Although I could not make it down to Orangeburg, SC to watch the events in person, I will be live blogging the broadcast of the Democratic Party First-in-the-Nation 2008 Presidential Candidate Debate starting at 7pm EST. Stop by to read...
Although I could not make it down to Orangeburg, SC to watch the events in person, I will be live blogging the broadcast of the Democratic Party First-in-the-Nation 2008 Presidential Candidate Debate starting at 7pm EST.
Stop by to read along and contribute to the comment thread.
Everyone is on stage. Brian Williams is kicking things off. Eight candidates From my left:
90 minutes, no commercials. And we're off...
First questions is about Reid's statement ("...the war is lost..."). Goes to Clinton. She is immediately referring to the accomplishments of the Senate and uses the phrase "The American people have spoken."
Biden: "This is not a game show." Biden is saying we must "Change the fundamental premise" of the problem. Talks about decentralization.
Obama: Asked about having called the war "dumb." Obama says he is "proud that he oposed the war fro the start."
So far, the answers seem very small from the candidates.
Edwards gives the first big answer the night: "The next President must restore the trust bond." Interesting and broad idea--and the first comment to set a bold vision on the floor. Well done, Edwards.
Kucinich: This is the first clear answer about the war. Cut off the funding, end the war, bring the troops home. It is clear from Kucinich's answer that all other positions on Iraq are nuanced.
Richardson follows Kucinich and is also very clear. Richardson is laying out a real detailed diplomatic agenda. Three "connferences."
Dodd: The stakes have never been higher for us as a country. We are more vulnerable. Dodd and Edwards, so far, both sound like senior statesmen compared to the others. Dodd's stock value is shooting up with this response.
Gravel: War was lost the day Bush invaded Iraq. Gravel says he is "embarrassed" by Democrats in Congress. He's giving advice to the other Senators. First voice of real anger about the war.
Last question on Iraq to Obama: What would be mission complete in Iraq?
Obama's answer: Talks about increasing size of ground forces to ease strain on soldier's families. Switches to talk about using the Senate bill to cut off funding. (Has not answered the question)
Clinton agrees with Obama: Bring together a political solution to end the war. Clinton says, "We need Republican support to finish the job." Curious thing for a Democratic candidate to say in the first debate.
Williams just asked a question about Edwards' haircut. Brian Williams is a terrible moderator. Terrible.
Edwards gives a good answer: I am blessed, but I remember where I came from. Edwards is a master at setting the stage or his policy vision. Telling a story about his childhood, not being able to afford a restaurant.
Williams again attacks Edwards--now for being lead council to a hedge fund. Brian Williams is a terrible moderator. This is a stupid "gotcha" question.
"How is America a better place because of hedge funds." Clinton gives a good response: we have a society that encourages people to take risks, and we regulate so things can be fair. Need a Democratic president who will "set the rules." Good answer from Clinton--Democrats who "set the rules" for a fair society. Well done.
Williams just asked a question about Edwards' haircut. Brian Williams is a terrible moderator. Terrible.
Richardson: American people doesn't want "blow dried candidates with perfection." That was a swipe at Edwards. Opportunistic comment. But, hey: this is a fierce primary.
Williams just tried to label Dodd a Washington insider--a question that could have come right out of George W. Bush's mouth.
Dodd again answers with poise--talks about campaign finance, economic growth, "we're ready for experience in this country."
Williams asks Kucinich why he doesn't have a larger following. Kucinich deflects that stupid question and talks about the importance of talking about the war. "Apologies aren't enough."
So far, the frame for the debate has been scattered due to William's constant "gotcha" questions. Every question is a challenge to past problems of the candidates. This is a hack job.
Biden gets back: answers a stupid question with one word. The audience roars with laughter.
Gravel accuses the candidates of being arrogant and duplicitous--accuses them of wanting to use nuclear weapons.
Williams asks why the majority of the American public has an unfavorable view of her. Honest to god. Williams has an agenda here.
Clinton responds well: "I take it as a form of flattery." Switches to a "The country is ready for change" theme. Clinton is good at pivoting bad questions. "I am ready."
Edwards on late trimester procedures: "There is much at stake in this election." Edwards has great poise. "I believe in a woman's right to choose, but this is an extraordinarily difficult issue for Americans." We have to show respect for people's views. Oy. Edwards did not condemn the ruling.
Obama: "A profoundly difficult issue for the women and families who make this decision." I trust women to make this decision. The "broader issue" is about women having the right to make these choices. Brings it around to "reducing teen pregnancy," issues where "we all agree." That is Obama's stump speech refrain--things we can all agree on. Obama seems nervous, tonight.
Biden is very confident, calls the SCOTUS decision "extremely dishonest." "That's the danger of this decision." Good answer from Biden--pushed the discussion to the big issue of how the court's decision put down "the groundwork" for undoing Roe v. Wade.
Kucinich pulls out a big theme: I will be a healer. Kucinich is on his game, tonight.
