Details, Details, Details — We Need More Debates

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obama hillary twn.jpg
grinch Steve Clemons.jpgI am a Grinch when it comes to rallies. I don’t like the noise, the spinwheels, the signs, and the illusion of joy. The high flying speeches and smiles, the ritual of orchestrated applause — the happy screaming. I don’t like hype. I want detail.
I want to know more about why Hillary did this or Obama did that. There are differences between them — but even their campaign sites are thin on details and proposals.
I agree completely with this editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal that despite Hillary Clinton hoping a debate might help give her a push, more exposure to serious policy discussion is better, not worse, for the country — and Obama should jump at the chance:

When a political candidate starts demanding more debates, it’s usually because his or her campaign needs a lift.
In recent days, Hillary Clinton and some of her key Wisconsin supporters have tried to pressure Barack Obama into debating at Marquette University in Milwaukee before Wisconsin’s big presidential primary Feb. 19.
Clinton and her political friends obviously favor a debate for more than civic reasons. Yet Obama should wholeheartedly accept the invitation anyway.
The Illinois senator is going to need Wisconsin — both now and in November — if he wants to become president. Our swing state deserves its own debate with questions focusing on Wisconsin, the Midwest and the economy.

Hillary Clinton’s juggernaut got dealt a mighty blow by her team’s failure to take the various caucuses seriously. Obama’s team was out in those caucus states in force.
If Obama’s team begins to think along similar lines as Patti Solis Doyle did — that there are things we don’t need to take seriously now (like debates!) — then the Obama team could find itself vulnerable in new ways.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

94 comments on “Details, Details, Details — We Need More Debates

  1. zftcg says:

    The notion that there is any high-minded principle here is ridiculous. Hillary proposed four debates because she thinks holding more debates better fits into her strategy (she comes across better, she needs the free media). Obama wanted fewer because he believes his strategy is better served by campaigning (he doesn’t always do as well in debates, and he seems to improve his poll numbers more by holding events). So they settled on two debates, which, IMO, sounds about right. And now she’s attacking him because she believes she can hurt him politically by saying that he’s ducking her, and he’s responding because he believes he can use the issue to attack her as “politics as usual”.
    The notion that there is a precise number of debates that will adequately inform the populace, and anything less is insufficient, is absurd on its face. If Hillary had proposed that they lock themselves in a Cleveland TV station with Tim Russert, Wolf Blitzer and a case of beef jerky and not come out until March 5, and Obama had asked for breaks every three days so they could see their families, would that mean he was “ducking” her?
    Obviously, in a hard-fought primary everything is at least tinged with politics. But think of it this way. When Obama attacks Hillary on her Iraq vote, or she attacks him on healthcare mandates, they are obviously motivated at least in part by politics, but they are ultimately discussing a substantive issue. In the “debate over debates”, there is no substance. It’s all politics. And anyone who tries to claim otherwise is just spinning.

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  2. Penn & Tellher says:

    Caucuses DO matter in States that have a ‘New’ as part of their name.

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  3. Penn & Tellher says:

    Caucuses DO matter in States that have a ‘New’ as part of their name.

    Reply

  4. Penn & Tellher says:

    Caucuses DO matter in States that have a ‘New’ as part of their name.

    Reply

  5. Tahoe Editor says:

    This ad is WEAK. Characterizing the 17 debates with a row of suits speaking 90-second answers as somehow conclusive when the last two standing are neck and neck is B.S.
    Their FIRST and ONLY debate was more than two weeks ago, and BO needs more time to get ready. How much time will he need to get ready for Oval Office business?
    http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/politics/blog/2008/02/obama_hits_back_with_own_wisco.html

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  6. Tahoe Editor says:

    It’s premature to be talking about superdelegates when 50% of the delegates have yet to be awarded.
    Asking them about the Dem’s fvck’d-up rules that disenfranchised large swaths of the electorate would be worthwhile, though.
    http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/uncourageous
    http://www.radaronline.com/exclusives/2008/02/times-halperin-sorry-john-edwards-thinks-obama-is-a-pussy.php

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  7. Linda says:

    The debate next week is for between the two remaining candidates of the Democratic Party. So I think it would be appropriate to ask both candidates what they think about playing by the rules of the Democratic Party that were well known in advance regarding credentialing of delegates from MI and FL. And they both should be asked what they think about super delegates and whether they promote democracy in the Democratic party or just backroom political deals.
    That’s what people need to know now to help make up their minds.
    The only large budget either Clinton or Obama has managed is his/her campaign budget this past year. Clinton has managed hers pretty much the way Bush has managed the federal budget, i.e., wasting too much money deciding to fight the wrong wars in the wrong places–having to fire her team, and wanting a do-over. So I’d also ask them about that performance-based outcome measure.
    TE, I’ve restrained myself because I can’t figure out what in the world you could possibly edit since it was you who insulted my intelligence by calling Obama “uncourageous” when there is no such word, i.w., should have used “cowardly.” Now you’ve insulted my sense of decency since Edwards wouldn’t call anyone “a pussy” or cowardly. Unfortunately, you also insult the image of all the intelligent people who support Clinton.
    I respect your right to post and disagree.

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  8. Tahoe Editor says:

    THREE WEEKS IS TOO LONG TO WAIT
    TO GET ONE MORE HOUR OF DEBATE
    You know Barack’s going to have problems in a general if JOHN ‘I FEEL PRETTY’ EDWARDS is calling him a “pussy.”

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  9. Benjamin says:

    I generally agree with Tintin. The format of debates (and their style) thus far in the campaign has made them almost entirely pointless. I agree with the idea that hearing both candidates speak on the same topic is good in principle (Guh, I sound like Keyes), but the constantly interrupted infotainment is not interesting to me.
    That said, I suspect the inverse (a Lincoln-Douglas format) would have a TV audience glazed over pretty quickly.

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  10. downtown says:

    TE seems to be of the opinion that sophomoric barbs are going to change hearts and minds. Another great miscalculation by the Clinton campaign, but to be expected. FWIW, I don’t need the opinions of Ms. Wattleton to help me decide. Living in the shadows of the (former) Twin Towers, I’ve experienced Hillary’s qualities up close. I never forget her statement, explaining her H.J. Res. 114 vote on October 11th, 2002: “Well, I represent NY, and we got hit hard on 9/11”. Just about the dumbest, most easily countered statement issued by any “progressive” politician. Her pandering on a particular M/E issue is equally troubling to me. Well, TE, I hope at least you had a nice time on the tennis-court.

