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Friday, February 1, 2008

Most Watched Primary Debate in Cable History

posted by on February 1 at 13:19 PM

Last night’s Clinton-Obama debate shattered records, with more than 8 million people tuning in. Wonder how many of them came away with their minds changed…

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I didn't change my mind, but I throughoughly hope now for the "dream ticket." I prefer if Obama was the presidential canidate, but after last night I believe they can come together to crush any republican resistance and I would be satisfied either way.

Posted by Jesse | February 1, 2008 1:41 PM

Great debate. Both candidates looked professional, committed to winning in the fall, and more grown up and in command than any of the Republicans.

It didn't change my mind away from Hillary, but it made me totally 100% OK with the possibility of Obama winning the endorsement.

Clinton/Obama 2008.

Posted by Big Sven | February 1, 2008 1:55 PM

The mind boggles at the thought of the beating that poor old McCain would take at the polls next November versus a Clinton/Obama matchup. I actually wonder if there might be a tiny bit of backlash and mercy-voting from people who felt bad for him by that point...

Posted by heh | February 1, 2008 1:57 PM

not that newspapers endorsements do anything, but obama picked up the Los Angeles Times this afternoon:

Posted by Eric | February 1, 2008 2:03 PM

i changed my mind...i love obama even more!!

Posted by Jiberish | February 1, 2008 2:04 PM

i was originally a hillary fan, but last night's debate sealed my recent leaning towards supporting obama. i'm going with obama at the caucus on feb 9!

Posted by jameyb | February 1, 2008 2:20 PM

This was the first time I've ever finished watching a debate feeling optimistic and excited. Usually I feel used, abused, and talked down to, and feeling like I have waded through serious bullshit. But last nite was pretty great all around.

It sounds like conventional wisdom is that they would never share a ticket, but I wonder, given that we have a black man and a white woman running, how much credence conventional wisdom should even be given at this point.

Posted by Brad | February 1, 2008 2:28 PM

There was a fraction of a second where I actually thought Hillary was finally going to admit that her Iraq war vote was a mistake, and I would have said "OK, NOW she's ready to be President." But she couldn't do it: she still shies away from that big, scary leap of faith it takes to admit the slightest weakness. It's like her enemies have beaten her down and she's too battle scarred to ever lower her guard again.

But the debate did make me realize what an awesome attack dog Vice President she could be.

Posted by elenchos | February 1, 2008 2:41 PM

I think Sen Clinton sealed her fate by not admitting clearly what her positions were - and Sen Obama showed he's definitely at or above her level in qualifications.

A loss for HRC.

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 1, 2008 2:49 PM

I can now move on having received Conventional Willdom. And the wine was tasty too.

Posted by MISTER POSEUR | February 1, 2008 2:55 PM

writers strike.

Posted by nothing else on | February 1, 2008 2:57 PM

I disagree. I think her positions were fairly clear. Additionally, she officially killed any 'dynasty' or 'Bill factor' doubts by giving great answers. Anyone who brings these questions up again (both tough and valid questions) will look desperate. It was an HRC win, and Obama win, because they weren't really facing off. If anything, Hillary proved she has more tenacity than any politician I can name off the top of my head. She came across as intelligent and compassionate. These two could crush all opposition on the dream ticket. I'd like 8 years of Hillary and then 8 of Obama. A boy can dream can't he...

Posted by group therapy | February 1, 2008 2:59 PM


Why do you care if HRC admits that her vote on the Iraq war was a mistake? Does your need for an admission of guilt trump *our* need not to give the Republicans a campaign ad moment in the fall?

If you were against the war from the beginning, great, but there were many, many of us (including a majority of US Democratic Senators and 79% of Americans) who got duped by Colin Powell and Tony Blair.

I guess I don't believe that if Hillary Clinton had given an apology that you would change your vote. In fact, I don't believe *any* Obama supporter would change their vote if she apologized. You guys are pissed that she initally supported the war, and nothing she can say will change that. Which is why she won't ever give you that apology.

Posted by Big Sven | February 1, 2008 3:22 PM


Gee, thanks for putting the words in my mouth! That saved me sooooo much trouble.

