NH debate comments:

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The short of it: I wasn't able to watch this one, so I have more to say, given that I was looking at a transcript for this. Kerry, as in Iowa, seems presidential but seemed like he's back to the old-school liberal positions that Bush will have an easier time running against. Edwards' reason for voting against the $87 million for Iraq made sense. He looked like a fool on the questions about Islam or about the Defense of Marriage Act. Lieberman, as usual, was the best of the bunch, with only a few things I disagree with. Dean seemed his usually self from the transcript, so maybe the difference everyone is talking about is in his tone and demeanor. The false statements and na�vet� are still strong. Clark seemed to have no clue. He had no responses to the best questions against him, and the coherent things he said all sounded like Kucinich, who was coherent all the way but such a nut that he isn't much higher on my list than Sharpton, who wasn't coherent at all and changed the subject every time anyone asked him anything serious.

Howard Dean: “There was no middle-class tax cut. Sixty percent of us got $304. Has your property tax gone up more than $304 because the president cut cops on the beat, refused to fund special education, refused to fund No Child Left Behind?”

We got far more than $304, and we don't make enough money to pay taxes. I believe we got over $1000. I'm not sure what he's getting at. As for our property tax, my dad was recently commenting about how amazingly low it is. If the depressed economy of Syracuse (which was depressed throughout the Clinton presidency) doesn't need high property taxes to make up for their low economy, why should places that have done better need it? This doesn't speak well for Dean's argument that the tax cuts forced local taxes to go up. If it needed to go up anywhere, it would have been here.

Dean continues: “Somebody has to stand up and say, we cannot have everything. We can't have tax cuts, pay for health care, pay for No Child Left Behind and pay for an adequate defense.”

I'm not sure there's anyone who wants those four. As far as I can tell, Dean himself wants three of them. If you take Dean's line, President Bush only wants two of them - tax cuts and an adequate defense. He doesn't want the extensive public health care most of the Democrats are advocating, and I know Dean has been complaining that Bush hasn't yet gotten the full funding for No Child Left Behind. So I'm not sure what his point is.

Wesley Clark: “The Democratic Party is a party of ideas. It's a party as broad as a Montana sky. We welcome everybody into this party.”

I wonder what he would say if Pat Buchanan started saying he’d become a Democrat.

Al Sharpton was asked whether he thought there was “anywhere in the world” where we should “send troops or use military force to combat government-sponsored killing, genocide, or oppression”. His answer? There are lots of places where we should be sending non-military aid. But is there anywhere in the world where we should send troops or use military force…

Wesley Clark: “I consider the statement that the attack at 9/11 could not have been prevented as an excuse to cover the fact that this administration didn't do everything they could have done.”

So the fact that it’s probably true doesn’t count for anything? It may be that they didn’t do everything they could have done, but it’s also true that they didn’t have as much reason before the fact to think they needed to do as much, and even if they had done as much as they could’ve done it still might not have been easily preventable. I doubt Clark would have done any better.

Clark continues: “And I consider their statement that further attacks on the United States are inevitable as an excuse to cover for the fact that they are today not doing everything they could do to keep America safe.”

As I understand it, they’re saying that further attempts to attack are inevitable. I don’t think they’re saying that there will inevitably be another successful attack on as large a scale as 9-11. He’s taking these statements to mean what he wants them to be saying.

Peter Jennings: Could you take a minute to tell us what you know about the practice of Islam that would reassure Muslims throughout the world who will be listening to you that President Edwards understands their religion and how you might use that knowledge to avoid a confrontation?

Senator Edwards responded by saying he’d been in Muslim countries and met with Muslim leaders. He has respect for other faiths and feels their pain. But what do you know about the practice of Islam that would… Oh, never mind. Edwards went on to say that the problem is that we’ve only dealt with leaders of Muslim countries and not the people. Wasn’t that what Jennings was asking Edwards if he had any experience with?

Al Sharpton was asked who he’d appoint to the Federal Reserve Board. After changing the subject twice and being brought back: “I think that -- would I replace Greenspan, probably. Do I have a name? No.”

Dennis Kucinich: We need to take the trajectory of the deficit down slowly, but the one thing I won't do is cut domestic programs.

“Kucinich's $1.06 trillion plan would increase the federal budget by nearly 50 percent. Enacted in full, the Kucinich agenda would increase the federal deficit by over 15 percent in the first year of his Presidency alone…. Kucinich's infrastructure plan alone outspends the entire platforms of all but two other candidates and his health care blueprint is as expensive as every policy proposed by candidates Lieberman, Edwards, and Clark combined.” (National Taxpayers Union)

Peter Jennings: “Do you still feel comfortable with the fact that someone should be standing up in your presence and calling the president of the United States a deserter?”

Wesley Clark: “You know, that's Michael Moore's opinion. He's entitled to say that. I've seen -- he's not the only person who's said that. I've not followed up on those facts. And frankly, it's not relevant to me and why I'm in this campaign.”

Then the answer is no. It’s ok to tolerate slander of a sitting president publicly in your presence while you’re running for president without investigating it. He’s out of this race.

John Edwards: What happened with the Defense of Marriage Act is it took away the power of states, like Vermont, to be able to do what they chose to do about civil unions, about these kinds of marriage issues.

The Defense of Marriage Act defined the word ‘marriage’ legally as being between a man and a woman. It said that states can do what they want with civil unions that aren’t called marriage.

Edwards again: “I think these are decisions that the states should have the power to make. And the Defense of Marriage Act … would have taken away that power. And I think that's wrong. That power should not be taken away from the states.”

