"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Democratic primary debate

Haven't had many opportunities to watch any of the previous debates, but given that a) this and the GOP debate are being held at my alma mater and b) I've spent the day immobile on the couch with a jacked-up knee from the San Diego marathon, I figured this would be a good place to catch up. At two hours long, there's a lot to cover, and I don't think I'll be awake long enough to hit everything, so here's my quick impression of each of the candidates:

Gravel: very impressive. I disagreed with much of what he said, but he showed the ability to answer the question he was asked (a quality lacking in virtually every other candidate), and he forcefully spoke his mind. He also cared less about making nice with his fellow candidates and more about calling things as he saw them. He's quite right in pointing out that Iraq is not George Bush's war, but the Democrats' war as well, since Democrats couldn't vote to approve it fast enough when public opinion was riding high. Would've been nice if he could have mentioned that any war is America's war, since members of every constituency will be involved and affected, but at least he sees that it not just Bush's problem. I also give him the best quote of the night; I don't have a transcript in front of me, but I believe it was to the effect that the rest of the candidates "don't have moral judgment". Boy, that's gonna be a loney ride back to the hotel. And kudos to him to saying English should be the official language of this country (though he was MIGHTY generous offering four years of free college to encourage teens to volunteer. Tell me how you're gonna pay for THAT). Came off sounding a little like a grumpy old man, though, and I doubt he has a chance in hell of winning the nomination since he refuses to dance to the tune of the Democrats' radical base.

Dodd: Thanks for coming.

Edwards: Astounding inability to answer the question posed. Lots of fluff, little substance. I'd like to tell him a little story about universal health care managed by the government, one that's north of the border. Under this great system, my grandfather (who had Parkinson's) needed an MRI. He was given the choice of doing it six weeks later, or coming in at 3 in the morning. But hey, it was free. His "bumper sticker" attitude toward the war on terror should cost him the support of serious people. While misnamed and often poorly described by the Bush administration (see anything said by Joe Lieberman for a better description), there can be little doubt that we are in a military conflict against radical Islam. Consciously or unconsciously channelling Bill Clinton with his little thumb-over-folded-fist gesture. Well coiffed.

Clinton: started off well; mighty nice of her to agree that we HAVE been made safer (I wonder if the recent threats against Fort Dix and JFK could have been thwarted without the Patriot Act); arguable that we're not safe enough, but that's as much due to folks at the New York Times blowing our financial sting operations and massive overhype on domestic surveillance as anything else. Loses points for whining about being asked theoretical questions. If I were charitable I would credit this to a lack of imagination; less charitable, it's a cop-out demonstrating just how terrified she (and the rest of the candidates who didn't want to play "what if?") is taking any position that might offend the frothy-mouthed antiwar base. Like others, can't answer the question.

Richardson: I think he's the governor of New Mexico. He mentioned that once or twice. And as governor of New Mexico, it seems he's been able to solve every problem from balancing the budget to solving our immigration woes to curing cancer. OK, I made that last one up. Or maybe it he said it on one of my bathroom breaks. Interesting notion of boycotting 2008 Olypmics if China doesn't change its attitude in Darfur; clearly not the only step we should take, but could be a huge blow to China's global image, given that they expect the Olympics - to borrow an immigration phrase - to bring them "out of the shadows."

Obama: Seems afflicted with a disorder that requires him to start every sentence with, "Well look." Pugnacious but unable to stay on topic or pin down on a variety of issues. Same cop-out as Clinton on the "hypotheticals." For all his supposed charm, he shows little substance.

Biden: My name is Joe Biden. I am ANGRY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!! I shall smite you with my righteous index finger and feast on the blood of your children!!!!!!!!!!! Might I respond to that last question? RAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!! May want to consider sedation before his next debate. But in spite - or perhaps because of - his obvious, um, passion, made some very reasonable points. Admirable argument in favor of his vote for the latest war funding bill, and was the only man on the stage who had the clarity to see that multiple symbolic votes are pointless when you don't have enough support to override a veto. Played the worn-out "how can we round up millions of families with the world watching?" card on immigration. Was the only one who unequivocally said he'd pull the trigger on both Osama and an Iranian nuclear missile, if it came to that. Also had a moment of clarity in pointing out the utter uselessness of all the talk on Darfur and drawing an apt comparison to it and Kosovo back in the day. Doubtless his warmongering notion of actually killing the janjaweed militia to prevent further genocide will cost him the support of George Clooney and MoveOn.org.

Kucinich: the Peregrin Took of this group of candidates: amusing to have around but not someone you'd trust with sharp objects. Living in a fairy-tale land to think that war is not an instrument (granted, an extreme instrument, but an instrument nonetheless) of diplomacy and international relations. His proposal to cut military spending by 25% was no doubt reassuring to the woman whose husband was deployed in Iraq. Will never be president of anything but his own ivory tower and the Munchkinland it overlooks.

Everyone: all want to pull out of Iraq. All said nothing about the possible consequences of doing so. Sneaky Wolf tried to draw parallels between Darfur and Iraq by asking the candidates what they'd do if a similar genocide took place. All managed to dodge the bullet. All want to relive the past and what they would and wouldn't have voted for, and didn't touch the cold hard fact that, while al Qaeda is in Afghanistan, they're also indisputably in Iraq. All want to fight al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Maybe AQI will cooperate and come to Afghanistan to be killed.

All in all, an enlightening experience. Maybe I should tear my ligaments more often to catch up on politics.

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