Posted by Dustin | February 1, 2008 3:34 PM

It would have sufficed if she had shown a willingness to admit weakness on some other topic. Any other topic. Her slimy "I get impatient. I get, you know, really frustrated when people don't seem to understand that we can do so much more to help each other" answer to the question on her greatest weakness was yet another missed opportunity for her to show she is not afraid of giving anybody an opening. She followed that with "...But I think you have to be able to manage and run the bureaucracy," meaning that Obama's frank admission to a real weakness was nothing more than an opportunity to be exploited.

In other words, time and again Hillary shows herself to be deeply cynical, and her cynicism has not been at all successful in fending off attacks from the right.

If she can show me that she's not that cynical, it won't get me to vote for her over Obama, but it will cause me to support her if she is nominated. As it stands, the best I can promise is that I will hold my nose and vote for her on election day. I'm really not enough of a cynic to tell people they should vote for her with a straight face. The best I can do for her is to talk about what is wrong with the Republicans.

Posted by elenchos | February 1, 2008 3:38 PM

Hillary's inability to admit she fucked up is a big indication she'll fuck up again. (As if the Iran vote wasn't indication enough already.)

You know who else can't admit a mistake?

Posted by ru shur | February 1, 2008 3:38 PM

I really like both of these candidates, and would gladly vote for either of them--or better yet, both of them--in November.

The one low point: Hillary Clinton lied about the US bombing of Iraq in 1998, saying that Saddam pulled the weapons inspectors. Actually, the inspectors were pulled out by the UN after it became clear the US bombing was imminent. That lie is repeated so often in the mainstream media that she probably doesn't even realize it's a lie at this point, but it is. It's verboten to mention that Bill Clinton's policy on Iraq was wrong from start to finish and that he lied about many of the same things that George W. Bush did.

So, for that and other reasons, Barack's got my vote February 9th.

Posted by Cascadian | February 1, 2008 4:03 PM

Sven @13: "Why do you care if HRC admits that her vote on the Iraq war was a mistake?"

ru shur @16 partly answers this one for me (that it's an indication she'll fuck up again).

Here's why it's important to me.

Clinton's vote for the war says one of several things to me. None of them are flattering.

- She was just cynically going along with the hysteria generated by Bush and Co.

- and/or, she knows damn little about the history and culture of the middle east.

- and/or, no one on her staff knows much about it.

- and/or she didn't listen to those who do know about the area and told her that there was no reason for this war and that it would be a profound mistake.

She was party to the largest foreign policy blunder the US has made in decades -- perhaps ever.

To get my full support I need to see some acknowledgment on her part that this was a huge mistake and that she will not make it again. I want some assurance that either she has schooled herself on this region of the world or that she has hired staff that are experts and that she will listen to them.

Yes, I will vote and campaign for her if she is the nominee, but I don't trust her one bit at this stage.

She fucked up on the most important issue she faced. And as far as I can tell doesn't realize how badly she fucked up or why. That is damning.

Posted by gnossos | February 1, 2008 4:13 PM

Yes, Will, Cascadian, and gnossos, because candidates admit major failures alllll the time on the campaign trail.

I really think that all you folks for whom the initial support for the war is such a big deal choose to willfully ignore the fact that the VAST majority of Americans were behind the war at the beginning. All of us who made that mistake have zero issue with Hillary not providing a tearful mea culpa.

(And by the way- elenchos? "Obama's frank admission to a real weakness" was that aides hand him papers and he loses them. Plus his desk and office don't look good. Wow! How brave! Whereas Clinton said that she gets impatient and frustrated. Which is true and a great answer.)

Posted by Big Sven | February 1, 2008 4:30 PM

gnossos @18: Hillary Clinton has yet to repudiate Bill Clinton's Iraq policy, so I can only conclude that she's been wrong on Iraq for at least 16 years.

On the other hand, the bipartisan conventional wisdom is that US policy on Iraq was just fine until W. was elected. In fact, Bush and the neocons were only able to push for a war in Iraq because the Clinton administration did nothing to change the policy there during its 8 years in power. Instead, it pursued an illegal no-fly zone policy and overly-broad sanctions regime that destroyed Iraq's economy so that any chance of a stable post-Saddam government coming to power was gone.

