As Ron Fournier of the AP says, "After failing for weeks to undercut Howard Dean's political surge, his Democratic presidential rivals finally found a flag to rally around Tuesday night. The Confederate flag."
Dean's first (unapplauded) answer to the question was followed by colloquies with Al Sharpton and John Edwards, who both challenged him directly. His rivals have been attacking him from afar since the weekend, but this was their first chance to get to him face-to face.
However, Dean didn't take the bait and lose his temper, so it could have been worse. But he could be perceived as most everything else his critics say — arrogant, aloof, disconnected and an insensitive blueblood.
When Edwards went after Dean, he demonstrated a flair for "nice Richard Gere courtroom dramatics," by walking toward Dean and challenging him to apologize.
Dean's position is in fact perfectly understandable and the attacks on him are arguably demagogic, but he explained it in a way that didn't seem to win over the audience.
Other than that, the young people asked some good questions; the outfits worn by Wes Clark and Dennis Kucinich brought to mind either
a. a shopping trip to the Gap
b. "Now's the time on Sprockets when we dance!" LINK
c. a bicycle cop on South Beach
The last five minutes provide plenty of entertainment to last all the live-long day, including on the "have you ever smoked pot? question:
Lieberman: I never used marijuana. Sorry.
Clark: Never used it.
Braun: Not going to answer.
Sharpton: We grew up in church. We never did that.
As for us at The Note, we know who we'd party with. We're just keeping it to ourselves.
The New York Times ' Adam Nagourney on the debate's flag flap. LINK
The Los Angeles Times Matea Gold's account of Dean's opponents "pounding" him on the Confederate flag issue: LINK
The Boston Globe 's Sarah Schweitzer writes, "The force and fury of the attack from fellow Democrats was notable, but perhaps more striking was Dean's response." LINK
The Boston Herald's David Guarino profiles the man who asked Dean the Confederate flag question at the forum, whom Guarino dubs Dean's "worst nightmare." LINK
The Washington Post 's Jim VandeHei recaps the vote rocking in Boston. LINK
VandeHei doesn't talk much about how that pot question totally RULED. That was awesome.
As if in Douglas K. Ginsburg's honor, the Los Angeles Times' James Rainey focuses on Tuesday night's marijuana question. LINK
So does the New York Daily News' Helen Kennedy. LINK
Deborah Orin includes the Democratic wardrobe into her debate account. LINK
"Hoping to win over younger voters, the candidates tried to look hip at the face-off — Wesley Clark and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) in black jackets over black sweaters, Sharpton in a three-piece suit."
ABC News Vote 2004: The Invisible Primary:
Dean David Broder writes, "There has always been a risk that Terry McAuliffe's decision to speed up the race for the Democratic presidential nomination would backfire on his party — and now that risk looms larger than ever." LINK
USA Today 's Walter Shapiro advises that "there is a danger in overemphasizing this fixation on electability. We have not yet reached that moment in politics when every voter is his or her own campaign consultant." LINK