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Mystery Debate Theater 2007

Once again the Beachwood Mystery Debate Theater team of Tim Willette, Andrew Kingsford and Steve Rhodes convened at Beachwood HQ to share Polish beer, takeout from Eat First #2, and a presidential candidates debate, this time the Democrats in their second such meeting.

The event actually exceeded our expectations; it was mostly a lively and substantive discussion - until question time from the public. Let's just say that sometimes citizens are a buzzkill.

Here is a rough account of the proceedings.


Local New Hampshire news personality Scott Spradling asks the first question: Senator Obama, you get the first question of the night. It has been nearly six years since 9/11. Since that time, we have not suffered any terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. Just yesterday, the FBI arrested three men for a terror plot at JFK Airport. Could it be that the Bush administration's effort to thwart terror at home has been a success?

Obama: There are some things that the Bush administration has done well. But the fact of the matter is is that we live in a more dangerous world, not a less dangerous world

Wolf Blitzer: Does the Bush administration, Senator, deserve any credit for the fact there's been no terrorist attack here in the United States for nearly six years?

Obama: I think they've cracked down on some of the financial networks; I think that is important. They have unfortunately not strengthened our alliances with other countries


Blitzer: Senator Edwards, let me let you clarify what you said the other day. You said the war on terror is a bumper sticker, not a plan. With the news yesterday, this alleged plot at JFK which could have done supposedly horrendous damage and caused incredible number of casualties, do you believe the U.S. is not at war with terrorists?

Edwards: I reject this bumper sticker, Wolf.

Andrew: He coordinates his tanning days to the debate schedule.

Blitzer: Senator Clinton, do you agree with Senator Edwards that this war on terror is nothing more than a bumper sticker?

Clinton: No, I do not.

Steve: It's more of a scare tactic. Bumper stickers are usually funny.


Blitzer: Congressman Kucinich, you voted against the Patriot Act when it was first introduced; you've since voted against it. But some would say yesterday's plot that was described by the FBI underscores the need for precisely that kind of tough measure to deal with potential terrorists out there.

Dice-K: Benjamin Franklin once said that those who would give up their essential liberties to achieve a sense of security deserve neither. We have to remember that 9/11 led us down a cul-de-sac.

Steve: He'll never get elected if he keeps speaking French.


Spradling: Senator Biden, question for you on Iraq. You are on the only person standing on this stage tonight to recently vote to continue funding the troops in Iraq. My question is this: why were Senators Obama, Clinton, Dodd and Congressman Kucinich wrong to vote against the funding?On Iraq, voted to fund war. Why others wrong?

Biden: No one has fought harder to change this president's policy.

Steve: He's projecting really well.

Blitzer: Senator Biden, why are you reluctant to say now they were wrong and you were right?

Biden: Because I don't want to judge them.

Steve: You just want voters to judge them - guilty!


Blitzer: Senator Clinton, you've voted in favor of every funding for the U.S. troops since the start of the war until now. And some are accusing and some others of playing politics with the lives of the troops. What is your response?

Clinton: Unfortunately, we don't have a president who is willing to change course, and I think it was time to say enough is enough.

Blitzer: Senator Obama, you did the same thing. Since you came in to the Senate you voted for the funding for the troops for this war until now. What's your answer?

Obama: [a bunch of nonsense.]

Edwards: Senator Clinton and Senator Obama did not say anything about how they were going to vote until they appeared on the floor of the Senate and voted. They were among the last people to vote. And I think that the importance of this is - they cast the right vote, and I applaud them for that. But the importance of this is, they're asking to be president of the United States, and there is a difference between making clear, speaking to your followers, speaking to the American people about what you believe needs to be done.

Steve: So he's against the black guy and the chick.

Obama: I think it is important to lead. And I think, John, the fact is, is that I opposed this war from the start. So you are about four and a half years late on leadership on this issue.

Clinton: This is George Bush's war.

Andrew: We just voted for it.

Chris Dodd: blah, blah, blah.


Blitzer: What if some of the critics, some of the supporters of this war are right, and a unilateral, quick U.S. withdrawal from Iraq - and you want troops out by the end of this year - does lead not only to an increased civil war but to genocide in Iraq?

Bill Richardson: Spent a lot of time . . . de-authorize war . . . timetable . . .

Blitzer: What about genocide?

Richardson: Darfur . . . stop this genocide there.

Blitzer: What about Iraq?

BR: Keep troops in kuwait . . .move to Afghanistan to fight Al-Qaeda.

