Dems debate tonight

Just to show how seriously FoxNews is taken as a 'mainstream' media channel, only three Democratic candidates will appear in their 'debate': Biden, Kucinich and Gravel for 90 minutes of comedy certain to be funnier than anything Saturday Night Live produced in the past five years.

But there is a real debate tonight, at 7pm EDT on CNN which will showcase all the candidates. I guess that Wolf Blitzer will put on his most serious face when asking questions thick with right-wing frames. It will be interesting to watch.

Boston Globe has already published the 'secret' talking points for Obama supporters to use after the debate. You know where I stand and why.

For more info, check MyDD (especially the Diaries) as well as candidate-specific tags on the Diaries on DailyKos, e.g., John Edwards, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and others.

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I like to go offline during debates and attempt to watch them through "virgin eyes" as hard as it is for someone who's followed the details for years. Then I watch in astonishment at CNN talking-heads apparently watched a different event altogether. Then I go online and see what intelligent people have to say. So, here are a few brief thoughts of my own....

Gravel - if he gets his meds from the VA, that means the VA is in an even worse shape than I thought: he appeared to be off his altogether. In the first debate, Gravel said some things that others were afraid to say yet needed to be said (and helped move the Overton Window, i.e., make some unspeakable things speakable). This time, he was just spouting nonsense.

Kucinich - not as bad as in the first debate, actually. He said some reasonable things, but also some of his wacky New-Agey crap as well. He's just too utopian. Great stuff for SF/fantasy, but not for leading the country.

Biden - firmly established himself as the member of the comical trio at the bottom of the field. He demonstrated his utter ignorance of all things foreign/international/military/diplomati c. If I were him I would take special care never to mention the Balkans and remind the audience of all the stupidities he used to say almost nightly during the 1990. Not a second-tier any more, he is now in the third tier. Something he said, actually the way he said it in the after-show interview, suggests to me he is bowing out of the race soon.

Richardson - better than last time, but that is far from enough. Irritated me at times. He just LOOKS like a second tier candidate and remains at the same #5 spot by virtue of not digging himself even deeper. Oh, and he is a governor, if you did not happen to catch that. Last two times we elected governors (1992. and 2000.) the results were horrendous mistakes in foreign policy. Give me a Senator any time. His high-point: his response to the VA question, while in itself not so great, provided such a sharp contrast to what Obama said immediately before, it made Obama look really bad and Richardson a much more thoughtful and experienced candidate.

Dodd - Second good performance in a row. I wish he was a little younger, more telegenic and more exciting. He was calm, smart and right on every issue. A very strong #4 in my book, seriously approaching the top tier. He won't make it to the top, but he'll be a great VP candidate asset to the eventual nominee.

Obama - Had a few great moments, reminding us why so many people like him: his great oratory. His response to Edwards on health-care was pretty effective. His tentativeness with the beginning of every answer is a minus. His refusal to be more detailed about policy is maddening. His view on the military will not go well with many liberals. The main problem with Obama is that he does not understand the concept of the Overton Window and plays into the hands of the Right with his unifying/conciliatory gestures and language. He still believes that as President he would be able to actually work with Republicans. He still has not learned that Repubs are not to be trusted on anything. Still, I think he had a good night (better than in the first debate).

Clinton - I actually liked her tonight. Much better than last time around. She led the group in a rebellion against Blitzer's stupid hand-raising questions, not once, but twice. That was great theater. She was more relaxed than last time, smiled and laughed and made a couple of great funnies (e.g., the Cheney as a diplomat). Her answer on War on Terror was a disaster, though, and it will cost her more than a few votes in the primaries as it came in response to the 'bumper-sticker' question, immediately after Edwards' response to it. He explained why it is a political right-wing 'frame' and she disappointed the Dems by playing right into it.

Edwards - some people say his aggressiveness was good, others say it was bad. I think it was necessary, no matter what the outcome. That was a way for him to accomplish a few things: 1) to draw attention to himself and remind everyone (and it worked for the CNN crowd afterwards) that this is a 3-way race, not a 2-way race; 2) to teach the audience (most of which did not know what you and I know) what Clinton and Obama did in regard to war-funding bills over the past few years, including the one last week; 3) differentiate himself from the other two in important ways. The 1) worked great, 2) worked fine and 3) had mixed results because some of the responses by Obama and Clinton worked against him, while others worked for him. People now have a better idea about the difference between Edwards' and Obama's healthcare plans, though not necessarily placing one highly above the other. Obama retort on war was bad for Edwards, but Hillary's response on War On Terror was fantastic for Edwards.

So, I liked the last four, and did not like the performance of the first four on this list. I am biased towards Edwards, so I will not state who I think won. It was a good debate and I liked the fact that the format appears to be loosening somewhat. Let's see what the Google/YouTube debate on July 21st looks like (if anyone watches it - as everyone will be busy reading Harry Potter VII on that day).

The transcript is here. Reminds me that Biden did have two good moments: his answers about gays in the military and about campaign funding. But he also said the stupidest thing of the evening about the border fence that can stop drugs but somehow cannot stop people! Also, the Iran question was great for Edwards as he went after a few others and showed much better understanding of the issue than any of those old 'experienced-in-foreign-policy' types.

The winner for the evening was Kucinich. At the conclusion of the evening, he went home with a hot babe that's about half his age. And a foot taller.

Too utopian?

Which part was it? The universal healthcare? The concern for environment? Refusal to assassinate others? Cutting the military budget from the ~$650B it gets now?