Congressional Black Caucus Institute and Fox News Channel Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate
Tuesday, September 9, 2003 at Murphy Fine Arts Center on the Morgan State University campus, Baltimore, MD  p.m. (EDT). 

Overview: This was the second debate in less than a week and the second (after the May debate in South Carolina) in which all nine participated.

Candidates: Carol Moseley Braun, Howard Dean, John Edwards, Dick Gephardt, Bob Graham, John Kerry, Dennis Kucinich, Joseph Lieberman, Al Sharpton.

Moderator: Brit Hume.

Farai Chideya - former television correspondent, author and now editor of 
Ed Gordon - currently contributing editor of Savoy magazine; has worked with NBC and Black Entertainment Television.
Juan Williams - author, senior correspondent of National Public Radio, analyst for Fox News and host of the syndicated program "America's Black Forum."

Audience: 2,000 invited guests (and a handful who had to be disinvited). 

Format: Five rounds of questions posed by the three-person panel--the first two rounds on the war on terror, Iraq and foreign policy, the next two rounds on domestic issues, and the final round "dealer's choice."  Candidates had one minute to respond to questions.  Forty-five second closing statements.

Broadcast: Fox News Channel, C-SPAN.

Notes and Observations

  • Supporters of Lyndon LaRouche interrupted this debate half a dozen times by shouting out from the audience. 
  • By and large criticism focused on President Bush.  The sharpest attack on a fellow Democratic candidate came when Sen. Lieberman questioned Gov. Dean's stance toward Israel.  This was the one point where moderator Brit Hume allowed a 30-second response, and Dean explained that his position is "exactly the same as Bill Clinton's" and that "America needs to be an honest broker.  Lieberman, however, did not let up, stating, "I will simply say that Howard Dean's statements break a 50-year record in which presidents, Republican and Democrats, members of Congress of both parties have supported our relationship with Israel based on shared values and common strategic interests." 
  • Gov. Dean's assertion that, "I'm the only white politician that ever talks about race in front of white audiences" later drew criticism from some of the other Democrats who have been speaking to the subject.  In particular, Sen. Edwards issued a statement the next day. "Governor Dean's statement was divisive. And divisive is exactly what we're trying to overcome. His statement does a disservice to everyone he stood next to and all the people before us who have raised this issue over and over again in front of all audiences.  "Senator Lieberman marched with Martin Luther King. Senator Kerry talks about his experience in Vietnam. I grew up in the segregated South. Fighting for civil rights is part of who I am. I talk about it in front of every audience I'm with. "Governor Dean was right about one thing - politicians should talk about civil rights wherever they go. In the future, I hope he leads by example instead of by attack." 
  • Several days after the debate the Kerry campaign also pointed out that Dean had a little help with the applause line, "Well, if the percent of minorities that's in your state has anything to do with how you can connect with African American voters, then Trent Lott would be Martin Luther King."
  • The most curious, or esoteric, response was Gov. Dean's answer to Farai Chideya's question, asked of each of the candidates, about their favorite song.  Dean's response: "One you've never heard of, Wyclef Jean, 'Jaspora.'"
  • Reps. Dick Gephardt and Dennis Kucinich missed a key House vote in order to participate in this debate.  The bill, to establish a federally funded voucher program for the District of Columbia, passed by one vote. 
Copyright 2003  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.