Iraq was the top subject for presidential hopefuls addressing delegates in the first primary state's Democratic convention Saturday.And meanwhile the so-called "top-tier" candidate (Hillary Edwards Obama) showed contempt for the state and the system and -- no kidding -- for the not-quite-rotting corpse of American democracy itself, by choosing not to appear in person. (The so-called second-tier candidates -- and the so-called lunatic fringe candidates -- may feel contempt for the state and/or the system, but if so they are in no position to show it.)
In a warm-up to a nationally televised New Hampshire debate on Sunday, Sens. Joe Biden and Chris Dodd, U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio [photo] and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson promoted themselves as the ones with the vision and answers for solving Iraq through diplomacy.
"The only way which you can have a prospect of ending a self-sustaining cycle of sectarian violence is to separate the combatants and give them a political way forward," said Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.Aside from Iraq,
"Instead of talking about a surge in military power, how about a surge in diplomacy," said Dodd.
Kucinich, whose campaign signs feature a peace sign, pushed his core message: "Peace is inevitable if we have a president who is willing," he said.
Richardson, a former U.N. ambassador, declared an ambitious to-do list as president. "First. Day one - announce that America is going to get out of Iraq," he said. "How do we do that? With diplomacy."
Kucinich won the morning's heartiest response by taking a swipe at the vice president.Also waiting to be discovered is former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel, who spoke later in the day.
"It is time to impeach Vice President Cheney," he shouted as the crowd whistled, cheered, clapped and got to its feet. Kucinich has introduced articles of impeachment against Cheney over the Iraq war.
"That's why I'm going to carry New Hampshire," Kucinich said later to reporters. "The response you see today is the response I'm getting all over the country. I'm just waiting to be discovered by you."
Speaking later in the afternoon, former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel spoke of punishment, not diplomacy. The quickest way to end the war is to make it illegal, he said.It's a really interesting take on the situation, one with which I can hardly disagree.
"Make the continuation of the war a felony and if you disobey you go to jail for five years," he said.
Gravel also was the only candidate to openly criticize his fellow Democrats - though not by name - by saying those who voted to authorize the Iraq war as members of Congress aren't qualified to lead the country, even if they now regret the vote.
"I don't buy that for a-half-a-second. If that is true then they shouldn't be president because they're incompetent," he said.
As I've mentioned once or twice, I Like Mike. But I've got a soft spot for Dennis too, and I can certainly get behind impeaching the Vice President!
The debate Sunday evening should be interesting. It starts at 7:00 Eastern time (4:00 Pacific) and will be carried live on CNN among others. More details here.