Re: [utepprogressives] Egos on Parade
- Some more egos on parade:
Democratic presidential debate
Sunday June 3, 2007
Introduction The eight democratic presidential
candidates take to the stage New Hampshire tonight for
their second debate of the fledgling primary campaign,
in a two-hour format that will include questions from
journalists and voters alike.
Iraq and healthcare are expected to top the debate
agenda. Hillary Clinton - who holds a commanding lead
in national polls - is considered vulnerable for her
early and eager support of the war, and the second-
and third-place Barack Obama and John Edwards will be
looking to use that to their advantage. Obama and
Edwards have also released healthcare plans in recent
weeks, and we can hope for healthy debate as they
haggle over the details with Clinton, who led her
husband's ill-fated push for reform more than a decade
And then there are the other five: Bill Richardson,
Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel
- none of whom commands more than a few percentage
points of support in recent polls. Some say that
relegates them to the role of comic relief. But
desperation can always produce some interesting
All times in Eastern Standard Time. Hit refresh for
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7 pm CNN's Wolf Blitzer introduces. New Hampshire is
wonderful and so forth. The candidates introduce
7:05 Obama asked: Bush anti-terrorism policies
successful? Obama responds: no.
Blitzer follows up: Bush admin gets no credit for no
attacks since 9/11? Obama says they've maybe kinda
done some things well.
7:07 Edwards calls the "Global War on Terror" a
"bumper sticker" slogan that serves the political ends
of Bush. Clinton disagrees! Says she's lived with the
consequences of terrorism in NY and knows the threat
is serious. Kucinich waxes a bit tedious with a
Benjamin Franklin quote.
7:10 Joe Biden on the other Democratic candidates: "I
don't want to judge them. These are my friends." Group
7:15 The candidates haggle a bit over funding for the
Iraq war. John Edwards says the best way for Congress
to end the war is to use its funding power. Edwards
"names names": Clinton and Obama didn't do enough with
their Senate votes. First blood drawn!
Obama strikes back with a vengeance: "I opposed the
war for the start, John. You're about four and a half
years late." Looks good doin' it, too.
Clinton plays Great Conciliator: The differences
between the Democrats aren't so great. The differences
between the Democrats and the Republicans are great.
7:20 Technical problems. Kucinich can't hear the
question. Microphone not working.
Kucinich asked (by a national guardsman) whether the
lives lost in Iraq have been wasted. Kucinich plays
humungous pedant: "There's a teachable moment here."
Let's end the war now, etc etc etc. We learn that
Kucinich can't answer a question.
7:25 One (sexist pig of a) reader emails: "Woo,
Hillary's looking pretty pretty hot tonight." We
report, you decide.
Edwards on Obama and his early opposition to the Iraq
war: "He deserves credit. He was right. I was wrong."
Mike Gravel compares his fellow Democrats who voted
for the war to war criminals. But then elaborates: "It
doesn't mean they're bad people. It just means they
don't have moral judgment." Thanks, Mike.
Mike Gravel looks like your crazy uncle who you leave
in the corner and who embarrasses you when you have
guest over for Thanksgiving.
7:30 The conversation turns to immigration, and oh
man, Joe Biden is embarrassing himself. Why did he
vote for a 700-mile fence on the border? Well, we
didn't need it. So why vote for it? Er, it could do
some good. Mumbles something about cocaine. Not making
himself so clear. Wolf cuts him off.
Show of hands: should English be the official language
of the united states? Only Mike Gravel puts his up.
"We all speak English," he says. Well then.
Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton fire back. This is
the kind of question that's meant to divide us. (Not
sure I follow the logic: It's a debate. Isn't that
what the questions are supposed to do?) But they look
good shooting Mike down and earn some applause on the
Chris Dodd: I speak Spanish, along with Bill
Richardson. Okay then. New topic.
