Friday, February 1, 2008

Playing Nice

I watched the whole Democratic debate last night; sorry, I’ve never gotten into Lost.

It was a cordial and polite evening; it might as well have been a joint press conference with two colleagues showing that while they differ on some issues to some degree, they agree that a Republican would be a lot worse than either one of them. Josh Marshall live-blogged it and noted that holding the debate at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood with all the celebrities and such of the so-called “Hollywood elite” must have been masterminded by a GOP strategist, but I don’t know if that was any different than holding the Republican debate the night before in the Reagan library with the candidates apparently sitting on the right wing of the now-retired Air Force One. (Republicans can get away with stuff like that, though.) I suppose it would have been asking too much to hold the Democratic debate at the Hollywood Bowl.

As for the substance, there was a surprising amount of it, especially on the topic of health care. No, they didn’t get much into the nitty-gritty details (they’re saving that for the debate on the Discovery Health channel), but it did at least move beyond the question of whether or not we need universal health care; both candidates accept that as a given. The differences lie in the implementation and how to pay for it.

As has been the case in previous debates, the war in Iraq and who supported what and when came as close to providing sparks, but even then the undertone was that while Clinton and Obama may say that they were really against the war, it was really all George W. Bush’s fault and the job of the next president was to clean up the mess.

Wolf Blitzer tried to light it up a little by goading both Clinton and Obama, basically using the old schoolyard tactic of “Let’s you and him fight.” But Ms. Clinton called him on it, and Mr. Obama didn’t fall for it. (Why does Wolf Blitzer always have to sound so intensely monotonous? He makes Steven Hawking’s voice synthesizer sound like Demosthenes.)

If the forum proved anything, it’s that the Democrats really do have their act together and are giving the voters intelligent and thoughtful candidates. It’s hard to imagine anyone in the party having a violent objection to either one on the top of the ticket. The Republicans, for once, are the ones who are in turmoil with a vocal and nasty primary battle still going on between Romney and McCain, and the right-wing Orcosphere going apoplectic over the surge by “liberal” John McCain. Former House Speaker Denny Hastert claims McCain is allied with Democrats, and it’s gotten so bad that Jonah Goldberg is telling his fellow wingnuts to back off. I am assured by many people that once the Republicans settle on a candidate and turn their attention to the general election they will be unified in their Swiftboating and carpetbombing, since the only way they can win an election is by destroying their opponent rather than by selling their own product. And as Mike Stabile notes at Left is Right,

One thing you can most certainly say about the difference between the Democratic and Republican parties this election year is that the Republicans have ONLY white male candidates and the Democrats have NO white male candidates. (And don’t bring up Gravel; he’s not a serious candidate.)

If that is not an indication of which party is moving forward in this country, then nothing is.