June 28 Debate

Winners, Losers, and Other Debate Observations

Ninety minutes isn’t much time to discuss the issues that are important to the nation. Seventy-five minutes is even less, which is what we got after the Tavis Smiley Show, the 15 minutes at the start of the broadcast that allowed him to pay tribute to Howard University, Tom Joyner, and, of course, himself. Candidate events such as these almost always fail to live up to expectations. There are canned answers, flubbed lines, and other annoyingly condescending comments made by candidates. However, these events are (marginally) important and here are my winners and losers.

Winners

Former Senator John Edwards, yet again, has demonstrated he grasps the issues as well or better than anyone in the race. He was particularly impressive in responding to a question on HIV/AIDS. He called for increased federal funding for a cure for HIV/AIDS and provide Medicare coverage for testing and treatment. He would appoint a redevelopment czar for New Orleans. It’s too bad the punditocracy is trying to make this a two-person race.

Every day that Hilary Clinton walks off the stage without a major flub is a good thing. She didn’t hurt herself and she helped herself when she noted that if HIV/AIDS were hitting White women aged 18-25 the way it is hitting Black America, then there would be hell to pay. That was an inconvenient truth that too many people want to overlook.

Joe Biden showed his willingness to be candid on issues. His comment on the need for community leadership to confront the men in the community about the need to wear condoms and the need for women to know that they can say no in response to a question on HIV/AIDS drew gasps in the room. Some will, no doubt, see his comment as condescending and I can see why (there’s nothing like a White Senator telling Black folk what to do), but he’s right and people need to be real about this issue. Too many Black men are being sexually irresponsible.

Losers

New Mexico Governor Richardson should get out now. He is surprisingly unprepared for these forums and seems stilted and stiff. It’s as if he is not studying for the forums. Much to my chagrin, he is not ready for prime time. His answer to the question on outsourcing, which included the idiotic "What will it take to keep you here?" in reference to corporations, strikes me as supportive of corporate tax breaks that hurt workers.

Honorable Mention

Former Senator Mike Gravel. He doesn’t have a chance of winning this nomination, so he’s free to speak truth to power. His taking note of the abhorrent rise in incarceration rates in American over the last 35 years was certainly an eye opener. Hopefully, it will get some to think about better ways to mete out justice. Our current system is a failure, captured by "tough on crime" conservatives who couldn’t care less about just and prefer to incarcerate as many people who might vote Democratic as possible. Gravel also drew applause for his comment that neither party has done much on opportunity issues. Ending the national income tax is an interesting thought, though his solution is unduly regressive. His comment that most of the other candidates don’t have the moral judgment to be president may have been the zinger of the night.

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Thursday, June 28, 2007
June 28 Debate



Black Media Well Represented at Debate

It's rare to have a presidential candidate forum on the campus of an historically Black college or university.  My alma mater, Howard University, is hosting today's forum and I'm pleased to be among the accredited media covering the event.  One impression so far is how well represented Black media are among those covering the event.  Radio One, Syndication One, The Final Call, the Afro-American Newspapers, Progressive Black Journalists, and Black Agenda Report are among the Black-oriented organizations here (even Homes of Color magazine was in the house!).  Add Pacifica to the mix, and one can expect that any Black person in the country that wants a Black perspective on what happens this evening will have an abundance of choices.

There is important news today that may come up in the forum.  The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that school desegregation plans used by systems in Seattle, Washington and Louisville, Kentucky, which categorize students on the basis of race and use that in making school assignments, violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, even though the goal is school desegregation.  It'll be interesting to see how the candidates work the ruling into their responses.

More later . . .

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Thursday, June 28, 2007
June 28 Debate



Expectations for Thursday’s Debate

I've been asked by more than a few people about what to expect in Thursday's Democratic presidential debate. I expect a few things. First, I expect there to be a number of people in the D.C.-based mainstream media and the punditocracy to get lost on their way to Howard University. Let's just say that my alma mater is in a part of town that is outside of their Capitol Hill--White House--Georgetown "Axis of Evil." Most of the people covering the debate never make it to outside of official Washington, so I'm happy they will be out of their comfort zones.

Second, I expect Tavis Smiley (disclosure: Smiley and I are FRATERNITY brothers, so I am a bit partial to him), along with Michel Martin, Ruben Navarrette, Jr., and DeWayne Wickham to ask tough questions that wouldn't occur to Blitzer or Matthews and people of their ilk. While some topics will be predictable -- e.g. Iraq, immigration, Katrina, healthcare, education, Africa -- I think other important areas will be probed as well. Look for questions about incarceration policy, single-parent households, urban housing, and, perhaps, Haiti, to come up as well. Don't forget that the most penetrating question of the 2004 debate may well have been Gwen Ifill's query of Vice President Cheney with regard to women and HIV. All of these questioners are capable of similarly probing questions.

Third, I expect Barack Obama to be treated like a conquering hero. The audience response to him may turn the debate into a circus. While I am not yet sold on Obama, his appeal is legitimate and undeniable, as is Black America's desire to have someone Black in the White House. It won't be a pep rally, but it will be an obviously pro-Obama crowd. And, though the semester ended a month ago, there are a number of students who got tickets and I'm sure they aren't there to cheer on Mike Gravel.

Fourth, look for John Edwards to stand out. His "two America's" theme resonates with Black America. If Obama weren't in the race, then he might be the front runner. It's unfortunate that he's getting crowded out at this point because, truth be told, he may well be pushing the best collection of policy initiatives.

Lastly, I expect all of the candidates to play up the fact that they are on the campus of an historically Black university; Howard means a lot to many in Black America. Look for all of the candidates to pay homage to Blacks in one way or another. Some may even mention that they visited the campus before and that the feel "home" at Howard (I'll keep the barf bag nearby just in case). Some are more comfortable around minorities than others, so it will be interesting to me to see how staged each of them seem.

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Wednesday, June 27, 2007
June 28 Debate



Shhh!  They’re Letting Me into Thursday’s Presidential Debate

Thanks to the Media Bloggers Association, I'll be among the 20 bloggers it has arranged to receive press credentials to cover the PBS Presidential Debate being held this Thursday at my alma mater, Howard University.  I'll be trading elbows with reporters from around the country for prime space to ask the candidates (and their flacks) questions about how the debate went.  I'll put up a few posts from the debate and give my take on how it all played out.  I'll be sure to give you the inside poop.

Until next time . . .

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Monday, June 25, 2007
June 28 Debate



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