Oddly, the candidate who has most gained from his opposition to the war, Dean, was the least vocal in the debate. Perhaps that was because Brokaw introduced the subject with Dean by discussing reports that Dean got out of the Vietnam draft by citing a bad back — an affliction that did not prevent Dean from leading an active life.
"You got a deferment," Brokaw said to Dean. "You took letters and an X-ray to your draft board because you had an unfused vertebrae in your back. But then you went skiing for the next year. Skied the moguls — I've skied the moguls. I know how tough they are on your back..."
It was a classic opportunity for the notoriously touchy Dean to lose his cool. But that didn't happen.
"Look, I did not serve in Vietnam," Dean answered. "I was given a deferment by the United States Government because they did not feel they wanted me in the Army. Dick Gephardt didn't serve in Vietnam. Joe Lieberman didn't serve in Vietnam. John Edwards didn't serve in Vietnam. None of us up here except for General Clark served in Vietnam, and Senator Kerry."
"I told the truth. I fulfilled my obligation. I took a physical. I failed the physical. If that makes this an issue, then so be it."
As Dean moved into an attack on other Democrats, particularly Kerry, for supporting the war in Iraq, the audience broke into applause.
After the debate, members of pollster Frank Luntz's television focus group judged Dean the winner...Perhaps the people were just reaffirming their previous support for Dean. Perhaps they sensed that Dean simply seemed bigger than his challengers. Whatever the case, at the end of an excruciating session, Dean was right where he was at the beginning: in the lead.
Best New Blog finalist - 2003 Koufax Awards
A non-violent, counter-dominant, left-liberal, possibly charismatic, quasi anarcho-libertarian Quaker's take on politics, volleyball, and other esoterica.
Lo alecha ha-m'lacha ligmor, v'lo atah ben chorin l'hibateyl mimenah.