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  11. Tintin says:

    Steve…
    The problem with the debates thus far have been two: 1) too many candidates with too little time to respond in depth; 2) questioners who don’t ask very good questions and no follow up questions.
    Now that we’re down to two Dems, the first problem is gone, but the second one lingers. The questioners need to PURSUE the hard questions and ask follow ups that prevent the candidates from hiding behind pat or evasive answers.
    Too often the questions have focused on the drama of the moment or been “gotchas” that don’t elicit any real information.

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  12. Tahoe Editor says:

    It looks like the media’s knee-jerk willingness to call Bill a racist and BO’s complicity in it may have convinced the lightheaded Dems to go with Barack.
    That will backfire in a general.

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  13. burkem says:

    I think more debates are better than fewer, for most of the reasons posted here.
    But I think the notion that the Clinton campaign is faltering because it didn’t take the caucus states seriously is dead wrong. I think it’s faltering because of what the campaign did wrong in South Carolina–Bill’s actions and the post-election Clinton campaign spin turned many people off, and reminded many of us of the dark side to the Clintons (I say this as a retired Army officer who voted for Bill twice and who really wanted to see Hillary in the WH), one that we’d like to forget. I think many people said “Oh my God, it really will be a two for one deal, and we don’t really want this guy as number two.”
    That’s sad and likely overly reductive, but I think it’s true. Bill in South Carolina was the macaca moment for this campaign.

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  14. burkem says:

    I think more debates are better than fewer, for most of the reasons posted here.
    But I think the notion that the Clinton campaign is faltering because it didn’t take the caucus states seriously is dead wrong. I think it’s faltering because of what the campaign did wrong in South Carolina–Bill’s actions and the post-election Clinton campaign spin turned many people off, and reminded many of us of the dark side to the Clintons (I say this as a retired Army officer who voted for Bill twice and who really wanted to see Hillary in the WH), one that we’d like to forget. I think many people said “Oh my God, it really will be a two for one deal, and we don’t really want this guy as number two.”
    That’s sad and likely overly reductive, but I think it’s true. Bill in South Carolina was the macaca moment for this campaign.

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  15. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “McCain is a well-respected moderate yadayadayada….”
    Yes, his astute observations about the security of Bagdad were especially deserving of respect, especially if one is into Gauntlet Jogging or Peril Picnics.
    I’m tellin’ ya, its the Twilight Zone.
    Are the American people really this effin’ stupid?

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  16. erichwwk says:

    PoA asks: “Besides, do the lobbyists really need a President anymore? Can’t they just fuck us over directly, without a middle man?”
    Lobbyists don’t, but the general public is not yet comfortable with the concept, prefering to believe in the basic concept that they are superior to everyone else, in large part because their system of government is superior.
    It’s what kept the masses in line in the former USSR for decades.
    And yes, it is not pretty when the delusion can no longer be maintained.

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  17. rich says:

    Michael Jacob is it really you?
    Really not impressed with the comments about Wisconsin from Nobcentral and p.lukusiak.
    Wisconsinites pay close attention throughout the campaign and deserve to be “pandered to” as much as any other state out there.
    Now’s a great opportunity to sit ’em both down and grill ’em in a REAL debate.
    Two thoughts:
    1. Interesting the role each state has played in the process this time, relative to their traditional role. Many defied assigned categories to delivering unexpected results or live up to local political culture in unexpected ways. (Campaigns or commenters have felt free to slam specific states along the way.)
    2. Debates are good. Unless your candidate has the kind of throttle-hold on winning & power wielded by Nixon, Reagan, or Bush. Those guys didn’t debate anybody unless they absolutely had to, and played keep-away, absolutely making opponents beg for debates. Little-to-no press access, tightly controlled access.
    So: Let’s see that John McCain receives the kind of media scrutiny he merits. He’s no moderate–and he won’t be able to sustain his image, as advertised.

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  18. Tahoe Editor says:

    “nomination has been clinched” — you’re farther in front of yourself than BO is! Last I checked Hillary was 48% of the way to the # of needed delegates, and BO was 53% of the way. HALF the delegates have yet to be awarded! Talk about counting chickens — please!

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  19. jim miller says:

    Enough about how many more debates we should have….it’s american electoral politics and winners dont debate losers….case closed….Obama has a mathmatical majority in elected in delegates, 700k more popular votes and has won more than twice as many states….DEBATES ARE DOG AND PONEY SHOWS—-NOT POLICY SESSIONS…..believe or not the underdog rose to the the top….game over…..
    you are only fooling yourself if you believe the nomination has not been clinched…

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  20. Tahoe Editor says:

    Leo, leo, both of those links point to Kate — there’s even a picture of her white face on the Salon piece! Faye is black — figure it out already! Get some rest and try again in the morning. Meanwhile, I’ll give you a genuine Wattleton insight:
    “People should have a historic perspective on how deep and difficult these issues are,” said Faye Wattleton, a former head of Planned Parenthood who is now president of the Center for the Advancement of Women. “You can’t just declare, ‘Now we’ll all come together,’ and people will lay down their swords.”
    http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5iMHgzpYxbuYSc27jhAmsjVEKMr5QD8UL285O0
    At least there is a possibility that the media & the candidates can come up with an appropriate, new and useful format — BO’s rock concerts certainly won’t tell us anything new.
    Ducking a debate at this point in the game — “when the stakes are so high” as he says — smacks of fear. Steve is right that he should jump at the opportunity to diversify his “performances.”
    I don’t think HRC supporters should assume she wins debates, and I don’t think BO supporters should assume he loses them. I think we all stand to benefit from seeing a 2nd inning in this 1-on-1 contest ASAP. Hiding behind throngs of devotees in the Kohl Center does nothing for the voter who wants to know more, who may not be ready to “join the movement” without taking good measure.
    McCain is a well-respected moderate who has been thumbing it at W for more than a decade. He’ll shut down W’s torture operation with credibility and command, and his popularity in a general election should not be underestimated. If BO is going to take him on, he shouldn’t avoid debate within this divided party, he should welcome the opportunity to gain more experience and hone his skills. That his instinct is to balk indicates a confidence deficit — not something you want to see from someone who’s looking to be the youngest, most inexperienced U.S. president in modern history. This is the guy who had to beat Alan Keyes to get into the Senate.

