If you want to know what the Democratic presidential candidates and the Democratic Party believe, the debates, often derided as intellectually inconsequential, reveal a great deal. The problem is that news media almost never report the most important statements the candidates make. Here then are some of those statements from the most recent debate, followed by a comment on their significance.
Joseph Biden on how he'd handle Russia: "Who among us is going to pick up the phone and immediately interface with Putin and tell him to lay off Georgia because [Georgian President] Saakashvili is in real trouble?"
Sen. Biden says he would pick up the phone and tell Russian President Putin "to lay off" a neighboring country. Hasn't one of the Democrats' primary criticisms of the Bush administration been that it engages in "cowboy diplomacy"? And what exactly does Sen. Biden think President Putin's response would be? "Yes, President Biden, whatever you say." Yet they say that President Bush is disengaged from reality.
John Edwards on Americans going hungry: "Thirty-five million Americans last year went hungry. . . .This [election] is about those 35 million people who are hungry every single year."
There is no truth to this charge against America. The only basis for it is a U.S. Department of Agriculture Report saying that about 35 million Americans experienced "household food insecurity" in 2006. That term does not, the USDA emphasized, mean hunger, but being forced to reduce "variety in their diets" or eat a "few basic foods" at various times of the year. If a country could sue for libel, America would have cause to sue Mr. Edwards.
Barack Obama on giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants: "When I was a state senator in Illinois, I voted to require that illegal aliens get trained, get a license, get insurance to protect public safety. That was my intention."
Obama on not giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants: "I am not proposing that that's what we do. What I'm saying is that we can't -- [interrupted by laughter]. No, no, no, no, look, I have already said I support the notion that we have to deal with public safety and that driver's licenses at the state level can make that happen. But what I also know, Wolf [Blitzer], is that if we keep on getting distracted by this problem, then we are not solving it."
What exactly is Sen. Obama's position on giving licenses to illegal immigrants? Clearly, he is for it and against it. But most importantly, he opposes being distracted by it.
Dennis Kucinich on giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants: "I take issue with your description of people being illegal immigrants. There aren't any illegal human beings, that's number one."
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