Sunday, January 11, 2004

Random mumblings about Iowa

Things are heating up in the great state of Iowa, land of extreme caucusing.

Debate Highlights:

Barely a week before the Jan. 19 caucuses kick off the Democratic contest for the White House, Dean conceded under questions from Sharpton that he did not have a black or Hispanic in his six-member Cabinet during more than 11 years as governor.

"If you want to lecture people on race, you ought to have the background and track record," said Sharpton.

Deaniacs are going ballistic saying Sharpton is an unfair rabblerouser. Okay, he is, but Dean has asked for this kind of treatment by insisting that he, and only he, speaks to white folks about race. And he does address the topic in a lecturing fashion that makes Al Gore seem self-effacing.

Dean thinks what he has said in the fairly recent past is simply not important.

[T]he moderator's first question challenged Dr. Dean to explain his four-year-old criticisms of the Iowa caucuses as favoring special interests, and the debate turned progressively raucous and was filled with difficult moments for the candidates.

Dr. Dean said, "I frankly think people are a little tired of having debates about who said what 4 years ago, or who said what 6 years ago, or 8 years ago, or 10 years ago."

On the other hand, Dean thinks people are very interested in who voted for Nixon 32 years ago, which, by the way, 61% of Americans did.

Pre-Debate Smackdown

Dean invites rude remarks and lives to regret it.

The former Vermont governor had just finished his standard stump speech blasting President Bush for, among other things, his Iraq policy and his stewardship of the economy. He asked, as is his custom, for "questions, comments or rude remarks in the New England tradition."

Ungerer, wearing a T-shirt bearing the words "Mr Fix It," rose to his feet and condemned what he called the incivility of the campaign and the political press. He suggested Dean and the other Democratic candidates stop "tearing down your neighbor" and cut their "slam, bam and bash Bush" rhetoric.

"Please tone down the garbage, the mean-mouthing of tearing down your neighbor and being so pompous," Ungerer, a registered Republican who voted for Bush in 2000, said to scattered hisses and boos from the overwhelmingly pro-Dean audience at the Oelwein Community Center.

Dean, whose rivals have suggested his impulsiveness, outspokenness and temperament make him less than ready for the White House but have been unable to provoke him in a dozen or more debates and forums, began by calmly replying: "George Bush is not my neighbor."

But when Ungerer stood and tried to interrupt, Dean shouted: "You sit down. You had your say. Now I'm going to have my say."

Well, Howard, the man did say "please." Okay, you let him go on for long enough and you needed to take control. How about saying, "Sir. I've given you more time to speak than I'm gonna get for each debate question tonight. Now I'm gonna respond to you." Or something like that. No. Too easy. Instead Dean has an unpleasant visual and sound-bite sounding angry at a potential voter he disagrees with.

I've read responses from some Deaniacs who are thrilled with the exchange. I've even seen the old man referred to as a "troll." (The world is not a blog, people) I'm not convinced this will play well with undecided voters in the waning days of the Iowa campaign, however. I don't think those undecided folks have just been laying back hoping that a more fiesty alternative to Howie was gonna prove himself and will now say, "Nope. That seals it. Dean's my man. Did you see the way he bitch-slapped that old geezer who dared to ask him to 'tone down the garbage.'?" I think he has those voters wrapped up already.

Coupled with Edwards' huge endorsement by the Des Moines Register and a much better debate performance than the front-runner, Howard may have given Johnny the late-opening he was hoping for to at least beat "expectations" in Iowa. And I'm increasingly thinking other candidates' supporters are going to be less inclined to move toward Dean if their guy doesn't muster 15% the first go around on caucus night.

And another thing-- Dean's been trying to play up his Christianity lately with somewhat amusing results, and now this quote: "It's not the time to put up any of this 'love thy neighbor' stuff ... I guess tomorrow he'll be quoting: "'To everything there is a season-- a time to love your neighbor, a time to deny the sonuvabitch is your damn neighbor.' That's either Old Testament, New Testament, I forget which."

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