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The Tally Ho

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Wanting it all

I feel a bit like Walter Ecklund in Father Goose. "You do know there's a war on, don't you, Walter?" Yes, well, everybody keeps saying that. Meanwhile, I got me ten fine toes to wiggle in the sand...

We're all supposed to give to the war effort. For Dems, that means building international credibility, avoiding "failed-state" scenarios in Afghanistan, Iraq, and wherever else we've sent troops, and above all, getting Bush out of office. So tonight, I went to all the news polls I could find, and dutifully reported that Edwards was my hero. "Regardless of your opinion on the issues, who do you think won the debate?" Truthfully, I think that Edwards and Cheney were participating in two different debates. Or rather, Edwards was playing a counselor (therapy or law? You decide.) building rapport, and Cheney was playing a mobster threatening delinquent customers. No, I don't have quotes, that was just my gut feeling.

I do have quotes, however, on the topics they didn't discuss. Cheney was pretty mum about the gay marriage issue, which seems best at the moment since his beliefs may not reflect his party lines. Edwards just talked too damn much about the topic, and said all the wrong things:

Now, as to this question, let me say first that I think the vice president and his wife love their daughter. I think they love her very much. And you can‘t have anything but respect for the fact that they‘re willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter, the fact that they embrace her. It‘s a wonderful thing. And there are millions of parents like that who love their children, who want their children to be happy.
And I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, and so does John Kerry. I also believe that there should be partnership benefits for gay and lesbian couples in long-term, committed relationships.
But we should not use the Constitution to divide this country. No state for the last 200 years has ever had to recognize another state‘s marriage. This is using the Constitution as a political tool, and it‘s wrong.

We both believe that—and this goes onto the end of what I just talked about—we both believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. But we also believe that gay and lesbians and gay and lesbian couples, those who have been in long-term relationships, deserve to be treated respectfully, they deserve to have benefits.
For example, a gay couple now has a very difficult time, one, visiting the other when they‘re in the hospital, or, for example, if, heaven forbid, one of them were to pass away, they have trouble even arranging the funeral. I mean, those are not the kind of things that John Kerry and I believe in. I suspect the vice president himself does not believe in that.
But we don‘t—we do believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

Only a few breaths away from declaring that he did not believe in gay marriage. (These statements of belief confound me. What is this "believing a marriage is between a man and a woman" about? Is this like Tinkerbell, where if we don't clap our hands for the hetero couples they will fade away?) The guvment in Massachusetts
tried to do a "full benefits partnership" law, and the Court sent it back and said that it had to include the word "marriage". What Edwards is proposing violates the MA ruling. Part of me wanted to see Cheney call him on that, which of course he would not have done, because then both parties would be arguing a side they didn't necessarily believe in and then it would be like a REAL debate!

And then there was the AIDS question.

IFILL: I will talk to you about health care, Mr. Vice President. You have two minutes. But in particular, I want to talk to you about AIDS, and not about AIDS in China or Africa, but AIDS right here in this country, where black women between the ages of 25 and 44 are 13 times more likely to die of the disease than their counterparts. What should the government‘s role be in helping to end the growth of this epidemic?
CHENEY: Well, this is a great tragedy, Gwen, when you think about the enormous cost here in the United States and around the world of the AIDS epidemic—pandemic, really. Millions of lives lost, millions more infected and facing a very bleak future.
In some parts of the world, we‘ve got the entire, sort of, productive generation has been eliminated as a result of AIDS, all except for old folks and kids—nobody to do the basic work that runs an economy.
The president has been deeply concerned about it. He has moved and proposed and gotten through the Congress authorization for $15 billion to help in the international effort, to be targeted in those places where we need to do everything we can, through a combination of education as well as providing the kinds of medicines that will help people control the infection.
Here in the United States, we‘ve made significant progress. I have not heard those numbers with respect to African- American women. I was not aware that it was—that they‘re in epidemic there, because we have made progress in terms of the overall rate of AIDS infection, and I think primarily through a combination of education and public awareness as well as the development, as a result of research, of drugs that allow people to live longer lives even though they are infected—obviously we need to do more of that.
IFILL: Senator Edwards, you have 90 seconds.
EDWARDS: Well, first, with respect to what‘s happening in Africa and Russia and in other places around the world, the vice president spoke about the $15 billion for AIDS. John Kerry and I believe that needs to be doubled.
And I might add, on the first year of their commitment, they came up significantly short of what they had promised. And we probably won‘t get a chance to talk about Africa. Let me just say a couple of things.
The AIDS epidemic in Africa, which is killing millions and millions of people and is a frightening thing not just for the people of Africa but also for the rest of the world, that, combined with the genocide that we‘re now seeing in Sudan, are two huge moral issues for the United States of America, which John Kerry spoke about eloquently last Thursday night.
Here at home we need to do much more. And the vice president spoke about doing research, making sure we have the drugs available, making sure that we do everything possible to have prevention. But it‘s a bigger question than that.
You know, we have 5 million Americans who‘ve lost their health care coverage in the last four years; 45 million Americans without health care coverage. We have children who don‘t have health care coverage.
If kids and adults don‘t have access to preventative care, if they‘re not getting the health care that they need day after day after day, the possibility of not only developing AIDS and having a problem—having a problem—a life-threatening problem, but the problem of developing other life-threatening diseases is there every day of their lives.
IFILL: OK, we‘ll move on.

Huh? Cheney didn't know those numbers (they've been stable for the last five years or so) but at least he acknowledged the statistic. Both of them talked about AIDS overseas, though the moderator explicitly asked them not to, and Edwards sandwiched his lack-of-answer between jabs on lack of fulfillment on the $15B, genocide in Sudan, and health care. All within ninety seconds.

Let me explain my current job for anyone who doesn't know me in real life. I am a sexual health educator and spend a lot of time with HIV prevention. We have six people in our department, all female. Four are African-American: 70something, 50something, 40something and 20something. One mid-thirties Latina. And me--the token white kid. On a professional level, this question sparks our interest because it relates to our funding. Will the next administration encourage risk-reduction or abstinence? Will we be allowed to take condoms to our health fairs and community presentations, or brochures that say, "Just Say No"? On a very personal level, I know that when I walk into the office tomorrow all these women will be in arms. Right there on the table sat the biggest health crisis to face black women, and both men walked away from the opportunity to discuss it.
Why? It wasn't on their list of talking points. They steered the discussion back to the "important issues", which probably will win them votes in most corners. But my office will be pissed, rightly so, because this question proves to us that everyone is ignoring health issues and minority issues and women's issues. All in under five minutes.

And yes, I know there's a war on. I'm just tired of seeing our questions at the bottom of the list.

Your thoughts?


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