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Not a debate, not a forum, not a real discussion?

Again, I’m perplexed at this HRC/LOGO presidential what-cha-ma-call-it. Read this description from the Washington Blade about the format.

HRC and Logo organizers have arranged a strict “non-debate” format that requires the candidates to appear onstage by themselves, one at a time, with the others remaining out of sight until they are called in to answer questions.

The joint HRC-Logo statement says the candidates “will appear sequentially” to engage in “conversation” with lesbian singer Melissa Etheridge and HRC Foundation President Joe Solmonese, who will serve as panelists questioning the candidates on important gay- and AIDS-related issues.

It sounds like it will be a series of interviews, no rebuttals or challenges. What kind of thinking went on behind the scenes about this? Actually, HRC used this format back in 2003 with seven of the nine Dems running for president (Sam Donaldson moderated, btw), and at that time the org cited the format as a condition placed on it  by both the candidates and the DNC. That’s not the case this time around.

HRC said at that time that the candidates insisted on the strict ground rules barring a joint appearance on stage and barring a direct debate because each had committed to a series of “official” Democratic Party-sponsored debates and promised not to participate in competing debates.

Damien LaVera, a spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, said the DNC was officially sanctioning six debates this year for Democratic presidential candidates at the candidates? request. He said the DNC has not placed any restrictions on other debates organized by news media outlets or private organizations.

So why the need to use this restrictive format now? Why will there not be any exchange between the candidates on these issues if these matters are so important to both the community and the country at large?

More below the fold, including an update on the Mike Gravel situation.
These are social issues many are grappling with, and to see candidates discussing them seriously with one another is essential. There are discussions about ENDA, hate crimes, marriage/civil unions, etc., occurring in homes and workplaces all around the country, often without sufficient accurate information about those issues — this could be a debate that enlightens everyone. We should be able to see interaction between candidates; they seek to lead this nation on issues that aren’t hypothetical — anti-discrimination measures are being considered in Congress and around the country, and amendments have been passed creating legal conflicts and confusion, there is genuine conflict about these issues that are due to religion-based bigotry that hasn’t been sufficiently challenged.

The question regarding  this “conversation” event is have any of the candidates objected to direct debate? That would be something to know. Dennis Kucinich apparently doesn’t mind:

“Congressman Kucinich would have no objection to appearing with the other candidates and engaging in debate,” Juniewicz said. “We agreed to whatever format they wanted.”

To put the HRC/LOGO format in perspective,  the NAACP Presidential Forum in Detroit, Michigan, which occurred today, had a format that also restricted candidate interaction. Matt Browner Hamlin of the Dodd campaign described it this way:

This is a forum – not a debate – and the format is slightly different from previous debates and forums. Each candidate will make a three minute opening statement and then will go through five rounds of questions with one minutes for each answer. Each candidate will then have two minutes to give a closing statement. The speaking order for each question was drawn randomly.

Questions to the candidates were submitted by NAACP members during their convention this week.

However, issues move forward through debate, not by regurgitation of position points turned in on a questionnaire. They could just as well upload a YouTube video of the candidates reading their positions from the HRC questionnaire.

A real debate or forum allows candidates to become battle ready on these issues when they go up against the GOP nominee and the gay-obsessed religious right, those folks won’t refrain from pummeling them on these issues — and they won’t use kid gloves.

One positive note — the debate forum event has been extended to 90 minutes.


And back to the matter of Mike Gravel being left out of the event…

The former Alaska senator has an article up at Huffington Post, “Why I Wasn’t Invited to the Debate on Gay Issues.” He’s still steaming:

So why wasn’t I invited to the gay rights forum?

According to a HRC spokesperson, I didn’t raise enough money and therefore my candidacy did not meet their standard of “viability.” But that’s strange — CNN, PBS, NBC and the NAACP invited me to their debates without evaluating my financial viability. Ironically I think the real reason why HRC didn’t invite me is that I’m too vocal in my advocacy of gay rights. None of the top tier candidates would have been comfortable facing an opponent who consistently points out their refusal to embrace true equality for gays and lesbians. HRC simply bowed to the star factor. It’s just a shame that this travesty was perpetrated in the name of the LGBT community. (Dennis, I’ll be rootin’ for ya.)

Lane Hudson at The Bilerico Project added this bit of information.

According to Gravel’s campaign, they have said he didn’t meet the deadline that was established of fundraising completed by the end of the second quarter. Further, they are also quibbling over where the money came from. The details are a little unclear to me, but it seems that they won’t want to count a loan that was given to the campaign, presumably from Senator Gravel.

Sigh. I just don’t understand this logic at all. Please let the man be part of the program.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding