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Old News: The Dumbest Dem Debate Yet

ABC Debate, photo by the Associated Press

I had to hear what the hype was about.

Everyone was talking about ABC News’ Democratic Debate, promoted to death as a “Rumble in the Jungle” sort of bonanza and I didn’t watch it because … there had been more than 18 Democratic Debates already.

I just didn’t think anything new could come out of yet another one of these two-hour “respectfully-disagree-a-thons” where everyone’s answers are about the same and all the squabbling is petty.

But after a listen on YouTube it seems this time, rather than Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama niggling over health care plans and who going to end the war in Iraq fastest, ABC decided to act a damn fool.

Charlie Gibson: Pledge now that which ever one of you wins this contest you’ll take the other as your running mate and that the other one will agree if they lose to take the second place on the ticket. So I put the question to both of you, why not?

No one should actually be surprised that ABC’s Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos spent the first 45 minutes of the debate discussing former members of the Weather Underground, flag pins and “electability.” The news coverage of the entire race has been an examination in belly button lint. All these non-events have been treated as serious political discourse simply because they pop up on YouTube and spread virally through e-mail.

“(This is the) manufactured issue that our politics has become obsessed with and once again distracts us from what should be my job when I become commander-in-chief,” Obama said.

Why not reduce the debate to questions about Barack Obama’s patriotism? He’s not wearing a flag pin. Obviously he hates America! And because I don’t spell women with a “y,” I’m obviously not a real feminist. And because I’m single and childless obviously I’m anti-family and hate children!

It was unseemly, but TV journalism has been unseemly for awhile. It’s simply new to see ABC, a well-monied, Disney-owned broadcast network, handle this so sloppily. Even CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer would have mixed the inane with the serious. I’d hope wouldn’t open with the “Hold hands and kiss! C’mon! You know you want to do! Do it! We all want you to do it and run together for president!” question.

Even the, “oooo, so-not-scary” Chris Wallace and Brit Hume at FOX might have mixed it up (although some are claiming FOX’s Sean Hannity fed Stephanopoulos some of his more brow raising haymakers). But 45 minutes of damning fluff meant only to impugn Obama’s character with the whole “secret Muslim/America-hater” gambit?

Obama was once seen eating a bratwurst during the Taste of Chicago. Bratwursts created by Germans. Germans were responsible for World War II so … dear God! OBAMA HEARTS HILTER! Al Qaeda, Castro, Louis Farrakhan and Rev. Wright together at last!

There are so many legitimate ways to criticize Barack Obama. There are so many legitimate questions. Like his voting record. I realize it’s not as long as others, but there is still an actual voting record full of, you know, FACTS that one could base their questions on.

But never mind me. Please. Continue discussing all that nothing. Let us talk about “elitism,” even though our country was founded by “elites.” Let’s talk about voter “antipathy” in Pennsylvania because Obama was smoozing at a San Fran fund raiser saying shit you say at a San Fran fund raiser. Let’s talk about Rev. Wright and The Weather Underground and Clinton’s Bosnia flub.

Let’s all fiddle together while Washington burns.

If the American experiment fails it won’t be because we’ve been taken over by another country or that the Average Joes have come down with a case of Al Qaeda Fever. We’re going down because we’re a nation of fools. A nation of children who want everything for nothing. Who want their bridges to not fall down, but don’t want to pay taxes. Who want to waste what tax money there is on people, places and things that don’t need them in the first place. Who want war but want someone else to go fight it. Who want to reap the rewards but none of the consequences. Who want cheap goods and services, who want cheap food and labor but don’t want to own up to what has to be done to keep those goods and services cheap, that we are a nation of snakes swallowing our own tails whole.