The Defense of Marriage Act did pass, and it is in effect. The subjunctive is for merely possible events.

Howard Dean: We chose not to do gay marriage. We chose to do civil unions. I think that position, actually, is very similar to Dick Cheney's, who thinks every state ought to be able to do what they want.

I believe Cheney prefers it to be done through legislature and not courts. I don’t think Dean cares, and I certainly don’t know why he uses ‘we’ for something he didn’t initiate but only supported after the fact.

To Al Sharpton: What would you do to -- beyond affirmative action, what would you do to get more minorities in leadership positions within government?

Sharpton: Blah. Blah. Blah. Our goal is inclusiveness. Blah. Blah. Government must reflect everyone, even small populations. Diversity is good for everyone. Blah. People need to know they can work on all levels. Blah.

What was the question again? How would you accomplish this besides affirmative action? Oh, you don’t have any idea? That’s what I thought.

Howard Dean: The president of the United States can't balance a budget. We've not had one Republican president in 34 years balance the budget. You can't trust right-wing Republicans with your money.

The only time I ever remember a balanced budget was when the Republican Congress presented a balanced budget to President Clinton in 1994, who vetoed it and put together one that wasn’t balanced. I believe the House did this more than once, but I’m not sure.

Dean again: “When a president of the United States uses the word "quota," which is a race-coded word designed to appeal to people's fears they're going to lose their job to a member of a minority community, that president has played the race card.”

Actually, it’s a technical term defined in a famous Supreme Court case about when affirmative action is ok and when it isn’t. Bush was arguing that the Michigan policies were in the same category as the ones that were outlawed. That’s a view, not a race card. It turns out to be shared by three of the justices, which was not the smallest group among the justices. That honor goes to the only two justices who thought one Michigan policy was ok and the other wasn’t. So more justices agreed with President Bush than agreed with both decisions. The largest group would have affirmed both policies, but they didn’t have a majority, so they lost one of the cases.

John Kerry: “The workplace of America, Peter, has never been as unfair for the average American as it is today.”

Reminder: robber barons, 18-hour days, child labor, no minimum wage…

Kerry again: “This is the worst environmental administration that I've ever seen in all my time in public life. They're going backward on clean air, backward on clean water, backward on forest policy.”

He must not be aware of any of this.

Joe Lieberman thinks we should go to Canada for drugs to combat pharmaceutical companies’ high prices. It’s nice the see that he’s no longer in their pocket on this issue. That was one of my major hesitations about him in 2000.

John Edwards: “We need to do a whole group of things to restore the power in this democracy to the American people so that these insiders are not continuing to run this government. And what I would do is ban their contributions. I would shine a bright light on their activities so we, in fact, know what they're doing. And third, I would make them tell us everything they're doing: Who they're lobbying for; who they're lobbying; the money they're spending; who they're trying to influence.”

This must be why he’s so secretive about his own campaign contributions.

Wesley Clark: “I want to put a strong basis of values back into this Democratic Party and take George Bush head-on. Because family values is our issue in the Democratic Party; it is not the Republicans' issue.”

That must be why he’s so firm in his support for women who want to kill their children three seconds before birth. He went on to say that the American forces are incapable of keeping the peace and providing order. Supreme Allied Commander indeed!

Brit Hume asked John Edwards was asked if a constitutional amendment to protect marriage for heterosexuals only would be bigotry. Edwards: “I’m completely opposed to the amendment. I think it’s wrong and unnecessary.” Right, but is it bigotry? Someone doesn’t want to alienate southern voters too much by calling them bigots. Hume asked the question again. Edwards: “It's not the word I'd use, but I think the president is dead wrong, dead wrong on this issue.” He called your bluff, and you confirmed my hypothesis. Why is it wrong if it’s not bigotry?

Al Sharpton: “I disagree with the use of the death penalty because it has been proven too many times to have been discriminatory in the way it has been applied.”

Then why is the percentage of people on death row who are black proportional to the percentage of people arrested and charged with capital offenses who are black? Wherever the problem is, it’s not in how the death penalty is applied (both in the mid-40% range). The court system is fair on this count at least.

Howard Dean: “I think the president's unbalancing of this budget is deliberate. Half-a-trillion dollar deficit as far as the eye can see means more cuts in programs for kids, more cuts in education, more cuts in college. So, yes, I lead with my heart. I say what I believe.”

Yes, you make it pretty clear that you try really hard to think the worst of people you hate, and the current commander-in-chief is one of those. If it’s politically preferable to think of him as uncaring and deliberate sabotage of this country, then you easily do so, even if there may well be reasons he thinks his policies are the best, perhaps even reasons stemming from caring about the average person. Why would conservatives be complaining so much about his social problems if this uncharitable interpretation of his motives were right? Then he complains that the current president is the divisive. Look at the log in your own eye first, Doc.

John Kerry: “[Bush has] run the most arrogant, inept, reckless and ideological foreign policy in the modern history of our country.”

Worse than Vietnam? Wow. I hope he tries to argue this at the debates with Bush if he gets the nomination. He’s going to look like a fool.

Wesley Clark: “No one is going to take away a woman's right to choose when I'm president of the United States. It's that simple.”

Can someone teach this man about separation of powers? Immediately after, he was asked about his earlier comments, and he backtracked from his earlier position, supporting Roe v. Wade and Casey in saying states can limit abortion after viability. Does he really believe this, or does he not want to admit believing in something determined by the Supreme Court to be unconstitutional?

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