Steve: Strike three, Bill. You're out.


Blitzer: Senator Gravel, I know you've been outspoken on all of these issues. Where very briefly do you disagree with these other Democratic candidates?

Crazy Guy: Totally. Totally. It's just that simple. Four of these people here will say that it's George Bush's war. It was facilitated by the Democrats. They brought the resolution up, one of them authored, co-authored it here, standing here, and so it's -- sure, it's George Bush's war, but it's the Democrats' war also.

Now, you want to end it? You're concerned about what's going to happen after we withdraw. Remember Vietnam. All the dominoes are going to fall, Southeast Asia's going to go -- is going to go communist. Well, how do we know what will happen? I do know this, that the insurgency is successful because the population sustains that insurgency. Period.

Blitzer: Let's go to the next question from Tom.

Andrew: Now get back in your cage.

Steve: Wolf can't handle the truth.

Tim: Markinson's dead.


Local news personality Tom Fahey attempts to ask a question.

Fahey: Congressman Kucinich, the New Hampshire Union-Leader asked . . .

Dice-K: Can you put your mike up?

Fahey: . . . you were . . .

Dice-K: Hard to . . . can't hear you.

Andrew: He can only hear sonar.


E-mail citizen question: Can you tell me if the mission we accomplished during our deployment in Iraq was worth our effort and sacrifice, or was it a waste of time and resources?

Dice-K: Those who sent those soldiers were wrong. This war has been based on lies. And this is where Senator Clinton says well this is George Bush's war. Oh no. There's a teachable moment here, and a teachable moment is that this war belongs to the Democratic party because the Democrats were put in charge by the people in the last election with the thought that they were going to end the war.

Biden: Wolf, look, the Republicans and this president have not told us the truth about this war from the beginning. The last thing we Democrats should do is not be telling the truth. We have 50 votes in the United States Senate. We have less of a majority in the House than at any time other than the last eight years.

Andrew: Less than the number of hairs on my head.

Biden: Ladies and gentlemen, you're going to end this war when you elect a Democratic president. You need 67 votes to end this war. I love these guys who tell you they're going to stop the war. Let me tell you straight up the truth; the truth of the matter is, the only one that's emboldened the enemy has been George Bush by his policies, not us funding the war. We're funding the safety of those troops there till we can get 67 votes.

Steve: He's projecting well again.


Blitzer: Senator Clinton, do you regret voting to authorize the president to use force against Saddam Hussein in Iraq without actually reading the National Intelligence Estimate, the classified document laying out the best U.S. intelligence at that time?

Clinton: I was thoroughly briefed. I knew all the arguments.

Steve: She don't need no stinkin' National Intelligence Estimate.

Blizter: Senator Edwards, you didn't read that National Intelligence Estimate either. Do you regret that?

Edwards: [Obama] was right. I was wrong.

Blitzter: Senator Obama, do you think someone who authorized the use of force to go to war in Iraq should be president of the United States?

Obama: I don't think it's a disqualifier. I will say on the National Intelligence Estimate that Chairman Graham, Bob Graham of Florida, who at the time was the head of the Intelligence Committee, cited that specifically as one of the reasons that he voted against it. So obviously there was some pertinent information there.

Blitzer: Senator Gravel, do you think someone who voted to authorize the president to go to war should be president of the United States?

Crazy Guy: Not at all, because it's a moral criteria. And there's information coming out - Senator Durbin, Mr. Strum in his book - that really points out that these people knew that there was two sets of intelligence going on at the same time, and they made a political decision to vote the way they voted, a political decision that cost - stop and think, we have killed more Americans than was done in the 11th of September.More Americans died because of their decision. That disqualifies them for president. It doesn't mean they're bad people, it just means that they don't have moral judgment, and that's very important when you become president.

Steve: He shall no longer be called Crazy Guy. Let's call him president-elect.

Clinton: It was a mistake to trust George Bush that he would do what he told all of us he would do.

Steve, Tim, Andrew: That's a helluva mistake to make!


Fahey: Governor Richardson, a question on immigration. Despite your doubts about the immigration bill that's now pending in the U.S. Senate, you support granting legal status to about 12 million people who have entered this country illegally. Why is this not an amnesty program?

Richardson: I'm a border governor . . .

Steve: He's giving another pre-programmed answer. He's campaigning like this is 1992. Let's order food.

Andrew: Yeah, maybe things will get better when the food gets here.

Blitzer repeats the question.

Richardson: . . . standards . . . separates famlies . . .

