Cover your ears: Democratic candidates debate tonight

The Democratic presidential candidates debate at 8 PM on MSNBC tonight. If only we could set up windmills to collect the hot air...

All right, I have to admit that I sort of like watching the presidential debates, as long as I can drink or do something else alongside the spectacle. Every time Ron Paul lays into the "war propaganda" of the military-industrial complex, or Kucinich floats his dreamy utopia stuff, at least that's interesting.

The 2008 presidential campaign itself is a doom-laden spectacle of horror, and has pretty much sucked all around so far. McCain and Giuliani compete to sound the most maniacal, and even aw-shucks Huckabee plots foreign wars of obliteration. Tancredo still refuses to go back to Italy where "his type" infest us from.

The best recent news was when McCain visited the Smith & Wesson manufacturers and promised to chase Bin Laden to the gates of hell, and kill him with their product. Stephen Colbert called that a 720° Triple Bank Shot, and I have to agree.

McCain personally requested the stop at the Smith and Wesson-owned Thompson-Center Arms factory, where he scrutinized hunting rifles, watched workers cast parts from molten steel and enjoyed a closed-door session with executives seated around a table with an AR-15 military-style rifle on top.

During a talk with more than 100 of the company's employees, the Republican presidential candidate promised to "bring Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell and shoot him with one of your products." The line got a big round of applause.

Obama's campaign has been an extreme disappointment. Somehow the last 8 to 10 weeks have slid by without Obama daring to point out that Hillary Clinton Sucks All Around, and so he's viewed as weak, in the all-important frame of the Bitchslap Theory of Electoral Politics. As Josh Marshall explained, as we saw with SwiftBoats in the summer of 2004, you keep slapping them with stupid shit, and when they don't fight back, you look too weak for the American public:

One way -- perhaps the best way -- to demonstrate someone's lack of toughness or strength is to attack them and show they are either unwilling or unable to defend themselves -- thus the rough slang I used above. And that I think is a big part of what is happening here. Someone who can't or won't defend themselves certainly isn't someone you can depend upon to defend you.

Demonstrating Kerry's unwillingness to defend himself (if Bush can do that) is a far more tangible sign of what he's made of than wartime experiences of thirty years ago.

Hitting someone and not having them hit back hurts the morale of that person's supporters, buoys the confidence of your own backers (particularly if many tend toward an authoritarian mindset) and tends to make the person who's receiving the hits into an object of contempt (even if also possibly also one of sympathy) in the eyes of the uncommitted.

This is certainly what Bush's father did to Michael Dukakis and, sadly, it is what Bush himself did, to a great degree, to Al Gore.

It worked against Kerry, and so far against Obama. Hillary's campaign has resisted sniping a lot at Obama directly, but they've gone the next level up to set the Frame of Polls and other assorted Voodoo Chicken Guts to create a Conventional Wisdom that she can't be touched.

Then there is the ready victim gender language thing, wherein such ideas as "a Conventional Wisdom that she can't be touched" flips around to represent domestic violence and sexism and other stuff. Any Hillary assault is sort of like hitting your wife. This seems to be working, and it's kind of surprising no one has ever tried it before at the national level. I guess it wouldn't have helped much with Geraldine Ferraro in '84.

New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, who I have always thought of as a Basically Good Guy and also Very Experienced with the Wily World Out There - a diplomatic Grandmaster - has basically run an invisible campaign. He was hobbled for early 2007 by having to spend all his time finishing the session of the New Mexico legislature. This kept him off the radar while the HillaryBots locked up the entire Democratic Party hierarchy.

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The conventional wisdom of the race depresses me. The media sucks and they follow Baby Boomer rules of sugarcoating all awkward realities of 2007. The media is just horrible and only care about these dumb polls. The left of the alternative media is letting everything slide, pretty much, with few results. This Iran shit getting ginned up is seriously their responsibility to deal with.

One other thing on the media, though: MSNBC does a unique job covering the stuff, and I have to give them some credit for the effort. Right now David Schuster, the Hardball correspondent, is grilling some pols and doing a decent enough job by today's standards. Schuster really has done better than anyone else on television covering the Valerie Plame / CIA leak / Scooter Libby scandal. When Plame was on Hardball, Plame complemented Schuster's rapidfire summary of the extremely convoluted case.

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The Rundown:

  • Bill Richardson: Shooting for VP. Wish he was doing better. Usually focuses on speaking against paranoid warmongering and conveys a positive attitude.
  • Hillary Clinton: Playing an impressive game at every level, as long as the other candidates always pull their punches. If the Teflon ain't fried tonight, we are fucked.
  • Chris Dodd: Polling behind Colbert in South Carolina. Has been principled in his foreign policy and responsive to the blogger netroots, but has had no influence.
  • Joe Biden: Breaking up Iraq is a shitty idea, smart guy. Watch no one really care, but then again, I hope he'll probably pounce on Hillary for the Iran thing (she voted for recent Kyl-Lieberman war hawk insanity bill)
  • Dennis Kucinich: Still not making himself relevant, but I wish he would.
  • Mike Gravel: They don't give him any time of course. I gave him $15 early on when he said the Military-Industrial Complex dominates our culture. I wish he'd keep injecting that hard-core antiwar idea. He probably will, but it won't get any bounce unless he really goes after Hillary specifically.
  • John Edwards: He seems to be floating away or something. I'm glad he called out Hillary's cash vacuum cleaner with Beltway lobbyists and the military-industrial complex.
  • Barack Obama: Dude you gotta git 'em. Seriously. Americans don't want a freaggin' Harvard lecturer, they need something of a pit bull. Obama needs a little more Nixon, if you will.

So my order of preference for Dem nomination, the proper combo of principles and electibility: 1) Richardson. 2) Obama. 3) Edwards. 4) everyone else. 8) HillaryCorp International.

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