7:35 Dennis Kucinich just dropped his pen. The
congressman quickly bent down and quietly picked it
7:40 The conversation turns to healthcare. John
Edwards says that Obama's plan isn't universal. Obama
says no, his plan is universal. Clinton says she's
glad to see everyone recognises that universal
healthcare is important. Everyone loves universal
7:45 Edwards and Obama are back to haggling over
details, but the disagreements seem relatively small.
Kucinich: "I reject this whole approach! And the
American people should know." Kucinich wants
single-payer -- he wants the NHS!
7:45 Clinton says she thinks Don't Ask Don't Tell --
the policy by which gays and lesbians can serve in the
military, but not openly -- is a bad idea and should
be dropped. (This was of course her husband's policy!
Yikes.) Clinton has unfortunate choice of words to
defend her claim: "After the first gulf war there was
a big flood of discharges from gays and lesbians"
In a potential Democratic debate first, Clinton cites
conservative godfather Barry Goldwater: "you don't
have to be straight to shoot straight." Indeed.
7:50 Show of hands - who would do away with the "don't
ask, don't tell" policy for gays in the military? All
put their hands up. Maybe Mike Gravel just needs to go
to the bathroom.
7:55 And we take a break for a fluff question: "What
would you do with former President Bill Clinton?
Mike Gravel: "He would make a great roving ambassador.
He could take his wife with him - she'd still be in
the Senate." Great feminist he is not.
Bill RIchardson: The place for him is Sec General of
Obama: Clinton a great international conciliator, and
Clinton on Clinton: "All former presidents should be
used." She's not going to play second fiddle to her
8:00 Kenny Tanner (a "very bored economics student
trying to distract himself from revision") writes:
"I think it's very convenient that they put the three
front runners - Edwards, Clinton and Obama - next to
each other allowing CNN to have them all in shot when
any one of them speaks. We may not know who the party
prefers but we certainly know which candidates can
garner decent air time.
"Plus, I'm sure all three of the last issues came up
in the last episode of the West Wing I watched - who's
8:00 Says Chris Dodd: "global warning, er, global
warming ... we see the melting of the solar caps, I
mean the polar caps..." Not looking so good.
Bill Richardson runs over time in repsonse to
Blitzer's question about global warming -- something
that seems to keep happening! He'd be looking a lot
better if he could stay within time.
8:05 They break for commerical and round two.
James Carville says Joe Biden has being showing his
control of the issues and Obama has had the sharpest
Donna Brazile says Barack Obama is the most improved
since the last debate.
It also seems like John Edwards is trying the hardest
to distinguish himself from the others -- being much
more aggressive and moving unprompted to attack the
Of course, the real question is HIllary: she's got the
most to lose. But she's turned in a solid performance
so far. All she needs to do is avoid major gaffes and
she should be fine.
8:10 Round two: questions from the audience, not the
journalists. The candidates are now seated, trying
their best to look relaxed.
8:15 Carol Kilminster, mother or a young man in Iraq,
has a question: "Why don't we spend enough on
Obama offers a qualified defense of the Veterans
Affairs (VA) health system -- it does do some good
things, he said, like negotiate directly with drug
companies for pharmaceuticals.
Richardson supports something called a "hero's
healthcard" -- which would allow a veteran access to
any any hospital. Is this realistic? I'm sceptical.
Wolf asks Gravel: You served in Korea, have you had
any experience with the VA? Gravel (a touch too
eagerly): "I get my meds from the VA!" Later: "the
government has always always waged war against the
8:20 The conversation moves on. Asks one audience
member: what would you do to handle Iran?
Hillary Clinton gets a warm laugh for criticising the
administration's lack of diplomacy: "Occasionally they
send Dick Cheney. That's hardly diplomatic in my
Edwards proposes carrot and stick combo: make nuclear
fuel available to Iran, in response to disarmament. If
not, Iran'll face sanctions.
Only economic sanctions? Never military? Edwards: "No
responsible president would ever take any option off
8:25 Wolf asks Kucinich: If you were president, and
knew where Osama bin Laden was, would you take him
Kucinich: "I don't believe in assassination politics."
