You were excused if you saw the debate and didn't quite get who that gray-haired fellow was on the far right among the Democratic debaters last night.


Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel hasn't been in office for more than 25 years.

BLOCK: The longest long-shot there, Gravel ribbed and scolded the frontrunners. He got most of the night's best laugh, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. When it took a little while to get back to Gravel with a question, he snapped.

Mr. MIKE GRAVEL (Former Democratic Senator, Alaska): I've just grown up. I'm the senior statesman on here, and I was beginning to feel like a potted plant standing over here.

SIEGEL: Gravel's last 15 minutes of fame came in 1971, when he's credited with putting the Pentagon papers in the congressional record. Last night reminded us of something Democrat Adlai Stevenson once said: In America any boy may become president and I supposed it's just one of the risks we take.

BLOCK: One Republican presidential candidate got a little airtime, too, when those eight Democrats took the stage last night. NBC's Brian Williams asked some of the contenders about statements made by Republican Rudolph Giuliani. NPR's senior news analyst Ted Koppel has this commentary about what the former New York Mayor said that's gotten so much attention.

TED KOPPEL: Rudy Giuliani has for a couple of months now argued that he is the best candidate to be our next president because he performed so well as mayor of New York in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. All right. But now he's taken that assertion one step further. I would argue one step too far.

It was the other evening in New Hampshire that Giuliani said that if the Democrats were elected in 2008, the country will suffer more losses from terrorism. Once again, a Republican candidate for president, currently the leading Republican candidate for president, is making what is really an outrageous charge.

It is no less outrageous now than it was when George Bush used it to win reelection in 2004. But it worked back then, and clearly Mr. Giuliani thinks that he, too, can ride this pony to the White House. By dishonestly linking the events of 9/11 to Saddam Hussein, President Bush constructed a platform on which the war in Iraq was built.

He also turned Osama bin Laden into an international superstar and his organization, al-Qaida, into the biggest worldwide franchise since McDonald's. One might think that the questionable success of the war in Iraq, the failed hunt for Osama and the spread of al-Qaida and its affiliates might raise questions in Mr. Giuliani's mind about implicitly promising more of the same.

Perhaps indeed focusing on police work and intelligence gathering, employing economic, political and diplomatic tools and emphasizing American law and traditional values in the fight against terrorism lacks some of the dramatic values that attend to more conventional war.

Democratic candidates have in the past recommended many, if not all, of those tactics. So, too, have some of our most senior military leaders. Instead of tarring the entire field of Democratic presidential candidates, Rudy Giuliani needs to offer some viable policy options. He appears to believe that more of the same will lead to victory.

Politically, he may be right. As far as the country's safety and welfare are concerned, I doubt it. This is Ted Koppel.

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