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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Little clashing off-stage: An interview with the 'Partisan Titans'

By Matthew Stone

Partisan rhetoric hit a high point in Kagin Commons last week as “partisan titans” New Orleans native Donna Brazile and California native Ron Christie squared off in a Program Board-sponsored, Oxford-style debate on American prestige in the world and pressing domestic issues. Political Science professor Adrienne Christiansen moderated the debate while audience members shifted to different sides of the room to agree or disagree with the debaters.

In the end, the crowd sided with Brazile, former Vice President Al Gore’s national campaign manager in 2000, over Christie, a former special assistant to President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Audience members approved, though not overwhelmingly, a resolution stating that having a Democrat as president would “restore American prestige around the world.”

As they caught their breath after the debate, Brazile and Christie sat down for a conversation with The Mac Weekly.

The Mac Weekly: Neither of you has endorsed a [2008 presidential] candidate yet.

Donna Brazile: I have no intentions of endorsing a candidate. I believe that as chair of the [Democratic Party’s] Voting Rights Institute, I should help all of the candidates, help the party educate citizens about their right to vote and assist them in turning out the voters. The only person I would have endorsed of course is former Vice President Al Gore, but he decided not to run so I’m free to flirt and date all of the candidates without falling in love.

Ron Christie: I have similar logic. I represent a wide variety of clients. For me it would put me in a difficult position if I endorse one candidate over another and I will do everything I can to get a Republican elected once the nomination process has gone through.

TMW: How would you plan to be involved once the Republican nominee is selected?

RC: It depends what they ask me to do. I’ve participated in the last several Republican conventions, participating in the platform selection, participating in a wide variety of activities. And wherever asked, I’ll help.

TMW: We still don’t know how many days until New Hampshire [has its presidential primary].

DB: In 2012, we have to change this. Voters should not be forced to choose their president until we know the winner of the Super Bowl.

RC: If you front-load it this way, I don’t really think it’s a true democratic election, it’s if you happen to live in a handful of states that the parties cater to, then your vote matters.

TMW: A recent survey by the Project for Excellence in Journalism shows that media coverage has essentially already narrowed down the field to just five of the 17 candidates in the two parties. Does any of the other 12 candidates essentially left out have any chance of success?

DB: In the pre-primary season, the media tends to focus on the horse race; they tend to focus on who can raise the most money, who can draw the biggest crowds, the largest name recognition, who’s receiving the most endorsements.

RC: This is all about ratings, it’s all about generating more viewership to their particular network and they love having people tune in to catch what the latest in the horse race is.

TMW: Mr. Christie, in 2000, President Bush attracted nine percent of the African-American vote. In 2004, he inched up to 12 percent. Do Republicans have a chance of attracting a greater share of the African-American vote in the upcoming election?

RC: Not if they keep behaving the way they are right now. I think they made a terrible miscalculation by not going to Morgan State University [a historically black college] outside of Baltimore and attending a debate that was sponsored and moderated by PBS host Tavis Smiley. That was a huge mistake. I think that African-Americans around the country are looking for reasons as to why they should vote for Republicans and that instance gave them another opportunity that demonstrates maybe they aren’t serious about their commitment. It was a terrible miscalculation that I wonder if they’ll be able to recover from. I don’t think it’s too late but I haven’t seen activity that indicates that a) they understand the stupidity of what they’ve done and b) that they’re going to take action to ameliorate that. It remains to be seen. It’s a damn shame.

TMW: Is there an apt comparison between the wildfire disasters [in California] and Hurricane Katrina?

DB: No, there’s no comparison between the two.

We had I think [in New Orleans] 90,000 square miles of devastation. No water, no electricity and no power for days. Almost for two weeks, people could not return to their homes. Look, there was no question that the evacuation itself was mishandled. The initial response from the federal government was not forthcoming. While the evacuation went as smoothly as possible, there was nothing in place for people without cars, without transportation, who could not get out. [T]he levies broke, and there was no way to alert people. So, it was a total failure on the part of the entire government.

RC: I think thing that Californians are very well equipped to deal with at the state and local level, is forest fires, earthquakes, and mudslides. And I think should never be a partisan issue. But the state of California, regardless of whether it’s a Democrat or Republican [in charge], they’re very well drilled, they’re very well trained with how to deal with forest fires and how to deal with these types of disasters and they move swiftly and I would like to believe that we learned from the lack of federal response from FEMA in New Orleans and acted accordingly.

DB: And most of the people in California, they had transportation. And the other thing is that San Diego instituted a new emergency phone system program. They were able to reach 400,000 people.

I have to tell you that after Katrina, my dad has a cell phone, but he did not have a cell phone [before]. Before Katrina he didn’t have a 25 year-old girlfriend, either but that’s another story.

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