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  21. susan says:

    There is an excellent article on Orcinus, but it is too long to post here. Here is how it begins:
    http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/
    The Cult of Obama
    Wednesday, February 13, 2008
    — by Sara
    “Every political news outlet, from the networks to the blogs, is abuzz today with the question: Is the Obama phenomenon a cult?
    People — particularly Hillary partisans — are eagerly putting this idea out there. I want to make it very clear before I get started that I’m not a partisan of either candidate: there are things about them both that have my skepticism pegged to the limit. Personally, I’m for the Democrat. But when it comes to the topic of what is or ain’t a cult — that’s something I know something about. Or, at least, I seem to understand it a bit better than most of the people who are bandying the term around today…”

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  22. Robert Morrow says:

    POA HITS THE NAIL ON THE HEAD:
    “Frankly, I believe Hillary will say anything, lie through her teeth, and run her limo through crowds of expectant mothers and war veteran parapalegics to get to the White House.
    And Obama? He’ll just dazzle us with an endless litany of horseshit masquerading as patriotic intention, and take four hours to tell you two hours of nuthin’.”
    I will take a nice empty suit over devious, angry person with a dictatorial mindset.
    Who cares what Hillary’s numerous policy positions are – she is perfectly willing to lie to you in detail.
    HILLARY = CHARACTER PROBLEM ON STERIODS.

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  23. judec says:

    Love that last line, P.O.A.!

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  24. judec says:

    We’ve had way too many of these short-answer debates. The candidates seem too rehearsed, especially Hillary, who is a master of the 60-second response. Obama seems longer winded by nature and the format is less well suited to his speaking style. If we really want to get to know these people, we need to see them in a variety of situations rather than repetition of the same format over and over again.
    The public already knows Hillary well, so it is fine for her to spend time on these debates, but Obama needs to get out with the people. I’ve seen a few candidate town meetings, and I heartily agree with the comment above; we need some (unrehearsed) town meetings where real people can ask their own questions.
    At this point, Hillary probably feels she needs to attack or score points somehow, and that is why she wants more debates. Unfortunately, she is at her worst when on the attack, and I think it is unlikely to help her.
    I’m sure Hillary realizes that the more time Obama has to campaign locally, the more votes he seems to get. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’d like to tie him up with endless debates, giving him less time to meet voters up close.
    This just isn’t to his advantage.

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  25. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Well, personally, I don’t know what the big deal is about debates. Really, they are just forums for more lies. It would be interesting to see the transcripts of this monkey Bush’s answers and rebuttals from the debates he participated in, and see how closely they resemble his actual policy decisions and “leadership”.
    Frankly, I believe Hillary will say anything, lie through her teeth, and run her limo through crowds of expectant mothers and war veteran parapalegics to get to the White House.
    And Obama? He’ll just dazzle us with an endless litany of horseshit masquerading as patriotic intention, and take four hours to tell you two hours of nuthin’.
    The happiest ending I can think of for this insane and pathetic circus is for Hillary and Obama be caught having an affair and run off to Monte Carlo, Huckabee dissappears mysteriously in a flash of blinding light, and John McCain decides to drop his presidential bid and opts to open a Der Wienerschnitzel in downtown Bagdad instead.
    Besides, do the lobbyists really need a President anymore? Can’t they just fuck us over directly, without a middle man?

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  26. koreyel says:

    Here is quote from upthread:
    “Granted it’s not in BARRY’S interest to agree to more debates. Who’s interests come first — Barry’s or the country’s?”
    Magnificent point!
    Well-reasoned.
    And if I am Barack I say:
    Sure I’ll debate you in Wisconsin when you agree to release your tax returns. I released mine. You should too. That’s good for the country too. And of course, all of us have the interest of our country foremost right?
    One more point:
    The assumption by the Clinton people is that she wins in these debates. The assumption by the Barack supporters is that he doesn’t. I disagree with both assessments. I think he gets stronger every debate. He comes off as thoughtful and articulate. He has got absolutely nothing to worry about.
    But of course the idea is to win. Anybody who tells you otherwise has a hidden agenda. Making the “it is good for the country argument” in the context of presidential politics is psuedo altrusitic crap. What matters is W-I-N-N-I-N-G. And if you don’t believe that you’ve been snoring for eight Rovian years.
    Barack has got every right in the world to make Hillary squirm. Every right, AND every incentive. And in the General he will have every right in the world to make McCain squirm. Politics is blood sport. More power to Barack for going for the win and playing his hand the way he sees fit. He is an iron fist in a velvet glove. I like that. That’s the kind of candidate the Dems need to win in November.
    If you want to do the nice guy nuance thing… Fine. But do it on Hillary’s time. Or do it on McCain’s time. But don’t come hat in hand begging to do it on Barack’s time.
    This is presidential politics.
    Get a life.

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  27. jim miller says:

    1. I live in brewtown and witnessed one canidate speak today—no spinning wheels Steve…also the orchestrated cheers didnt work very well either….maybe it’s a cheesehead thing…
    2. It was a worthwhile event, my beautiful 8 year old got to shake Obama’s hand and i found out out Obama is raising my taxes…his social security plan…eliminate income tax for seniors making less than 50k,while instituting a payroll tax on everydollar we make over 97k…I dont like people with their hand in my pocket but with the age demographic we are paying one way or another….plus if I am fortunate enough to keep making ovwer 97k a year than I will be happy and proud to pay my fair share—seemed to make sense—-seemed like policy not spinning wheels…
    3. I like chicagoan’s first post about Mr. Steve’s influences(shadings) and a reminder of the bare knuckle environment Obama comes from….In previous posts i have made the snarky shill reference regarding steve’s posts…this may have been a bit short sighted on my part though even this debate post seems to be in lockstep with the current HRC commercials and themes…but time and again Steve has proven himself to intelligent and insightful.
    4. Debates—our current format sucks and if they did 2 or 200 more times we would have no better policy/decision making style understanding than if we got off our asses and went to the spin wheel events….
    5. Debates are no less polished than the town hall Obama had in Racine tonight, nor are they as wonkish as his gm plant presentation today….
    6. Mr. Obama’s debate posturing might be a bit political chess playing but I will allow everyone to draw their own conclusions….he cartainly is not denying good wisconites anything….
    7. Steve how did you decide to rely on the wisconsin state journal? wisconinites hardly know this rag exists much less pay it any mind….How were you connected to this editorial?
    8. In the early 90’s i was fortunate to study under one of the great presidential policy wonks, Dr John Bibby, he had an interesting take on debates even in the early 90’s—-he disliked their lack of substance, thought they were a “black tie” affair, not a policy venue by any stretch of the imagination….he preferred brandy at the dining room table—truly the wisconsin way….
    9. Please dont worry about us Wisconites, we are very resourceful and will make a sound educated choice next tuesday…besides we havent even seen all of the canidates yet…..if policy was so important it then where are they….we have had record snow this year, dont worry we can still see things for what they are, these debate discussions dont have anything to do with policy—rather you like it or not….(smiling…. what was the word shuster used?)

