I would never suggest that the presidential campaign isn't Page One material, but it's not exactly a compelling news story when the summary of a Democratic debate (in today's WashPost) is "Candidates Unite In Criticizing Bush." How is that notably different than any other day of the Bush presidency? Readers ought to see in this an undercurrent of It's-Our-Party politeness, as in "we wouldn't want any of our plausible contenders to be nicked up this early."
But the real puffery came in David Broder's "analysis" on page A6, headlined "Democratic Hopefuls Show Political Heft." These were no eight "dwarves," but a bevy of better-than-Bush giants: "the overall impression from the first formal debate from this early-starting campaign is that the Democrats have a field of contenders that, by any historical measure, matches in quality any the party has offered in decades."
How helpful the whole event was, cheered Broder. The six plausible contenders "showed themselves to be both substantive and direct in their responses," while the left-wing gadflies only "allowed almost all the others to assert that, despite their criticisms of President Bush's Iraq policy, they are ready to use military force to retaliate against future terrorist attacks."
Broder liked all six, not just the top three, as Democratic standard-bearers: "But for all the pre-primary attention focused on those three, it was by no means clear at the end of 90 minutes that they are any more effective advocates of the Democratic cause than Dodd, Richardson or Biden. The field seems both talented and evenly balanced."
Smooches all around for the Democrats.