Democratic Debate VIII: The One Nobody's Watching

The Democrats, following the GOP, are making the abysmal Des Moines Register debate their last dog-and-pony show before the Iowa Caucus. Occasional commentary will appear here, but you're probably flipping around looking for the steroids-in-baseball press conference.

The debate's online here.

2:02: I'm watching the Fox broadcast of this debate, which features a focus group and moving dial. Obama's bland answer on balancing the budget blows the yellow and blue lines off the screen.

2:03: Richardson's specifics - line-item veto, balanced budget amendment - get less fuzzies than Obama's pablum. Breaking news: Obama is more charismatic than Richardson. (Interestingly, liberals like the phrase "no more earmarks" more than moderates.)

2:05: Biden: Slash the hell out of waste in the military budget. Good answer, and I predict he will win the 1988 presidential election.

2:08: Edwards knocks around corporations who've "literally taken over the government. We need a president who's willing to take these powers over." Two things Iowans love: Subsidies and fascism!

2:10: I wasn't around for the mid-1990s balanced budget amendment debate, but if we change the Constitution to demand balanced budgets how do we bypass it "in times of war" like Richardson suggests? By declaring war? Yeah, well, nobody does that.

2:13: Biden calls paradigm "a fancy word my conservative friends use," and rejects the idea that we need to pay for things - but let's cut military spending, you know, for kicks.

2:15: Obama tries some of the Edwards tonic and, to me, sounds more credible and less crazy than Edwards - nail corporations that are cheating on their taxes, don't just attack their foundations with a sledgehammer. The focus group seems less enthused, though.

2:17: Sorry, I don't like the DMR idea of "fairness." Dodd and Biden and Richardson, who'll be back at their old jobs in two months, keep getting questions. Obama and Clinton (less Edwards) are very occasionally thrown a talking point opportunity.

2:20: Senator Clinton, are we spending too much on entitlements? Yes, which is why we need more of them. Boldly, she wants to "convene a bipartisan commission" on Social Security.

2:23: "Universal health care is a human right," says Bill Richardson, as I destroy copies of my column on his libertarian instincts.

2:25: They're in free statement mode. Obama sounds like Obama; Edwards sounds like Ralph Nader.

2:26: Biden's "voted against every trade agreement since CAFTA," giving him a mighty, 2-year record voting against trade agreements. (He's been in the Senate since 1973.)

2:30: China killed John Edwards's daddy!

2:32: Maybe this is my red-hot anti-Edwards bias talking, but I think Obama's doing a good job answering the questions with his pet issues. He talks airily about amending NAFTA and then pulls Gitmo out of nowhere... as something we need to look at to improve our image in the world. The dial (I'm addicted to it) hurtles up.

2:37: Big prediction here: None of them are going to say anything contentious about energy. I'm taking a Doddbreak to get some water.

2:41: As Clinton and Obama and Edwards talk about "enlisting people" in their Five Year Plans for Glorious Energy Independence, it reminds me a little of Ron Paul's rhetoric. Not, obviously, his rhetoric about policy. Paul, who's only recently started thinking about actually being president, realizes that an estimated 434 members of the House disagree with him about policy. (Give or take Paul Broun.) So he envisions the REVOLution continuing, pressuring members, holding rallies, etc. It's similar to the scenario Edwards paints for when he's president and the Senate disagrees with his plan to take away their health care. He'll stuff it in their face, campaigning in their districts, finding opponents to kick their asses, etc. The last time a president really tried that, or something like it, was when Woodrow Wilson worked himself to death in 1918... still, I wonder how the model would work today.

2:46: Or, as Geraghty puts it: "A big theme is that if you just make something a high enough priority, solutions appear and the situation gets better."

2:50: Edwards's education solutions include univeral pre-K, that moderate idea that was rejected by California's hard-hearted right-wing voters, and a "national teaching university" ("like the Naval Academy"), which I'm pretty sure Jonathan Pryce graduated from in Brazil.

2:59: Would Biden endorse Obama (or anyone else) if they just agreed to call their Iraq strategy "the Biden Plan"?

3:02: "There sure are a laaaht of promises for that first year" says Edwards, who has pledged to arm-wrestle every member of Congress with his right arm and strangle the Fortune 500 with his left arm. (Is he ambidextrous? I hope not.)

[An update on yesterday's debate: Turns out Ron Paul got the second-least amount of time to speak, only 13 seconds more than Fred Thompson after he refused to answer a question. Duncan Hunter got a minute more than Paul, and Alan Keyes got about 90 seconds more.]