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  28. leo says:

    Mr. Obtuse, aka TE, that entire Salon column is by Ms. Wattleton for Jeebus’ sake.
    Life is absurd, and you… you TE… you are really good (channeling DeNiro here), wrong about Wattleton and Michelman (whatever!) of course but… well, entertaining in your own way anyway.

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  29. Tahoe Editor says:

    Leo, that is absurd. I have a life, and you still haven’t quoted Miss Wattleton once! The conversation will continue.
    I’m reaching the Reno outskirts — you know where Barry pandered to the Red part of the state by telling the conservative Reno Gazette-Journal that the GOP was the party of ideas during the Clinton years.
    Get back to me when you’re ready to make sense.

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  30. leo says:

    TE, I gave you Faye (here’s the link):
    http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2008/02/08/chris_matthews/index.html?source=search&aim=/opinion/feature
    And I gave you Kate:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kate-michelman/why-im-endorsing-barack-_b_84658.html
    Surrender crazy-TE, they actually like Obama, your “realism” and “reality” remind me of our pathetic President.

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  31. Jason says:

    It’s clear that the way debates are currently run discourage substantive discussions. One solution is to have topic-specific debates and ask several detailed questions on one topic rather than one question on many topics.
    Science Debate 2008 is a good step in this direction.
    http://www.sciencedebate2008.com/www/index.php?id=2

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  32. leo says:

    I take it that you surrender TE, Ms. Michelman (and Ms. Wattleson!) is on my side of this argument after all.
    I’ll note that Hillary also tends to rush off and deny defeat TE.

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  33. Robert Hume says:

    Here’s an idea from the web .
    Each candidate should be required to prepare and record in person twelve 30-60 minute videos on any topics of their choosing. Graphs, charts, and a few <30-sec videos would be allowed, but at least 90% of the time would have to be filled with a picture of the candidate speaking to the camera.
    No audience would be allowed to fill up time with applause.
    The videos would come out every two weeks in the six months before a nationwide primary. The videos would be released simultaneously very two weeks.
    The candidates could also do any other campaigning they wanted.
    This should force the candidates to put substantive policy positions on record; and give them time to respond to the other candidates.
    Basically the same approach should be required for the presidential election, leading up to a few days before the election.

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  34. Tahoe Editor says:

    You’ve lost me, Leo … I’m off to the tennis courts. BYE BYE

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  35. leo says:

    TE, I was giving you Ms. Mchelman:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kate-michelman/why-im-endorsing-barack-_b_84658.html
    Interesting that their politics and names are so similar. Thanks for the link though.

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  36. Tahoe Editor says:

    Uh, hello, that’s Kate Michelman, not Faye Wattleton. Your debate skillz need some polishing …
    http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5iMHgzpYxbuYSc27jhAmsjVEKMr5QD8UL285O0

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  37. paulo says:

    I might agree with you if debates were actually debates. What they are are Gotcha fests instigated by some very well paid pundit.
    My dream format is that from early on there would have been one on ones between 1 Republican matched randomly with 1 Democaticic candidate (or imagine 2 on 2’s very early on). As drop outs occur the format self-corrects and becomes more focused.
    Even if the TV-Dweeb in the middle tries to inject himself rather than just referee it would hardly matter.
    The debates we would have had would have been far more interesting and we would have known a whole lot more about each candidate than we do,
    Instead we get game shows passing as political discourse.

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  38. leo says:

    Hysterical and fascinating, Tahoe Editor, similar names and identical political positions:
    “Barack Obama will be that great president. He will bring us all together. And together, we will change our country.
    During these past many years, we have lost the sense of what we could do together, who we could be, what was possible.
    That’s changing.
    And Barack Obama is the one changing that.”
    (from Huffpost)

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  39. Tahoe Editor says:

    Kate Michelman in Salon:
    http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2008/02/08/chris_matthews/
    Now, back to my girl Faye. I bet SHE’D agree with Eric and would like to see Marquette in the house …
    http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5iMHgzpYxbuYSc27jhAmsjVEKMr5QD8UL285O0

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  40. Tahoe Editor says:

    Leo: That would be Kate Michelman, not Faye.

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  41. Eric says:

    I agree with Chicagoan, some of Obama’s supporters can be a bit overprotective; he is running to be president of the United States, it should not be an easy road. If Obama is the leader that many of us believe he is then he will be able to answer the tough questions and criticism.
    The Obama team has run an absolutely brilliant campaign so far. It is hard to imagine he is in this position. Things are going to change now though; he is now the favorite to be the President of the United States and commander in chief of the most powerful military and economic power in history. The other candidates as well as the media are going to get more harsh with him now and that is as it should be, as it must be. I for one believe he can handle it but it is not a decision to take lightly.

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  42. Tahoe Editor says:

    Agreed the media has been disappointing in its role as well. Why can’t we put both the media & the candidates to the test?
    Come on Barry — you have nothing to fear but fear itself!

