edwards speaks to the head and Obama to the heart was problematic, but you can see it in the differences in their styles. It’s not that Obama doesn’t have the prescriptions, it’s just that he always says that but then take it to another level that hits you in the gut.
* Gravel is all about the War On Drugs. It’s an important problem.
* Terry McMillan makes one of her famous faces “I know he didn’t” faces at Tavis’s joke about Paris Hilton.
* Hillary gets a huge round of applause on comment that “If white women disproportionately had this disease rather than black women then…”
* What is Joe Biden saying? Biden says he got tested, he knows Obama got tested, and that people need to get tested to get over the shame.
* Obama chimes in: “I got tested with Michelle! I got tested with my wife. In public. Just wanted to make sure there was no confusion.” LOL.
* Next question is about tax cuts—Obama always take the answer to that next level. Says yes to what Edwards says about details, but then says the broader issue is about fairness. Now he’s on a roll.
* Gravel wants to wipe out the income tax for a retail sales tax.
* A lot of the African American congresspersons in the audience have endorsed Hillary Clinton. It’s kind of sad to see in an eerie sort of way.
* I thought Bill Richardson might be able to overtake John Edwards, but I’m not sure based on his performance tonight. For some reason he has trouble connecting with the audience and standing out.
* Tavis needs to stop being so mean.
* What the heck did Mike Gravel just say?
* In a way, this debate and most debates just become a show. All of these people know about the policies for attacking these issues. I’m not sure what information I’m getting here.
* Poor Bill Richardson.
* Hopefully they’ll ask a question about Africa.
* Edwards: “I announced my Presidential campaign from the 9th Ward of New Orleans.” Another reason I find Edwards to be too slick.
* Obama’s Next Level Answer on Katrina: We need a President who is in touch with New Orleans before the hurricane hits. We need a President who doesn’t just think everyone can load up in their SUV with their sparkling water and check in at the nearest hotel.
* Oooooo!!! A question on outsourcing!
* Clinton has said in the past: “Outsourcing will continue.” Somebody needs to call her out on this!! Now she’s all against it??
* Uh oh!!! Kucinich calls out Clinton! “We need to get rid of NAFTA. A Democratic Administration started NAFTA and a Democratic Administration will end it!” Ouch! Somebody needed to call her out on that. Good.
* Good. They are asking about Darfur. Hillary Clinton is prepared to shoot down some planes in a no-fly zone.
* Mike Gravel: A President needs to have moral judgment. Most of the people on stage don’t have that. Tell it Mike!
Howie P.S.: I identified with Gravel's pants, but I don't know if they are "presidential."

1 comment:

Bhumika Ghimire said...

the debate was well..very boring. no substance,filled with hollow rhetoric and just didn't seem right..

problems in black community cannot be solved or addressed by an hour long gab fest..where is the real work? real effort to make situation better? instead of this debate they should have organized meeting with black youths leaders from all over the country and listened to what they have to say..that is something real and productive

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