3:06: It is very important to get Joe Biden on the record about his racial gaffes, because he is the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. If he wasn't, this would be such a waste of time.

3:09: "I have been fighting them my entire life, and I have been winning my entire life," says Vice President John Edwards. Former Vice President Dick Cheney could not be reached for comment.

3:15: Good stuff from Hillary on signing statements - she's said it before, but I wonder if it's sinking in. And how much Democratic voters want the next president to power down and hand back the powers Bush got.

3:16: John Edwards rejects George W. Bush's expansion of executive power. "We don't have a royal presidency," says the guy who wants to lock companies out of legislative discussions and take away congressional health care.

3:18: Godwin alert! Chris Dodd remembers an America "where Nuremberg used to mean something."

3:23: What's everybody love about Iowa? Dodd loves their "independence." As long as they love desperation, boredom, and flop sweat, I think he's got an upset coming.

WINNERS, LOSERS, AND DODD
I felt a twinge of sympathy for Dennis Kucinich at one point, when Washburn asked a black-and-white question about repealing NAFTA. I just pictured him at home, tossing his bowl of Kix at the TV and yanking off his tiny necktie.

Done good
1) Edwards - He spent the year slowly, slowly falling in the Iowa polls as he slashed up the national frontrunners. With some difficulty, he's tamped down that instinct and started just slashing at corporations, job-killers, stuff Iowans hate. He's morphing from Gephardt 2004 (who attacked Dean and imploded) to Gephardt 1988 (who claimed "America is in decline" and won).

2) Obama - Obviously well-prepared for this but elastic enough to get laughs, which he's never been very good at. As good as Edwards at squeezing his arguments into the narrow spaces of the questions. I don't think his policy prescriptions are any less radical than Edwards, but he sounded a little more realistic arguing for them.

Done alright

3) Biden - Calmer and less obviously whiny than he's been before, fairly convincing on his key issues.

4) Clinton - No huge mistakes, but now that everyone's looking for her weakness, she looks pretty weak. The attack on Edwards and Obama wasn't just telegraphed, it was sent by pony express. The laughter when Obama was asked about his backers from the Clinton administration came off as arrogant. There's a balance to be struck between "I've got experience from the 90s" and "I'm going to turn the Wayback Machine to 1993" and she didn't quite strike it.

Ain't done nothing
5) Richardson - Just didn't break through.

6) Dodd - This is the last debate you'll see him in. Wave goodbye!

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  • paulie||

    It would be more entertaining if it was like the
    Democratic response in this parody of
    last year's state of the union
    featuring Hillary and Obama.

  • ||

    haha, "Democratic Debate VIII: The H&R blog Nobody's Reading"

  • ||

    I've seen plenty of definitions of fascism, but "checking the influence of corporations over the government" has not been among them.

  • ||

    Can you live blog the Mitchell Report press conference instead?

  • ||

    Boldly, she wants to "convene a bipartisan commission" on Social Security.

    You know, a jar of peanut butter would go great with all that fluff.

  • Franklin Harris||

    2:30: China killed John Edwards's daddy!



    Unfortunately, not before he fathered John Edwards.

    For those of you keeping score:
    John Edward = talks to dead people
    John Edwards = talks about dead people

  • Franklin Harris||

    Chris Dodd, presumably a carbon-based life form: "We need to tax this carbon that's killing us and killing this planet."

  • Franklin Harris||

    Hillary's latest lie: "as a little girl..."

    She was never a little girl.

  • ||

    joe,

    "The Corporations" as some sort of collective entity are a figment of your imagination. So, "checking the influence of corporations" rings the same as "checking the influence of communists". "Can't let those even Communists Corporations take over our country, and so we are going to have to drasticly increase government powers to fight this evil conspiracy!".

    Technically, it wouldn't be fascist to keep corporate influence in check, the same way it would technically not be fascist to keep Communist influence in check... but we all know that when people want to keep the "corporations in check", they intend to do so by consolidating power and creating more centralized control: They are choosing a nationalist socialist model (where the government controls all the corporations, to "keep them in check"), vs a free-market model (where the market is too decentralized for any corporation to gain too much power, thus "keeping them in check").

    I don't expect you to agree with us joe, but I expect you can at least see where we are coming from.

  • ||

    Joe: I've seen plenty of definitions of fascism, but "checking the influence of corporations over the government" has not been among them.