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  43. leo says:

    Tahoe Editor, “real” to you is sometimes hilarious to me, I’ve been cracking up here (Barry is sort of funny)… but Faye Wattleton? Here’s part of what she said on Salon a few days ago, you can excerpt other comments if you like:
    “My endorsement of Barack Obama is actually a
    celebration of that commitment [the women’s movement], and an honest reflection of what I have been fighting for for over 40 years. ”

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  44. Darrix says:

    Although in principle I’m in favor of more debates, I think we have a huge problem with the networks, the egos of the moderators, and commercial interruptions. Even given that the last few debates have been far better than those at the start of the process, I think we get very little depth in the questioning. Frankly, rather than debates, I’d be much happier with long format interviews with each candidate along with an elimination of commercial interruptions. What’s at stake is important enough to justify that.

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  45. Tahoe Editor says:

    Yeah, realism can be nasty & messy. I certainly don’t want to be a “movement” buzzkill. Let’s look no further then.
    We’re at a place we’ve never been before with the cast of characters in this landmark election, but since Obama is up by 3 points at halftime, we should cut off debate and sing cum-by-ah. That’s a winning strategy for November.
    Listen to Faye Wattleton. She’s a rare voice of reason these days. That is if reason’s your thing …

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  46. downtown says:

    Tahoe Editor seems to quite ably represent the nastiness of the Clinton surrogates. It’s gonna work the same way it did for Giuliani.

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  47. Tahoe Editor says:

    UNCOURAGEOUS:
    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/uncourageous
    Look it up — you’re going to hear a lot more of it if Barry gets the Dem nod. Bill was right. The moment Barry is confronted on his FLIP anti-war speech and subsequent FLOP into Senate war-funding lockstep, the thread will be ripe for pulling. The “support/punish the troops” line is kowtowing B.S. — ask The Right Honorable Man from OHIO Dennis Kucinich.
    http://ericblackink.minnpost.com/2008/01/25/obamas-iraq-speech-prescient-but-not-a-profile-in-courage/

    Reply

  48. Linda says:

    I have suggested to Steve off-line that New America sponsor a series of seminars bringing in Obama’s and Clinton’s advisors on various issues, foreign policy, infrastructure, whatever he wants and offer in depth-discussion as he did on the stimulus package and economic policy. That can be done in DC while the candidates are out campaigning and put on streaming video on-line. Then Steve and policy wonks in DC will be asking the questions.
    Twenty debates total seem enough to me which includes the two remaining ones. Debates are what Clinton campaign wants because it’s free air time. When they debate one-on-one it is pretty even, and neither of them get asked tough follow-up questions.
    One thing I do resent is when some of the commenters above are so rude when characterizing the candidate they oppose. I don’t think that helps the discussion. I particularly didn’t like having Obama characterized as “uncourageous.” That insulted my intelligence. There is no such word, try “cowardly”–but I don’t think either of them is afraid to debate the other and both are eager to debate McCain. It just will be a lot easier for Obama to do that about the Iraq War.

    Reply

  49. Tahoe Editor says:

    A 2nd 1-on-1 debate with an open format is absolutely called for — as soon as possible.
    Barry can’t say he’s eager to debate McCain while ducking debates in the second half of the Democratic primary — it doesn’t pass the smell test.

    Reply

  50. For Lessig says:

    Must see video by Lessig on key considerations:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdDzvmY1XPo

    Reply

  51. donailin says:

    The only folks clamoring for yet another debate are those who support Hillary, or those within her campaign, and the media for obvious reasons. I have watched every debate and there hasn’t been anything new in the last five of them.
    This is nothing more than an attempt by Hillary to attempt to trip up Obama and try to get some of his momentum.
    It’s a hail mary attempt, pure and simple. If Hillary hasn’t closed the deal by now, then she never will. She’s got a problem: she’s the past. 30 more debates won’t change that singular fact.

    Reply

  52. donailin says:

    The only folks clamoring for yet another debate are those who support Hillary, or those within her campaign, and the media for obvious reasons. I have watched every debate and there hasn’t been anything new in the last five of them.
    This is nothing more than an attempt by Hillary to attempt to trip up Obama and try to get some of his momentum.
    It’s a hail mary attempt, pure and simple. If Hillary hasn’t closed the deal by now, then she never will. She’s got a problem: she’s the past. 30 more debates won’t change that singular fact.

    Reply

  53. Tahoe Editor says:

    Hillary put MSNBC on notice when Shuster called her daughter a whore — that’s not the same thing as Barry being afraid to debate.

    Obama strategist David Axelrod said “we want to spend time meeting with people in this state” and a debate would take time away from that.

    David, that is ShowHorseSh1t. One hour before a national audience some evening before Tuesday is NOT going to take time away from introducing your candidate.
    http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=717656

    Reply

  54. Steve Clemons says:

    I’ve been accused of being a shill for both sides by the respective other side’s supporters. These comments are knee-jerk, and I’ve decided to ignore them as the 2500 plus blog posts I’ve done here show that that’s not my style. There is one consistent standard for what I write — and that’s what on my mind, and what I dig up when I can.
    If wanting debates is political, then I fear for the party. If Hillary was saying no to debates, then I’d criticize her. And apparently she was saying no to a debate (I’ve just learned) and changed her position.
    I think Hillary has some explaining to do — more explaining than she’s done — on the IRGC vote. I think Obama has lots he needs to explain about how he’d approach the mess in Kenya in which he has done some private diplomacy.
    I have to prepare for a radio show — so will try to post more later on the blog.
    steve

    Reply

  55. Chicagoan says:

    It’s not fair at all to paint Steve as a Hillary shill, and I say this as someone who would never cast a vote for her under any circumstances because of her corruption, warmongering, and flirtations with racist campaign tactics.
    It does seem to me that he’s a lot more wired into her campaign and that this does color some of what he writes, but that’s true of plenty of analysts, and he’s fairly transparent about it.
    Sometimes it seems to me that he holds Obama to a higher standard, but that doesn’t bother me, as my research and thinking convinces me that Obama can meet it in most areas. In those he can’t, like I outlined earlier in this thread, questions need to be asked as tenaciously as they would be asked about Bush or anyone else with a real shot at such power. And Steve is a good person to ask them.
    Obama supporters need to stop being so protective. Our guy is on the verge of winning against one of the toughest political machines in modern times. He’ll survive Steve Clemons asking some pointed questions. He’s not a delicate hothouse flower, but a ruthless Chicago politician.

