I watched the Democratic debate last night. At least, I more or less watched it. I haven't yet disciplined myself to pay full attention to things that don't reach out and grab my interest by the neck. And political debates have a very limited reach and weak grasp in that respect. So does almost everything else connected with politics. There just seems to be so much posturing involved. Mostly style. Little substance.
Now don't get me wrong. I love good style. But I want it to walk hand-in-hand with plenty of substance. Political debates don't seem to do that very well. It's probably more the fault of the formats than of the debaters. The formats force the debaters to give thirty minute answers in one minute soundbites, or less. The result is not real debate. I'm not sure what to call it so long as it isn't debate. An "exhibition" perhaps. An exhibition of oratorical skill and personality under pressure. And this is how they're judged by the media "pundits" after the fact.
Immediately after last night's debate, all the analysts talked about were how Edwards and Obama came out swinging, how Hillary gave it back and then some to them, how the crowd seemed behind her when they clapped and cheered for her and booed Obama and Edwards, and how Hillary seemed to "want it" more than Obama did. It was an analysis of style and crowd reaction to style, not of the substance or actual content of what anyone said. I turned it off. I had better things to do. It would have been different if there had been some strong, concise analysis of what the exhibitors (or exhibitionists?) proposed in their rushed soundbites.
Now maybe that's too much to ask of a medium obsessed with ratings involving an audience of people who, in general, would apparently rather hear mostly about style and little or nothing about substance. Or is this only appearance and not reality? And maybe we can't legitimately expect even "the best political team on television" to know enough about the subjects exhibited to analyze the soundness of what the exhibitors presented. Yet, I somehow think that some of them are capable of this. But they, like the exhibitors/debaters themselves, aren't allowed the opportunity to strut their stuff.
However, I believe that the person who came closest to strutting his stuff last night was Joe Biden. He might well be my pick for president if I were voting today. Why? Because he seems to me to have the best combination of what we desperately need in a president at this extremely urgent time including an unrivaled grasp of both foreign and domestic policy, obvious high intelligence, a potent blend of perspicacious realism and passionate idealism, unforced eloquence, and an intriguing mix of gravitas and not taking himself too seriously.
Yes, I know he has supported the war in Iraq, although he's also offered what may be the most realistic plan for getting us out of it:
1. Giving Iraq's major groups a measure of autonomy in their own regions. A central government would be left in charge of interests such as defending the borders and distributing oil revenues.
2. Guaranteeing Sunnis — who have no oil rights — a proportionate share of oil revenue and reintegrating those who have not fought against Coalition forces.
3. Increase, not end, reconstruction assistance but insist that Arab Gulf states fund it and tie it to the creation of a jobs program and to the protection of minority rights.
4. Initiate a diplomatic offensive to enlist the support of the major powers and neighboring countries for a political settlement in Iraq and create an Oversight Contact Group to enforce regional commitments.
5. Begin the phased redeployment of U.S. forces in 2007 and withdraw most of them by 2008, leaving a small follow-on force for security and policing actions. The plan named as The Biden-Brownback Resolution passed on the Senate floor 75-23 on September 25th, 2007, including 26 Republican votes. (from Wikipedia)
Yes, I know he can come off as almost egomaniacally self-promoting at times. So, he's not perfect. But he may be the least imperfect presidential candidate from either side of the political aisle. He seems to me to be the most complete package. If he were president, I would feel assured that we were in the best hands we could probably find. Perhaps we need Dennis Haysbert doing a political commercial for him reassuringly boasting, "You're in good hands with Biden."
Of course, Biden doesn't have a chance of getting the nomination. He's way down in the polls, although I don't know why, and that alone keeps him from receiving the media attention that might elevate his position. But one can only hope that a Democrat is elected president and that she or he appoints Biden Secretary of State.
So much for my post-debate commentary. I realize that it, like the "exhibits" and analyses I criticized earlier, is very short on substance. But then what do you expect? I'm not even a member of the best political team on television.