But please. Don’t mind me, Charlie and George, CNN and FOX, Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, Akon and Lil’ Wayne. Please continue to celebrate the dumb and decadent. Our bedazzled ignorance is growing in numbers to the point that one day we will be like Moby, we will be all made of stars, legions of mirrors glistening, reflecting back upon ourselves onto the YouTube’s of our desires and Andy Warhol’s cliched 15 minutes turns to an operatic aria of self-masturbatory narcissism where you don’t need to be rich or “elite” to obtain.

PS. I too found it highly suspect that Stephanopoulos told Clinton he did not want to ask her about the “Bill Richardson = Judas” thing. Maybe they were trying to go light on Hillary Clinton because they bought the hype. Maybe George felt some residual loyalty to the woman who’s husband used to sign his checks. Who knows. George really shouldn’t have helmed the debate for those reasons alone.

I haven’t really gotten into the Richardson flap because I don’t like the guy.

Last year I had to do a lot of research on No Child Left Behind and I found his pandering on the issue rather disgusting. He was advocating repealing it, but wasn’t offering anything that would actually fix the inequities in our education system. This was made doubly disgusting as his state was rife with education problems too.

I also thought for an intelligent man he came off as a moron on every morning show I saw him on. Tim Russert beat him down so bad on Meet the Press last fall I’m positive Richardson has PTSD over it.

Richardson has his good points and can even come off as a likable guy, but I didn’t see Richardson’s endorsement of Obama as a “good” thing. It wasn’t bad because the only person it hurt was Hillary Clinton. Richardson was their guy and he went with Obama. But for all his talk about Obama being the guy for America I felt it was more about Obama being the guy for Richardson. He wants to ride Obama’s coattails like he road the Clintons’. So, i
f I were in the Obama camp I’d keep an eye on that dude.

He’s up to no damn good.

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6 thoughts on “Old News: The Dumbest Dem Debate Yet

  1. [quote]Last year I had to do a lot of research on No Child Left Behind and I found his pandering on the issue rather disgusting. He was advocating repealing it, but wasn’t offering anything that would actually fix the inequities in our education system. This was made doubly disgusting as his state was rife with education problems too.[/quote]Black Snob:I can give you a long, long, long list of Black politicians, Black Democratic operatives and Black talk radio hosts that take this exact same position with respect to NCLB yet they go on without missing a beat within our community.Interestingly where as for several decades many of them made non-specific demands upon the government for “mo money, mo money, mo money”. For some strange reason despite the fact that NCLB added at least $12 billion more in federal spending to the final budget of the previous president we hear the claim that “NCLB was ‘shortchanged'”. Even Jonathan Kozol, a fellow content contributor to the “Huffington Post” site that you contribute to is ON RECORD claiming that the educational environment prior to NCLB was grand. The teacher had control of the curriculum and the class room. For some strange reason these wonderful times were snatched away, it seems by the introduction of this one set of policies. Bill Richardson’s position for repeal without read alternatives being vocalized is not uncommon.

