OH YEAH, THE DEBATE...
Thought I'd forgotten about that? Me too. Armed Prophet did indeed watch the Brokaw-brokered Dem debate on MSNBC last night, although a combination of Nyquil and monotony caused me to drift in and out of consciousness. It really was that boring, with a couple of exceptions. One, mentioned this morning by Mickey Kaus involved John Kerry trying to get substantial with Howard Dean. But what Kaus misses is that Dean -- to his credit -- rebuffed Kerry's constant harping on whether "slow the rate of growth in Medicare" by replying:
Well, I'd like to slow the rate of growth of this debate, if I could...
Audience erupts with laughter. End of story. Even if Kerry had Dean dead to rights on the issue, it was all over the moment Kerry let the laugh interrupt him. Oh, he tried to get back on his feet with one more attempt, but by then he just seemed a nag. It's the same thing Arnold
did when [a woman so annoying I cannot even bring myself to type her name] tried to get him on his "woman problem" -- he turned it into a joke. And when she laughed along with the rest of the crowd, the issue was dead.
But the only truly interesting exchange was between Brokaw and Al Sharpton, when the awfully-young-to-be-retiring NBC anchor pressed the did-you-know-he's-the-youngest-Dem-candidate Sharpton on the infamous Tawana Brawley hoax, which both rocketed Sharpton to prominence but also tarnished his credibility.
As a reply to the question, it was pretty weak, and kudos to Brokaw for pressing again for a better answer. Here's how it went, courtesy of the Washington Post.
BROKAW: Reverend Sharpton, Howard Dean did apologize for his remarks about the Confederate flag on the back of a pickup truck. But a lot of people who admire you and especially like your spirit in engagements like this are wondering whether you're ever going to apologize for your role in the Tawana Brawley case.
SHARPTON: Absolutely. If -- I would apologize if I felt I was wrong.
I think if you think you're right, you pay the penalty for it and you stand there. If Governor Dean thought he was right, he should have taken whatever that was. He, after some assessment, felt he was wrong. I don't feel I was wrong. I've stood up on cases, one was the Central Park jogger case -- 13 years later people felt I was right.
But I think also, Tom, to compare a case of a young lady telling us something that we believe with a Confederate flag that represented a society's commitment to lynching, to rape, to murder and treason, I think that's a stretch even for Tom Brokaw.
BROKAW: I wasn't making -- I wasn't making a judgment. What I was saying was that people, once there was a body of evidence in the Tawana Brawley case...
SHARPTON: Well, there was a body of evidence the jury didn't believe. I just cited you a body of evidence where people went to jail eight years and it was overturned.
We're not talking about a case when we're talking about the Confederacy. We're talking about people that were committed against a race of people.
I may have a disagreement on any case. Right now a lot of people think O.J. Simpson was guilty. The jury said he wasn't. Should they apologize? I mean, you're covering right now a lot of cases.
So to try and make a case something and equate that with what we talked about -- when I see a pickup truck and Confederate flag, I see James Byrd dragged through Jasper, Texas. I'm not talking about a jury making a decision on a case.
You know, it's funny, a lot of people -- Jessica Lynch said something didn't happen to her, and this administration believes it. I believe in a girl that said something did happen to her. I'd like to have that debate with George Bush.
BROKAW: But that was a -- and we'll try to leave it at that.
SHARPTON: You're trying to come up with the next question.
BROKAW: No, no. There was -- in fact, it's undeniable that there was a racial component to the Tawana Brawley case.
SHARPTON: The girl told her story. And we believed her story and represent her story, and still do. But the racial implication of the case is, again, way away from what I debated Mr. Dean about.
SHARPTON: If, in fact, someone is trying to equate the two, I think that's even more of an insult to people that were victimized by the Confederacy. And I don't think any candidate in this race would try to act like those are two of the same, whatever their opinions may be of a case that I represented or not.
I've never represented a case that everybody believed in and everybody agreed with. And I'm willing to pay the penalty for what I believe. And I just want everybody up here to do the same thing, which is what I offered my good friend Brother Howard.
BROKAW: Thank you very much, Reverend Al Sharpton.
O.J. Simpson, James Byrd, Jessica Lynch and George Bush have what
to do with Tawana Brawley? Nothing, obviously. It's quite a moment when the silver-tongued Sharpton gets thrown off his game, and congratulations to Brokaw for making it happen. Of course in the long run, it's just another victory for Al Sharpton, where he took time away from the candidates who are actually running a legitimate campaign for office.