Blitzer: Alright.

Steve: Sigh.


Blitzer: Senator Biden, you voted last year to support this immigration legislation, including the construction of an approximately 700-mile fence along the border between the United States and Mexico. Governor Richardson doesn't think there needs to be such a fence. Why is he wrong?

Biden: Well, he's not wrong. There doesn't need to be a 700-mile fence . . .

Blitzer: If you don't think there needs to be a fence, why did you vote for that legislation?

Biden: The reason I voted for the fence was that was the only alternative that was there, and I voted for the fence related to drugs. You can - a fence will stop 20 kilos of cocaine coming through that fence. It will not stop someone climbing over it or around it.

Andrew: It's a fence that just stops cocaine. The drug fence.

Steve: Ask Obama, he voted for the fence too.

Blitzer: Senator Obama, you also voted for that legislation, including the construction of that fence, and some say, to be even-handed, if you want to build a fence along the border with Mexico, we should also build a fence along the border with Canada.

Obama: Well, we should certainly do a better job patrolling the borders in Canada.

Steve: Oh Lord!


Spradling: Governor Richardson, for example, says that you can fund health care meaningfully without raising taxes. Senator Clinton has said that she's not prepared to say she will raise taxes to reform health care. Your plan does raise some taxes to fund your universal health care program, so I'm wondering, from your perspective, are they being honest about the true cost of universal health care in America?

Edwards: This country's health care system is completely dysfunctional . . . Senator Obama came out with a plan just a few days ago, which I don't believe is completely universal . . . And I believe you cannot cover everybody in America.

Blitzer: Let Senator Obama weigh in, because you did release your plan that Senator Edwards says is not really a universal health care plan because it isn't mandatory on everyone.

Obama: Well, you just identified the basic disagreement with John and I . . . my emphasis is on driving down the costs.

Steve: You can't solve the health insurance crisis by driving down costs. What is this, Ronald Reaganville?

Clinton: I'm thrilled . . .

Andrew: That his plan sucks!

Richardson: As governor of New Mexico . . .

Blitzer asks question again.

Richarson: . . . my plan is mandatory . . . no new bureaucracy . . .

Blitzer: Thank you.

Richardson: . . . Medicare 55 and over . . .

Blitzer: Alright.

Richardson: . . . That's what you do.

Blitzer: Thank you, Governor.

Steve: Your campaign is over.

Dodd: There is not a person in this audience . . .

Andrew: Who doesn't have insurance.

Dodd: [blah blah blah]

Edwards: The New Republic has estimated that [Obama's] plan will leave about 15 million people uncovered. He says he will do something about that later.I believe unless we have a law requiring that every man, woman and child in America be covered, we're going to have millions of people who aren't covered.

Obama: If you look at auto insurance, in California there's mandatory auto insurance. Twenty-five percent of the folks don't have it. The reason is because they can't afford it. You take it from the opposite direction, but you're still going to have some folks who aren't insured under your plan, John, because some of them will simply not be able to afford to buy the coverage they're offered.

Steve: Yes, Edwards wants to insure the poor first, not last. That's the opposite direction.

Dice-K: I reject this whole approach. And the American people should know that with half the bankruptcies in the country connected to people not being able to pay their doctor bills or hospital bills, premiums, co-pays and deductibles going so far through the roof - 46 million Americans, no health care; another 50 million underinsured, there is only one way to get health care coverage for all Americans, and that is to have a universal single-payer, not-for- profit healthcare system, Medicare for All. Wolf, I've written the bill - it's H.R. 676 - with John Conyers, supported by 14,000 physicians.

Steve: Kucinich-Gravel.


Fahey: Was don't ask, don't tell a mistake?

Clinton: Barry Goldwater said you don't have to be straight to shoot straight.

Richardson: I love all this parsing and senatorial courtesy and "on the one hand, on the other hand."

Steve: They all agree! It couldn't be more clear!

Richardson: Hate crime . . . civil union . . .

Steve: Richardson's not even a VP candidate anymore.


Blitzer: Is it time to move beyond [civil unions] and let gays and lesbians get married?

Edwards: I don't think the federal government has a role in telling either states or religious institutions, churches, what marriages they can bless and can't bless.

Steve: So heteros should only have civil unions too.

Spradline asks how each candidate would use Bill Clinton in their administration.

Gravel: As a roving ambassador.

Richardson: He's needed in the Middle East.

Obama: . . . [blah blah blah]

Andrew: To take control of his wife.

Clinton: I believe in using former presidents.

