Watching the Debate?


I am. Click here to get to MSNBC’s site on the set-up and a live stream feed.
So far, everyone looks a little stiff. No zingers yet. I do like that all the candidates are giving short responses to questions — even Joe Biden.
John Edwards thinks Americans want a “decent” and “honest” person as President. Sounded sweet. He is a good guy — but gosh, I wish I could see a bit more of his rough edges.
Hillary Clinton is taking responsibility for her vote supporting the Iraq War — but says she would not have voted for the resolution if she knew what she knows today. She then said that what matters is what we do now and blasted President Bush for his stubborn commitment to “not” ending the Iraq War.
Bill Richardson: “This war is a disaster.” I happened to see Bill Richardson last night and briefly met him — though I muffled my name a bit for reasons that don’t need to be resurrected here. He is absolutely right to emphasize the need to link discussion of withdrawing from Iraq to a large international stakeholder conference on Iraq — as well as a “Donor’s Conference.” Richardson is saying this over and over again — and I applaud him.
Kucinich is smart and ethical. He does not believe in war. He is a pacifist — and he won’t vote for any bill that funds a war. It’s laudable — but it’s not going to get traction with many across America’s political spectrum.
Obama just blew an answer in my view. He said that the military is nearly broken, stretched to unacceptable limits. He said that to fix this, we need to increase the size of the army. Bad call. What we need to fix is the management that took a huge military — and took the largest military budget in world history, larger than all other nations combined — and still ruined the military. Making the military bigger is a vapid and shallow response that doesn’t address the fundamental problem of what undermined the military to begin with. I will ease up on him when he begins to get this point right.
Why did Edwards pay for his campaign haircut out of campaign coffers? Wow. Good question. Edwards said it was a mistake — didn’t shirk it. But while admitting he is a privleged elite, like many — so too were the Roosevelts, the Kennedys, and others who have been privileged but still helped those with fewer resources and chances in life. But not a bad answer overall.
Chris Dodd: “I’m a pro-growth Democrat.” Need to figure out more what that means. He also needs more stories about real people to tell about his important work. It’s a little too much “I, I, I.”
Dennis Kucinich gets too honest again: “This presidential race is not American Idol.” If only it were true.
Biden is asked about whether he could reverse being an uncontrollable “gaffe machine” and “uncontrollably verbose.” He answered with one word, “Yes.” Got the biggest laugh of the night so far. He did well on that.
Gravel says no first use of nukes ever — and says that the “top tier” candidates on the stage disagree with him. He just accused Joe Biden of arrogance. And he just went left of Dennis Kucinich. Somewhat unbelievable for a politician from Alaska. He said “We should just plain get out of Iraq.”
Edwards made a good statement that he should have made more often when he was running for Vice President. He said that the recent Supreme Court decision on partial birth abortion is an example of how consequential the next election is. (Well, the last election was really the consequential one — as the swing on the Supreme Court has happened.)
Senator Biden supports Roe v. Wade but would not pose “litmus test” question to potential Supreme Court nominees. But he would bring people in who “shared his values.”
Hillary thinks that the federal government did something — not sure what yet — that failed the student victims at Virginia Tech. Ahh. . .guns in the hands of the mentally unstable. She has a point.
Bill Richardson is asked whether in light of the Virginia Tech tragedy he would reconsider his opposition to gun control. He’s for guns — but against insane people carrying them. And he wants “instant background checks.” Not sure those would have fixed this problem.
Show of hands — Gravel, Biden, Dodd, Richardson, Kucinich have all had a loaded gun in their homes.
Biden then said “shotgun. . .not handgun.”
Health care is next. Brian Williams said it is the second highest priority for Americans in nearly all polls. To get more health care coverage funded, Edwards said that he would reverse Bush’s tax cuts. He outlined his universal health care plan — funded entirely, I think (but could be wrong here), through employers.
Senator Obama wants a national pool that people can buy into if they don’t have health insurance through their employer. He then seems to be calling for cost caps in the medical field. He is also emphasizing the “catastrophic insurance” course for some firms and some citizens to avoid being undermined by bankruptcy.
Wow. Hillary Clinton just made a bold statement that she would not support putting more federal money into our health plan until this “broken system” is fixed. If only she would say something like that with regard to the men, women and money she supports going into a broken Pentagon.
