Dare to dream
Could it be? Could it be possible that at least one party is able to conduct a vigorous campaign without resorting to lies, cheap shots, and distortions?
It appeared so during the Democratic Debate held last night in Vegas.
I don't know how long I can dare hope it will hold, but for one brief shining moment, the country got a glimpse of how politics could be, should be, and must be.
Though Dennis Kucinich was barred from the event, which depending on your view, is or isn't a good thing, the remaining three candidates displayed a remarkable degree of mutual respect and discipline in avoiding going for the cheap shot at every opportunity, something which has become a "thou shalt" commandment in modern political campaigns.
I don't know who did it, if someone from on high issued an edict, or if the candidates simply realized that they were both going to sink together if they engaged in rancorous sniping, or if they simply sincerely wanted to elevate the tone, but somehow, it happened.
Despite Tim Russert and Brian Williams incessantly trying to dangle the most eggregious and antagonistic spin in front of them in attempts to provoke an angry response, they steadfastly refused to take the bait. It was enormously refreshing, like a breath of fresh air and a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day.
As I wrote in a comment to a previous post, the attempt to portray Clinton as somehow "denigrating" MLK Jr. was disgusting, ludicrous, and willfully dishonest, and it was shameful of the Obama campaign to even put it out there. Of course the press pounced on it like hyennas and got themselves into a lather at the prospect of some huge racial conflict, since this is what they dream of. They absolutely HATE calm rational discourse, and will go to incredible lengths to try to read into things some sort of machiavellian or sinister motive or meaning into even the most benign utterance or action by a candidate, particularly if said candidate appears to be the front-runner, and even moreso if it's Hillary Clinton. (Chris Matthews is positively mentally ill about her and Bill.)
So Russert and Williams dutifully served up all the nastiness, all the lies, all the spin, all the demeaning and false accusations, and one by one, Clinton and Obama refused to take the bait.
They both graciously dismissed it as the pack of lies that it was, said they both agreed that the campaign should avoid personality politics and that they wished to avoid the injection of race or gender into the debate.
The public wants to avoid this as well. So why is it always thrust into our faces?
You got it. The press wants it to be an issue so bad they can taste it. That's why they essentially created it, ran with it, kept jabbering about it for days, and, as Russert explained prior to the debate, he'd have to bring it up tonight because it had been in the press so much and discussed by pundits widely.
This happens often. The press says they have to give a subject a lot of attention. Why? Because the press has given it alot of attention. See? We (the press) decide the issues and what you should think about.
None of the three took the bait. They gently and respectfully drew distinctions based on honest differences on issues, and willingly and gracefully acknowledged points on which they agreed with each other.
To their credit, Williams and Russert established a relaxed atmoshere, which was aided by the fact the candidates were seated, rather than standing stiffly behind podiums. It was refreshing to hear, rather than trying to perpetuate obviously false spin and trying to get candidates to say provocative things in response, Brian Williams actually performing a positive service.
He noted that they'd been getting e-mails which accused Obama of being a Muslim, of swearing his oath of office on the Koran, and of refusing to recite the pledge of allegiance, noting that they'd gotten that sort of thing many times. Without giving them the creedence of asking if it were true, Williams simply asked how the Obama campaign dealt with that sort of dishonest and ignorant sludge.
I was hoping Obama would simply answer that question, but for some reason, he felt the need to actually stop and explain that, yes, he was a Christian, swore his oath on a Bible, and often leads the recitation of the pledge when he's presiding over the Senate. I only would have hoped that he didn't need to do that, but I guess since polls show an amazingly large number of straight out morons out there do believe this tripe, he felt he better simply put it straight.
Kudos for Williams for taking a moment to acknowledge that such ugliness exists in wisper and e-mail campaigns, and allowing Obama to knock down such disgusting ignorance. (Although those who tend to believe stuff like that don't have any use for facts when forming their opinions.)
On one occasion, I believe it was Russert who asked Edwards and then Clinton about their votes on the horrible financial industry sponsored bankrupcy bill they had both voted for.
If this were a Republican debate or a prior Dem debate, the viewer would have to brace for a long-winded weaseley response trying to slither out of a direct answer and change the subject. This is what we've all been forced to accept in the past.
Instead, when asked if they still stood by their votes, both candidates instantly said no, that they considered it a mistake. Clinton tried to wiggle a bit by pointing out that the bill was never passed, but that's immaterial if she voted for it.
But here we had two presidential candidates violating the Rove rule that you NEVER, EVER EVER EVER admit a mistake. They were simply honest, and I have no doubt that voters will honor that and instantly forgive them their error, where if they had instead tried the usual weaseley contortions to avoid admitting a mistake, they would have held it against them. (as they rightly did when Clinton tried to have it both ways with her votes to give Bush blanket authorization on Iraq and the measure naming factions of the Iranian army as a terrorist organization.)
It was a great night to be a Democrat, and it truly showed that politics can, and may actually be, changing for the better. All three candidates came across as knowledgable, sincere, dedicated, capable, and above all, honest. It was clear to all that any one of them would make a capable and inspirational president. To say any of them would be an improvement over Bush would be to damn them with faint praise. All but a few bitter dead-enders realize that anything would be an improvement, Democrat, Republican, and independent.
It was a proud moment when it became clear that they were all going to reject the largely press manufactured conflicts and get back to the things they all agreed on, the need for immediate actions to try to address the many serious and pressing problems facing our country. (as opposed to divisive and distracting wedge issues like gay marriage, etc.) As Hillary noted, Democrats are all family. (though I know a few I wouldn't claim.)
It was truly a night for unity and common purpose, and it was hopeful, helpful, and heartening for the future of our country after suffering the abuse by the current Republican regime and the effort of the right wing to make truth and reality relative things.
And in the meantime, Wink Martindale won the Michigan primary on the Republican side, and Mike Huckabee came straight out and said he wants to ammend the constitution to reflect "God's law", presumably as he sees it.
These days, it's truly good to be a Democrat.