The Democratic Halloween Debate Posted by: McQ
on Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Well I watched a debate - naturally it was the Democratic debate - and I only watched it because there were going to be some promised fireworks. And, to an extent, there were. As an aside, my wife, who obviously knows I'm a political junkie, always questioned why I didn't watch these things. I had various excuses, but last night, sitting together watching this one she said, "now I know why you don't watch. They irritate the heck out of you don't they"?
Uh, yeah. 2 hours of one-sided, unanswered crap - well, except when they were attacking Hillary, and then she got some rebuttal time. In fact the most used 6 words during the debate were "George Bush, Dick Cheney and Senator Clinton" because they were the ones under constant attack. Only the latter got to answer the attacks. Naturally, having not watched these little fandangos previously, I wasn't aware that Mike Gravel was no longer playing. That was fine with me though. One wingnut on stage is enough and Dennis "Impeach Bush" Kucinich filled the role admirably.
We now know something that we did not know before: When Hillary Clinton has a bad night, she really has a bad night.
In a debate against six Democratic opponents at Drexel University here Tuesday, Clinton gave the worst performance of her entire campaign.
Eh. Obviously I have no real frame of reference having not watched the previous debates, but if that was her "worst performance of her entire campagin" she came out OK.
She took a lot of heat for her vote on the Iranian resolution, but I thought she defended herself adequately. You be the judge, but note the moderators set this up as an attack on Clinton from the beginning:
Senator Obama, we'll begin with you.
You gave an interview to the New York Times, over the weekend, pledging in it to be more aggressive, to be tougher in your campaign against your chief rival for the nomination, the leader among Democrats so far, Senator Clinton, who is here next to you tonight.
To that end, Senator, you said that Senator Clinton was trying to sound Republican, trying to vote Republican on national security issues
WILLIAMS: And that was, quote, bad for the country and ultimately bad for the Democrats. That is a strong charge, as you're aware. Specifically, what are the issues where you, Senator Obama, and Senator Clinton have differed, where you think she has sounded or voted like a Republican?
OBAMA: Well, first of all, I think some of this stuff gets over- hyped. In fact, I think this has been the most hyped fight since Rocky fought Apollo Creed, although the amazing thing is, I'm Rocky in this situation.
But, look, we have big challenges. We're at war. The country is struggling with issues like rising health care. We've got major global challenges like climate change. And that's going to require big, meaningful change. And I'm running for president because I think that the way to bring about that change is to offer some sharp contrasts with the other party.
I think it means that we bring people together to get things done. I think it means that we push against the special interests that are holding us back. And most importantly, I think it requires us to be honest about the challenges that we face.
It does not mean, I think, changing positions whenever it's politically convenient. And Senator Clinton, in her campaign, I think has been for NAFTA previously. Now she's against it. She has taken one position on torture several months ago, and then most recently has taken a different position.
She voted for a war, to authorize sending troops into Iraq, and then later said this was a war for diplomacy.
I don't think that it — now, that may be politically savvy, but I don't think that it offers the clear contrast that we need. I think what we need right now is honesty with the American people about where we would take the country. That's how I'm trying to run my campaign. That's how I will be as president.
RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, rebuttal?
CLINTON: Well, I don't think the Republicans got the message that I'm voting and sounding like them.
If you watched their debate last week, I seemed to be the topic of great conversation and consternation. And that's for a reason — because I have stood against George Bush and his failed policies.
They want to continue the war in Iraq; I want to end it. The Republicans are waving their sabers and talking about going after Iran. I want to prevent a rush to war.
On every issue from health care for children to an energy policy that puts us on the right track to deal with climate change and make us more secure, I have been standing against the Republicans, George Bush and Dick Cheney, and I will continue to do so. And I think Democrats know that.
WILLIAMS: Senator, thank you.
RUSSERT: Senator Edwards, you issued a press release, your campaign, and the headline is Edwards to Clinton: American people deserve the truth, not more doubletalk on Iran.
What doubletalk are you suggesting that Senator Clinton has been engaging in on Iran?
EDWARDS: First, good evening. It is wonderful to be here.
Let me talk a little bit about what I see as the choice the voters have. I think that from my perspective, President Bush over the last seven years has destroyed the trust relationship America and its president. In fact, I think he has destroyed the trust relationship between the president of the United States and the rest of the world.
I think it is crucial for Democratic voters and caucus-goers to determine who they can trust, who's honest, who is sincere, who has integrity.
And I think it's fair in that regard to look at what people have said. Senator Clinton says that she believes she can be the candidate for change, but she defends a broken system that's corrupt in Washington, D.C.
