Monday Morning Quarterback: Where's The Debate?

A week without a presidential debate beckons at last as we head deeper into summer. Of course, we just had another on Sunday morning, the Democrats yet again, this time in Des Moines, Iowa. As the three top candidates -- Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and even decidedly left-leaning John Edwards -- all cautioned that disentangling America from Iraq will be a time-consuming, complex process. In so doing, they may have presaged one of the major table-setting developments for the week, the setting of terms for General David Petraeus's long-awaited report to Congress next month. That, along with Fred Thompson's continued ramping up of his candidacy, will determine much of what happens after Labor Day.

The White House wants Petraeus to deliver his report on progress in Iraq, and lack of same, in private. Democrats want the general to do it in public. The circumstances will do much to create the political narrative for his report, which is widely expected to be a mixed bag given such ongoing problems as keeping the electric power on, while showing some progress at least in the short term, in areas receiving concerted US military attention.

While there will be no debates this week -- and we can the Good Lord for that small favor, at least until they turn into real debates -- there will be some high profile appearances by groups of candidates.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Kansas City will hear from Republicans Fred Thompson and John McCain, and from Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Clinton and McCain address the VFW on Monday. Obama and Thompson address the VFW on Tuesday, with President Bush coming in on Wednesday. McCain is the only veteran of the group.

The VFW is a long-established organization which has heard frequently from presidential candidates. A new organization of American Indian tribes, principally those with highly lucrative casino gambling enterprises, called the Indigenous Democrats Network, will hear from three of the non-frontrunning presidential candidates this week. The event, called Prez on the Rez, takes place on the Morongo reservation near Palm Springs, drawing New Mexico Governor and former UN Ambassador Bill Richardson along with Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel. Richardson, the leading longshot in either party, has risen slowly but surely in the early states, and the Indian tribes could be a key to a strong showing in the neighboring, second-in-the-nation Nevada presidential caucuses.

Where are the rest of the Democrats? In varying stages, I'm told, of calling a halt to having their chains yanked into presidential forums staged by every party interest group.

As Fred Thompson continues gearing up for his long-expected announcement, now apparently slated for just after Labor Day, he is venturing forth more often in public appearances. This week, in addition to his speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars opposite Obama, he also speaks to the Midwest Republican Leadership Conference in Indianapolis.

Not all his appearances go smashingly well in this shakedown cruise phase of things. Last week, he appeared at the Iowa State Fair and got a lot of gas from Fox News for his choice of footwear. It seems he wore Gucci loafers to the Iowa State Fair.

To Senator Thompson, I would say: "Gucci no, Lucchese yes," Lucchese being the leading Western bootmaker recommended to me by Gary Hart years ago. Gucci loafers are better suited to, well, Gucci Gulch, a place the former Law & Order star does not want to be associated with. They definitely don't go with pick-up trucks.