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"Actually, George, This Debate is Insufficient"

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How many people watched the debate on Aug. 19th in Iowa between all the Democratic candidates running for president? And how many people felt their hand moving towards the remote so that they could flip to another channel when they realized that even though Kucinich, Gravel, Biden, Richardson, Edwards, and Dodd were present the focus of the debate was the so-called "rift" between Clinton and Obama that the media or these debates are now looking to magnify for the people? How many wanted to beat the crap out of George Stephanopoulos when it became evident that Gravel's comments and Kucinich's were going to be continuously casually ignored by him (because he never bothered to ask for a rebuttal from a single candidate after Gravel or Kucinich spoke)? The only people fairly represented were Edwards, Clinton, Obama, Richardson, and Dodd. Definitely, Obama and Clinton were fairly represented as the candidates were asked, in fact, insisted at by the moderator George Stephanopoulos to talk about their exact feelings on Clinton and Obama. The first twenty minutes were not spent on the issues but rather on if Obama's or Clinton's stances are sufficient on the issues that face America. I don't think I am wrong in saying that if you are going to ask Kucinich and Gravel to be present and not focus on them, than you are unfairly executing the debate. If you aren't going to ask people leading in polls to state their feelings on the candidates who are ranked lower in the polls, than you should not focus a portion of the debate on which candidate is better qualified for the president. Instead, you should focus on issues. I should have known the debate would be unfair when ABC introduced the candidates by highlighting the percentage of support they had garnered. Since we still have a long time until the primary, equal opportunity for all regardless of what ABC's poll numbers showed should have been how the debate was run. Instead, Kucinich was moved to make this remark because twenty-five minutes into the debate, he had not been able to speak yet:

KUCINICH: Actually, George, this debate is insufficient, because you're really not including all the candidates here... STEPHANOPOULOS: Just called on you. KUCINICH: ... and polarize -- you're trying to polarize people out of the race. Now, let me talk about an issue that concerns the people of Iowa, and that is health care. The Iowa AF of L-CIO, two days ago endorsed H.R. 676, a not-for-profit health care system, a bill that I'm the coauthor of.
Notice how George tried to cover himself. But alas, Kucinich would not have it and launched into a great diatribe about his support for universal health care:
And Senator Edwards said that, you know, we're talking about challenging the insurance companies. Well, actually, every other health care plan represented by everyone else here on stage keeps the private insurers in charge. Matter of fact, according to an article in the Nation, Humana, which participates in a hedge fund called Fortress, is in a position to just clean up with the privatization of Medicare. I'm the only one up here who challenges this system of premiums, co-pays and deductibles. So let's give the American people a real choice, not a conditioned choice, based on polls, but a choice that's based on their practical aspirations for health care for their families, for a not- for-profit system. We have to break the hold, which the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies have on health care.
As you can see, Kucinich got right down to it. He got right down to it because it would not be until forty-one minutes into the debate that he would get another chance to speak. And he said:
KUCINICH: We can talk about George Bush driving a bus into a ditch, but let's not forget there was a Democratic Senate in charge that OK'ed the war. And those senators who are up on this stage helped to authorize that war and they have to take responsibility for that. Likewise, they have to take responsibility for funding the war. You say you're opposed to it, but you keep funding it. I think the American people have to look at that and ask, What's going on? Now, I've had a plan on the table for four years to get out of Iraq, and Democrats in Congress have to stand up to the pledge they made in 2006 to take us out of that war. They have to tell the president now, "Bring the troops home. We're not going to give you any more money for that war." The American people have a right to expect that we're going to take a new direction. But, frankly, you cannot expect a new direction with the same kind of thinking that took us into war in the first place. We cannot leave more troops there. We cannot privatize Iraq's oil. We cannot partition that country and expect there's going to be peace. We need a president who understands that, one who's been right from the start, and one who has shown the judgment, the wisdom, and the maturity to take the right stand at the time that it counted most, when the American people needed someone to stand up. And I'm the one who did that.
Now that bold statement at the end about being right from the start should have warranted a question to Obama or Clinton because he just made the claim that they have failed the American people and he hasn't. But George continued on to a wedge issue about the importance of prayer in each candidate's life. And frankly, I don't whether a candidate prays or not has anything to do with how our nation will be run by that candidate. Gravel hit the wedge issue of prayer squarely on the head saying:
GRAVEL: What I believe in is love. And love implements courage. And courage permits us all to apply the virtues that are important in life. And so you can pray -- I was always persuaded or struck by the fact that many people who pray are the ones who want to go to war, who want to kill fellow human beings. That disturbs me. I think what we need is more love between one human being and another human being. And then we'll find the courage to dispel many of the problems we have in governance. The answer to governance is not up here on the dais. The answer is with the American people and the people of Iowa. That's where the answer is. And I have a proposal, and it's the only one that talks of change. The change is to empower the American people with a national initiative. And my colleagues, with all due respect, don't even understand the principle of the people having the power.
Gravel, I must say, just told everyone in that debate that they have no idea what democracy means in respect to America. George should have asked the other candidates to respond. But as long as he is ignored, he will remain a candidate with 0% registered support in the same way that Kucinich will continue to have 2% if he is ignored. Why make him an issue when he is not one? Kucinich again had to make a point about how little he was getting to speak and made a remark later on in the debate that got him a lot of laughs:
KUCINICH: George, I've been standing here for the last 45 minutes praying to God you were going to call on me. And my... (LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE) And I come from a spiritual insight which says that... STEPHANOPOULOS: You have a direct pipeline, Congressman. (LAUGHTER) KUCINICH: I come from a spiritual insight which says that we have to have faith but also have good works.
But it isn't funny. It isn't funny that at the end of the debate people are saying Kucinich won even though he barely got to speak. It's despicable. The people running these debates should be ashamed of what they are doing to this democracy. They are hindering change and preventing the people with the least amount of support from gaining support by only focusing on differences between Obama and Clinton. Please read the full transcript of this debate as I have not covered all of it. Please also watch this video clip of Kucinich speaking about this "horse race" the media is manufacturing in the eyes of the public from after the debate was over. The debate covered some very important issues such as Iraq, use of nuclear weapons, No Child Left Behind, farming & agriculture, health care, etc. But what it didn't do as allow for equal opportunity between candidates on the issue. The air time given to each candidate was indeed determined by the amount of registered support a candidate had with presumably ABC deciding those numbers. How can support be gained during these debates if all candidates are not fairly engaged in the debate? Radical or not, every candidate deserves to be included and represented fairly.
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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for
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