ROCK THE VOTE,
AND THE FLAG THING
Here are some disjointed thoughts on last night's "Rock the Vote"
candidate forum. The event, hosted by the faux-cool Anderson Cooper of CNN, featured "young people" (18-30) asking questions of the candidates.
--Sorry, kid, but I really don't care whether a candidate prefers a Mac or a PC, it was cute nine years ago.
--Now, the pot question on the other hand, that's what I came for! If I recall, it was Edwards, Dean, and Kerry saying "yes!", Sharpton and Kucinich saying "nope!", Clark and Lieberman saying "what, are you kidding?", and Braun saying "no comment!" Hope they ask the cocaine question in the general debate.
--For the first time, the very
first time, I was impressed by Wesley Clark. His remarks on gays rights, including military rights, were outstanding, despite the obvious Clinton namedrop. Only problem: why was he dressed like the cameramen?
--New explanation for Sharpton's hair: Somebody cut off the top of his skull, a la Kill Bill
, and he's moussing it up to obscure that fact.
--Kerry went after Dean on the NRA issue, with a rather cheap applause line. Problem is, Dean's stock response (supports assault weapons ban, enforce it brady & others while states add extra laws as they see fit, and comes from a rural hunting state with the lowest murder rate in the country) makes Kerry's charge seem rather hollow. I've never hunted, and I never will, but if I were president I'd want those votes!
--The "missing the point" award, that is, the award for the candidate who stuck too closely to their usual campaign rhetoric in the anything-goes youth event, goes to John Edwards.
--One other thing I noticed was that...
Okay okay, I'll talk about the Confederate flag thing.
First of all, Dean's been saying that line for months, and now
Kerry/Gep/Clark et al are upset with it? The first two fo them were at the DNC convention in California in February, they heard him use it there (I saw it on CSPAN), they must have known that it was met with wild applause and a standing ovation. Furthermore, if they are insinuating that Dean's comments suggested a condoning of racism, they are horrifically and completely wrong. I'll let Bill Saletan take it from here
On the other hand, I did had a problem with how Dean handled the flag question in the forum last night. He had three chances to reply to a young man's question about it, and it wasn't until the third that he specifically referenced the flag. It made him seem evasive. There are ways to sound stubborn and defiant without sounding like you're ducking an issue.
Still, I am completely in agreement with Howard's bigger point. There are important issues on race in America that do
need to be discussed, and we shouldn't wish them away as, say, Ward Connerly wants to do. Old wounds, lingering biases, both hard bigotry and [bush]soft bigotry[/bush], all these things still exist, and pretending they don't is not a path we should take. It's not enough for someone like Clark to just mail in the fact that he supports affirmative action. There has to be, as Dubya would say, an "honest and frank discussion"* in America on the issue, a discussion from which too many people cower.
Could Howard have made his statement about poor southern white voters without invoking the Confed flag? Certainly. But should the mere mentioning of a symbol -- especially since he was in no way
endorsing it, and as Saletan points out, asking people to support him despite
the flag and not because of it -- be grounds for faux condemnation from the other candidates? Particularly since they'd heard it used in context before and didn't have a problem with it then? Get real.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum
puts the pot question in context:
It was a mere decade ago that Bill Clinton had to nervously fend off questions about youthful marijuana use with his famous waffle about "not inhaling." Last night the question came up at the Democratic debate and, after a bit of nervous laughter, the candidates all answered as matter-of-factly as if it were a question about their healthcare plans. Remarkable.
Sounds like we're gaining ground in the culture wars. In your face, Bill Bennet!