Another Democratic presidential debate is on now. Howard Dean just got reamed by Al Sharpton. I have really mixed feelings about this, because it was so fun seeing Dean look so uncomfortable by the things Sharpton was saying about him, but it was such a bad argument. Sharpton's earlier criticism of Dean was that he had no place talking about race because he comes from a state with such a low percentage of minorities. Apparently the issue is that he can't understand problems of black people if he doesn't know them, and he can't know them since there aren't very many. It turns out he did have a few black people on his staff (which wasn't a large number of people to begin with).
Well, now Sharpton's criticism is that Dean didn't have any minorities in his cabinet! Dean's cabinet had six people. As Sharpton well knows (because he used it in his first criticism), the low percentage of minorities in Vermont is part of the reason Dean doesn't have as significant experience and interaction with minorities. That's part of why it would have been a lot more difficult for him to have gotten a more racially diverse cabinet than it would be for a governor of a more racially diverse state. Will Democrats in Iowa buy this argument? The black ones may well, unfortunately for them, because this is how people like Sharpton have taught them not to think. It might be nice to see Dean this uncomforable for a bit, though. He doesn't wear it well.
Wow! As I was writing this up, Carol Mosely Braun laid into Al Sharpton for criticizing Dean on race without himself having anything positive to say about how to bring people together racially. She's right. He has absolutely nothing to say on that. Unfortunately, she doesn't either, so I'm not sure what she thinks she's doing.
Update: Closing statements usually have some of the best examples of unsupported falsehoods, but I was only able to catch a few this time around:
Dick Gephardt: George Bush has declared war on the middle class, and good men and women are losing ground. [Declaration of war sounds awfully explicit for something that he's supposed to have been doing deceptively.]
Joe Lieberman: Too many people have seen Dr. King's dream slipping away from them. [So had they achieved it or almost achieved it and yet have lost it and all opportunity to gain it back? When did this happen, and who are these people?]
Carol Mosely Braun: When the Constitution was written, I was not included. Poor people weren't in it, women weren't in it, blacks were considered 3/5 of a person... [This sounds familiar. Didn't she try to tell us she was poor in last Sunday's debate? I don't need to repeat myself, so see my comments there.]
Update 2: Lester Holt just asked Howard Dean after the debate about what black people have gotten for their loyalty to the Democratic party. His two answers: The Civil Rights Act (1964) and The Voting Rights Act (1965). Then he changed the subject and said racism is still alive and needs to be addressed. [Nice way to dodge the question! I think it's fair to conclude that Howard Dean doesn't think Democrats have done anything since 1965 to earn the black vote. I never thought I'd agree with him so strongly on something related to race, but he's right, even if he had to change to subject to signal that he thinks this.]
Then Holt said something about the middle class tax cut, and Dean repeated his charge that there was no middle class tax cut. Holt said some middle class people perceive there to have been one. Dean: "I don't think so." [How out of touch can he be? We paid negative taxes last year, getting a refund out of something we never paid to begin with! His continued attempts to make it sound as if the tax cuts were only for Bush's rich friends is just insane. He did make an interesting argument that Bush's policies have required higher taxes at the local level. I'll have to look more at that, but I know whatever we pay at the local level is easily paid for by the money the IRS just plain gave to us.]
Update 3: A friend pointed out to me today that what I said above isn't quite right. Sharpton's argument is a bad one, but I think he scored a hit against Dean. The reason is that by Dean's standards of what must be done against racism it isn't clear at all that Dean has done a thing in the direction he says we need to go. Sharpton, of course, hasn't either, as Mosely Braun pointed out, but of course neither has she. All those two have done is make it worse. Still, what he said about Dean was correct, and what she said about Sharpton is also correct. They just have no right to say it and not mention that it's also true of them. Now I suppose they would point out what they have done, but I would ask how those things they've done are supposed to have gotten rid of the institutional racism that they think is the only or primary race problem in the U.S. today. I don't see how it does, and I'm not sure they want to admit that things have gotten better, or they'd have to soften their victimology rantings.