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Iowa Heartland Presidential blogging

This is now the third time I'm live blogging a presidential forum. This one has been the toughest. The previous two times I blogged at the invitation of the Media Bloggers Association. Bloggers were in one room watching the action. The focus was on the candidates. This time, it is at the invitation of TV One. The focus is as much on the questioners as it is on the candidates.

What makes this one more challenging is that the "real people" at the microphone tell their "real stories" to the candidates. Such stories apparently aren't meant to be questioned or challenged. One of the points Stephen Carter has made (in his book Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby) is that when he was a young radical, he and his fellow activists believed that their stories were not to be debated. That explains much of the mindset of community activists today. They will bring out people to tell their personal stories as victims--based on their race, income level, family status, etc. The stories are presented as "truth" that is not to be questioned. If you question it, then it means that you are against that person and the particular issue they are discussing.

When you aren't allowed to think about stories you are told, then why bother to think? Even as the mean guy I am, I have over the years even struggled with this. In most cases, I find myself tuning out when people give personal anecdotes that are not meant to be examined. If it isn't meant to be examined, then I won't do so. But I won't also take the anecdote as fact worth repeating.

Once the tears start, which presidential candidate is going to give a "real" response, giving the type of advice that got the candidate to where he or she is today, and the type of guidance they have given to their own loved ones? You could hear each candidate being very careful not to offend the speakers discussing their personal woes. When you are brought a lineup of victims--who are then asking you to do something about it in the future, and to make specific promises about it now--then it is tough for candidates to do anything other than to agree with the speakers. Admittedly, I didn't listen to every syllable uttered, but did any of the candidates disagree with anything they had heard? If so, it would have been to show just how much more radical they were in demanding that something be done to aid the victim.

The candidates answer in pandering platitudes, making you wish they would get specific. But when they get specific, they make you wish they would stick to the platitudes.

The good thing about this forum is that the candidates were able to speak for extended periods of time, without immediate rebuttals from other candidates. I'm not saying debates are useless, but it is good to give candidates adequate time to make their case or to hang themselves.

The even better thing about this forum is that the candidates demonstrated just how dangerous they would be as president. Instead of being a presidential forum it did seem more like a town hall meeting hosted by candidates running for mayor.

Surely, it was well done! I've never met Cathy Hughes, I don't really recall ever seeing her in action. She was dignified, humorous, engaging--and clearly in control! Unlike many moderators who seem to be concerned about interrupting speakers, I had the sense that the candidates for the presidency of the United States would have stopped speaking in mid-sentence if she raised her index finger.

* * *

John Edwards
is the first candidate speaking. His BIG point is that BIG corporations must be deputized as agents of the government, if not completely shut down. So many Americans speak out against corporations and the control they have over Americans, but there isn't a single corporation that can put anyone in jail. People fear corporations and businesses that offer goods and services, yet look for salvation from the government that can imprison them.

It is hilarious to hear Edwards denouncing big companies foreclosing on poor people.

I guess he would know. According to CNN earlier this year: "Democratic presidential contender John Edwards has investing ties to subprime lenders who are foreclosing on victims of Katrina, according to a report published Friday.

The Wall Street Journal said there are 34 homes in New Orleans that face foreclosure from the subprime unit of Fortress Investment Group. Edwards has about $16 million in Fortress (Charts), a hedge fund and private equity manager, the newspaper said."

Edwards complaining about big companies foreclosing on poor people is like a criminal returning to the scene of the crime and denouncing criminality.

There was plenty of other nonsense from Edwards. Raising the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour, as Edwards suggested, would harm the very people he talks about so often. Unfortunately, even in a forum where the candidates can speak for extended periods of time, none of the Democrats are going to discuss the pros and cons.

One of the most popular phrases on talk radio is that people must speak "truth to power." For some reason, it is assumed that powerless people have the "truth." I won't quibble with that, but at what point can people in power answer? Edwards mentioned environmental racism in passing. Of course he implied that it is corporations targeting poor and black people. But companies are probably seeking the same thing poor people want: cheap land.

But few politicians, especially Democrats, are going to speak "truth to the powerless."

The only thing that can make Edwards look good? Dennis Kucinich is the next speaker.

* * *

Dennis Kucinich has made his way to the stage.

I am convinced that Kucinich didn't just see a UFO--he's an alien. While it is unlikely that John Edwards will be elected president of the United States in 2008, I'm willing to bet any and all takers that Kucinich will never be president of the United States. If so, you might as well as take my money while you can, because Kucinich would come and get most of it anyway.

I'm trying to follow Kucinich as he speaks. I agree with Kucinich on so many social issues, but I'm in deep disagreement with him when it comes to economic issues. I have disagreements with Republicans on social issues, but the reality is that while Republicans are trying to stop me from marrying a man or from an abortion, Democrats remind me of that Capital One commercial: What's in your wallet? Not only do they want to know, but they want half. For Democrats and liberals, it is great for me to engage in voluntary activity in my social life, but once I start making economic decisions on my own, they are ready to arrest me.

Kucinich is a funny guy in so many ways. On the one hand, he constantly denigrates just about anything having to do with business, but then discusses full employment. Democrats and liberals often attack "big corporations," but they must know that those "big corporations" are also Big Employers!

In one sentence Kucinich threatened to scrap just about every American trade agreement.

He renewed his call that VP Cheney should be impeached. Until the day Bush and Cheney are leaving office, there will be some Democrats calling for them to be impeached.

The best way to summarize Kucinich's comments is that he wants to pass laws against bad weather and unhappiness.

* * *

Next up: Hillary Clinton, via satellite.

Every candidate is being asked if he or she will make the hard decisions as president to help the country or community. What else could they answer? No, I'm going to be wishy-washy and hope to get re-elected by not upsetting anyone during my term.

Her first real person started to cry.

The focus of the questions for H Clinton is health care. Blah, blah, blah.

But now! Immigration! Finally a question that could have been posed by a Republican...

H Clinton was asked if she favored comprehensive immigration reform. The audience booed her response that the president can only do so much. Politicians who try to bring political reality to such discussions may as well as read from the Congressional Record.

This is one of the issues I wish the Democrats were stronger on. As I've previously mentioned, I'm in favor of making it easier for people to legally come to America.

Surely it is another blow to the H Clinton campaign to have community activists boo her at a forum--and that she was the only candidate to get booed. Not even the hostage taking at her campaign office was enough to shield her from the boos.

* * *

Christopher Dodd is now up. Of course the first story teller started to cry. It seems that one thing we have learned about real Americans in the heartland is that they cry when telling their personal stories. Audience members were told to hold their applause and cheering, but they haven't done so. It seems like an Oprah Winfrey show is being held at a pep rally.

Okay...another real person is about to start crying. I'm not one of those folks who says no one should ever cry, and I don't mean to demean anyone, but seriously, we've got a problem if we've got so many Americans who are so wrapped up into government policy and candidates.

I don't mean to ignore Dodd, but Barack Obama is next...

* * *

Barack Obama

The first real person talking to Obama discussed how her daughter benefited from SCHIP. She was about to start breaking down.

The forum lasted much longer than I expected so I only heard part of what Obama had to say. I will listen later and may add more comments.

* * *


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