No, I didn’t watch it. But Andrew Sullivan did. Here’s his report:
“What a truly depressing spectacle. The sheer torrent of tired cliches, dead metaphors, and hoary old stem-winders was enough to numb what’s left of my cold-riddled sinuses. The sheer lack of talent on the stage was what struck me. Only four candidates seemed the faintest bit credible: Dean, Gephardt, Kerry and Lieberman. Edwards revealed why he hasn’t caught on – not just the accent, but the exhausted and obviously phony Shrum-like rhetoric about “special interests” and lobbyists. I kept thinking to myself: the guy’s a trial lawyer. Who does he think he’s kidding? Moseley-Braun is a complete embarrassment. She has nothing to say except “I’m a black woman.” She is, of course, an insult to black women, most of whom do not respond to life’s problems by reiterating ancient boilerplate about helping kids and moving forward. Kucinich was mesmerizing in his way, with his huge ears and beady little eyes. He kept arguing as if there were 170,000 U.N. troops sitting around, waiting to be told that it’s time to replace all those Americans in Iraq. Presumably he knows this is a fantasy. He doesn’t seem to be illiterate. He puts sentences together with correct structure and grammar. So how can he keep reiterating something that is as feasible as handing Iraq over to Martians? And why wasn’t he laughed off the stage?
“Clark was dull. He joined in the major, communal self-deception of the Democrats: that after 9/11 the whole world – especially the French – were all desperate to join in a war against terrorism and terrorism-sponsoring states, if only we’d asked them nicely. I guess you could make some kind of case that a real diplomacy offensive might have won the second vote in the Security Council for war against Saddam. But the French were just as intransigent with regard to Saddam throughout the 1990s. They vetoed the final inspection proposal before even Saddam did. But looking at reality in international affairs would rob the Democrats of blaming every single problem on the planet on George W. Bush. The deeper quandary of a uni-polar world where only the U.S. has the military capacity for world policing – and yet is resented for doing what is necessary – didn’t seem to register. As for Sharpton, he had a few good lines. And he destroyed Ted Koppel at one point. But he’s a buffoon, another insult to black voters’ intelligence. He’s not a serious candidate for high office or any office. It seems absurd that real potential presidents have to stand on the same stage. It’s not a racial thing. He’s no crazier than Kucinich. But at least Kucinich has done something in elective office, if only bankrupt a city.
“I liked Lieberman the best substantively. He’s the only one even to suggest that Saddam was a past and future threat to the U.S. He was the only one who didn’t seem desperate to pander. He was the only one who seemed to relish the liberation of people from unspeakable tyranny. The rest greeted the greatest world event in the last year as if it had been a trip to the dentist’s. Dean was quiet, terse, punchy – not a great performance, but an understandable one if you’re sitting on a lead that large. His only weak moment came when he tried to talk his way out of his previous raising of a conspiracy theory about 9/11. He now describes such theories as “crazy.” So why did he raise them in the first place? Gephardt seems to me to have improved a lot in his demeanor, his ability to speak candidly, and his focus on the usual Democratic policies of taxing people more so that the government can take better care of them. I don’t buy the argument – none of the candidates said a single word about wealth-creation – but, hey, I’m not a Democrat. If I were, Gephardt would seem the best option – more stable and somehow more decent than Dean. Kerry looks the part; he has a great voice, a firm manner, and speaks well. I just don’t buy his spiel. When he proposes a world religious summit – with the Dalai Lama included – to talk about issues of politics and religious fundamentalism, you can’t help your eyeballs from rolling reflexively back into your head. When he assumes that all you need is global conversation to end global conflict, you wonder whether he has the faintest clue about the kind of enemy we face. When he argues that the Bush administration has done nothing about AIDS in Africa, you realize he simply cannot believe that such a policy could ever have originated from the other side. He’s the only candidate you just know for sure would be a terrible president – indecisive, vain, out-of-touch and incapable of rising to the occasion. Dean, Lieberman and Gephardt all strike me as men who could grow in the office. Not Kerry. He’s Gore, without the charm.”
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