Monday, January 28, 2008

Come Back Home

The best thing I can do is give back your love
Let you go away feelin' free as a dove
If you find you're a long ways from home
And somebody's doing you wrong
Just call on me baby
And come back home

Call Me, Al Green, 1973

Some debates remind me of a food fight, some a Texas Hold 'em poker tournament and still others make me feel the love. This debate should have been dubbed: I'm a Long Ways From Home (No More Foreign Wars) Debate. That should not be surprising as it was put on a coalition of peace activists. It got me thinking of the classic Al Green song "Call Me" (1973 Hi Records). Green sings of finding love closer to home. The candidates were singing the same hymnbook as well, although not always the same song.

That is not to say that there were not sparks flying at the Stella Warner Building (MoCo Council Building). There were some. But food fights won't win votes most places, especially among peaceniks.

This forum was sponsored by Peace Action Montgomery County and five other groups. The topic was Congress' role in US Foreign Policy. It included all candidates for Congress in District 4 and District 8 regardless of party, giving us 11 candidates (1 Green Party, 3 Republicans & 7 Democrats). Terry Kester of WPFW 89.3 FM did his best to moderate such an unwieldy format.

Moderator Terry Kester and CD4 Democrat Dr. Michael Babula

Where Did All The Republicans Go???
What struck me was how even the GOPers were equally critical of the Bush Administration's forays in foreign policy. Then again the three of them (Peter James and Robert Broadus in CD4, and Jay Roberts in CD8) are from the Libertarian wing, anti-intervention wing. I fully expected one of them to announce how they were from the Republican wing of the GOP. Sorry Deaniacs.

The only other non-Democrat was Gordon Clark (Web site under construction). In fact, Mr. Clark is not even on the ballot for the Greens in CD8. The previous candidate must have stepped down. Clark scored some points with his critique on Global Warming.

Since this is a Democratic politics blog and it is there that I will return.

Vollmer Spars With Van Hollen
Ok it was MoCo styled sparring. Nothing major. Chris Van Hollen's (campaign site) opening statement went after the Bush Administration for its "policy of slogans: 'Bring It On', 'You Are Either With Us or Against Us'" and for considering "diplomacy a dirty word". Immediately challenger Deborah Vollmer (see picture on the right) claimed his words and actions did not match calling them "very mixed". She even generated a laugh from the audience when she pointed out that threaten incumbent Al Wynn (campaign site) voted against the September 2008 Omnibus Spending bill with $190 billion for the war while Rep. Van Hollen voted for it. That is the basis for her campaign and she delivered a solid shot at him. But is was neither a knockout nor was she able to hit a combination either. Chris was eager to respond but was unable to because others had to give their opening statements. Ok no more fighting terms during a peace forum.

The rest of the District 8 portion of the debate was mild. Van Hollen and Vollmer agreed more often than they differed. Dr. Lih Young (2006 Senate candidate site) was also there. It was my first time seeing her. She described herself as a "perennial candidate since 1994". While that may not have been her best choice of words it does fit. She has run 11 times in the past 14 years. I couldn't remember one thing that she said that was noteworthy. Sorry.

Un Wynn able?
Al Wynn was the only Democratic candidate to fail to attend, along with six Republicans most of whom I don't recognize. According to organizer Fran Pollner, Wynn Congressional office never responded to the initial invitation as well as follow up requests. Once the date was set Wynn's office said he had an 'unalterable schedule'. According to his web site, he was at the same Women's Legislative Briefing that Rep. Van Hollen attended.

This was clearly not Wynn's best constituency. Having to highlight the changes in his votes would have put him on the defensive. So it does make sense as a campaign operative. However based on the audience response to Deborah Vollmer's opening statement, he probably could have faired better than he thought.

CD 4 Democratic candidates from left: Dr. Michael Babula, Donna Edwards & Jason Jennings

Wynn, Edwards and the Dynamic of the Underdogs
Almost all of the attention is on the top two candidates, Donna Edwards and incumbent Al Wynn. Rightfully so. Still there are four other candidates who are running. They are: Dr. Michael Babula, Jason Jennings, George Mitchell and George McDermott. Two points were of interest. No candidate was in favor in the war. All wanted us to come home. Second, was how often I heard the others take a shot at Donna Edwards and almost leave the incumbent untouched. It wasn't every time and it wasn't by all but it was a consistent pattern. I recognize that as an underdog you need to highlight differences with those ahead of you. But it sure did seem as though Edwards took more shots than the absent Wynn. The usual response was something along the line of "they are cut from the same piece of cloth". True or not on this charge, the consistency of the refrain had a talking points smell to it.

To be fair, I will explore the positions of the CD4 Democratic candidates during my upcoming interviews with them. But for now I was struck by this general theme of these four. In the meantime, I think these two sites (WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi Show and the Gazette) have nice voter guides on all 6 Democratic candidates in CD4. Take a look and form your own opinion.

Final Thoughts
The only people who seemed to be undecided in the room were the news reporters and the organizers. Disclosure: I live in CD8 and I support Chris Van Hollen.
The lack of undecideds is normal for debates. The news coverage by the MSM was again weak. I sat next to the Sentinel reporter. There was another reporter who could have been the Gazette but it wasn't the WaPo. I think the WaPo is failing in their coverage of the race in CD4.

You want the shortest version of the debate?
There was more love than spin. A universal request to come back home from Iraq. Now if only we can get Al Green at one of these things. If he does call me.