My lovely spousal unit wrote up a number of analyses on the "debate" and on the candidates. Read them:
Clinton and Obama
Richardson, Kucinich, and Gravel
Dodd and Edwards
Me, I'm pretty much in agreement with her.
We know what we'll get with Clinton - it's a known quantity. All the good things watered to nothing. Equal rights for gays? Try "don't ask don't tell." On the other front, co-opt some of the ideas that the other side is trying to force down your throat so you can claim it as a victory and try to woo the middle. It's a shitty tactic, and it's probably what will win.
If you can call that a win.
She'd probably be as effective as her husband was, which is to say, smarter than anything we've seen in the last 6 years, but too willing to give too many concessions that have serious consequences to a lot of people, and not willing to take on the institutional power structures.
Obama? He's pretty slick, but not so much during that debate. He was off, and face to face with Clinton his inexperience shows. There's not a whole lot of substance there. He's dedicated to protecting the status quo. He's good with language, and has some serious charisma, and that'll go a long way toward paving the way for policies he's championing. I'm concerned, however, that he might not be strong or wise enough to champion the right causes. He's bandying words that he thinks will play well without understanding the implications.
This is why Gravel is important. He is the gadfly of the primary. "'All options on the table' means 'willing to use nukes.' It was immoral 50 years ago, and it's immoral now." (paraphrased) Thank you, Mr. Gravel.
Gravel's not in it to win the election. Gravel's in it to push an issue, and try to cut through the bullshit, to cut through the NewSpeak. We need him.
Edwards - he's the plastic man. Hollow inside, maleable on the surface. We need him not to be president. I have nothing positive to say about him.
One thing I find disturbing is the selective affectation of accents. I guess that since it worked so well for Mr Dubya, both Edwards and Obama are doing it. Edwards puts on his southern accent when he's talking to the south, or about poverty, and Obama "talks black" when it suits.
Kucinich - I like him. I liked him a lot the last time around, and I still like him. Of course, I'll never get a chance to vote for him. The way that primaries work, Pennsylvania doesn't get to have any say in the nominating process. He's mostly right, about just about everything. I'll not go into too many details here, except that he's pushing universal health care, alternative energy sources, getting out of Iraq NOW instead of this lame "timeline" crap, civil liberties, fighting unemployment and really funding education properly.
Kucinich (and it irks me to have to say this, as a peacenik myself) is not up to fighting a Global War on Terror. 'What are you talking about?' you ask. 'That's those Bush asshole's propaganda.' yehwell. Here's the problem. We started out with a small group of radical assholes in the mountains of Afghanistan and a small group of radical assholes in a large mansion in the middle of Washington DC. When the radical assholes in Afghanistan blew up the World Trade Center, the radical assholes in Washington made a critically fatal mistake.
They declared a war.
When you declare a war, you turn your opponents into Enemies. You turn the foulest of criminals into soldiers. In a twisted way, you have just legitimized them.
And we've turned a rag-tag band of radical assholes in the mountains of Afghanistan into a Global Terrorist Network and are now involved in what is essentially the beginnings of a Christian/Muslim religious war, fueled by oil money. And now we have to face that.
Choice number 1: The Bush/Cheney Plan - escalate, escalate, escalate. That's a recipe for disaster. The slaughter continues, the muslims become further radicalized, the war grows, enveloping more countries.
Choice number 2: Slow withdrawal from Iraq, War on Terror continues. This is also a recipe for disaster. The war continues, the terrorists are, as mr dubya says, "emboldened." Once Iraq is "liberated" from the occupation, the jihad scatters, and the war envelops more countries.
Choice number 3: Immediate withdrawal from Iraq while maintaining essentially the same policies (wrt terrorists, the "global war," energy, etc) is essentially the same as choice number 2.
The leadership we need needs to be able to figure out a way not just out of Iraq, but out of the whole "War on Terror" - s/he needs to be able to re-criminalize terrorist activity. NOT treat them (glorify them) as enemies of war, but treat them as common criminals. Change the flavor of the conflict. And this can only happen in coordination with a complete change in US foreign policy, away from a policy of Empire.
Because Empire has one fundamental trait: collapse.
So, um... where was I? Kucinich. He won't have the clout to do what's needed, and I don't think he has the balls to do what's needed either, because the path that needs to be taken is not exactly a crunchy granola path of peace and warm fuzzies and the blue meanies being vanquished by singing all you need is love. No matter what happens, people are going to die.
But I also think that as many of us as possible need to vote for him, to show Clinton and Obama that there's significant support for the issues that he's championing (and likewise, that that support will transfer to them if they take up the challenge).
I suspect of the bunch, Dodd and Richardson would do the best jobs as president. Yes, they're still entrenched in the mainstream, and we're not going to see anything truly surprising from them, but they seem to be relatively real and, unlike Clinton, they aren't afflicted with once-bitten-twice-shy syndrome when it comes to facing down the Institutions of Power. They haven't got a chance. The media has already chosen the frontrunners (Clinton and Obama) and the dark horse (Edwards), and we're not likely to get a chance to hear much from the rest. I heard today that MSNBC, in a forum that was allegedly designed to give equal time to all the candidates, gave 12 minutes of airtime each to Clinton and Obama, 8 minutes to Edwards and Biden, and 5 minutes to Richardson and Dodd.
Gravel made a comment about it during the show. "I feel like a potted plant," he said.
Thank you, Mr. Gravel.