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Debate in the Desert

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That Debate in the Desert

Carol V. Hamilton

The unsatisfactory nature of the Las Vegas Democratic debate, can, I think be blamed on its moderators. Buzzers enforced time limits, requiring sound-bite answers and yes/no responses. Like Tim Russert, Wolf Blitzer seemed to want to put candidates on the spot. Russert had asked Democrats to quote Bible verses and wondered whether Republicans “believe” in evolution (or “natural selection,” as Darwin himself more accurately called it). Blitzer posed a question that invoked a false dilemma: human rights or national security? Chris Dodd nailed that answer by referring to the terms of the oath of office, but someone might have objected, as Kucinich did in another case, to the framing of the question.

An excellent site lists all the logical fallacies, such as false dilemma, that the
press and politicians so often deploy. It is here: Every American pundit, citizen, and
schoolchild should learn to recognize them.

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As for the particular case of human rights versus national security, someone mighthave pointed out to Blitzer that the nation-states with the most security are authoritarian in nature. I visited the Soviet Union under communism, traveling fromLeningrad/Petersburg to Volgograd, Sochi, Tbilisi, Kiev, and finally Moscow. Evenlate at night it was safe for a young petite woman to walk downtown with her grandmother. On the other hand, the Soviet citizens we met were obviously frightened of their government—their Daddy State, as we might call it, in opposition to David Harsanyi’s new book, “The Nanny State.”

Harsanyi thinks that the Nanny State shouldn’t even give its citizens information about nutrition and public health. Yet the Daddy State will give you safe streets, ongoing surveillance, children ratting on their parents, the constant fear of nighttime arrest, and an all-expenses-paid trip to the gulag. Which is worse? But back to the debate.

What is most incomprehensible is why the other Democratic candidates let Senator Clinton get away with the claim that she has the most experience. Dodd and Biden have been in the Senate far longer than she has. Kucinich has been a mayor as well as a representative. Obama has taught Constitutional law, worked as a community organizer, served in the Illinois legislature, and is now serving in the Senate. Yet when Clinton says, “I want to be president because I’m the best-qualified and can hit the ground running,” no one calls her on it. She says, “I have 35 years of experience”–-doing what?

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It's my sense that she is actually the least experienced of the Democratic field. Hanging out in the White House as an unelected, unappointed figure, or meeting foreign dignitaries in the role of First Spouse, should not count

Many progressives would prefer a candidate who says, “I want to be president in
order to end the war, restore the Constitution, and provide health care and
education for the American people.”


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Carol V. Hamilton has a Ph.D. in English from Berkeley and teaches at the University of Pittsburgh. She also writes for History News Network ( and
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