I seem to be the only person left who remembers the opposition to the 1991 war (tens of thousands of us marched in Seattle alone), and has the historical perspective to realize that everything antiwar activists predicted then has since come to pass.

Posted by Cascadian | February 1, 2008 4:30 PM

@19: the fact that the vast majority of Americans were in favor of it is meaningless. I expect far more of elected leaders than I do of most Americans -- especially leaders who say they're worthy of being President.

And Cascadian, I clearly remember also. And this adds to my unease. Despite her claim that she is ready from day one, I get the sense that despite her total wonkiness, she is profoundly ignorant about the middle east and doesn't seem to have access to people who do know the region.

Posted by gnossos | February 1, 2008 5:04 PM

Sven, both Hillary and Edwards correctly interpreted Obama's statement to mean that he is not a master of detail, and they both jumped at the chance to ding him on it. Why do you think Hillary was so quick to change the subject to talking about managing the bureaucracy? It was clearly something that could be used against him, and it was used against him to tout her wonkyness. Hillary and Edwards didn't say it was a phony weakness; they said it was real. Yet, to Hillary's not doubt hilarious frustration, it backfired. As usual. Obama looked confident, and Hillary looked petty.

I'm not the only one who thought that. Everybody came away with the same impression from that exchange. You're the first one I've heard who liked her answer.

If Hillary's attacks didn't backfire so often, this might be different, but she is losing points for not being honest and losing points for hitting below the belt. What good is a cynical infighter who loses both ways?

Posted by elenchos | February 1, 2008 5:05 PM

The only good thing was she toned down the attacks, so that did help her.

But, remember, the debate basically answered the question "is Sen Obama qualified to be President" and made it obvious he's on a par with her, which was her main argument against voting for him.

Net result: Obama won.

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 1, 2008 5:12 PM

Both candidates won. I doubt very many minds were changed, except for the minds of people in one or the other of the "I could never in a million years vote for that" camp.

Posted by Fnarf | February 1, 2008 5:25 PM

You say "All of us who made that mistake have zero issue with Hillary not providing a tearful mea culpa."

I am not trying to be disrespectful, and in general I respect you, but I have to say that this point of view does not reflect well upon "all of" you. If she was wrong, she should admit it. If you were wrong, you should admit it. It was huge, with horrific consequences we haven't even seen all of yet. Learning from mistakes and accepting responsibility for them is a crucial characteristic of a leader.

It's not all about showing a "strong" side to the Republicans, like a cat puffing its fur out and standing sideways with an arched back to look bigger. And to a lot of US, character and integrity mean a lot - we aren't pretending it does, it's genuine, on the left and right. That's why a lot of Republicans like Obama, particularly more so than Romney. The posturing right-wing talk show hosts back Romney, of course.

Posted by Phoebe | February 1, 2008 6:13 PM


I have to say that this point of view does not reflect well upon "all of" you.

Believe me, Phoebe, I understand. Those of you who were against it from the beginning got it right, and the rest of us got it wrong. One of the reasons I (along with annie and others) have argued that we have to exit Iraq as gracefully as is possible under these horrible circumstances is that not a day goes by that I do not think about the Iraqi civilians that are paying the price for my (and others') mistake.

I was vehemently against the first Gulf War, and was in a small minority at the time. So I don't think I'm a "warmonger". In Gulf War II, though, I do put some of the blame on the shoulders of Colin Powell and Tony Blair, men whom I held in high regard, and whom we now know had serious doubts about the statements they were making at the time. I believe that history will be far harder on these smart but unquestioning yes-men then on Bush and Cheney, who history will simply deem "fucking morons."

So now we are faced with what to do about our mistakes. You say that "if she was wrong, she should admit it." I'm sorry, but I don't think Presidents work that way. The last President to publically admit to doubts and mistakes was Carter, who not only was ridiculed by the press but (I believe) lost the faith of the American people.

