Column: Deconstructing the Democratic debates from best to worst

Considering the fact that only two-thirds of Democrats can name a single Democratic presidential candidate, I really doubt that the debate Thursday night was a prime time event. But fear ye not. Since the West Wing is still on reruns, I watched the debate in order to fulfill my fantasies of a Democrat in the White House and decided to give my expert analysis on the participants. In order to ensure that I am completely unbiased, I have listed the candidates from best to worst.

Howard Dean: Despite looking like a deer caught in the headlights when Lieberman lambasted him, Dean impressed me with his performance. He was well spoken, informed, and even had pretty good Spanish accent. However, in a poor choice of words, Dean said of the war in Afghanistan, “I thought we had a right to defend the United States.” The use of past tense made our response to 9/11 seem circumstantial. We always have a right to defend the United States, no matter what the situation. If Dean wants to be tough on national security, which he is, he needs to have equally tough rhetoric. In the end though, he had a very strong performance despite a grilling from Lieberman.

John Kerry: Kerry proved that he has a sense of humor, but not much more. Trying to correlate the Bush vacation with an economic spurt was funny, but unfounded. President Bush is president in Crawford, Texas just as much as he is in D.C. And the implication that President Bush doesn’t know all the countries in the Western Hemisphere barely qualifies for small talk at a Democratic fundraiser, so it is most definitely uncalled for during a national debate. Insulting the President’s intelligence is childish, inaccurate and unproductive. If President Bush is an idiot, then everyone who voted for him is also an idiot. And they still vote.

Dick Gephardt: Calling Bush a “miserable failure” was an interesting sound bite the first time, but come the third time it was a little annoying. Gephardt is clearly trying to mimic the Dean anger strategy, but with far less credibility. As for trade, while Gephardt cozies up to the unions, it is undeniable that NAFTA and other trade agreements are essential to America’s economy. However, Gephardt is at least putting forth a long overdue effort toward an obvious problem.

John Edwards: I’m sure I wasn’t the only one that cringed at Edwards’ “hasta la vista” joke, and that wasn’t only because it brought me images of Arnold and California. And what the hell is a 24-hour translation center? Edwards should just smile, show off his Southern accent and pray that someone chooses him as a vice presidential candidate.

Carol Moseley Braun: Impressive, but she’s still going to need more than a NOW endorsement to even be recognized grocery shopping. The ambassador would be a nice candidate, but this election is too close for any idealistic adventures.

Bob Graham: I zoned out when he was talking, but he’s from Florida, so maybe vice president.

Dennis Kucinich: I wish I could have zoned out when he was talking. The only field in which Kucinich has any credibility is worst Spanish accent ever.

Al Sharpton: The fact that Al Sharpton’s travel plans were interrupted by the weather proves that at least one deity is pulling for the Democrats.

Joseph Lieberman: I placed Lieberman last because if I wanted a conservative, I’d vote for Bush. All Lieberman brought to the debate was future sound bites for the Bush campaign. However, he could be a powerful threat to Kucinich in the worst accent race.

So there you have it. Inspiration and extreme depression all mixed into one night. But Democrats are the big tent party; naturally our debates will be both diverse and interesting. So for those who walked away from the debate with a bleak outlook for the Democratic Party, it really was not that bad and things are already looking up. Again, Al Sharpton wasn’t there.

-The writer, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.

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