That seems to be a no, which can't possibly play well
with many voters.
Obama walks back from the Kucinich ledge: bin Laden's
declared war on us.
Wolf asks for a show of hands: who would support
taking him out? Everyone else raises his or her hand.
Clinton offers a caveat: "This is the kind of
hypothetical that you can't answer in the abstract."
Fair enough, though hypotheticals are always answered
in the abstract..
8:30 The conversations turns to cheerful matters:
genocide in Darfur.
Joe Biden says he favours more robust intervention.
Clinton again plays the no hypothetical card again --
I don't think these things are usual to respond to.
Presidents should be reasoned, etc.
Richardson says maybe the US shouldn't go to the
Olympics in Beijing if the genocide in Darfur
continues (since China buys most of Sudan's oil).
Senator Dodd gets very angry about this: We shouldn't
boycott the Olympics! Demands to know what his
colleagues think. Show of hands question: who thinks
the US should boycott the Beijing Olympics next year
unless China gets tough with Sudan over Darfur: Biden,
Richardson, Edwards for; Dodd, Obama, Clinton against.
Biden gets pissed at all this talk about this but
looks presidential doing it: who cares about
cancelling the Olympics? People are dying, and we need
a no fly zone! -- by the time we get around to
cancelling the Olympics 50,000 more people will be
8:40 A recent high school grad asks about national
service: any plans to enact something like that?
Kucinich and Dodd get nostalgic about Kennedy: They
remember a time when a president asked a generation to
serve, they felt inspired by it, and so forth.
8:45 Daily Kos on Hillary Clinton -- "Shorter Hillary
Clinton: 'I trusted Bush on Iraq.' That, alone, should
be enough to disqualify her. 'Good judgement' is a
must-have trait for our next president."
8:45 They start talking about the deficit. Richardson
says he supports a constitutional amendment to balance
the budget. He's still going over time and getting cut
off by Wolf Blitzer. Poor guy.
Dennis Kucinich on the deficit: "We need to stop the
war in Iraq." This can't possibly be his response to
everything. Or can it? Egad.
8:50 Is it time to do away with earmarks?
Chris Dodd: I don't think we should have a blanket
policy on something like this.
Mike Gravel: "Totally. Totally."
Clinton: We need to remember that eight years ago the
budget was balanced. (And of course we need to
remember who was president then!) We can do this, says
8:55 Subsitutute teachers asks: What would be your top
priority in the first 100 days?
Edwards: I would travel the world.
Clinton: I would bring the troops home.
(Good answer! Didn't Edwards sort of drop the ball on
Obama: What she said. And then some healthcare.
Richardson: That. And then schools.
Biden: All that, plus I would solve Iran and Korea.
(And turn sand into ice cream?)
Kucinich: What they said, and get out of Nafta, &c.
Gravel: I would turn to the people next to me and say,
you can end the war now.
(Didn't he miss the point of the hypothetical?)
Dodd: I'd try to restore the constitutional rights in
They would do everything, in other words.
9:00 And so the debate ends.
Not obvious who the winner was, though the
spinmeisters will try to play it differently.
Larry King to Elizabeth Edwards: John was aggressive,
was he not?
Edwards: He was forthright.
She's an impressive post-game chatter.
Obama looked good -- much better than last time. (And
he really nailed Mike Gravel in his response to the
English-as-official-language question.) But I'm not
sure he'll gain much. The debate really was Clinton's
to lose -- she had a 15 point lead over Obama and a 31
point lead over Edwards in this morning's Washington
Post poll -- and she certainly didn't lose it. No
gaffes, no waffles: she looked and sounded good.
Biden also stood out: he was loud and clear -- at
times bordering on a shout -- and made his presence
known. (Which, since he has about 2% support in the
polls, he needs to do.)
Chris Dodd's blog has calculated the speaking times
for each candidates:
Obama: 16.0 minutes
...and CNN host Wolf Blitzer spoke for 13.24 minutes.
And we'll be back with the Republican presidential
debate on Tuesday.