    Reply

  56. Kathleen says:

    I think debates are the best way for the most Americans to get to know the candidates and to be informed… not everyone can afford to go to a fundraiser and rallies aren’t very informative… real debates would be an improvement… ones that focus on one issue so the candidates can give an indepth presentation of their position , with facts and figures, and be rebutted… questions by policy experts come with particular axes to grind shaping the questions, so I’d prefer questions from viewers.. a series of single issue, in depth debates would elevate campaign discourse and perhaps reduce the need for paid political announcements, which is where most of the mudslinging occurs… I could do with a whole lot less of that. The debates were best when the League of Women Voters sponsored them because they focused on what was best for voters, not partisan or commercial interests.

    Reply

  57. leo says:

    Steve, Why the h*ll is it that Tahoe Editor can post every 4 minutes and I’ve got to wait for this automated multiple-post suppressor?

    Reply

  58. Tahoe Editor says:

    Barry shouldn’t agree to add new ones to help Hillary out — he should agree to add new ones to help the AMERICAN PEOPLE out. This may or may not be distain for the voters, but it’s definitely uncourageous.

    Reply

  59. Tahoe Editor says:

    1. Hillary considered pulling out of MSNBC’s debate after one of the network’s talking heads called her daughter a prostitute. She’ll be there.
    2. If Barry wants to say the “occupation was a hare brained, unconscionably bad idea,” he needs to explain to Dennis Kucinich and the rest of the world why he funded it in lock-step with Hillary.
    3. p.lukasiak got it right:
    The average Democrat in Wisconsin — and the rest of the states that haven’t voted yet — have been hearing for months that everything will be decided by Super-Tuesday, so they’ve paid little attention. Ducking debates at this point, after all the debates that were focused on the early states, is a sign of Obama’s disdain for the average voter.

    Reply

  60. Mark says:

    Looks like Hillary agreed to the debate on the 26th, so both are back on.
    It’s funny with all this debate talk that it was Hillary who was threatening to pull out. Barack hasn’t pulled out of any debates (other than the Faux stuff earlier), he just isn’t agreeing to add new ones to help Hillary out.

    Reply

  61. Steve Clemons says:

    JohnH — I never repeat anyone’s talking points. I don’t see this as a partisan issue at all and don’t respect the view that believes it is.
    best regards,
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  62. Michael Patrick says:

    This may come as a surprise, but we actually have TVs here in Wisconsin… I lost count of how many Democratic debates I’ve already seen, they’ve all kind of blurred together. One more isn’t going to make one bit of difference.

    Reply

  63. JohnH says:

    Steve is just repeating Clinton talking points, again! And why not? Debates are more suitable to Clinton’s style.
    But will debates help Clinton get it on Iraq? No way! Like I’ve said before, she’d rather stiff the base on Iraq than admit that the Occupation was a hare brained, unconscionably bad idea. If she had gotten it on Iraq, she could have put this thing away long ago.

    Reply

  64. Michael Patrick says:

    This may come as a surprise, but we actually have TVs here in Wisconsin… I lost count of how many Democratic debates I’ve already seen, they’ve all kind of blurred together. One more isn’t going to make one bit of difference.

    Reply

  65. Nobcentral says:

    I hardly think that we need more debates unless they would reveal more details like Steve wants. But that’s unlikely. The less the candidates say in details the better it is for them (the harder it is to attack specifics).
    Plus, I hardly think that Wisconsins need to be pandered to specifically which is pretty much what a debate in the Packer state would amount to. I mean, the editorial you linked to basically says flat out that its open pandering season in Wisconsin. Bleh.
    I don’t see any upside for Obama on this one as it would only give HRC free press and he doesn’t generally excel at the debate format. Not to mention that there have been enough debates already – if you haven’t made up your mind you are either stubbornly obstinate or just not paying attention – neither of which would be changed by another debate.

    Reply

  66. p.lukasiak says:

    Have there been lots of debates? Yup.
    But except for political junkies, people paid little or no attention to them. There is a reason why the pre-Super-Tuesday debate got the highest ratings — the people in the super-Tuesday states watched.
    The average Democrat in Wisconsin–and the rest of the states that haven’t voted yet– have been hearing for months that everything will be decided by Super-Tuesday, so they’ve paid little attention. Ducking debates at this point, after all the debates that were focussed on the early states, is a sign of Obama’s disdain for the average voter.

    Reply

  67. Tahoe Editor says:

    Granted it’s not in BARRY’S interest to agree to more debates.
    Who’s interests come first — Barry’s or the country’s?

    Reply

  68. Tahoe Editor says:

    The line that there have been a gazillion debates ignores the fact that they have had a total of ONE (1) 1-on-1 debate — in Hollywood. The debates where they were one of several suits touting talking points are now irrelevant. The party is divided; Barry’s inclination to ignore that makes me wonder if he thinks the country isn’t either.
    You can’t be eager to debate the GOP nominee and not be eager to debate your primary opponent at halftime. That doesn’t pass the smell test.
    One single solitary 1-on-1 debate in Hollywood is not enough. Yes, he has held off the continuation of the debate until Feb. 21 and Feb. 26, but I don’t consider that an achievement. He needs to giddy up the same courage he used to make his FLIP anti-war speech before he FLOPPED into the Senate, and jump at the chance to debate as soon as possible. Wisconsin deserves it, the country deserves it. We can’t all wait for hours to get in the stadium.

    Reply

  69. Ajaz says:

    Obama Rocks
    Barack Obama’s string of eight consecutive victories over the last week with increasing margins seems to suggest that Obama’s message is beginning to resonate with all Americans. The breakdown of voters last night was fascinating. He increased his vote amongst women, white males and Latinos. All three categories will play a major part in Texas & Ohio primaries.
    Obama’s speech last night in Wisconsin was his best so far. It seems he is just getting going and now there is a possibility that the ‘Obama Movement’ will capture the hearts of Wisconsin voters where Hillary had unassailable lead until recently. Which begs the question, why is Hillary in Texas and not in Wisconsin, shouldn’t she focus on Wisconsin first where the primary is on Tuesday? Some more people in her campaign team need to be fired!
    The Americans are taking a good look at Barack and they like what they see. Last night CNN showed Senator McCain’s speech immediately after Barack’s and what a comparison. McCain seemed tired, unenthusiastic and spent.
    If John Edwards is considering endorsing Obama, he better do it soon or he will be irrelevant.

