Tim Russert moderated “The Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate,” held at Dartmouth College, in Hanover New Hampshire last week. And before you shout “enough” debates let me codify the five functions of a good politician, as scorecard, to future debates: Be flexible, be available, repeat best lines clearly, repeat best lines murkily and look good. This article highlights some of those points and includes the best sound bites and talking points of this latest Dem debate.
The sound and fury of heavy breathing could almost be heard as Tim Russert got right to the point. He pointed the first question at Barack Obama: War in Iraq, “what would President Obama do? We know that General Petraeus projected, in his report, that 100,000 troops will be on the ground yet when a new president is sworn in January 2009.” He continued, “Obama was against the war. But can he stop the war if president in January 2009?” In response, Sen. Obama could not project where or how many troops will be in place at the end of a first term. He hesitated to predict what could be done in four years. He and Clinton cautiously optimistic—why? Because—we don’t know what we will inherit in one or four-years time, while Hillary reiterates (in her answer) that she will immediately begin bringing troops home when elected. Edwards says that the war simply needs to be brought to an end. He said that we should prepare for two possibilities: genocide as war starts to spill outside the borders of Iraq, and that is difficult to contain.
Sanctuary cities: Police ignoring criminal activity of illegal aliens—what would you do? Richardson: Are you asking me first because I am the Hispanic here? The immigration laws in this country are broken (I don’t think so). He called building the wall “silly” try telling that to Americans living close to the border. He said we should be increasing legal immigration and asked: “Is that outline I gave you messy? Yes.” I think his position is messy and unsupportable. The Dodd response was solid. He pointed out that there "was a failure of leadership. We are a nation of immigrants, a welcoming people, but cannot tolerate 400 to 500,000 illegal immigrants coming here each year. If it means engaging in sanctuary as a temporary measure, then so be it. "Would anyone close down sanctuary cities? Obama: We need "to pass comprehensive federal immigration law." While he did not answer question directly he did try to answer it indirectly. Clinton: Was not in favor of shutting down sanctuary cities because people would not report crimes, instead would be hiding from police and worse. Gravel spoke to the issue emphatically: (he was ashamed that) “we are scape-goating Hispanics! I am ashamed we are building a fence on our borders!” Mr. Gravel has clearly lost touch with voters in this country. From the grassroots to the netroots—people want to see a fence, a very long fence on the border.
Iraq continued to weigh heavily on the minds of the candidates and in the minds of voters. It is astonishing that the people are shouting “enough” to war in Iraq, and the democrats seem to honor the outcry. Money is still bleeding from the White House and Senate and one could easily make a money trail of $100 bills all the way to Iraq and back. But who’s counting—clearly not those on the Hill. Why, because partition was put on the Senate and House table as a viable option recently. The next day a bill would pass in favor of three-way partition of Iraq. Will it be called the Iraq-crack-up? It makes perfect sense, now, that Senator Biden seemed in full control on this question and did himself some good. He is likeable, but not electable at this point, in my opinion. Since the debate Biden and Warner sponsored a bill that would equitably subdivide Iraq…oh no. Partition, historically, breeds overt and covert genocide. Ensuing chaos of families, friends and tribes literally draw a line in the dust, where one group “owns” one side and the other group “owns” what’s left.
After the break there was fury, and worry over two issues: one that Bush predicts Hillary Clinton will be the nominee and the other that ‘innocent’ second-graders could be indoctrinated into gay culture. Gay rights debate question: “Parents of second graders were outraged at a story read in class where a prince marries another prince. Would you be comfortable with this story being read as part of the curriculum?” Without going into gory details, the frontrunners were all in favor of this scenario. One can only think that perhaps they did not really hear the question.
Tim raised the $400 haircut to Edwards, who responded in hair-raising fashion. He began describing his past and his familial background…"he and his family came from nothing and look what I’ve done!” True, but for who has he done it?
Jena question: “Obama you were criticized about your “tepid” response to Jena, Louisiana, should you have been in Jena?” Obama: “I prepared a statement with Jesse Jackson’s congressman son, and Jesse did acknowledge that later.” He said he was not in Jena because he was trying to stop the Iraq war. “It is important to tell the American people the truth. We can safely move out one or two brigades a month. Tell the people, not just what they want to hear, but what they need to hear.” That quote proved to be a nice sound bite. However, Obama shot himself in the foot by saying that in 2004 “it didn’t make sense for him to run for high office," and Tim reminded him of that statement. Tim noted that here he was running for high office and: “Why does it make sense now Mr. Obama?” He rambled a bit during I what I can only call his “relativistic moment.” A moment that arrives just as you are functioning at or near your personal best, but some freaking-how someone zooms past you on the freeway–and for a split second you see yourself, there you are driving at 65 mph in reverse—when you’re not!
Finally, Red sox or Yankees, do you care? Entertaining answers all around. Who won the debate, do you care? Entertaining answers from the pundits all around, cited Obama as being a lame horse. He was under the weather, and perhaps the reason he did not make the Iowa debate on health care. He came off as, if not bored, but boring. That’s not good. On the other hand, Clinton is almost obsequious in seeking not to offend or bore anyone, and perennially perky–who can top that? And perhaps this warmer side of Senator Clinton accounts for her continual repetition of not answering “hypotheticals (sic).” Is this the cookbook course in debate strategy, or is it “teaching to the [presidential] test?” A lack of clarity is as old as baby kissing, hand shaking and signature signings. But what gives it life is Hillary’s typically great delivery of these same old stale lines! My call: Hillary playing a superb presidential game.