Iowa debate

Random thoughts on the pre-Iowa caucus Democrat debate:

This debate had a little more substance than most (although still no more than you’d expect, with the sound-bite time limits). The format was a little more engaging on actual policy questions than the idiotic “Dr. Dean, it says here that Kerry thinks you are a big doody-head, and that you smell like poop, care to respond?” type questions we’ve gotten in the past.

Carolyn Moseley-Braun was typically well-spoken and had some of the most well-thought-out answers of any candidate up there, despite being ignored, as usual.

Dean did well, I thought, defending himself as well as possible against the cheap attacks from Kerry and Lieberman. Kerry seemed tired and defeated, and Lieberman, as usual, might as well have been a Republican. The moderators did a good job of cutting short the dead-horse-beating by Lieberman and Kerry.

Kucinich had some great lines, including an exchange with Dean that just about sums up the difference between them:

KUCINICH: A question to Dr. Dean.

You’re aware you and I have a difference of opinion on the health care issue, where I favor universal single-payer, and you favor keeping the health care system within the context of the present system, but you want to make sure more people are insured.

When you told the New York Times that if someone wants fundamental change in the system, they’re not your man, or you’re not their man, did you mean by that to suggest that you aren’t prepared to challenge the health insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies, which are holding health care in this country captive?

DEAN: Dennis, if somebody’s issue out there – and their biggest issue and most important issue is that they want a single-payer health care plan, they ought to vote for you or Carol.

KUCINICH: Thank you. I…

DEAN: Get some applause from your friends…

KUCINICH: I’ll accept that.

DEAN: The reason that I have taken the position that I have, I have tried twice to have huge health care reforms in Vermont. We didn’t get it. We did get health insurance for all children. We did get prescription benefits for a third of our seniors and disabled people. We do have health insurance for everybody under 150 percent of poverty, whether they’re eligible for Medicaid or not.

But we didn’t get it. And I do not want another reform effort where we fail, for whatever reason, and leave 43 million people uninsured.

I wrote my health care plan so that it would pass Congress, and we could get everybody insured.

KUCINICH: Is there a follow-up?


KUCINICH: The question is, you know, you’re hoping to be the president of the United States. Now, wouldn’t you anticipate that you could have the kind of power, even as a nominee of the party, to rally the American people in the cause of health care?

I mean, why won’t you say that you will do that? Why won’t you at least try? Then you could have a fall-back position, if necessary. Why won’t you at least try to do that?

DEAN: Jimmy Carter tried to reform the health care system. Bill Clinton tried to reform the health care system. Every time, we couldn’t get that stuff through Congress. And I was involved in the second one and very, very peripherally in the first one.

This is the third time. This time we’re going to do it.

Dean, the pragmatist, and Kucinich, the idealist. This exchange resonated with me, because it’s the exact same internal debate that means I’ll vote for Dean before Kucinich. The pragmatist in me says that Kucinich could never be president, but the idealist asks “why don’t we at least try?”

YEPSEN: Congressman Kucinich, I talked to a lot of Democrats who say they really like what you have to say, but they don’t think you’re electable. What do you say to those Democrats?

KUCINICH: Well, you know, I’m electable if you vote for me.