2008 Watching the Dem Debate
posted by September 26 at 18:02 PMon
If you want to watch it with me, it’s on MSNBC and streaming live at msnbc.com. I’ll have a few thoughts during the debate, I’m sure, and then more tomorrow morning.
I’m guessing you might have a few thoughts during the debate, too—put em in the comments, I’d love to see them.
Here we go…
On getting troops out of Iraq: Tim Russert asked all the candidates whether they would commit to having all American troops out of Iraq by the end of their first terms. Nothing new: No one except Kucinich (and, I think, Gravel) would unequivocally commit to doing so. (Kucinich actually committed to having all troops out by April of 2007—an impossibility that everyone laughed at—before he corrected himself and said April of 2009. “I’m ready to be president right now,” Kucinich explained.)
Return of the hypotheticals: This happens every time. The moderator (in this case, Russert) asks Hillary Clinton a hypothetical (in this case, whether she’d support Israel if it decided to attack nuclear facilities in Iran) and Clinton refuses to answer, saying it’s a hypothetical. Inevitably, the moderator protests, trying to get Clinton to answer the question anyway, and Clinton engages, sticking to her guns, talking over the moderator, telling him, basically, to shove it—and, however you feel about her not answering the question on the excuse that it’s a hypothetical, Clinton comes out looking tough. Or, at least tough enough to talk over and nearly shout down a big-ego Washington pundit.
The Bush endorsement: Russert mentions the recent reports that Bush believes Clinton will be the Democratic nominee, and asks Dodd about his campaign’s response. (Dodd had said: “I can understand why the President would want Senator Clinton to be the nominee.”) What, exactly, did that mean? Dodd dodged, but did say: “If I was Senator Clinton I’d be very worried. This is the same guy that said, ‘Way to go, Brownie’ … He doesn’t have a good record as a prognosticator of events.”
Some tough questions: Russert asks Clinton whether, given her failures of judgment on Iraq and healthcare, she really has the judgment it takes to be president. (She dodges but defends her record.) Then he asks Obama whether, given his very light record in the Senate, he has the experience to run. (He also dodges but defends his record.) The answers weren’t very illuminating, obviously, but it was nice to see such forceful questions. (Kucinich, Richardson, and Gravel then got the same rough treatment, with Gravel getting a doozy about having run his condo building into bankruptcy and having declared bankruptcy himself—if I understood Gravel’s answer correctly, he compared himself favorably to Donald Trump and bragged that, in the end, he’d stuck credit card companies with his debt.)
Obama v. Clinton: Everyone’s been waiting for Obama to take on Clinton. He isn’t, much, although he did take one swipe at her over healthcare. After Clinton talked about her “lonely” fight for healthcare improvements in the 1990s, Obama said: “Part of the reason it was lonely, Hillary, was because you closed the door to a lot of potential allies in the process.” Message: Hillary is like Bush. She’s a go-it-alone believer in her own judgment who shoots herself in the foot by refusing to consult others.
Smoking bans: Clinton likes them, based on the experience of New York City. Obama likes them too—and, inevitably, gets the question of whether he’s been successful quitting smoking. He says yes, and says: “The best cure is my wife.”
Lower the drinking age?: Sorry, Stranger readers. No one’s for it—except Gravel, who says: “Anybody who can fight and die for our country should be able to drink.” Kucinich agrees. That puts the two of them in favor of lowering the drinking age to 18.
Lightning round: Can the candidates answer questions in 30 seconds? No, they can’t.
Beat it out of them: If we catch the No. 3 person in Al Qaeda, and there’s a danger of a terrorist plot unfolding imminently in America, and this person has information about it, would the candidates give the order to “beat it out of him”? No one is in favor of official American policy allowing torture, but Obama leaves the door open for making case-by-case judgments depending on the circumstances.
Beat it out of them, 2: Russert points out that the scenario above was presented on his show last year by none other than Bill Clinton, who apparently said that yes, the president should give the order to “beat it out of him.” When Russert, in a grave voice, points this fact out to Hillary Clinton, she shoots him a death gaze and says: “Well, he’s not standing here right now.” Russert then asks: So you disagree with your husband? “I’ll talk to him later,” she says, now smiling.
And… Red Sox or Yankees: Richardson: Red Sox. Kucinich: Cleveland Indians. Clinton: Yankees. (Although if it ends up being Cubs v. Yankees, she said she’d have to alternate. “Spoken like a true sports fan,” Russert interjects, almost mockingly.) Gravel: “Do you have to ask?” Edwards: Red Sox. Obama: White Sox. Dodd: Red Sox. Biden: Yankees.