    Reply

  70. Tahoe Editor says:

    Don’t want to get in the way of showing us who he is? And that’s smart and courageous how?
    Don’t expect Barry to interrupt the media during the fabulous blow job it’s giving him.
    He’s avoided press scrutiny at every turn, and only recently stopped traveling under separate cover.

    Reply

  71. leo says:

    I think it’s fair to say that Hillary needs more debates (anywhere, anytime, pleeease), the idea is coming straight out of her campaign today. Obama, however, may well let them squirm a bit… don’t want to get in the way etc….

    Reply

  72. Wblack says:

    Sadly, I agree with those point to the general emptiness of the gazillion debates so far. Adn it certainly isn’t in Obama’s best interest to go out of his way to engage in more of the same.
    So is there another avenue into the knowledge we’re seeking?
    Any ideas?

    Reply

  73. pauline says:

    I wrote:
    “would want to elect a 68 year old woman in 2012?”
    Please make that 2016.

    Reply

  74. Mark says:

    After Googling through the internets, it appears there will be a debate on Feb. 21 at the University of Texas and there is supposed to be one on Feb. 26 in Ohio but I’m not sure if it will happen; Clinton dropped out (definitely? maybe?) because it was to be on MSNBC.
    So Obama isn’t avoiding debates completely. He just has no motivation to give Clinton many opportunities to change the narrative of the race that now favors Obama.

    Reply

  75. Ken from Ken's Kitchen says:

    I thought I’d pass this along. Now that a McCain nomination seems assured, certain right wing bloggers appear to be urging GOPers in crucial states with upcoming Dem primaries to switch their voter registration so they can vote for who they perceive is the weaker of the Dem candidates.

    Reply

  76. pauline says:

    HRC is so desparate to get in the WH, she’ll do ANYTHING to gain the upperhand.
    In fact, this is probably her last chance to win the big one.
    If Obama wins in 2008, he’s likely to get two terms (unless unforeseen things happen). If Johnie Fakeconservative McAverage wins in 2008 and he doesn’t blow up the world, I can’t see him running and winning for a second term. The people would really be ready for “change” after four more years of war, and Obama would have more trackable experience and he’d be poised to hang his suit and pants in the WH before HRC would. I mean, who would want to elect a 68 year old woman in 2012?
    When was the last time we had three from the august Senate body as leading presidential contenders?
    With how this super-privileged body dealt with the FISA bill this week, I don’t know if I trust any of them. McAverage voted to give the bush cabal and telecoms a free ride on immunity, even though the 1978 bill only guarantees immunity if the telecom sought a court order first before spying on Americans. McAverage got a free pass on Keating, so he’s just playing by this august body’s general rules of conduct. (“What the hey, they did for me…”)
    Apparently HRC couldn’t get her people to drive her over to the Senate building to vote, even though she was in town!
    Obama made the effort and voted “no”. He gets a lot of points from me for doing that.

    Reply

  77. Chesire11 says:

    Screw the debates. Debates are little more than campaign rallies held in parallel. They certainly do little to flesh out the details of any candidate’s position. For the most part, the candidate either simply responds to questions by referring to the appropriate paragraph of their stump speach and otherwise try not to make costly mistakes or tries to trip up their opponent with a meaningless “gotcha” line (“…Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”).
    Why not replace debates with interviews by policy experts? Rather than letting the likes of Tim Russert control the dialogue, have each candidate sit down for an hour with a couple of economists or security experts, etc… and actually delve into the details. Anything less is a campaign stunt.

    Reply

  78. Lori says:

    I agree with more detail is always better, but I don’t think debates the answer in this instance. With the exception of the last debate, the candidates aren’t given enough time to highlight the nuanced policy differences between them. If 18 debates (with 2 more on the schedule) aren’t enough, then one more isn’t going to help.
    At some point, it becomes the voter’s responsibility to get off their duffs and do a little research. It doesn’t take much to do reserach, usually you can find details of their plans on their Websites. TV just doesn’t allot the time needed to delve into great detail.
    I love debates, but I would much prefer to see them appear, separately, on Meet the Press, where they have an entire hour to delve into the detail of their plans. Russert, what say you?

    Reply

  79. Tahoe Editor says:

    To The Great Good People of Wisconsin:
    Be wary of the candidate who says at halftime, “Holla! The debate is over!”
    I don’t think Tom Brady asked the officials to call the game while the corporate world resurrected Tom Petty.
    Is his hat in the ring or is his hat blowing around your local corporate stadium?
    Let’s get these two together.

    Reply

  80. eric says:

    I just don’t think we get much new information out of any of these debates; not the way they end up being conducted at least. They are set up to produce gotcha-news making moments (this is precisely what Sen. Clinton needs). Specific policy proposals can be laid out in speeches like the one Sen. Obama gave in Wisconsin this morning that Steve linked to. Also, a point Steve makes repeatedly is that a President has a whole team around him or her who participates in developing policy and making decisions so how the candidate does on a stage one-on-one may not be the best way to parse their policy proposals.

    Reply

  81. eric says:

    I just don’t think we get much new information out of any of these debates; not the way they end up being conducted at least. They are set up to produce gotcha-news making moments (this is precisely what Sen. Clinton needs). Specific policy proposals can be laid out in speeches like the one Sen. Obama gave in Wisconsin this morning that Steve linked to. Also, a point Steve makes repeatedly is that a President has a whole team around him or her who participates in developing policy and making decisions so how the candidate does on a stage one-on-one may not be the best way to parse their policy proposals.

    Reply

  82. Jeff says:

    Obama should agree to a debate, but only if it’s in a Lincoln/Douglas style format.

    Reply

  83. Chicagoan says:

    Steve, a couple of more lines of inquiry I’d really like to see you explore:
    1) Obama is, to the root, a Chicagoan. What effects might an Obama presidency have on the relative orientation of the Chicago markets vis a via New York and London at a time when the very foundations of our economy are in flux?
    2) Obama’s advisers made their bones in the Harold Washington campaign and still see it as their guiding star. The first black mayor of Chicago beat a highly entrenched Democratic machine with a coalition of lakefront liberals, blacks, and grassroots reformers, but was never able to carry out his visionary agenda.
    The facts were that he didn’t have a working legislative majority, and that the very lack of old political debts and ties that gave him electoral credibility locked him out of the legislative process. He did achieve some process reform, but his legacy was ultimately as a symbol of racial reconciliation—and in the organization he built, which culminated in Obama’s campaign.
    What core lessons does Obama’s inner circle take from Washington’s failures—and his successes?