  2. constructive feedback: I don’t think most taxpayers understand NCLB well enough to make a coherent judgment, so most people have followed the cue of educators and politicians. And their POVs are often suspect due to whatever relationship they have with the legislation.I just singled out Richardson because he was running for president when I was in the midst of my research and after noticing that neither Clinton or Obama were talking “repealing” NCLB he grabbed that mantle and just ran as far as his little legs could carry him.He only did that in hopes of getting the teachers unions to propel him to victory. It had nothing to do with his views on public education. Once NCLB, and education in general, became an afterthought again, so did his campaign.But I’m not happy with anyone regarding NCLB and I don’t think anyone running for president in 2008 plans to do much more than either let the thing expire or continue to make superficial changes that don’t address the many issues that surround public education in our country.And while I gather that you’re implying poor schools are better funded, I went to schools in middle class areas and covered school districts in both poor and well-to-do areas. Property taxes are the main thing that determine how much money you have to work with. Federal funding only accounts for a small percentage with a lot of it going to special education and free/reduced lunch. Not curriculum, supplies, books or better educators. Supply and demand means the best teachers go to work for the suburban districts that can afford to pay them more and provide better supplies and infrastructure to work from.Urban districts are usually screwed because cities, like St. Louis, are so desperate to get businesses to move there they create sweetheart deals where they don’t have to pay property taxes for decades. Neighborhoods are completely devalued from years of disrepair. So they are not pulling from much of a tax base. Then the money that comes in from the federal government, which isn’t much, is terribly mismanaged and often wasted by the city and the district.So the picture is a bit more complex. That’s why, in my opinion, people in horrible school districts should sue the city and the state on the behalf of their children because all the “safeguards” like vouchers and transferring your kids to better county schools are shell games. The private schools and the county schools both reserve the right to not take your kid, and they take that right over and over. I know my old district Hazelwood, one of the largest in the state, cried “no room in the classroom” for the city kids trapped in the school system from hell.So I get frustrated that the ACLU and the NAACP aren’t pushing to sue the state of Missouri because the current system dooms their children to impoverished, mismanaged schools and no options outside of getting a better job and moving out of the city.But it’s too simple to say money isn’t the issue. Money is a HUGE issue. The system is just broken and the federal government’s charity peanuts are too inadequate and too mismanaged to even put a dent in the huge wealth disparities between where I grew up and St. Louis’ impoverished north city.

  3. Snob, I thought this was a superb rant. The rising action of that part after “Let’s talk about elitism…” I could almost hear somebody’s voice raising as I read it. But why do you think it is that the American people are so easily distracted by “silly season”? I mean, now there’s even this whole thing about Obama flipping Hillary the bird or some crap. Is it laziness? We believe the media hype over the small stuff because we trust them to bring us “news we can use”? Do the American people legitimately believe these issues reveal the candidates’ character? It seems like there’s been a reverberating uproar about the debate in particular but somebody somewhere, ie a producer thought it was a good idea to ask those questions, right? I also don’t understand the obsession w/celebrities, but apparently I’m the odd man out.

  4. fantastically misunderstood me: I think most Americans are bored by politics even in this most exciting of political seasons. People respond to drama so that’s what the media gives us. It’s not about information, it’s about infotainment. They appeal to the lowest common denominator to appeal to get the widest array of consumers to they can get better rates for their advertising.Even those of us who bitch about tabloid news consume a good degree of it out of simple curiosity.Hence when crappy news succeeds it’s because “the market has spoken.”People want to watch crap.People don’t want to hear the details or be forced to face the realty that no politician can keep these cherry picked promises we’ve been getting. It’s like the line in Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Here we are now — entertain us.It’s like Rome, only instead of tossing Christians to lions it’s the poly-laity giving us a Big Gulp Slurpee and turning on the MTV while burning our history and science texts.I blame America’s lengthy history with anti-intellectualism and downside of capitalism.

