As the candidates mentioned so many times, the debate was held, coincidentally, on MLK day and was coincidentally sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus (who, coincidentally, have never sponsored a debate before), on the first Monday night, coincidentally, when there was no professional football to contend with.
But while the network was cashing in on the subversive racial context of the upcoming election, the candidates did an excellent job of showcasing their most non-Martin-Luther-King-y behavior by trying, as hard as they could, to prove that the other guy was a bigger liar than they were. There were rants, raves, shouting matches - at one point I half-expected Hillary to pick up her podium and start swinging, as Barack used poor John Edwards as a human shield against the dragon's fury.
What better way to honor the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. than to quibble back and forth for over an hour about the congressional voting history of each candidate? Meanwhile, the average voter is at home slouched into their couch with potato chip crumbs on their shirt, drinking a beer, and wondering what the hell is going on that a black man and a white woman are arguing at all. Few voters have ANY idea what they're talking about, that to discuss particular senate votes and previous positions on vague, incomprehensible bills is absolutely insane. At least 95% of Americans don't watch CSPAN, and would have no idea if anybody was telling the truth about anything.
Meanwhile, Edwards became the empathetic front-runner as he was all but ignored for a good 15 minutes while Hillary and Barack threw dung at each other. At certain points, it seemed that Edwards took the reins from a listless Wolf Blitzer, who attempted to mediate the "debate" (which turned into more and more of a lunchroom food-fight as the minutes ticked away). Edwards decried both Hil and Bar for their mud-slinging, while using the few seconds between their tirades to once again promote his "my-life's-work-is-ending-poverty" platform.
The issue of race was brought up for the first time also, to Obama, when he was asked (basically) if blacks should feel obligated to "vote black" in the upcoming election. Obama skilfully dodged the question, saying only "black people should do what's best for them, their families, and their country". A pearl-diver couldn't get more subversive. Way to go, Barack!
We did get to see a new, annoying side of Mr. Obama, who at one point, when discussing the enforcement of a certain policy, claimed to Edwards, "First of all, it will be ME enforcing this policy in a year, as president..." Well yes, sir! I'm not sure how this cockiness will play with the chimney-and-brickhouse families in the Northeast, but the South Carolinians ate it up. Do we need a cocky president? Isn't it about time we had a president with humility? Congratulations, Sen. Obama, you've just officially lost my vote.
And now for my final thought: I recognize that the goal of these elections is to WIN, not make friends, but when the debates turn into episodes of Jerry Springer, complete with crowds woo-wooing and fist-pumping, maybe politics have taken a turn for the worse. Politicians argue and pander, and that's the way it is, but nobody likes to see these enlightened, brilliant people dredge up voting histories and issue positions in order to injure the credibility of one another. Nobody wins in that kind of election.
Thank you, once again. Take care of yourselves, and each other.