Email questions in now — the first from Daniel to Joe Biden. Why are candidates in South Carolina if the NAACP has asked people to boycott the state until the confederate flag is taken down from the South Carolina state house. Biden identified a prominent black politician who brought the debate to South Carolina — good answer. Obama said that the flag belongs in a museum. Hint to his campaign: in the future Obama said that the flag we should all respect, all rally around, is the American flag — and any other flag, particularly ones that reflect such pain and national horror should be ripped out of the public square.
Ugh, I don’t really enjoy education questions — like the one Joe Biden just had to respond to. The federal government is mostly impotent on education and few want to admit it.
John Edwards makes a compelling statement about making a transition in our oil and energy use — and the importance of denting those contributors to climate change. He knows the language of climate change — understands cap and trade and carbon sequestration — and was confident. All good.
What do the candidates want to do on their first day in the White House? Richardson wants to launch an “Apollo Mission” like program for renewable energy. We all do. He also wants to use that first day to get out of Iraq.
Barack Obama said our three most important allies are the European Union, NATO (almost the same thing — but not quite, and sort of odd to call NATO an ally since we dominate it. . .maybe I misheard him somehow). He then said Japan. That will make Prime Minister Abe happy at the White House tonight. Obama then said that China was neither friend nor enemy. Brian Williams then went after Obama on Israel/Palestine — and Obama clarified his statement a few months ago that no one suffered more in the world than the Palestinian people. He stated that that suffering was almost entirely the fault of Palestine’s leadership. Triangulation it’s called.
Biden — very good statement on the importance of reestablishing American engagement in the world and enlightened, principled leadership.
Mike Gravel sounded like he basically wants to draw back home and basically “disengage” from the world — not in a nasty way, but just to get out of everybody else’s business abroad.
On Russia, Bill Richardson would think about what America’s basic strategic interests are as the basic driver of his strategy with Russia. Richardson gets an A-plus for that answer. Commenting on Bush, he said “being stubborn is not a foreign policy.”
Hmmmm. . .great question! Do the candidates feel that there is a genuine “Global War on Terror.” Kucinich rejects the GWOT in its entirety. Brian Williams goes further and asks what happens if we had two new al Qaeda attacks on two American cities. First to Obama who said that we’d have to make sure our “emergency response teams” and capacity were in place. Then he’d have to figure out who committed the terror — without using bad intel or manipulating the intel that any party might want.
Edwards would find out who was responsible and respond harshly and immediately. Then he’d ask how did the strikes occur without early warning from our intelligence machinery.
Hillary Clinton, Edwards, and to some degree Obama are strongly emphasizing the “play the harsh card” with terrorists. But they all lose. They are trying to emphasize killing actors who are trying — through their terror act — to look legitimate in the eyes of some people. We need to spend more effort stealing the audience, not just knocking off the actors. None of the candidates said this — though Kucinich probably would have.
Is there a difference between gay marriage and civil unions? Dodd said that the way to perceive this is the way a parent would hope for their own children. He believes that civil unions are appropriate and proper but doesn’t support gay marriage.
Biden embraces a Manhattan Project approach on energy. But he gets right to the point. Advances take multi-billion dollar investments. That’s right.
Richardson said that we need to plan for “a post-Castro Cuba.” That means we need to end the travel restrictions and consider a set of alternative and different courses with Cuba. He gets a B for his response, but it’s on the right course. He wants democracy and trade unions in Cuba — wants to build in the Cuban-American communities in Florida and New Jersey and move collectively together. Easier said than done — but still good.
Question to Senator Edwards — who is his moral leader? He thinks he really doesn’t have one. Mentioned his Lord and wife. I think he gave the only appropriate answer.
Hillary had good response on whether Wal-Mart was good thing or bad thing. She said Wal-Mart was a mixed blessing.
Joe Biden said that there is a winner on the stage tonight — a lot of winners — and that the Democratic Party will perform strongly. Good response — and Biden got the last word.
No one really fell apart tonight — though I think Mike Gravel didn’t get very far. All the rest seemed assured and probably made their constituencies feel great about their performances.
The biggest theme that bothered me about most of the field was that they all think that they still have to run hard and tough in standing up to America’s threats and to the terrorists lurking beyond our borders. They offered few compelling strategies that might really undermine this threat. Obama talked about “building trust” in the world — but emphasized whacking bad guys much, much more.
— Steve Clemons


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