She says she will end the war, but she continues to say she'll keep combat troops in Iraq and continue combat missions in Iraq.
To me, that's not ending the war, that's a continuation of the war.
She says she'll stand up to George Bush on Iran. She just said it again. And, in fact, she voted to give George Bush the first step in moving militarily on Iran — and he's taken it. Bush and Cheney have taken it. They have now declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization and a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction.
I think we have to stand up to this president.
And then, finally, she said in our last debate that she was against any changes on Social Security — benefits, retirement aid, or raising the cap on the Social Security tax — but apparently, it's been reported that she said privately something different than that.
And I think the American people, given this historic moment in our country's history, deserve a president of the United States that they know will tell them the truth, and won't say one thing one time and something different at a different time.
RUSSERT: You stand behind the word doubletalk ?
EDWARDS: I do.
RUSSERT: Senator Clinton?
CLINTON: Well, I think that anyone who has looked at my record of 35 years fighting for women and children and people who feel invisible and left out in this country knows my record. I fought for expanded education and health care in Arkansas. I helped to bring health care to six million children while in the White House.
And now in the Senate, I've been standing up against the Republicans and everything from preventing them from privatizing Social Security to standing up against President Bush's veto of children's health. You know, I have a long record of standing up and fighting. And I take on the special interests. I've been taking them on for many years.
And I think all you have to do is go back and read the media to know that.
But, on specific issues, I've come out with very specific plans. With respect to Social Security, I do have a plan. It's called, start with fiscal responsibility. That's what we were doing in the 1990s, and we had Social Security on a much better path than it is today because of the irresponsible spending policies of George Bush and the Republican Congress.
If there are some of the long-term challenges that we need to address, let's do it in the context of having fiscal responsibility,and then let's put together a bipartisan commission and look at how we're going to deal with these long-term challenges. But I am not going to balance Social Security on the backs of seniors and hardworking middle-class Americans.
Let's start taking the tax cuts away from the wealthy, let's take away the no-bid contracts from Halliburton before we start imposing a trillion-dollar tax increase on the elderly and on middle- class workers. I don't think that's necessary, so I have a very specific plan. My friends may not agree with it, but I've been saying it and talking about it for many months.
RUSSERT: We're going to get to Social Security in a little bit, but I want to stay on Iran, Senator Clinton.
As you know, you voted for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, the only member of the stage here who did that.
Senator, Jim Webb of Virginia said it is for all practical purposes mandating the military option, that it is a clearly worded sense of Congress that could be interpreted as a declaration of war.
Why did you vote for that amendment which would — calls upon the president to structure our military forces in Iraq with regard to the capability of Iran?
CLINTON: Well, first of all, I am against a rush to war. I was the first person on this stage and one of the very first in the Congress to go to the floor of the Senate back in February and say George Bush had no authority to take any military action in Iran.
Secondly, I am not in favor of this rush for war, but I'm also not in favor of doing nothing.
Iran is seeking nuclear weapons. And the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is in the forefront of that, as they are in the sponsorship of terrorism.
So some may want a false choice between rushing to war, which is the way the Republicans sound — it's not even a question of whether, it's a question of when and what weapons to use — and doing nothing.
I prefer vigorous diplomacy. And I happen to think economic sanctions are part of vigorous diplomacy. We used them with respect to North Korea. We used them with respect to Libya.
And many of us who voted for that resolution said that this is not anything other than an expression of support for using economic sanctions with respect to diplomacy.
You know, several people who were adamantly opposed to the war in Iraq, like Senator Durbin, voted the same way I did, and said at the time that if he thought there was even the pretense that could be used from the language in that nonbinding resolution to give George Bush any support to go to war, he wouldn't have voted for it. Neither would I.
So we can argue about what is a nonbinding sense of the Senate, and I think that we are missing the point, which is we've got to do everything we can to prevent George Bush and the Republicans from doing something on their own to take offensive military action against Iran.
I am prepared to pass legislation with my colleagues who are here in the Congress to try to get some Republicans to join us, to make it abundantly clear that sanctions and diplomacy are the way to go. We reject and do not believe George Bush has any authority to do anything else.
RUSSERT: Senator Dodd, you said that bill was a justification for war in Iran.
DODD: Well, Tim, I believe that this issue is going to come back to haunt us. We all learned, some of here painfully, back in 2002, that by voting for an authorization regarding Iraq, that despite the language of that resolution which called for diplomacy at the time, this administration used that resolution, obviously, to pursue a very aggressive action in Iraq.