Andrew: They're cute, they have superpowers . . .

Andrew: I'd make him a roving ambassador. Send him around the world in a catamaran. Alone. With Steve Jobs.

It's later determined that Andrew meant Steve Fossett.


Spradling asks what each would do to reduce gas prices.

Dodd: [Blah blah blah]

Steve: Oh, is he still here?

Blitzer: But the quesiton is what would you do right now to reduce the price of gasoline.

Dodd: [Blah blah blah]

Gravel: Nothing. We Americans have to grow up. You only see $3. Just watch those wheels turn. There's another $4, which is what we spend to keep American troops around the world to keep the price.

Beachwood HQ busts out in approval.

So you're paying more than seven dollars a gallon; you just don't know it.

Edwards: Can America finally stop spending $3 billion a year of taxpayers' money subsidizing oil and gas companies that already make billions of dollars?

Tim: But that will make the price go up!

Richardson: Give us, the states, the authority to engage in serious price-gouging investigation.

Steve: You do haev the authority - it's called the attorney general's office.

Biden: Take away the subsidy.

Tim: But that will raise the price!


We now move into the second half of the debate, where questions will come from the audience. The candidates are no longer standing at lecterns, but sitting in chairs.

Andrew: It's debate unplugged.


Jenny wants to know what each candidate would do to rebuild the military.

Kucinich: [blah blah blah]

Blitzer: But what would you do to rebuild the military?

Kucinich: Cut military spending. End the U.S. commitment to war as an instrument of diplomacy.

Blitzer: Senator Obama, you want to increase the size of the U.S. military by almost 100,000 troops. That's going to cost billions and billions of dollars.

Andrew: Here's an idea: Let's stop invading and occupying countries!

Dodd: [blah blah blah]

Blitzer: But is there a specific . . .

Dodd: [blah blah blah}

Steve: He's so not going to be VP either.


Polly wants to know how each candidate would deal with Iran.

Andrew: Stop them from copying all those Justin TImberlake and Madonna CDs in violation of the copyright act.

Blitzer: What if diplomacy fails?

Andrew: Then we nuke them.

AK: then we nuke htem.


Jeffrey wants to know about Darfur.

Richardson: Maybe we won't go to the Olympics.

Andrew: Boycott the Darfur Olympics?

Dodd: I think that goes too far. We're electing the most important leader in the world.

Steve: We're electing Bob Dylan?

Andrew: According to Q magazine, it's the Smiths.


A former salon owner asks about the economy.

Richardson: I created 20 million jobs.

Andrew: And a lot of them were in hair dressing.

Richardson: [blah blah blah]

Steve: He's dozing off during his own answer.

Dodd: [blah blah blah]


Question about what each would do in their first hundred days in office.

Edwards: Travel the world to re-establish moral authority.

Beachwood consensus: You don't travel the world as your first order of business.

Clinton: Bring our troops home.

Obama: That would be the number one priority. Second is health care.

Steve: He had to try to one-up her.

Richardson: Pre-school for every American, whole-kindergarten.

Steve: Right. Your top priority is getting all Americans into pre-K. He's such a putz.

Biden: End the war in Iraq. Move to defuse Iran. Defuse the Korean Peninsula.

Kucinich: Get rid of nuclear weapons, cancel NAFTA, cancel the WTO.

Tim: I have no doubt that his first 100 days would be pretty busy.

Gravel: They could end the war if they . . . .

Dodd: Restore constitutional rights.

Steve: Dodd finally got one right.


In the aftermath, Andrew told a story about being president of all the high school clubs, including the Radio-Controlled Aircraft Club. Then we watched the end of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, particularly marveling at the pretty wicked pirate hat Hamilton had to wear at the seafood place, and trying to get a fix on the careers of Phoebe Cates and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Then, good Americans as we are, we moved on to the Beachwood proper for a Leinie's and some pool.


Evaluation: Obama didn't do bad, but he's missing heft. Hillary did pretty good except for the war vote. Biden had a very good night. Kucinich was Kucinich - right a lot of the time, but also a bit too peace-y. Gravel spoke the truth. Dodd is a dudd. Richardson looks worse every time he opens his mouth. Hamilton was awesome when he foiled that robbery.


Previously on Mystery Debate Theater:

- The Democrats: Episode 1.

- The Republicans: Episode 1.

- The Republicans: Episode 2.


Posted on June 4, 2007

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BOOKS - Maps For Migrants And Ghosts.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Doing Philosophy At UIC.

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