    I think he was responding to the 'take over those powers' bit of the Edwards quote, which is exactly what fascism was: control of, but not ownership of, means of production...

  • ||

    OT, but it bears repeating repeatedly: The National Review flip-flops on their endorsement. Not even six months ago they yelped that John McCain is the man for the job (really wish I could fing that link). Now they really like Mitt Romney:

    "Our guiding principle has always been to select the most conservative viable candidate...While he has not talked much about the importance of resisting ethnic balkanization - none of the major candidates has - he supports enforcing the immigration laws and opposes amnesty. candidate."

    Emphasis mine. Can you possibly imagine why they needed to specify "viable" and "major" in their list of candidates? And who is not mentioned at all? Shame on NRO. They would love to endorse Ron Paul, but just can't bring themselves to do it because he's for that whole peace thing.

  • ||

    Oops...wish I could find that link.

  • ||

    They want to get our children earlier. Does that sound creepy to anyone?

  • lunchstealer||

    Biden: Slash the hell out of waste in the military budget. Good answer, and I predict he will win the 1988 presidential election.

    I've been hearing good things about this 'peace dividend' now that we love the Russians and all.

  • ||

    Hillary's latest lie: "as a little girl..."

    She was never a little girl.


    Linda Blair in a pantsuit.

  • ||

    Sykes,

    Edwards made the observation that corporations were exerting large amounts of power over the government, and said that we needed to take THAT power back.

    Not take over the corporations. Take back the power they exert over the government.

    Rex, I get you just fine. You didn't tell me anything new. You just misinterpretted Edwards, then misinterpretted me.

  • ace||

    is it just me, or are the candidates mentioning the Constitution a lot more often than they used to? mayhap an attempt to siphon off some paulites?

    also, edwards is blinking like crazy.

  • ||

    edwards is blinking like crazy.

    It's morse code: me want VP, me want VP...

  • ||

    Trust me, ace. Democratic primary voters didn't need Ron Paul to get them riled up about violations of the constitution. It actually came up on liberals blogs once or twice before Paul announced.

  • ||

    Joe,

    I know what Edwards meant; I saw David's comment as an amusing (and exacting, for that matter) way to parse what Edwards said. I wasn't making an ideological observation (though I happen to think that much of what Edwards says wouldn't stand up to two minutes of thought).

    Speaking of which, I'm getting some serious deja vu...didn't something similar happen with something Edwards said a few months ago?

  • ||

    Democratic primary voters didn't need Ron Paul to get them riled up about violations of the constitution.

    Saying Democrats are vigilant at defending the Constitution is like saying Lions are vigilant at defending Impala.

  • ||

    Edwards's education solutions include univeral pre-K,

    I flunked hopping in kindergarden,* so universal pre-K would have saved me from the social stigma that goes with that.

    ...and a "national teaching university" ("like the Naval Academy"),...

    See! It is the teachers fault. They're not trained well enough. The education professors at the universities are falling down on the job. Only a national teaching university like the Naval Academy can fix it. I'll go Edwards one better. We need a national postgraduate teaching university like the Naval War College.

    *Really. I was living with my Grandmother at the time and she went off on the school. Hopping? Are you kidding me?

  • BakedPenguin||

    ...Democratic primary voters didn't need Ron Paul to get them riled up about violations of the constitution.



    And if a Dem wins the presidential election, their concern will last as long as the Rep concern about power grabs lasted after 2000.

  • ||

    Not take over the corporations. Take back the power they exert over the government.



    Why do corporations exert so much power over the government, joe? I though corporations are amoral - only interested in maximizing profit, not in politics as an end to itself?

    Well, when the legislative process determines who profits and who doesn't, when the government can hand out such huge advantages and disadvantages, then it is only rational that corporations seek to influence the legislative process that determines if they live or die.

    And when the government is consumer #1 (government of some sort consumes more than 50% of GDP, not including spending it mandates through regulation), it only makes sense that corporations would try to influence that consumer.

    Corporate survival is in the hands of government. Natural selection says that corporations that manipulate government will survive better than ones that don't. Corruption is inevitable, because fighting it requires fighting entropy and natural selection... good luck fighting the laws of the universe.

    You can't expect corporations to stop influencing government, any more than you can stop drug dealers from selling crack... despite the legality or morality of either. If a billion dollar drug wars and putting literally millions in prison can't keep people from peddling drugs for hundreds of dollars, then what makes you think the same approach will work when billions of dollars are at stake?