I'm in a view here, what you didn't learn back in '02, you should've learned by now. And you don't just have to listen to this resolution. There's been a series of drumbeats by this administration, by Dick Cheney, by the president, by others, clearly pointing in a direction that would call for military action in Iran.
It is a dangerous view, in my view. And therefore, I thought it was incumbent upon us. It was interesting that people like Dick Lugar, the former Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska — Republicans who also had serious reservations and voted against that resolution the other day on September 26th.
I'm very concerned that we're going to see those 76 votes come back, being waved in front of us here as a justification when the Bush administration decides to take military action in Iran.
So it was a moment — it's a critical moment, when I think leadership is called for here. If you're going to seek the leadership of our country, this is the most serious time in a generation. You have an ascending China. You have an Iranian that's ambitious to acquire nuclear weapons. You have, obviously, a $4 trillion economy that's in trouble, a health care crisis in this country, energy and other issues that are going to confront the next president.
Good judgment and leadership at critical moments must be a part of this debate and discussion. That was a critical moment and the wrong decision was made, in my view.
RUSSERT: Senator Biden, do you agree with Senator Webb: It was, de facto, a declaration of war?
BIDEN: Well, I think it can be used as declaration. Look, we have a problem in the Senate — and I'm not just directing this at Hillary; there were 75 other people who voted with her; we are in the minority — that there are consequences for what we do.
And it's not even about going to war. Let's look at what happened from the moment that vote took place. Oil prices went up to $90 a barrel.
Who benefits from that? All this talk of war, all this talk of declaring people to be terrorists droves up the price of oil.
Secondly, we have emboldened Bush, at a minimum, his talk of world war III — totally irresponsible talk. We've emboldened him, Tim, to be able to move, if he chooses to move.
They're terrorists. The fact that they're terrorists on one side of the border or the other, we just declare them terrorists. That gives him the color of right to move against them.
Thirdly, this has incredible consequences for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Nobody talks about this. The 75 of our colleagues don't understand. We have no driven, underground, every moderate in Pakistan and in Afghanistan.
This literally — literally puts Karzai, as well as Musharraf in jeopardy. The notion is it plays into this whole urban legend that America's on a crusade against Islam.
This was bad — if nothing else happens; not another single thing — this was bad policy. The president had the ability to do everything that that amendment — that resolution called for without us talking to it.
And all it has done is hurt us. Even if not another single action is taken, actions have consequences. Big nations can't bluff.
My impression of Clinton during the debate was that she had thought extensively about these issues (although I disagree almost completely with her solutions) and how they would play out and wouldn't be pushed into the oversimplified sound-bite solutions the others were offering. But I also sensed a bit of frustration on her part at not being able to adequately explain why she had arrived at her conclusions. This was especially true when she slapped Edwards down about troop removal from Iraq or tired to explain her plan for Social Security (first move to fiscal responsibility, then work out a remedy for SS, because fiscal responsibility will have an effect on the solution).
She did, however, stumble badly on one question and was mostly non-responsive on another, which, I think, did hurt her.
The stumble had to do with NY Gov. Eliot Spitzer's plan to give illegal immigrants drivers licences. Here's how it went down:
RUSSERT: Thank you, Brian.
Senator Clinton, Governor of New York Eliot Spitzer has proposed giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. He told the Nashua, New Hampshire, Editorial Board it makes a lot of sense.
Why does it make a lot of sense to give an illegal immigrant a driver's license?
CLINTON: Well, what Governor Spitzer is trying to do is fill the vacuum left by the failure of this administration to bring about comprehensive immigration reform. We know in New York we have several million at any one time who are in New York illegally. They are undocumented workers. They are driving on our roads. The possibility of them having an accident that harms themselves or others is just a matter of the odds. It's probability.
So what Governor Spitzer is trying to do is to fill the vacuum. I believe we need to get back to comprehensive immigration reform because no state, no matter how well intentioned, can fill this gap. There needs to be federal action on immigration reform.
RUSSERT: Does anyone here believe an illegal immigrant should not have a driver's license?
(UNKNOWN): Believe what?
RUSSERT: An illegal immigrant should not have a driver's license.
DODD: This is a privilege. And, look, I'm as forthright and progressive on immigration policy as anyone here. But we're dealing with a serious problem here, we need to have people come forward. The idea that we're going to extend this privilege here of a driver's license I think is troublesome, and I think the American people are reacting to it.
We need to deal with security on our borders. We need to deal with the attraction that draws people here. We need to deal fairly with those who are here.
But this is a privilege. Talk about health care, I have a different opinion. That affects the public health of all of us.
