Now that the Democratic candidate's herd has been thinned, my analogy of the debates as "American Idol" is no longer valid. Especially after last night's bloodletting in South Carolina, which was more reminiscent of the old "Monday Nitro" World Championship Wrestling matches than a variety show. Bill and Hillary had conquered the countryside of Nevada and entered the S.C. primary as the grizzled old tag-team known as "HillBilly," famous for their sneaky and aggressive tactics and taunts to their opponents. Their target was the up-and-comer, the All American Boy, Obama, who was threatening to capture HillBilly's fan base. Hillary immediately attacked Obama with such ferocity that I half expected Bill to run out from the wings and brain him with a folding chair. Wolf Blitzer would make a great pro wrestling referee. He is the Jimmy "Mouth of the South" Hart of broadcasters. I can't decide whether he is a whimpering simp, or a simpering wimp. Hillary shed the softer, indoor voice she had discovered in New Hampshire and returned to form. She and the former President are considering changing the name of the act to Shrillary and Billious.
In the week leading up to the debate, I was reminded each time Bill Clinton turned red in the face and wagged his finger, how much I do not want him back in the White House. Hillary explained that she and Obama both have passionate and supportive spouses. Michelle Obama, however, is not the former president nor a practiced negative campaigner, as evidenced by the hatchet work Bill did on Barack in his wife's behalf. The dislike between the two camps was made clear with every charge and explosive counter-charge, like two nuclear powers practicing brinkmanship with Mutually Assured Destruction. Obama said he was a community organizer while Hillary was "a corporate lawyer, sitting on the board of Wal-Mart." Hillary countered with charges that Obama did work for a law firm that defended a Chicago slum lord. Both charges were spurious. Barack's law work was for his firm, and Hillary, as First Lady of Arkansas, assumed that included Bentonville and the Waltons too, who were just down-home folks and constituants. All this bitter back and forth between Clinton and Obama made one thing clear; John Edwards deserves a second look.
While the revolutionary candidates were bludgeoning one another, the white, Christian, male candidate steadily made the case for carrying out the ideals of Dr. King on his birthday. Edwards is the only candidate who has spoken passionately about ending poverty in America, something that was abandoned after the death of Dr. King and the absorption of the nation's resources into the Vietnam War. Edwards is the only candidate who has pledged not to have former lobbyists work in the White House and to tackle the problem of corporate money influencing our elections and those we elect. In addition, Edwards has promised to remove our troops from Iraq within his first year without equivocation. While Obama was extolling the abilities of Ronald Reagan to a Reno newspaper this week, it is worth remembering that John Edwards began his candidacy for President in the 9th Ward of New Orleans. Ronald Reagan announced his candidacy in Philadelphia, MS, home of one of the most infamous killings of the civil rights era, and symbolism only an Old South, Son of the Confederacy could love. Obama disavowed any admiration for Reagan on this Dr. King's day. Edwards did long ago.
CNN mercifully allowed the candidates to sit after a commercial break, and civility seemed to break out amidst a bar fight. The rivals became more measured and respectful to each other, and even spoke candidly and with humor about their differences. It is exhilarating to see these three unique people, each qualified in a special way and eager to serve in a manner the Bush crowd could never fathom, and have gender and race secondary to the discussion. That is remarkable enough to distance themselves by light years from the Republicans without endangering the party by behaving in debate like Curly, Larry, and Moe, with Bill Clinton waiting in the wings as Shemp. And anyone who thinks Bill Clinton was our first black president hasn't really heard him play the saxophone. After tonight, independent South Carolinians, including many African Americans, may well swing Edwards' way just because of the content of his character. Then we will have a real race heading into the Super Tuesday debates. My only suggestion; less glares, more chairs.