    Reply

  84. Jeff says:

    Obama should agree to a debate, but only if it’s in a Lincoln/Douglas style format.

    Reply

  85. John says:

    If there was only some way Obama could condition the debate upon Hillary actually personally spending some time in Wisconsin as opposed to simply flying in for a debate. Isn’t it a bit disingenuous for Senator Clinton to demand debates in Wisconsin at the same time she’s basically writing the state off and telling all of her donors (and the attendees at her speech last night) that she’s going to spend the next 3 weeks in Ohio and Texas?
    Were I Obama I would spend some of the time he is obviously spending in the state at town meetings and take all of the questions which people may have (and contrast same to Sen. Clinton’s absence).
    This is a non-issue. If Senator Clinton really cared about Wisconsin-specific issues, she wouldn’t be explicitly writing the state off in order to lower expectations.
    Although I agree with Steve’s general point, there are already going to be two more debates before Texas and Ohio, does there need to be a third in Wisconsin? Really?

    Reply

  86. Dan Kervick says:

    If the party is really very divided, as Steve says, then a debate is not the way to unify it. That’s like saying another playoff game between the Red Sox and the Yankees is the best way to bring unity and harmony to New England baseball fans.
    The Republicans have looked fiercely divided over the past few weeks, but now that McCain has put Huckabee away for good, we are already seeing the rallying effect as the holdouts get behind the front runner. The same thing is going to happen on the Democratic side. That’s how unity will happen – not through yet another debate. I stopped hearing anything new in these debates four or five debates ago.
    Obama has won eight races in a row. If he wins Wisconsin and and Hawaii this thing is over – the flow to his camp will be unstoppable. Democrats – at least those of us who have been doing our civic duties and paying attention to this interminable campaign – already have more information than can be processed effectively in a lifetime. It’s time to make a decision and move on.

    Reply

  87. Chicagoan says:

    Steve, a Clinton win is essentially mathematically impossible barring some ridiculously serious Obama scandal or massive vote fraud. The party isn’t torn down the middle at all. It’s picking Obama.
    I appreciate your skepticism. I’m a strong supporter of my junior senator, but I share a lot of your concerns—in particular, I have no stomach for the messianic imperialism of Samantha Power, which seems to tie into some of Obama’s more nauseating “heal the world” rhetoric.
    This is an area I would love to see you explore. Power strikes me as a potentially very dangerous person, a Democratic Wolfowitz.
    That said, I’m just not seeing the vacuity you seem to see in Obama’s stated positions or rhetoric, certainly not when they’re compared to Clinton’s vague bromides and McCain’s potent militarism.

    Reply

  88. Dan Kervick says:

    Steve, it is implausible to say that any of the Democratic candidates have shown a problem taking debates seriously, because there have already been more debates this cycle than ever before.
    But once debates have gone on for an extended period of time, the talking points become so well-rehearsed that nothing new is likely to come out in yet one more of these debates. The format of debates does not allow for investigation of the candidates’ views beyond a certain well-rehearsed level. We’re certainly not going to get any more “details” that have not already been covered ad nauseum.
    A much more informative process at this point would be to have each candidate sit down for an extended two or three hour interview with a panel of serious, non-fluffy members of the press. Debating is really just a sort of sophistical sport; it’s not a very effective way to get at the truth.

    Reply

  89. Mark says:

    I believe Obama has agreed to two more debates in addition to the approximately three and a half million they’ve already had. Could there be more? Sure. But I’m not sure it would help, much.
    From the point of view of high information voters like Steve and those that read this blog, though, I don’t think debates will help at all. The odds of any really policy information coming out is virtually zero.
    Clinton is running on fumes, financially; she needs all the free coverage she can get.

    Reply

  90. Jeff Dexter says:

    Jacek said it all.
    Debates would be much more valuable if tougher policy questions were asked, and more time was provided to answer. Unfortunately, we won’t get that.
    Steve,
    I hope that with a slight breather, until March 4th, your blog will get back to foreign policy issues. I don’t think I’m the only reader tired of presidential campaign analysis.

    Reply

  91. Jacek says:

    Okay, I grant that debates are hypothetically a “good” thing. But, I disagree with your warning that Obama may be making a mistake. Why, you ask.
    1. Steve Clemons will not be asking the candidates questions. Instead of nuanced questions concerning foreign policy requiring the candidates to have detailed knowledge of internal stresses and pressures in other nations, and how to deal with them, we get Tim Russert asking with that stupid “gotcha” gleam in his eye about some statement or opinion the candidate had 7 years ago and how they said something different last week. I have watched most of the debates, and quite honestly, I haven’t heard anything that informed me better than my own research efforts.
    2. From a strategic point of view, why would Obama do this? His strength is his ability to relate his beliefs and policies through and with eloquence. Justice Holmes famously wrote once, “Eloquence sets fire to reason.” Strangely enough, I find his debate performances superior because I see in his pauses time that he is taking to think about the question. However, many other people interpret that as a “poor performance.” In usch case, his strength, as perceived by the populace is not particularly in debates.
    Based upon his results, I am not sure why Obama would do anything different from what he is doing.

    Reply

  92. Steve Clemons says:

    Lon — thanks for your view, but I completely disagree. There is a great need for more one on one debates between Clinton and Obama because the party is divided. There is no knock out punch coming — and we need to know more from both.
    Best, Steve Clemons

    Reply

  93. Lon says:

    Seriously. We have had more debates than in any previous presidential primary.
    At this point these two frontrunners need to quickly settle the race for the nomination and move to competing with McCain.
    Debating their weaknesses after all these debates will only give McCain the opportunity to attack each of them and the Democrats as a whole as being unable to make a decision about whom to nominate – and how can Democrats defend American when they can’t do that.

    Reply

  94. Lon says:

    Seriously. We have had more debates than in any previous presidential primary.
    At this point these two frontrunners need to quickly settle the race for the nomination and move to competing with McCain.
    Debating their weaknesses after all these debates will only give McCain the opportunity to attack each of them and the Democrats as a whole as being unable to make a decision about whom to nominate – and how can Democrats defend American when they can’t do that.

    Reply

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