But a license is a privilege, and that ought not to be extended, in my view.
CLINTON: Well, I just want to add, I did not say that it should be done, but I certainly recognize why Governor Spitzer is trying to do...
(UNKNOWN): Wait a minute...
CLINTON: And we have failed. We have failed.
DODD: No, no, no. You said — you said yes...
DODD: ... you thought it made sense to do it.
CLINTON: No, I didn't, Chris. But the point is, what are we going to do with all these illegal immigrants who are driving...
DODD: That's a legitimate issue. But driver's license goes too far, in my view.
CLINTON: Well, you may say that, but what is the identification?
If somebody runs into you today who is an undocumented worker...
DODD: There's ways of dealing with that.
DODD: This is a privilege, not a right.
CLINTON: Well, what Governor Spitzer has agreed to do is to have three different licenses, one that provides identification for actually going onto airplanes and other kinds of security issues, another which is another ordinary driver's license, and then a special card that identifies the people who would be on the road, so...
DODD: That's a bureaucratic nightmare.
CLINTON: ... it's not the full privilege.
RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, I just want to make sure of what I heard. Do you, the New York senator, Hillary Clinton, support the New York governor's plan to give illegal immigrants a driver's license?
You told the New Hampshire paper that it made a lot of sense. Do you support his plan?
CLINTON: You know, Tim, this is where everybody plays gotcha. It makes a lot of sense. What is the governor supposed to do? He is dealing with a serious problems. We have failed. And George Bush has failed. Do I think this is the best thing for any governor to do? No. But do I understand the sense of real desperation, trying to get a handle on this? Remember, in New York, we want to know who's in New York. We want people to come out of the shadows.
He's making an honest effort to do it. We should have passed immigration reform.
WILLIAMS: New subject, Senator Edwards.
You have young children. As you know, the Internet can be a bit of a cultural wild west.
Assuming a lot of homes don't have parental support, would you be in favor of any government guidelines on Internet content?
EDWARDS: For children? To try to protect children — using technology to protect children, I would.
I want to add something that Chris Dodd just said a minute ago, because I don't want it to go unnoticed. Unless I missed something, Senator Clinton said two different things in the course of about two minutes just a few minutes ago.
And I think this is a real issue for the country. I mean, America is looking for a president who will say the same thing, who will be consistent, who will be straight with them. Because what we've had for seven years is double-talk from Bush and from Cheney, and I think America deserves us to be straight.
WILLIAMS: Senator Obama, why are you nodding your head?
OBAMA: Well, I was confused on Senator Clinton's answer. I can't tell whether she was for it or against it. And I do think that is important. One of the things that we have to do in this country is to be honest about the challenges that we face.
Immigration is a difficult issue. But part of leadership is not just looking backwards and seeing what's popular or trying to gauge popular sentiment. It's about setting a direction for the country. And that's what I intend to do as president.
RUSSERT: Are you for it or against it?
OBAMA: I think that it is the right idea, and I disagree with Chris because there is a public safety concern. We can make sure that drivers who are illegal come out of the shadows, that they can be tracked, that they are properly trained, and that will make our roads safer.
That doesn't negate the need for us to reform illegal immigration.
If you prefer video, you can watch the exchange here:
Note that Obama's response isn't much better on the issue but he took the opportunity (and rightfully, given her answer) to say she had confused him. I actually found myself agreeing with Dodd on the issue, but that should come as no surprise (not that I agree with Dodd, that is surprising, but that he'd say "it's a privilege, not a right").
Her other less than glowing moment came in response to a question about the records of the Clinton administration, specifically those communications between her and Bill Clinton, which Bill Clinton had put off limits until 2012. Tim Russert asks:
RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, I'd like to follow up, because in terms of your experience as first lady, in order to give the American people an opportunity to make a judgment about your experience, would you allow the National Archives to release the documents about your communications with the president, the advice you gave?
Because, as you well know, President Clinton has asked the National Archives not to do anything until 2012.
CLINTON: Well, actually, Tim, the Archives is moving as rapidly as the Archives moves. There's about 20 million pieces of paper there. And they are move, and they are releasing as they do their process. And I am fully in favor of that.
Now, all of the records, as far as I know, about what we did with health care, those are already available. Others are becoming available. And I think that, you know, the Archives will continue to move as rapidly as its circumstances and processes demand.
RUSSERT: But there was a letter written by President Clinton specifically asking that any communication between you and the president not be made available to the public until 2012. Would you lift that ban?
