Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Democratic Primary Forum[you could hardly call it a debate]
: Koppel Massages Dean; Goads Others. No One Bites ... except perhaps, Dean.

Koppel starts the evening by massaging Dean, commenting on what an extraordinary day he's had with the endorsement, how well he's doing in the polls, how much money he raised and then asks them all to respond to the following question:

Raise your hand if you believe Gov. Dean can beat George Bush?
[audience laughs, claps. Only Dean raises his hand, laughs]

This is my typed transcript of the candidates' response to this question(couldn't find one online) and any errors are mine. Senator Kerry's and Representative Gephart's responses are partial but the salient features are there and their responses were rather bland receiving no audience response.
Koppel: [to Dean], Don't look at me, look at those eight...

Dean: Well, you kind of put them on the spot...

Koppel:That's the idea ..tell me Senator Kerry, Why didn't you raise your hand? [audience laughs, claps again]
Dean knows he's safe, in reality, each of the candidates is only 'on the spot' in that there appears to be an unwritten agreement among all the candidates that this topic will not be broached.
Kerry: States because he believes in his own candidacy and some polls showing he can beat Bush says by the way, he was surprised by the endorsement. Joe Lieberman had shown such extraordinary loyalty in delaying his own campaign [applause] it surprised me. I think I speak for every candidate up here when I say this race is not over until all of the votes have been cast and counted [applause whistles]. Goes on to state why he's running and talks of Bush's ineptitude. [cut-off by Koppel]

Gephardt: I'm sure that all of us think we have the best chance to beat George Bush but we're united in wanting to replace George Bush with a much better president. This President has let us down [applause]. Goes on to state he has more experience, right values -fighting for middle class values, etc. Thinks he can beat George Bush in states ya' gotta beat George Bush. [cut-off by Koppel].

Koppel: Senator Lieberman, You got a bit of a shot in the solar plexis today you had to be surprised by it, disappointed by it, but the fact of the matter is, someone needs to win the primaries, the caucuses and ultimately the democratic nomination before they can hope to win the Presidency against George Bush -have your chances received a bad shock today?

Lieberman: Ted, I think in some unpredicted, unexpected, unpredicted way, my chances have increased today. I can tell you our phones have been ringing of the hook at campaign headquarters today. I've been stopped in the airport by people angry about what happened.

I was raised to face adversity in one way, double my determination. To continue to fight for what is right for the future of our party and our country. And I'll tell you why I didn't raise my hand in response to that question. This campaign for the Democratic nomination is fundamentally a referendum within our party about whether we're going to build on the Clinton transformation in our party in 1992 that reassured people that we were strong on defense, that we were fiscally responsible, we cared about values, we were interested in cutting taxes for the middle class and working with business to create jobs. Howard Dean, [pause] and now Al Gore I guess, are on the wrong side of each of those issues. I'm ready to fight for the future of the party I love and fight for the future of this country because we're only going to defeat George Bush if we have an independent-minded center out ... [cut-off by Koppel]

Koppel: Rev Sharpton, you were raising your hand before, in response to which part of what happened?

Sharpton: I think we, all of us have an opportunity to beat Bush if we do not break and chase away from our party, the people that we're going to have to mobilize to come out. What I started hearing today is dangerous, that's why I didn't raise my hand. Al Gore went to NY today, he should have noticed that Tamini? Hall is not there today, bossism is not in this party. [audience applauds] To talk about people ought not run and that people ought get out of this race is bossism. That belongs in the other party. We waited four years after some of us were disenfranchised, some of us in Duvall? County couldn't vote so we could express ourselves and we're not going to have any big names come in now and tell us the field should be limited and we can't be heard [applause; hoots, whistles]. The Republicans shut us up four years ago; Al Gore or no Democrat should shut us up today. Let the people decide on the nominee. Bossism shouldn't happen. I know Governor Dean and Al Gore love the internet but w-w-w-bossism doesn't work on my computer. [applause;whistles etc.]

Koppel: Ambassador, rather pointedly Al Gore went to Harlem, with Governor Dean to make the announce of his endorsement, the implication being he can transfer some of the allegiance he has within African American community to Governor Dean, do you buy that?

Mosley-Braun: You know Ted, Paul Simon died today, he was a friend, a mentor and a giant of an American who was beloved in all communities [Ted interjects to clarify talking about Senator Simon from Illinois]. Paul Simon was a model for the kind of direction democrats should take at this time, to turn toward each other not against each other as we take on the real challenge of getting George Bush out of the WhiteHouse and getting the country back on track [applause]. In fact, I just spoke with Paul on Sunday because he endorsed Dean in Iowa, he went to great lengths to explain to me that he liked you [to Dean] but he loved me and it didn't mean he was detracting from his endorsement of my candidacy at all. And we talked about this race and the importance of caring about people and having a government that works for people, showed compassion for people and holds up our standing as Americans in the rest of the world. [Koppel cut] Just to say in short, I think it's important, in memory of Paul Simon and all of the Democrats that looking to us for leadership, that we turn toward each other, not against each other [applause] and take on the real enemy?.

Koppel: Senator Edwards, what I was trying to get at with Ambassador Braun was whether loyalty can in any way be transferred by an endorsement from one politician to another politician?

