Everyone’s been writing about the Dean-Lieberman spat over Israel and the disruptions of the Lyndon LaRouche supporters in last night’s debate. Both of those are fascinating subjects indeed, but this early in the race, with this many candidates to choose from, we may just as well make our decisions based on less substantive matters. So let’s be grateful that the candidates, in addition to being grilled on the Middle East and Bush’s tax cuts, were also asked to name their favorite song.

And on that basis alone, I’ve already discounted some of them.

Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois…”You Gotta Be,” Des’ree.

This was a key question for Sen. Moseley Braun. Considering she has as much chance of winning the nomination as Des’ree does of scoring another top 10 hit, Carol may just as well use her minimal time in the national spotlight to raise the profile of her favorite minimally popular mid-90’s R&B divas as to discuss whatever positions she holds on the issues. In the next debate, expect Sen. Moseley Braun to set forth an economic plan built around lessons learned from Dionne Farris’ “I Know”.

The Rev. Al Sharpton…”Talking Loud and Saying Nothing,” James Brown. He called it “James Brown’s song about the Republican Party.”

Rev. Sharpton once again proves what makes him so vital to this campaign – his comic relief value. He not only chooses a song with some street cred, but uses the token “softball” question to take another jab against George W. Someday, I hope Al gives up politics to pursue stand-up full time. He’d have just about the same amount of impact on our nation’s government, but he’d be able to make us laugh more than once every four years.

Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri…”Born in the U.S.A.,” Bruce Springsteen.

I don’t know what’s more disappointing: that Gephardt stole this straight off some compilation of “Songs Politicians Say Are Their Favorites When Running for Office” or the fact that, if any of the politicians who reflexively drape themselves in this song ever got past the anthemic chorus, they’d realize it’s one of the most depressing and dissatisfied portraits of American life ever committed to vinyl. Dick, have some of your junior staffers buy you some Coldplay or Mary J. Blige – hell, even Blink 182. There’s a whole world of music out there just waiting to be taken out of context.

Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina…”Small Town,” John Mellencamp.

Obviously, Edwards is listening to the same compilation as Gephardt. True, this guy was born in a small town (Seneca, South Carolina; population 7,652), but you don’t see me claiming my favorite song is “Suburbia” by the Pet Shop Boys. Why do people from small towns like this song so much? I’m starting to wonder if maybe all of small town America has just one radio station that plays only this song over and over again. Of course, if that were true, small town people would grow to hate it. Just like the rest of us do.

Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts…”No Surrender,” Bruce Springsteen.

Bonus points to Sen. Kerry for picking a different song off the “Born in the USA” album. But “No Surrender”?! How did he come up with that? Did he throw a dart at the track listing? There are at least eight better songs on that album. There’s only one explanation I can think of: George W. Bush must’ve asked Congress to vote on it, and Kerry didn’t want to go against a popular president. Kerry should listen to the lyrics sometime. He might learn a few things about not surrendering.

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean…”Jaspora,” Wyclef Jean.

Ja-what-a? Who does this guy think he is? You can’t pick songs no one knows. How can I make fun of you if I don’t recognize your song? No wonder this guy’s campaign is surging. He’s crafty, this one.

Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut…”Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow,” Fleetwood Mac; “My Way,” Frank Sinatra.

Sen. Lieberman proves he’s just as incapable of limiting himself to one song as he is of finding just one political party to buddy up to. Why not pick three songs and start seeking policy advice from Nader, too, Joe? And wasn’t “Don’t Stop” Al Gore’s song? Don’t, Joe. Stop.

Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio…”Imagine,” John Lennon.

John Lennon was right when he wrote this song. He’s not the only dreamer. Anyone who contributes to the campaign of a guy with this low of a media profile is definitely in that camp. Memo to John Lennon: No, you’re not the only one. But there are very, very few.

Sen. Bob Graham of Florida…”Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes,” Jimmy Buffett.

It’s not surprising that the guy from Florida is pandering to the buffet crowd. Oh, wait, it’s Buffett. Well, I guess you can take Graham’s fondness for Buffett to mean… hmm… buffet? Graham? I’m hungry…

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