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Mike Gravel is Howard Beale

I watched the debate last night and have a couple of thoughts, starting with the obvious fact that Mike Gravel is the Howard Beale of the race -- mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. At one point I feared he might bite someone.

(By the way, there was a no-props rule, and when Kucinich brought out the Constitution that probably should have been punished with an immediate trapdooring into the pool of sharks.)

The winner: Edwards. Everyone else seemed a bit nervous. Edwards is trial-lawyer cool. And what a haircut! (I need to make the rounds to see what the buzz is, but fyi, I watched the debate with several savvy Washington insider-types and we all thought Edwards did quite well.)

Gravel livened up what was otherwise an oddly dull 90 minutes -- so many of the candidates either playing it safe (Clinton, Obama) or just unable, under the bang-bang keep-moving format, to strut their stuff (Dodd, Richardson). Biden's one-word answer to the question on his verbosity was so perfect you'd have thought he and Brian Williams had planned it out in advance. Obama wasn't well-miked and sounded as though he were speaking from inside a box (a shame since he has the world-class baritone). Hillary didn't know where to look -- at times she seemed to be searching desperately for her talking point. And Kucinich has to worry that Gravel stole his thunder-on-the-left.

[Update: Joe Klein also went with the Beale comparison. So did Ken Rudin of NPR (whenever I try to link, though, my computer explodes). So much for my brilliant insight.]

[More reaction:

John Dickerson at Slate has a nice kicker about Gravel:

'When the candidates were asked who owned a gun, Gravel was one of those who raised his hand. "I was worried that he meant he had one with him at the moment," said a senior adviser to a top candidate.'


Byron York at National Review says the Dems were insufficiently martial.

Here's an interesting comment by Scarecrow at Firedoglake:

'I'm generally distrustful of most presidential candidates. Almost by definition, they seem to have more ambition to win the presidency than they have wisdom to be president. I also have this quaint belief that people who are genuine leaders reveal their leadership qualities over time by how they go about doing what they do. They don't announce they're "leaders" or apply to be "leaders," and running a campaign to convince people to vote for you is not a good way to prove you're a leader. Instead, genuine leaders prove themselves by how they perform day in, day out.'

--

Perhaps the liveliest moment in the debate came near the end when Obama, Kucinich and Gravel mixed it up. Here's part of the transcript from the Federal Document Clearing House:

KUCINICH: My good friend, Senator Obama, that's a very provocative statement. You previously said that all options

are on the table with respect to Iran.

And I think that it's important for people to reflect on the real meaning of that, that you're setting the stage for another war.

I think it's important that we move away from global warming and global warring. And the connection is oil. We're in Iraq for oil. We're looking at attacking Iran for oil.

And until we change our international policies, which quit using war as an instrument of policy...

MODERATOR: Time.

KUCINICH: ... and change our energy policies...

MODERATOR: Time.

KUCINICH: ... we will continue to repeat this sorry cycle.

MODERATOR: Congressman, thank you. Time has expired.

Senator Obama, 30.

OBAMA: I just got some time and I wanted to respond to this.

I think it would be a profound mistake for us to initiate a war with Iran.

OBAMA: But, have no doubt, Iran possessing nuclear weapons will be a major threat to us and to the region.

KUCINICH: (OFF-MIKE)

OBAMA: I understand that, but they're in the process of developing it. And I don't think that's disputed by any expert.

They are the largest state sponsor of terrorism...

KUCINICH: It is disputed by...

OBAMA: ... Hezbollah and Hamas.

KUCINICH: It is disputed.

OBAMA: And there is no contradiction, Dennis, between...

KUCINICH: It is disputed.

OBAMA: Let me finish.

There is no contradiction between us taking seriously the need, as you do, to want to strengthen our alliances around the world -- but I think it is important for us to also recognize that if we have nuclear proliferators around the world that potentially can place a nuclear weapon into the hands of terrorists, that is a profound security threat for America and one that we have to take seriously.

MODERATOR: Way, way over on time.

Senator Gravel, 30 seconds, please.

GRAVEL: No, with respect to Iran, we've sanctioned them for 26 years. We scared the bejesus out of them when the president says, "They're evil."

GRAVEL: Well, you know something? These things don't work. They don't work. We need to recognize them.

And you know something? Who is the greatest violator of the non- proliferation treaty? The United States of America. We signed a pledge that we would begin to disarm, and we're not doing it. We're expanding our nukes.

Who the hell are we going to nuke? Tell me, Barak. Barak, who do you want to nuke?

OBAMA: I'm not planning to nuke anybody right now, Mike, I promise.

(LAUGHTER)

GRAVEL: Good. Good. We're safe then, for a while.


--

Hawking weightless video here.


From the Times: George Washington letter found.

--

Via boodler and blogger kbertocci, here's the latest from T.M. Shine.


By Joel Achenbach  |  April 27, 2007; 9:47 AM ET
 
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