    No, everyone knows that any attempt to stop government corruption, without addressing the root causes (government domination of the economy), is going to be as useless as stopping the drug trade without addressing its root causes (poverty, racism, etc.).

    Since stopping corporate influence on government is as lost a cause as the war on drugs, what possible reason could Edwards have for wanting to fight an unsuccesful war on corporate influence? Well, expect the War on Corporate Influence to have the same effects on civil liberties as the War on Drugs.

  • ||

    2:23: "Universal health care is a human right," says Bill Richardson, as I destroy copies of my column on his libertarian instincts.


    ([SMACKS FOREHEAD] "I could've had a V-8!")

  • lunchstealer||

    3:18: Godwin alert! Chris Dodd remembers an America "where Nuremberg used to mean something."

    You mean other than Spencer Tracey, Judy Garland, Burt Lancaster, and Marlene Dietrich sharing the screen with The Shat?

  • lunchstealer||

    "2:23: "Universal health care is a human right," says Bill Richardson, as I destroy copies of my column on his libertarian instincts."

    Got two kids with booboos and only one bandaid left? Congratulations, you're a human rights abuser!

  • ||

    The only other Republican I could vote for if Hillary is the nominee would be Fred Thompson. And maybe Mitt Romney, since hes such a politician he probably doesn't really believe even a quarter of the religious-right, neo conservative horse shit coming out of his mouth and will forget about it once elected.

  • Kolohe||

    and a "national teaching university" ("like the Naval Academy"), which I'm pretty sure Jonathan Pryce graduated from in Brazil.


    It may or may not be a good idea, but it is well inside the mainstream of current political thinking

  • ||

    Godwin alert! Chris Dodd remembers an America "where Nuremberg used to mean something."



    Of course, the U.S. where Nuremberg meant something was the U.S. that was putting Japanese in concentration camps, firebombing and nuking civilians, and the War Department censored all movies, newspapers, and radio broadcasts.

    Got two kids with booboos and only one bandaid left? Congratulations, you're a human rights abuser!



    Yeah, if healthcare is a human right, and I am trapped on a desert island where there is no healthcare... well who do I punish for violating my human rights again?

  • ||

    Trust me, ace. Democratic primary voters didn't need Ron Paul to get them riled up about violations of the constitution. It actually came up on liberals blogs once or twice before Paul announced.

    "Hey, how come Bush gets to violate the constitution? That's not fair! We need to get a democrat into the whitehouse so that WE can violate the constitution!"

  • TGGP||

    Sure, the rest of Congress wouldn't go along with Paul. But vetoing everything and slowing down the pace of legislation would make him a better President than we've had in decades.

  • rho||

    Ye gods, Richardson needs a lucky break. He seems to be a decent candidate, more or less, and I'd like to see him break out of the pack as the non-bullshit guy for the Democrats.

    Maybe he's aiming for a VP slot.

    I only listened for a bit, and Joe Biden still does well in this format. But then I was audio-only, maybe that's the difference. I'm surprised at Dodd, he handled the NPR debate rather well. Obama cleaned up, IMO.

    Hillary just sounds full of shit. There's a patina of patronization that she is simply incapable of disguising. Unfortunately, this is a primary battle, not a general election. People vote for candidates for strange reasons.

  • ||

    "The only other Republican I could vote for if Hillary is the nominee would be Fred Thompson. And maybe Mitt Romney"

    I'd vote for any of the Republicans running before I would vote for the bitch.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "Hey, how come Bush gets to violate the constitution? That's not fair! We need to get a democrat into the whitehouse so that WE can violate the constitution!"

    They've had plenty of those already - particularly FDR, who'se so-called "New Deal" programs such as Social Security are a much more massive violation of the Constitution than anything George Bush has allegedly done.

  • matthew||

    "They've had plenty of those already - particularly FDR, who'se so-called "New Deal" programs such as Social Security are a much more massive violation of the Constitution than anything George Bush has allegedly done."

    The difference is FDR won his wars. Not saying its right, but if Iraq and Afghanistan has gone the way Bush wanted I bet a lot of the complaints about what his administration has done would be drowned out in triumphant nationalism. As a loser, there is a lot more people willing to listen to Bush-bashing of all kind even if they don't really care all that much about the Constitution.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "The difference is FDR won his wars"

    FDR initiated his unconstitutional programs before WW II started.

    And, of course, FDR died before the war was over.

  • Kolohe||

    And when the government is consumer #1 (government of some sort consumes more than 50% of GDP, not including spending it mandates through regulation), it only makes sense that corporations would try to influence that consumer.

