Gravel: When Democrats buy into 'the problem of Iran,' they just help Vice President Cheney, who should be committed with his recent statements."
The Democratic Party has got to stop echoing these talking points because if Bush/Cheney/Kristol attack Iran, the American public will not know what is propaganda and what is truth.
Eric Kleefeld covers all the highlights for us...
This morning's ABC News Democratic debate in Des Moines was very good in a lot of ways, with some of the most substantive discussions of policy that we've seen at any televised debate up until now....read on
• George Stephanopoulos again opened the debate by introducing the candidates according to their poll numbers. The figures: Obama 27%, Clinton 26%, Edwards 26%, a three-way statistical tie, followed by Bill Richardson at 11%. Fun fact: Mike Gravel did not have the support of even one respondent.
• Hillary Clinton stood by her opposition to Barack Obama's position on meeting with hostile foreign leaders: "Well, George, we had a specific disagreement because I do not think that a president should give away the bargaining chip of a personal meeting with any leader unless you know what you're going to get out of that."
• Joe Biden stood by his statement that the presidency is not a place that lends itself to on-the-job training.
• Bill Richardson had a decent line: "You know I think that Senator Obama does represent change. Senator Clinton has experience. Change and experience — with me, you get both." The line was met by a mixture of laughter and applause.
• Chris Dodd stuck to his denunciations of Obama's proposals on Pakistan. "The only person that separates us from a jihadist government in Pakistan with nuclear weapons is President Musharaf," Dodd said. "And therefore I thought it was irresponsible to engage in that kind of a suggestion here. That's dangerous — words mean something in campaigns."
• Barack Obama had his own flippant opening line, casting some light on the absurdity of the nominating process: "You know, to prepare for this debate I rode in the bumper cars at the state fair." He then gave a substantive defense of his proposal to cross the Pakistani border if necessary to catch Osama bin Laden, calling it "common sense."
• On the subject of nuclear weapons, John Edwards said, "What America should do, and what I would do as president, is to actually lead an international effort to eliminate nuclear weapons from the planet. That's the way to make the planet more secure."
• Mike Gravel got some applause for this one: "When Democrats buy into 'the problem of Iran,' they just help Vice President Cheney, who should be committed with his recent statements."
• Dennis Kucinich was quite openly irked that Stephanopoulos didn't call on him until 26 minutes into the program: "Actually, George, this debate is insufficient, because you're really not including all the candidates here, and you're trying to polarize people out of the race."
• Kucinich said the well-known hedge fund Fortress Investment Group was poised to do well under any health plan that didn't replace the current system wit a government run program — a clear jab at John Edwards, who has worked for Fortress. He then talked about how he is the only candidate who would completely replace the current profit-driven health care system with a not-for-profit government run system with a guarantee of universal access.
• Bill Richardson said a withdrawal from Iraq can and should be done in six to eight months. "I believe that if you leave any residual forces, then none of the peace that we are trying to bring can happen."
• Joe Biden sharply differed, saying a quick withdrawal would only ignore a wider regional war that would cause more damage. "My reaction is, that it's time to start to level with the American people," Biden said. "This administration hasn't been doing it for seven years. We should." Biden also cited Yugoslavia as an example of how to do it right, keeping a force there that separates the warring parties without incurring casualties.
• Hillary Clinton sided more with Biden: "This is a massive, complicated undertaking, and we do have to do it as carefully and responsibly as possible."
• Barack Obama sided with Biden on the idea that getting out of Iraq will be a long and difficult process, but made sure to get in a dig against Biden and the other candidates: "The thing that I wish would have happened is that all the people on this stage had asked these questions before they authorized us getting in." Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Chris Dodd all voted to authorize the war in 2002.
• A question from a viewer in Salt Lake City asked the candidates whether they believed in the power of intercessionary prayer — the idea that God can stop a bad thing from happening or make it less severe, such as a hurricane or a bridge collapse. All the candidates gave various lines about how prayer can give people a measure of strength, but only John Edwards and Joe Biden said bluntly that prayer cannot stop a bad event. When it was Dennis Kucinich's turn, he shot back at Stephanopoulos, "George, I've been standing here for the last 45 minutes praying that you were going to call on me," and then looked upwards as if to say God answered his prayers.
• John Edwards criticized trade deals: "The question seems to have been on past trade agreements like NAFTA: Is this trade agreement good for the profits of big multinational corporations?" Instead, he said he would ask the question, "Is this good for middle-class working families in America...