  5. Black Snob – I have no doubt that you are correct with respect to corporations given sweetheart deals with regards to property taxes.Let us consider the situation in Harlem though. On a recent trip to NYC I grabbed a local business paper because it discussed the conflict in Harlem over redevelopment.It seems that the “vintage Harlem” faction is against a multi-multi-million dollar redevelopment plan for 125th Street that would bring in new residential space, retail space and even affordable housing units because they want to hold on to their businesses that employ a few people and only clear a few hundred thousand in sales (at most – and I am being generous) per year.While it is always common to discuss the SUPPRESSION that goes on in our community, for me, it is more interesting to make note of the opportunity lost in our community by people who like to COMPARE themselves with the proverbial “White folks in the suburbs” yet they are against the very elements that allow their schools to be well funded.At what point do we begin the enumerate the COSTS of the policies that are popular WITHIN the Black community with regards to the part that they play in the GAP that is so frequently referred to?Going back to the presidential campaign and NCLB – even the NAACP “Crisis” magazine was forced to admit that the first GWB budget increased federal education spending by $12 billion over Clinton. STILL it was said that evil GWB was “short changing education” – this even came from the mouth of the man who would be president – Barack Obama. As we inspect Mr. Obama’s education plan he has a proposal to increase educational spending by about $16 billion over the “short changing president”. I struggle to figure out why the first guy (Clinton) was invited to the NEA convention during his last year in office and received a roaring applause while the next guy who upped the ante by $12 billion the first year was SUED for putting forth an “unfunded mandate”. Yet the next guy comes along and plans to add $16 billion on top of that and he is said to have “The Audacity to Hope”.I figure that it is JUST ME who doesn’t understand how it all works.[quote]And while I gather that you’re implying poor schools are better funded,[/quote]NOPE. I AM making the point, however that the “Money Chase” is often an obfuscation away from the core issues that are harming the schools in these urban districts. I am not one who believes that we must wait for RESULTS to kick in until a school receives 100% of the money that it claims to need. With the fact that total school spending has DOUBLED over the past 30 years in real dollar terms – if it was just a simple matter of dollars – we would have seen the results double over time.Clearly there are issues with the “product” that shows up to school every day, the parents who are supposed to instill a sense of discipline and respect, the teachers who’s job it is to deliver information to these young minds, the administrators who manage the entire affair, the politicians that set policy and the money that is needed to fund it all. It just seems awfully strange that some school districts are able to manage better outcomes than others.

  6. constructive feedback: Well, I think you have the answer to your questions there. Partisan politics. Most people tend to gloss over the fact that NCLB was originally created by Sen. Ted Kennedy and the Bush Administration. To get the bill to pass both Republican controlled houses of congress they had to cut the initial budget for the plan and up the level of punitive oversight.Just like how the Republicans who didn’t like NCLB passed it so GWB could get an early win for his administration, the NEA jumped all over GWB because they are overwhelmingly pro-Democrat. At the end of the day everyone has decided they hate the thing now, Dem and Republican, and everyone is determined just to let this thing die in the street and pretend like it never happened.It just drives me nuts that a crappy situation was made crappier and now that it’s worse we’re going to dump it and go back to the status quo which was crappy? That’s just loony toons. And most of this didn’t have to happen. The amount of federal dollars compared to state dollars for education was paltry. They could have said no to the extra cash and kept their schools as they were, but everyone was greedy, so when half their teachers were being laid off, schools were being closed and kids were being bused all over to STILL get a shitacular education I really couldn’t see the cost savings. But I think for what we can fix about public education is the bureaucracy that is behind the fund mismanagement and the inertia of the teacher’s unions who impede any new ideas or progress.Now getting parents to be good parents. Whoo. That’s a whole other problem. If I can get the district and the city to stop mismanaging the few tax dollars they have left maybe I can get some parents to show up and be parents.But then, I seriously think the current Mayor of the St. Louis is purposely trying to run the school system into the Mississippi so he can continue to sell off the pricey real estate those old historic schools are sitting on … as well as push for more private and charter schools. Which I guess would be great if the private Catholic Schools wouldn’t stop threatening to leave the city if they don’t get new parking lots built by the city. And if more charter schools were good charter schools (because we have some) and were less like ponzi schemes.And because of the city’s terrible performance, the State recently took over the district under NCLB guidelines. Normally I’d be for local control, but … hell. Let the state have a stab at it. I don’t see how it can get any worse.Per the Harlem situation, gentrification tends to freak people out because more often than not developments that promise to be good just make the neighborhood to expensive for the old residents to stay in it. I can’t speak for other cities, but because of how it’s been abused in St. Louis even good, honest business development opportunities cause fights because historically these plans would fall through, the development would go unfinished and an eyesore would rise where their small businesses used to be.We have that problem right now with all the old department stores, offices and warehouses that were being turned into high price lofts that are now being abandoned by their developers causing property values to plunge yet again.But this isn’t the case in every city redevelopment situation. But if you’ve got a small cadre of residents fighting it those are usually the reasons why. They think they’re being lied to.

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