    Linky source?

    I don't disagree with your arguments, but IIRC the number is more like 25-30% in the US. Too high, sure, but not half.

  • matthew||

    My point was FDR is primarily remembered for winning WW II and turning back the Great Depression. There's no room in the one paragraph summary/condensed hero-myth for his attempts to destroy the Supreme Court, etc...

    It is unlikley Bush will have such a vague warm and fuzzy hero-myth to protect his legacy.

    (also, by the time FDR died the war had been decided)

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "My point was FDR is primarily remembered for winning WW II and turning back the Great Depression."

    Well that's the liberal Democrat claim - that FDR "saved" the country from the Great Depression.

    The reality is that his policies are what put the "Great" in that depression in the first place.

  • rho||

    My point was FDR is primarily remembered for winning WW II and turning back the Great Depression.

    If true, then our educational system truly is atrocious.

  • Kaganspawn||

    "Universal health care is a human right," says Bill Richardson, as I destroy copies of my column on his libertarian instincts."



    Perhaps Weigel is being too hard on himself. The earlier piece concluded that Richardson "isn't driven by libertarian principles."

  • T||

    Richardson "isn't driven by libertarian principles."

    That looks much better for some reason. Truthier, as it were.

  • T||

    Grr. Bad tag.

    Richardson "isn't driven by libertarian principles."

  • ||

    Rex,

    Halfway through the first line I realized you were lecturing me using boilerplate libertarian dogma that I've understood for about five years now, and I looked at the length of your comment and just skipped it.

    I'm not an idiot, and I've read a bit on this site.

  • Gavin||

    Turns out Ron Paul got the second-least amount of time to speak...

    I think that this mostly shows that Ron is a stand-up dude who tries to keep his answers within the allotted response time.

  • ||

    For those of you keeping score:
    John Edward = talks to dead people
    John Edwards = talks about dead people


    But which one is the biggest douche in the universe?

  • Gene Berkman||

    re Godwin Alert - Chris Dodd remembers Nuremburg because his father - Thomas Dodd - was a prosecutor at Nuremberg.

    Woodrow Wilson was not the last President to try to defeat Congressmen who opposed him. In 1938 FDR tried to purge "conservative" Democrats from Congress by supporting primary challengers. It was referred to a "The Purge" in the press, and it failed dismally.

    Then in the 1980s President Reagan made public appeals to put pressure on Congress to pass the budget, and later to pass aid to the Contras, and his appeals worked. Enough Democrats voted for Reagan's budget to pass it over Ron Paul's opposition.

  • ||

    Halfway through the first line I realized you were lecturing me using boilerplate libertarian dogma that I've understood for about five years now, and I looked at the length of your comment and just skipped it.



    I know you are a little slow joe, but it really shouldn't take a normal person more than 10 or 15 seconds to read it.

  • ||

    joe,

    Let me put it shorter for you: you'll get private interests to stop interfering with government policies when you get the government policies to stop interfering with private interests. No sooner.

    Complaining about corporations trying to make sure the massive amount of federal govt power (amassed by your progressive forebears) gets used against their competitors instead of themselves, is sort of like complaining about having mice after you've scattered bits of cheese all over the floors of your house.

  • ||

    Don't put it any way, it's a very old, tired, well-worn argument that I DON'T NEED FUCKING EXPLAINED TO ME ANYMORE.

    It should take about 3 seconds to read that.

  • ||

    For those of you keeping score:
    John Edward = talks to dead people
    John Edwards = talks about dead people



    Actually, wasn't John Edwards channelling some dead kid in a trial that he won about a kazillion bucks on?

    Hey, what could be better than a president with supernatural powers?

    I mean, with the right incantations he could end poverty and racism and give every little girl a pony and a kitten (that would never grow up and never shit on the carpet) in a flash. And we wouldn't even need a national health plan because he could just make it so noone ever got sick.

    Wait a minute, if he has supernatural powers why does he need to become president? I mean, couldn't he just do that shit right now?

    That's the question, then. Why is he holding out?

  • ||

    I've got to agree with you on that, crimethink, even though it makes me feel like a crusty cynic. As a general rule, any henhouse will eventually wind up the purview of a fox.

  • ||

    1. In a sane world, Richardon, Biden, and Dodd are the frontrunners. Instead, we get the ex-president's wife and two sophmores.

    2. None of these guys can hold a candle to John Kerry or Al Gore.

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