Did John F Kennedy go on national TV and say "I'm sorry, I should not have invaded the Bay of Pigs?" He did not. Did Roosevelt say in one of his fireside chats "I'm sorry I tried to pack the Supreme Court?" No. Does this mean these men did not have character and integrity?

We expect our top leaders to make mistakes sometimes, but not to dwell on them. Leaders must admit when they have broken the law, and it is a shame that WJC got himself into a situation where he had to perjure himself. But leaders need not, and almost always do not, publically flog themselves over "mere" mistakes in judgement, even if those mistakes carry heavy consequences.

I suspect that you will probably not find my argument persuasive. But as you were so polite and sincere in your comment, I thought it important to reply in kind.

Posted by Big Sven | February 1, 2008 8:29 PM

They asked Dubya what his greatest mistake was, and he said he couldn't think of one. He was a laughingstock for weeks after that. Compare that with Bill Clinton admitting on the Charlie Rose show that he tried and failed to kill bin Laden, and he wished he had tried harder. Or remember the feeling of relief and pride millions felt when Richard Clarke flat out apologized to Congress for personally failing in his mission to protect the country.

Or LBJ deciding not to run for re-election. Or just about any of Abraham Lincoln's mournful speeches, a man who only hoped that he was on God's side.

No, I think there is a level of humility we want to see in our leaders. Basic common sense and lived experience will tell you that you have to have a deep grasp of your own fallibility to learn from your mistakes.

Do you know anybody personally who never admits they made a mistake? Do you trust them?

Posted by elenchos | February 1, 2008 9:54 PM

Sven -- I understand the arguments you make and don't entirely disagree with your overall point.

Accepting what you say, it's not so much that I want Clinton to apologize for her vote or say she fucked up. I want some sign -- coded as all get out if need be -- that she takes the concerns people have about her to heart.

If just once during a foreign policy spiel she would just say something like this:

"When I am President you can be sure that my foreign policy advisers will be people with extensive experience in, and knowledge of, the middle east. I will have people on my staff with differing points of view. I will seek out advisers who have lived in, worked in, and studied the middle east. Under my watch, I will make sure that the United States does not make the kind of tragic foreign policy errors made by the current administration. We will not be guided by fear, but by solid knowledge and reliable information."

That would go a very long ways towards making me feel like she's a credible candidate on foreign policy issues.

Posted by gnossos | February 1, 2008 10:25 PM

Check out what Bill says at the 17 minute mark.

He would never hold it against anybody for admitting they are mistaken; that's how you learn. He's saying he felt proud of Paul Wolfowitz for admitting poor planning in Iraq. Later on Bill owns up to mistakes that triggered some of the press attacks on him. And of course, Monica.

I can't find the one where he talks about bin Laden, but it's still good. There's also some good clips out there somewhere of Al Gore taking responsibility for not stopping al Qaeda too. It's all quite presidential.

Posted by elenchos | February 1, 2008 10:54 PM

elenchos- Lincoln I will give you. But the rest happened *after* or at the *end* of their tenures. All the smart ones dissect their administrations after the fact (even Nixon. Not Reagan, of course. And I'm not expecting much from Bush. Wonder if Powell will ever 'fess up...)

gnossos- point well taken. You should write for her campaign. I think if she talked the way you suggest, it might actually change some of the people pissed about her Iraq vote.

Posted by Big Sven | February 2, 2008 1:32 AM

From a political standpoint, it would be incredibly foolish for Hillary to now say that her Iraq vote was a mistake. Had she done it two years ago it might have been believeable. At this point it would be interpreted as completely disingenuous and flip-flopping of the first order and she would be ripped apart from all sides. I understand why that vote is a deal breaker for some people. For me it isn't.

Quite frankly, I found John Edwards vote and support for the Iraq War followed by a change of heart when he began running for President coupled with his sanctimonious attacks on both Clinton and Obama on the issue to be completely transparent.

Posted by Ogre Mage | February 2, 2008 3:19 AM

I also wanted to add that both Hillary and Barack did very well in Los Angeles. It was a historic debate and they rose to the occasion.

Posted by Ogre Mage | February 2, 2008 3:29 AM

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