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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Watching the Dem Debate

posted by on September 26 at 18:02 PM

If you want to watch it with me, it’s on MSNBC and streaming live at 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.

RSS icon Comments


This question about would you get all troops out of Iraq by 2013 is irritating. Of course they can't commit to that, given the fact that we have no idea what events might happen until then. Also, as Edwards pointed out, what about protecting the embassy and humanitarian workers? A better question might have been something about getting combat troops out by then (or, even, the secondary question he asks about what would you do about Iraq the day after you're inaugurated).

Posted by Julie | September 26, 2007 6:18 PM

Gravel is awesome, if only for purely entertainment reasons.

Posted by Julie | September 26, 2007 6:19 PM

Holy crap. Gravel's comment on Iran and stopping the war was awesome.

Posted by Blaire | September 26, 2007 6:21 PM

I like Mike Gravel

Posted by Clint | September 26, 2007 6:42 PM

Hmm. I wonder if HRC came out looking tough on the hypothetical exchange or condescending ("I know what the question is")? Maybe just because I like Russert so much that I didn't like that she talked over him.

And I am so glad Gravel is in the race. Seriously. It's awesome.

Posted by Julie | September 26, 2007 6:43 PM

Ooh, good question. Russert asks Dodd about his cryptic comment on Bush saying he thought HRC would win. Not the best answer, but what a good question.

Posted by Julie | September 26, 2007 6:44 PM

Gravel is coming across as a lunatic. If you want an angry dude, Dodd is filling that role just fine.

Posted by Big Sven | September 26, 2007 6:46 PM

is anyone inspired by this?

Posted by wf | September 26, 2007 6:48 PM

Great Russert q to Edwards and Obama on why they opposed universal health care in 2004. Edwards fucked up his answer, Obama just ignored it.

Posted by Big Sven | September 26, 2007 6:52 PM

wf, yes I'm insprired. I like Dodd and Biden more than I did before tonight.

Posted by Big Sven | September 26, 2007 6:53 PM

Did Hillary just say homosexuality was a choice?

Posted by Blaire | September 26, 2007 7:05 PM

More proof that Obama is nothing more than fluff. Well, at least he's got Oprah fooled.

Posted by mjg | September 26, 2007 7:15 PM

Gravel seems great, its too bad the sociopaths don't turn out for democratic candidates

Posted by vooodooo84 | September 26, 2007 7:36 PM

Denny just blew off Russert's question about a $3 gas tax and gave his standard Iraq speech. Bummer.

Posted by Big Sven | September 26, 2007 7:36 PM

The ticking time bomb -- the imminent terrorist attack -- is so freakin' tired. The only correct answer is, "Of course." It's violence in self defense. But please note that it was police work, and not torture, that lead to the arrests in Germany of scumbags plotting to blow up planes.

Are there any examples out there of actual terrorist plots foiled by torture? Don't you think that we would have heard about plots foiled by torture -- endlessl -- if there were any to hear about?

It's a bullshit question that response.

Posted by Dan Savage | September 26, 2007 7:58 PM

I haven't watched any of the previous debates- just getting my news from Slog/New Yorker/The Economist. Here's what I got:

(1) Hillary has become very polished. All that talk of "she's too stiff" seems like a long time ago.

(2) Biden is a smart grownup. Shame he's polling so poorly.

(3) Edwards looked better then Obama as the anti-Hills.

(4) Richardson and Gravel should quit as soon as possible to save their families and loved ones ridicule and shame.

Posted by Big Sven | September 26, 2007 8:10 PM

I think Hill is unstopable. The only person in that crew that could do it is Obama and he's not a fighter. If you ain't a fighter, you ain't going to win. Kerry wasn't a fighter he just liked to hear himself speak. Obama is starting to look like a Kerry.
If none of the candidates is going to get tuff with Hill she'll go after the moderator. She's ready to go.
She'll shread Rudy.

Posted by Poster girl | September 26, 2007 8:58 PM

I agree, Obama doesnt seem to be in Fightin' mode yet... probably so he can set up a VP slot (which, if he shredded HRC during the primary season, would create anti-VP bad blood and hand commercial-ready tape to the GOP). So, maybe once it's settled who's in what slot... then both come out fighting--the GOP, not each other.

Posted by Andy Niable | September 26, 2007 9:25 PM

Lower the drinking age to 18? I'd rather raise the military age to 21. Said as a person whose nephew was just recruited at age 18. Too young to kill or be killed.

Posted by M | September 26, 2007 9:26 PM

@18 those types of comments can usually be walked back or ignored, like Bush I on Reagan's voodoo economics

Posted by vooodooo84 | September 26, 2007 11:51 PM

once again, noone came close to hillary. personally i loved her talking over russert. it was a stupidly worded question. i also appreciated her snap that bill's not on the stage running for president right now. i'm sure she's been dying for the opportunity to remind people that she is smart, capable and savvy, with or without her husband. i'll echo the obama fluff factor. edwards sounded better than obama, unfortunately. i can't wait to see rudy try to debate hillary on anything at all.

Posted by Kim | September 27, 2007 12:09 AM

I think John Edwards did very well tonight. Especially pointing out Clinton's vote today in the Senate to support a Lieberman'sponsored bill that would authorize war with Iran. Many say the bill is a cover for Bush to start a war with Iran and quite dangerous. Biden and Dodd voted no on the same bill. So that should tell you something. What the hell is she up to joining forces with the likes of Lieberman?

She said her biggest misjudgment was authorizing the war with Iraq. Today it seems her judgement seems to be in question again given similar circumstances.

Hillary is sneaky and plays both ends against the middle. I just think she represents the status quo and a continuation of the dynasty that represents the worse kind of mealymouthed centrist politics that is not capable of bring about the type of change we need so badly at this time in America.

We need fresh ideas in Washington not more of the same smoke and mirrors and tell them what they want to hear BS.

Posted by artistdogboy | September 27, 2007 1:47 AM

Smoking? Come on and give it up Stranger. Smoking bans are successful and I think most people, even many smokers like them. While I think 25 feet is a bit far how good is it not to smell like smoke and spend the whole morning hacking after a night at the clubs/concert. But I suppose there are a few Stranger readers who want to smoke where ever they go and you are pandering to them.

Posted by Touring | September 27, 2007 8:51 AM

Eli, you make no mention of John Edwards (except in the inane baseball question). Your coverage stinks. Figured out who Greg Palast is yet?

Posted by DOUG. | September 27, 2007 10:03 AM

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