Edwards: Well, I have this kind of curious notion that I think actually most voters in America make their own decisions about who they believe should be the president of the United States. I don't think you can tell them what to do. The one thing I'm absolutely certain of, having now spent a lot of time here in the state of NH, you sure can't tell the people of NH what to do [applause] that's one thing I'm certain of and the other thing I'm certain of, we're not going to have a coronation, the Republicans have coronations. We have campaigns, we have elections and that exactly what's going to happen in this particular case. I think there is a fundamental decision that has to be made by voters here in NH and all across the country, in order to change the problems in Washington, in order to have real reform. Do you want someone who has spent most of their life, most of their adult life in politics? Because there's a lot of people on this stage who represent that, I have not, I am very much an outsider. I have spent most of my life fighting against the powerful special interests that keep you from having your interests represented, that keep you from getting the democracy you deserve. That's what this election fundamentally is about. [cut-off by Koppel]

Koppel: General Clark , you're relatively new to the process it is rumored however you are a favored candidate by the Clinton family. If Senator. Clinton or President Clinton would offer you their endorsement would you take it?

Clark: Well, you know, I really have never even thought of that...

Koppel: Oh, sure, you have.

Clark: No, I haven't because, just to quote another former Democratic leader, I think elections are about the people, not about the powerful. I think there was a man named Al Gore that once said that. And so to me this is about going out to the American people, listening to them; talking about ideas. There's a very important election coming up and it's not going to be decided by endorsements. This is an election that's going to be about national security, it's going to be about facing down George Bush in his failure to perform his duty satisfactorily as Commander-in-Chief , his failure to keep the American people safe. From 9/11, his taking us into a war without any justification, after 9/11.[applause] I am the only candidate on the stage who can take that fight to George Bush and I intend to do it. That American flag doesn't belong to John Ashcroft, Tom DeLay and George W Bush, and I for one, am very tired of seeing him pose in front of our soldiers and sailors and claim the mantel of fair heroism after he ordered them into combat unnecessarily. [-cut-off by Koppel/applause, hoots, whistles]

Koppel: Congressman Kucinich, I remember you from when you were the boy-Mayor from Cleveland. You've been at this for a very long time. I'd like to hear your thoughts on what endorsements like this mean or don't mean. When you hear some of your colleagues here, I get a little bit of sense of sour grapes here, that if anyone else on this stage had gotten Al Gore's endorsement, he would have been happy to have it - what do you think?

Kucinich: Well, I can't say I was really counting on it [applause, laughter] but let me say Ted, that some of the best talent in American politics is on this stage right now [applause] and with all due respect to you, Ted Koppel, who've I admired over the years, greatly...

Koppel: There's a zinger coming now ...

Kucinich: Yes. To begin this kind of a forum with a question about an endorsement, no matter by who, I think actually trivializes the issues that are before us [applause, hoots etc.] For example, at this moment there are 130,000 troops in Iraq, I'd like to hear you ask during this event what's the plan for getting out. The war is not over. I have a plan that's on my website at to get the US out of Iraq - I want to talk about that tonight and I hope that we have a substantive discussion tonight and that we're not going to spend the night talking about endorsements.[applause, hoots, whistles]

Koppel: Governor Dean, What is it that makes me think that while there are eight people up here that aren't crazy about that endorsement, and think it trivializes politics, that you probably don't.

Dean: Let me just say a couple of things. First of all, John Edwards was right, the people will decide, not Al Gore or anyone else. Secondly, I'm going to give an invitation that I've not yet given, but I'm going to do it now. If you guys are upset about Al Gore's endorsement, attack me, don't attack Al Gore. He worked too hard in 2000 to lose that election, when he really didn't lose the election since he got 500,000 votes more than George Bush and I don't think he deserves to be attacked by anybody up here. [mild applause] He's not a fraud?, He's a fundamentally decent human being. We share a lot of values. We both believe this earth is in an environmental crisis because of what George Bush is doing, we both believe that middle class people in America ought to be able to send their kids to college and get some help. We both believe that 3 million jobs lost is 3 million too many and under the Clinton-Gore record we had a whole lot better economy than we do right now. We both believe that the Bush tax cuts are grossly irresponsible and they ought to be reversed, we both believe that the war in Iraq was put forward on the American people unjustly because we were not told the truth about why we were there. And I think Al Gore deserves credit for being a kind of moral leader in this country that we have lost in the last election.
Okay then. A few things ... Did Gore endorse Dean or are 'both believers' going to be running mates? No, that wouldn't be right, Dean acknowledges Edwards for being correct about basically what was said by all - looking for another southern Democrat anyone? Where, does all this venom come from? I don't think the responses of any of the candidates could be construed as an attack on Gore that should evoke this kind of response. Perhaps, it was scripted in anticipation of attacks that didn't come, and like someone else we're familiar with, Dean has difficulty deviating from the script. However, we do know from the 2000 election, Al Gore does have difficulty defending himself so I'm sure he's grateful. I have the same question I've had since the beginning - what is the attraction? Silver spoon, snide mouth, bogus Vietnam evasion - don't we already have that?

Dennis Kucinich, won the day in this forum. He got even greater applause when later in the discussions he criticized the media (Koppel) for the direction that it takes the political conversation. Only four of the nine candidates received applause at the end of the responses in this segment; Dean wasn't one of them.

If you want to view the discussion, go here for the link.


Post a Comment

<< Home