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Sunday, February 29, 2004

NY Debate Wrap

It was a lively hour in this morning's New York debate, with candidates and reporters repeatedly battling to get a few words in. I was left wondering how they possibly did these things with as many as ten candidates for so many months. An Edwards attack on Kerry cited the same article analyzed in today's edition of VandeHei Watch, which I have now updated to include Kerry's response to the story.

Al Sharpton made sure everyone knew he was present by attacking both Elizabeth Bumiller and Dan Rather for ignoring him:

SHARPTON: If we're going to have a discussion just between two -- in your arrogance, you can try that, but that's one of the reasons we're going to have delegates, so that you can't just limit the discussion.

And I think that your attempt to do this is blatant, and I'm going to call you out on it, because I'm not going to sit here and be window dressing.

BUMILLER: Well, I'm not going to be addressed like this.

SHARPTON: Well, then, let all of us speak... I want us to be able to respond, or then tell us you want a two-way debate.

RATHER: Here's where the thing is. We certainly want to hear, I think you will agree, the voters have spoken.

SHARPTON: No, the voters have not spoken. We've only had -- he's [Edwards--DK] won one primary. He's come in fourth seven times.

BUMILLER: How many delegates...

SHARPTON: What you're trying to do is trying to decide for the voters how we go forward. The voters need to hear this morning from four candidates, or say the media now is going to select candidates.

RATHER: Reverend, we've heard from you, we're going to hear from you. I don't understand what the argument is.

SHARPTON: I had to fight to speak on Haiti, I had to fight to speak on trade. You got a guy with one primary that you're pretending he's -- Gary Hart won more primaries than Mondale.

Let's have an open debate and go into Super Tuesday, or say that you guys want to decide the nominee.

RATHER: Reverend, debate them, not me.

Well then! I think Sharpton has a point here. If the network people are just going to ignore Sharpton and Kucinich, as they were clearly trying to do this morning, they shouldn't invite them to the debate. But since they were invited, they should get equal speaking time with Kerry and Edwards. There really should be enough time to go around with only four of them, and ignoring half the candidates is pretty awkward, plus Sharpton charged at another point, "as long as we try to stifle the discussion, it feeds into the Ralph Naders of the world that say the only way to deal with this is to leave the party."

My blame for the repeated interruptions and tension over who had a chance to talk goes to the panel. The reporters kept trying to interrupt candidates without giving them adequate chances to address the questions they had posed. If they had just let things go, the candidates would have had more opportunity to get their points made. That is to say nothing of the questions, which included turkeys like, "John Kerry, have you learned anything from seeing how people like John Edwards more than they like you?" and "Is God on our side?"

I also enjoyed how Dan Rather announced the unlucky number of 13 minutes remaining right before asking a question about gay marriage. The number was a bad omen for Kerry, who delivered his worst answer of the hour to that question, refusing to explain why he felt the need to differentiate between gay and straight couples with regard to marriage rights.

Saletan thinks Edwards scored points by attacking Kerry on trade and the budget. I disagree since I thought Kerry's responses were pretty strong, but then again I'm biased toward Kerry in scoring the fight. Edwards' "I've seen the effects of job loss!" schtick is unimpressive to me--everyone knows job loss is bad. The litany of trade agreements Edwards rattles off as things he opposed, in trying to distinguish himself from Kerry (including ones with reasonably well-off places like Chile and Singapore), are small potatoes compared with the China agreement he and Kerry both voted for. Saletan also ignores the important second part of Kerry's budget reply--that the Post left out his Medicare modifications--instead focusing entirely on the more questionable stimulus accounting.

MORE: Drudge is headlining, "KERRY NOT SURE GOD ON AMERICA'S SIDE." Apparently right-wingers would prefer we be like the Taliban and see our leader as the instrument of divine power.