I didn’t watch the Democratic presidential debate last week. I know that to some people, these televised sparring matches are important to help determine who they’ll support in the coming presidential elections. But for me, pulling the trigger on any one of these fine, highly competent politicians will be hard, with or without having seen them bicker at each other on live T.V. With a battery of such stellar candidates, how can you pick just one? I sure can’t.

Mira Levitan

Sigh. These guys suck.

Somehow, the best the Democrats have to offer are Sens. John Kerry (Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (Conn.) and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, each honestly believing that he will lead the working class to the polls in droves. Granted, each candidate is highly qualified, but qualifications alone do not a leader make, and the standard issues Democrats relied on in 1992 will not carry the day in 2004. In their speeches and press releases, the candidates do show an understanding of issues like health care, abortion and unemployment. Each thinks that this will win them the election, but in reality, none of it will matter. The rules have changed.

It’s about war. It’s about terrorism. Are we safe, are we winning and are we right? To these, President Bush claims all the answers, while the Democrats still don’t understand the questions. As a nation, the past two years have seen us plunge into a mentality, not unlike how we spent the decades of the Cold War – tense and anxious, awaiting an event that will probably never come. Few of us have ever seen terrorism touch their lives personally, yet many will vote as if it had. Gone are the social and moral imperatives of peacetime politics.

Meeting the threat, Americans want to see strength, charisma and dogged self-assurance, not the vacillation and partisanship that haunts each of the Democratic nominees. Americans want to feel safe again, and the GOP makes it happen, by way of the very comforting, but morally dubious policy of moral and international absolutism. Whereas Bill Clinton was a student of policy and often sought a variety of different sources when debating an initiative, Bush is a student of doing whatever the hell he, or his party sees fit. He won’t let pesky little things like “other nations” or “operational strength” or “deficits” get in the way of what he deems right. This is, by far, the most partisan administration that we’ve seen in decades.

And America is eating it up.

Democrats hope that the hemorrhaging of American dollars and American blood in Iraq will save the election for them. However, the damage isn’t being done to the this administration, which has an uncanny ability to defer blame for its failures simply by having been in office the day America came under attack. It’s the ultimate alibi. True to form, whenever he needs more money or his polls sag a bit, Bush can just look at the TelePrompTer and orally fart out the following equation: war on terror, plus making progress, plus 9-11, equals Democrats are bad.

But when you connect the dots from the past three years – all of the deflection, blame and unilateralism – it still spells “dumbshit.” Make no mistake, Bush is highly beatable, but judging by the field of candidates, the Democrats don’t seem interested in winning. While I hope retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark jumps in, this coalition that the Democrats have pieced together will find itself demolished by the same Texas buzzsaw that walked away with the Oval Office in 2000. This time, there will be no recounts, and certainly no excuses. Years of a muddled message have left the Democratic party nothing but Rev. Al Sharpton and the shadow of the Clinton years as their only selling points, and America just isn’t buying.

Adams can be reached at dnadams@umich.edu.













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