2008 Live-Blogging the Democratic Debate
posted by October 30 at 17:57 PMon
Just a few minutes before it starts. Most political writers in the country have probably read this by now. Worth a read before the debate begins.
6 p.m. First question to Senator Obama. Brian Williams asks him what the differences are between him and Clinton, and basically invites him to go on the attack against her. Obama begins with a joke: “I think this has been the most hyped fight since Rocky fought Apollo Creed. Although the amazing thing is I’m Rocky in this situation.”
Then says: Clinton has been for NAFTA then against it, for torture then against it, for sending troops into Iraq and then for a different Iraq policy. “Now that may be politically savvy, but I don’t think it offers the clear contrast that we need.”
Clinton responds by saying that the Republicans don’t seem to think she’s without a winning message and strategy, since they keep attacking her. And the reason they attack, she says, is that she stands strong against Bush and his policies, which is what Democrats want.
6:05 Next question to Edwards, and he accuses her of double-talk and being beholden to special interests and not having a clear plan for social security. Clinton says her record is clear, that she does have a plan for social security: “It’s called fiscal responsibility… I have a very specific plan. My friends may not agree with it, but I’ve been saying it and talking about it for many months.”
6:09 Question to Clinton from one of the moderators about her recent Iran vote, which many see as a justification for war in Iran. “First of all,” she replies. “I am not in favor of a rush to war… Some may want a false choice between a rush to war… and doing nothing. I prefer vigorous diplomacy, and I happen to think economic sanctions are part of vigorous diplomacy.”
6:11 Biden says he does think the Iran vote could be used as a defacto declaration of war against Iran. The result has been rising oil prices, an emboldened Bush talking of WWIII, and a wider perception that America is on a crusade against Islam. “This was bad policy… All it has done is hurt us, even if not another single action is taken. Actions have consequences. Big nations can’t bluff.”
6:16 Obama is asked what his red lines are on Iran. “I don’t think we should be talking about attacking Iran at this point,” he says. “What we should be doing is reaching out aggressively to our allies but also talking to our enemies and focusing on those areas where we do not accept their actions… But also talking directly to Iran about the potential carrots we can provide. We have not made those serious attempts. This resolution does not send the right message to the region.”
6:18 Clinton is asked about her red line on Iran. “First of all, I think we have to try diplomacy,” she says. She echoes something Biden just said: “George Bush can do this without anybody. That’s why we need to reign him in… What we’re trying to do is push forward on vigorous diplomacy. That has been lacking.” But she says that for diplomacy to work we need carrots and sticks, like sanctions on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which she voted for. “The Revolutionary Guard is deeply involved in the commercial activities of Iran. Having those economic sanctions hanging over their head is a very important stick.”
But does she have a red line? “I want to start diplomacy. I’m not going to speculate.”
6:20 Edwards pounces. Clinton says she wants to reign Bush in, but, Edwards asks: “The way to do that is vote yes on a resolution that looks like it was written by the neocons?”
He suggests she hasn’t learned the lesson of her Iraq war vote (and his). “A lot of us on this stage have learned our lessons the hard way. You give him an inch and he’ll take a mile.”
6:25 Clinton, Obama, and Edwards all pledge to try to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
6:28 Kucinich says we need to stop ratcheting up the rhetoric for war with Iran, and that the real answer is nuclear abolition. If the United States leads in that effort, then the problem disappears, he suggests.
6:30 In response to a question from the moderator, Clinton says yes, she does oppose the war in Iraq. But she doesn’t oppose the troops, of course.
6:35 Edwards says if people want a prolonged occupation of Iraq and continued war, then they should vote for Clinton. With him, Edwards says, it will be: “Combat missions ended, combat troops out of Iraq, period. So there’s a very clear choice here.”
6:40 Clinton is asked about her experience in light of a recent attack from Giuliani. He said she hasn’t ever run anything, so he doesn’t know where her claims of experience come from. “I think the kind of experience that the Republican nominees are exhibiting is the kind of experience we don’t need,” Clinton replies. And then she talks about her experience as an advocate for children and health-care reform and so on.
6:45 A moderator asks Clinton if she’ll allow the records from her healthcare reform efforts to be released from the national archives. She dodges. Obama pounces, and says this is a good example of her not actually turning the page from Bush and Cheney’s secretiveness.
6:50 Why are the Republicans so obsessed with Hillary? Obama says: “One of the reasons I think Republicans are so obsessed with you, Hillary, is that’s the fight they’re comfortable having.” He suggests that Clinton as the Democratic candidate will just bring more of the same, tired fights from the 1990s. Edwards says: “Another reason the Republicans keep talking about Senator Clinton is, Senator, they may want to run against you and that’s the reason they keep bringing you up.”
6:52 Richardson comes in, points toward Obama, and decries the “holier than thou” attitude he seems to have toward Clinton. “I think it’s important that we save the ammunition for the Republicans.”
