By Jennie Palluzzi
HANOVER, N.H., 09/27/07 – Outside, before the debate began, the heat
was unbearable, the air damp, and the sky threatening rain. But that
didn’t stop hundreds of Dartmouth students from spending hours
chanting, yelling, and marching to whip up support for their
Inside, at the Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate at Dartmouth,
the heat bore down, too, at times particularly on frontrunner Hillary
Rodham Clinton, as the candidates sparred on issues that ranged from
Iraq and immigration to health care and the minimum drinking age.
Toward the end of the two-hour debate, moderator Tim Russert of Meet
the Press turned to the topic of terrorism and torture.
“Imagine. We get the number three guy in Al-Qaeda. We know there’s a
big bomb going off in America in three days and we know this guy knows
where. Don’t we have the right and responsibility to beat it out of
“America cannot sanction torture,” Sen. Barack Obama shot back. “It’s
a very straightforward principle, and one that we should abide by.”
Sen. Joseph Biden, Jr., agreed.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton did, too, adding that “is very little
evidence that it works.”
That’s when Russert sprang a surprise. The scenario, he said, had been
raised by the senator’s husband, William Jefferson Clinton.
“Well, I’ll have to talk to him later,” Clinton shot back with a hint of humor.
After two hours of fielding questions on issues ranging same-sex
marriage to Iran, Russert even made the candidates field questions
about their favorite baseball teams and Bible verses.
“The most important thing in life is love. That’s what empowers
courage, and courage implements the rest of our virtues,” said former
Alaskan Sen. Mike Gravel.
By then the temperature outside had dropped a bit. But in the Student
Watch Room in the Berry Sports Center, where about 2,000 Dartmouth
students and others gathered to view the debate, the heat was still
One by one, Sen. Barack Obama, Sen. Joseph Biden, Gov. Bill
Richardson, Gravel and Rep. Dennis Kucinich made their way to the
stage to shake hands and perhaps shake free a few votes. The room
pulsed as the students responded with cheers, chants and applause,
raising cell phones and small digital cameras to record the moment.
In the bleachers clusters of students discussed what they had seen and
what they thought.
Alex Cushman, a senior history major, said he reads blogs and major
news organization sites to sort things out. “A lot of stuff that
doesn’t get picked up you can find online on blogs,” he said.
But blogs didn’t seem a major factor to the Dartmouth crowd. Most of
more than a dozen students interviewed said they’d turn to more
traditional news sites.
Only one, Jordan Osserman, said he writes a blog that sometimes
includes politics and has spent time online reading up on the
candidates and what they have voted for. Nine students said they will
most likely get their news from major news websites, not blogs.
“I think blogging is for people a little older-like my brother,” said
freshman Brielle Milanon. Her brother is twenty-four.
At the end of the evening, students, candidates, and the media filed
into the now cooler New Hampshire air. Dartmouth had experienced a
once in a college lifetime event, and the candidates had finished
their third of six debates to be sanctioned by the Democratic National
Now it was the media’s chance to ruminate — on the web, in print and
on TV — over the evening color, quotes and substance. Candidates had
answered some hard questions. And students had a chance to see what
some of the candidates were like beyond the cameras’ focus.
Photo Credit: Jennie Palluzzi