CLINTON: Well, that's not my decision to make, and I don't believe that any president or first lady ever has. But, certainly, we're move as quickly as our circumstances and the processes of the National Archives permits.
RUSSERT: Senator Obama, your hand is up?
OBAMA: Well, look, I'm glad that Hillary took the phrase turn the page. It's a good one, but this is an example of not turning the page. We have just gone through one of the most secretive administrations in our history.
And not releasing, I think, these records at the same time, Hillary, that you're making the claim that this is the basis for your experience, I think, is a problem.
Part of what we have to do is invite the American people back to participate in their government again. Part of what we need to do is rebuild trust in our government again.
And that means being open and transparent and accountable to the American people. And that's one of the hallmarks of my previous work in the state legislature, in the United States Senate, making sure that Americans know where our money is going, what earmarks are out there, what kinds of pork barrel spending is being done, who's bungling money for who.
And that, I think, is part of the job of the next president, is making Americans believe that our government is working for them; because right now, they don't feel like it's working for them. They feel like it's working for special interests and it's working for corporations.
Probably Obama's best point in the debate. You'll notice that Clinton never did answer an obvious "yes or no" question with either yes or no. I mean come on, arguing that it is a bureaucratic thing and it just has to wend its bureaucratic way when the question had to do, specifically, with Bill Clinton asking the National Archives not to do anything on them until 2012? Pretty poor.
The rest was the usual nonsense of glittering generalities in which government, especially government under each of the candidates, was the panacea for all things which concern you. And, naturally, it was all going to be done with little or no cost while moving toward "fiscal responsibility". Yes, it was Halloween eve and magic was certainly in the air.
All spoke about the magic of national health care/insurance. Kucinich kept talking about "not-for-profit" national health care (would someone pull him aside and explain to him what "R&D" means and how that is funded?). They banged around the edges of tax reform (which essentially meant trashing the AMT (good) and raising taxes on "the rich"), Social Security reform (while claiming not to believe the Republican talking points they put forward the Republican talking points) etc.
Probably the dumbest question of the night (beside what Obama would wear for a Halloween costume or about Kucinich and the UFO) had to do with airlines. It was posed to Obama, and, frankly, he handled it poorly. The transcript doesn't do justice to the stumbling, mumbling gap-filled answer he gave:
Senator Obama, a question to you. More than one columnist covering the field of transportation has compared our current commercial aviation business to Aeroflot in the old Soviet Union. One writer said, Hold on, that's insulting to Aeroflot. They have raised their service.
The question to you is, how did this country get into a state where point-to-point air travel is no longer truly dependable, but more important, what would you be truly willing to do as president to fix it?
OBAMA: Well, this is a problem that's been building for a long time. The airlines got into trouble after deregulation, and it has continued and compounded. And they have now tried to make more money. And they're seeing better solvency, but they've done it on the backs of consumers. And anybody who's flying commercial knows that service has gone down and deteriorated further and further and further.
So, as president of the United States, we have to look at making sure that there's enough airport capacity. We've got to place, potentially, restrictions on some flights and encourage airlines to deal with the problems of remote areas that are having difficulty in terms of making connections.
But this is going to require the kind of leadership that we have not seen from this president, not just on transportation in the airlines industry, but in transportation generally.
We haven't seen that kind of commitment on Amtrak...
OBAMA: I'm sorry. I didn't realize this was a lightning round.
WILLIAMS: Yes. Yes, sorry. The rules are...
OBAMA: But, generally speaking, this president has failed on this issue. We've got to keep on — we have to make much bigger progress than we've done.
Huh? It may have been the lightning round, but that was anything but a lightning strike. Could a candidate ever, just once, say "hey, that's not something that is an issue for the President of the United States?"
The question and answer are indicative of this group's belief that government, especially one run by them, must be involved in all aspects of daily life, and, more importantly, can solve all problems.
Now if that isn't the scariest thing you've heard on Halloween, I don't know what is.
It also appears that none of them are capable of explaining their own position without tacking on "this administration has failed on this issue." Aren’t they already preaching to the choir? It’s juvenile. Who wants to cast their vote for someone who complains about everything?
Erm, we’re the wingnuts; Mr. Kucinich is a moonbat.
It’s easy to see why Clinton is polling so much higher than all the rest. Though I can’t stand her politics, she’s clearly a woman among boys.
It also appears that none of them are capable of explaining their own position without tacking on "this administration has failed on this issue." Aren’t they already preaching to the choir? It’s juvenile. Who wants to cast their vote for someone who complains about everything?
Yep—but I’m sure mkultra would be happy to vote for whichever one (Hillery) wins the Donkey nomination.