6:55 This is verging toward a circular firing squad. Edwards and Obama attacking Clinton, the others attacking Edwards and Obama for attacking Clinton, Clinton fending off attacks. But, it’s better television than any of the other Democratic debates have been.
7:00 Kucinich tweaks Edwards for accepting money from New York hedge funds while criticizing Clinton for taking money from special interests.
7:03 Biden turns a question about his own statements about Clinton’s qualifications into an attack on Giuliani who, Biden says, “is truly unqualified to be president.” In a memorable line, Biden says every sentence that comes out of Giuliani’s mouth contains only “a noun, a verb, and 9/11.”
7:09 Obama is asked about Mitt Romney confusing his name with Osama bin Laden’s. Is he concerned this type of confusion will hurt him? “No.” Obama says he has faith in the American people. “I have absolute confidence in the American people’s capacity to absorb the truth as long as we are forceful in that presentation.” This is a question Obama could have hit much harder. Something like: “If Mitt Romney can’t tell the difference between me and Osama bin Laden, I don’t know why he thinks he’s qualified to lead this country.” Obama’s been much more forceful in general tonight, but in this answer he slipped back into the magnanimous, professorial mode he’s shown so often in earlier debates.
7:15 Moderator says we’re headed toward $100-a-barrel oil. What can be done? Biden: “Stop rattling the saber with Iran.” Edwards: Investigate the oil companies and “ask Americans to be patriotic about something other than war,” which means conservation. Clinton: Agrees with everything said, adds that we should perhaps use the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Obama: Agrees that lowering the rhetoric about Iran will reduce the price of oil. And adds that we should increase fuel efficiency on cars. Kucinich: “Everyone knows that the war on Iraq was about oil… Everyone knows that the saber rattling against Iran is driving up the price of oil… The president and the vice president should be subject to impeachment. Then we can start to get control of our energy policies.” Richardson: Calls for an Apollo Project for energy, increased fuel efficiency to 50 mpg, and conservation—”It has to be an energy revolution,” he says.
7:25 Looking at the California fires, should there be a bottomless well of federal dollars for people who knowingly live in disaster-prone areas? Edwards dodges the question. His bottom line: “When a natural disaster comes, our country needs to be there for our people.”
7:30 Clinton is on fire about the alternative minimum tax. She dodges the question of whether she agrees exactly with the proposals of House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel, who has supported her campaign. But she uses the opportunity to hit a populist note—that Bush hasn’t asked for people like her and Bill (now among the wealthiest Americans, though, she says, they never expected it) to sacrifice anything to help the country at a time when the poorest Americans are being asked to sacrifice their children in Iraq and losing ground financially. This is one of her best answers of the night—she threads the needle on a tricky issue, is clearly in command of all the facts, she slaps down the moderator for trying to put words in her mouth, and she paints herself as being in touch with the common American. Obama, asked the same question, can basically only agree with what Clinton has already said.
7:35 Edwards says, once again, that “there’s nothing wrong with the American people.” Why does he keep saying this? Is there an American politician anywhere who has ever said there’s something wrong with the American people?
7:40 Should the American school day be longer? Biden says, “Yes, I proposed it in 1987”—which hits on a recurring theme of his: That he’s been around so long that he’s been right (even if not successful) on every issue at some point.
7:50 A question for Obama about how the state of air travel in this country got to a point where it’s worse than Aeroflot. Obama’s answer: Build more aircraft capacity, place restrictions on some flights, improve aircraft service to remote areas. Not much sizzle to the question or the answer.
7:52 Dodd believes that illegal immigrants shouldn’t be allowed drivers licenses. Hillary believes “it makes sense” and admits everyone’s going to try to play “gotcha” with that.
7:55 Edwards and Obama hit Clinton for “double-talk” (Edwards) and a confusing answer (Obama) about illegal immigrants having drivers’ licenses. They say she had two answers in the course of two minutes.
7:57 The questions go off the rails a bit as Kucinich is asked if he’s ever seen a UFO (a new book by Shirley MacLaine says he has). And Kucinich says… Yes!
“I did. Hold on. It was an unidentified flying object. I did. I saw something… Also, you have to keep in mind that Jimmy Carter saw a UFO and actually more people in this country have seen UFOs than support George W. Bush.”
7:58 Who’s in favor of decriminalizing marijuana? Chris Dodd, but hardly anyone else.
7:59 What’s Obama wearing for Halloween? Possibly a Mitt Romney mask, he says.
8:00 Let’s end with some analysis from Mahtli69 in the comments:
Clinton - the Nominee. Qualified, intelligent, prepared.
Obama - trying to act Presidential. Failing.
Edwards - trying to act Progressive. I’m not fooled.
Kucinich - the only one I consistently agree with. Unelectable.
Biden - Other than Clinton, the only one I can actually picture as President. Zero chance of winning.
Dodd - Why?
Richardson - desperately trying to be noticed. Failing.
Posted by Mahtli69 | October 30, 2007 7:45 PM