Dodd criticizes Roberts for "walking away from women's health." Dodd uses the phrase "Rare, safe and legal." He just stole that thunder from Clinton--she has yet to speak on this.
Each candidate now has to name a supreme court justice that is their ideal. Everyone says Ginsberg.
The debate turns to Virginia Tech. Did government fail those students in any way? Clinton says "yes." "We have to do more to keep guns out of the hands of the criminal and the mentally unstable. "Limit access to people who should not have guns." This is a huge issue and she has done a good job setting it up. Protect rights, but keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people.
Richardson, apparently, is the NRA's favorite candidate. Richardson is trying to spin the gun question to be about "mental health."
Biden returns to the assault weapons ban and the gun show loophole--old Clinton era frames. Then he latches on to the "mental illness" frame. I find this very troubling that our candidates are dumping on the mentally ill to avoid talking about gun control.
Edwards lays out his plan. Obama gives his ideas, which sounds very much like Edwards. Interesting that Obama is not doing well in this format.
Clinton is making a direct pitch to the public. 'Politically we were not successful." This is a recurrent theme of hers--politics is the key to progress. Very interesting.
Taxes to pay for health care?
Richardson: "As Democrats I hope we don't always think of new taxes to pay for new programs." I would have the following principles: No new bureaucracy. Prevention. Efficiency.
Question about the NAACP boycott of South Carolina as a result of the Confederate flag.
Obama: "I think the Confederate flag should be put in a museum. That's where it belongs." Obama is trying to move the conversation to a broad theme of "change." Who is the best person to bring about change, etc.
Question about immigration.
Clinton frames the question aggressively: bringing immigrants "out of the shadows," and giving them a chance to be citizens. If my memory serves me, she just gave Bush's position on immigration.
Dodd gives a great answer about "respect and compassion" for people who may be suffering from addiction.
Edwards just got out a great line: "We ought to ask Americans to be patriotic about something other than war. We ought to ask them to conserve." Very good short answer.
Obama on foreign policy: He's giving details, but he has not given a big vision. Follow up question on Israel from Williams: Obama slaps down an attempt to paint him as anti-Israel. The United States has to get engaged in that region. First good answer from Obama.
Biden is giving a good answer: "Jettison this notion of pre-emption." My goal would be to re-establish America's respect in the world.
Gravel says "We have no important enemies. We need to deal with people in the world as equals." Gravel is sounding like a conspiracy theorist, unfortunately.
Edwards called Russia a "complete autocracy under Putin." "How does America change the underlying dynamic of what's happening in the world?" Great question. For that to occur, the world has to see America as a force for good again. Talks about education, sanitation, economic development--America demonstrating its commitment to humanity.
That was the first "Wow!" answer of the debate. High-five to Edwards' team.
Question about Giuliani's remark that Dems don't understand national security. (Williams quotes Giuliani in a Democratic primary debate? Williams is a terrible moderator.)
Clinton talks about the world being "less stable." Not entirely clear what she was trying to say there.
Dodd calls Giuliani remark a "myth." Dodd is very forceful at taking down the idea that Dems are weak on defense and turning it on Republicans. "Stateless terrorism is a multinational problem, it requires a multinational solution. This administration has walked away from that." Kapow!
Dodd just gave the second "Wow!" answer of the evening.
Williams asks what Obama would do if the U.S. was hit with two simultaneous terrorist attacks. This is a profoundly stupid question.
Edwards gets the same question: What would you change about U.S. military stance overseas? I do not understand this question. "We have more tools available to us than bombs. And American needs to use more tools." Another great statement from Edwards.
Clinton gets the question next: "A president must move as swiftly as is prudent to retaliate." Very circumspect answer.
Dodd is a hero. He just said, "I have two young daughters who may one day have a different sexual orientation than their parents." Throw out your poll numbers, folks. This is Chris Dodd's night.
Richardson is talking about Cuba--mentions the importance of "bringing Cuban Americans into the dialogue" on what to do when Castro dies. We are seeing, tonight, for the first time how Richardson deals with issues. Every issue is a balance between strong will from the top and conferences for interested parties to deliberate. It's a very distinct approach from all the other candidates.
What have you done to make for a better environment?
Obama: We organized 3000 volunteers to plant trees. Williams corrects Obama! Tells him to talk about light bulbs.
Brian Williams is a terrible moderator.
Kucinich: "We must move away from global warming and global warring."
Who is your "moral leader?"
Edwards: Not any one person. Lord, wife, father. Very thoughtful answer. Edwards has noticeable presence tonight.
Is Walmart a good thing or a bad thing for America?
Clinton: It's a mixed blessing.
I have to note, here, that Clinton has had a warm smile all night. She is very comfortable in this setting and has a confident voice that sets her apart.
Biden gets the last word: The use of force is often justified.
That's the wrap up. Overall a difficult debate to analyze as it went along, due largely to the short answers and the incredibly bad questions from Brian Williams.
I'll take a short break than start with the post-game wrap up in a new thread.
© 2007 Jeffrey Feldman, Frameshop