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The Debate That Wasn't

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The Debate That Wasn't
by Lydia Howell

Courteous debate with hints of humor and (mostly) harmonious agreement marked the Obama-Clinton debate. I had checked out Politico's website,  where people posted questions they wanted asked. The  moderators left  out many.

Both candidates proved they're equally smart on health care reforms,  but, under either Democrat, Big Pharma and insurance companies may be  slightly restrained but, will remain quite profitably in-charge. It almost seemed that the candidates were running  down the clock on health care. Barely mentioning education,  college costs were noted. No one spoke of growing inequities in k-12 schools, racial RE-segregation, or
even No Child Left Behind.

While blaming the Bush Administration for the declining economy,  greedy  corporate globalization wasn't questioned even as it has wrecked much of Mexico's economy and communities across the U.S. Factories closing, 3  million jobs have disappeared in the last decade--which obviously includes the Clinton Administration. So-called "free trade" agreements,  such as NAFTA--passed while Hillary Clinton got some of her experience as First Lady--and pending trade deals with South Korea and Peru--weren't worthy of discussion.

Problems of particular concern to rural or urban America weren't on the  agenda—except for health care. Of course, it's risky for Barack Obama to  focus on inner cities. If he talked "chocolate cities"(with some vanilla  poor) being devastated by economic neglect, a failed 'war on drugs",  usually substandard schools, and a criminal justice system on steroids  and police brutality--well, we might remember that Obama  is a Black man in ways beyond the most shallow marketing strategy n fact, race only
came up when discussing immigration. Obama did challenge the
scapegoating of Latino immigrants head-on,  one of the few inspiring  moments that showed Obama' passion--the community organizer--in contrast  to Clinton's cool policy-wonk.

Bloggers and media misogynists have  attacked Clinton personally, but,  in the debate, gender was just a history-making marker of alleged  progress. Obama's candidacy is supposed to convince us we're in a  post-race age. Clinton remarked on gender injustice in OTHER,  undeveloped,  no-doubt far less evolved countries that ours.

Both candidates started the night lauding John Edwards, but, neither took up his banner of fighting poverty. Housing foreclosures got a nod;  the  housing  crisis for the working poor and rising homelessness were  ignored. Katrina became just a tool of Bush-bashing, but, neither  pledged to really DO anything. Neither Obama or Clinton issued the  strong challenges to corporate power at the heart of Edwards' campaign.
Perhaps, Obama got the warning loud and clear from Edwards' fate.  Clinton's 15 years as a corporate lawyer makes where she stands clear—no  matter how many times she cites her connection to the Children's Defense  Fund.

 Iraq momentarily heated up with  the discussion with Obama's reminder  he opposed the invasion and Clinton triangulating on her vote to give  Bush  the Authorization to Use Military Force. resolution. Avoiding  details, both spoke of “careful withdrawal”. Neither explained how their foreign policy would be much different than Bush's, except for Clinton's  (quote) “coercive diplomacy” and Obama emphasizing that “the threat of  terrorism is real”. Neither challenged the U.S. invasion as immoral or  illegal. Clinton almost seemed to brag about  how (quote) “we bombed  Iraq for several days in 1998 to get inspectors in”. Obama claimed he's
worked on nuclear proliferation—but, NOT America's biggest nuclear  arsenal on Earth. Both say they will bringing troops home early in their first term, but,both  hedged, too. It is undeniable now that the  only  anti-war candidate is  Libertarian Ron Paul, who  was far more forceful  about leaving Iraq in the Republican debate.

Red-button “cultural war” issues were off the table.  But, many crucial issues got no hearing at all. Neither Obama or Clinton mentioned the  all-out assault on our civil liberties, the shredding of our  Constitution or the vast expansion of Presidential power.  As a result  the Bush-bashing rang hollow and  stank of hypocritical opportunism.  No one asked or talked about global warming and peak oil—except for  Obama  mentioning “our planet in peril” and “new jobs with alternative  energy”. One would think humanity's survival would be important enough  to be part of the debate. It wasn't.

Obama and Clinton were collaborators not competitors with one
another—and with the core elements of things as they are. It appears  that the only real choice we have is whether we want a token for race or  gender in the White House. If we want REAL change,  we're going to have  to count on ourselves and  build much stronger activist movements.  That's the only way, we've ever gotten change--- no matter who's in the White House.
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Lydia Howell is a Minneapolis journalist, poet, activist and producer/host of "Catalyst:politics & culture" on KFAI Radio, all shows archived for 2 weeks after braodcast at www.kfai.org
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