This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Friday night's Iraq war debate between Rocky Anderson and Sean Hannity, more propaganda than polemics, polarized a packed house that was charged from outset.
Two hours of sharp-tongued attacks and frequent interruptions later, little middle ground was carved.
Anderson - Salt Lake City's activist mayor, who has led anti-war, anti-Bush protests in Utah, Washington state and Washington, D.C. - zeroed in on the commander in chief and called for his impeachment.
President Bush has "egregiously betrayed" American values, acted Nixonian and committed the same crimes of aggression that led to convictions at the Nuremberg trial, the mayor said.
In return, Hannity, the conservative Fox News star, blistered Anderson - and a who's who of Democrats - for weakening the country and devolving the nation's dialogue to a "toxic" level.
The combatants only agreement: fashion. Both wore dark suits.
"You need to stop your obsession with President Bush and help these troops," admonished Hannity, who frequently called Anderson a "part-time mayor and full-time protester."
"The best way we can support our troops is to get them home," countered Anderson, who won cheers and jeers by repeatedly calling Bush a war criminal.
The often carnival-like forum had serious moments. Anderson began with a PowerPoint presentation rife with torture images from the infamous Iraqi prison Abu Ghraib. And Hannity singled out the family of Adam Galvez, a Salt Lake City Marine killed in Iraq.
About the only light moments came from moderator Ken Verdoia, who joked that he would have thrown away his clearly overmatched stopwatch except it was a gift from his wife.
Anderson began by saying he hoped to rise above the "shrill name-calling." But he immediately blasted Bush and his "disastrous presidency" for acting as if above the law.
Hannity showed his TV showmanship. He mocked former President Clinton with a dead-on impersonation and belittled Anderson by repeatedly calling him "Ross." But he also tried to appeal to audience emotions, showing video clips of mass graves and Iraqis gassed to death by the country's fallen dictator, Saddam Hussein.
"This is one of the key differences, and we'll never convince each other," Hannity told Anderson. "You believe we're occupiers. I believe [the troops] are liberators."
Hannity accused Anderson of "cherry-picking" his moral outrage, noting top Democrats have made the case for war in Iraq.
"It's not George Bush that should be impeached from office," Hannity said. "It's your mayor."
Hannity played video clips of Sens. John Kerry and Hillary Rodham Clinton speaking out in support of the invasion. Then he asked Anderson why he voted for Kerry in 2004, and why he wasn't asking for the removal of Kerry and other Democrats from office.
Anderson, a maverick Democrat, shot back. "You don't know who I voted for," he said. "I voted for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader."
The mayor added that Congress is "absolutely complicit" in leading the nation to war. "Those who voted for the [war] resolution should resign."
Challenged on whom he would support in the 2008 presidential chase, Anderson named New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. For his part, Hannity said any Republican would do, so long as it is not Hillary Clinton.
Hannity lashed out at "liberals" in the audience for not supporting the president.
"Everything is George Bush's fault," he said sarcastically. "Some of you women may get pregnant. If you do, it's not your fault, it's George Bush's fault."
Using his lawyer training, Anderson presented a deliberate case early. He highlighted evidence that showed Iraq never had weapons of mass destruction as well as opinion from power brokers that suggested Bush was ignoring intelligence data.
"The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq has no doubt been the best terrorist-recruiting tool [Osama] bin Laden could have hoped for," said the mayor, garnering perhaps his biggest applause.
Reaction afterward was divided.
"Rocky was the courtroom lawyer; Hannity was the court jester," said Christian Burridge, the new Democratic Party chairman for Salt Lake County. "Rocky had facts, he had evidence, he had reasoning. Sean Hannity had his normal hypocritical, partisan jabs."
James Evans, the county's GOP chairman, said Hannity clearly won. "It's impossible to follow the logic of Rocky's argument," he said.
But 22-year-old debategoer Mark Mitchell suggested the political theater - and the reaction to it - was useless.
"All of the catcalling and the boos . . . it just proves America's gracelessness," he said. "It was the exact epitome of why we're in this war in the first place."