Democratic Debate II: Manslaughter in Manchester


That's the view from my seat in the media room at the second Democratic presidential debate. (It's filled up a little bit since then.) When the debate kicks off at 7, the blogging will commence.

7:02: Wolf Blitzer's "introduce yourself" kicks it off with a nice, 3rd grade homeroom tone. Dennis Kucinich chooses to answer with an impression of Jimmy Cagney.

7:04: Obama rambles about what the Bush administration has done right, or wrong, or whatever, in the war on terror, and Wolf Blitzer gives him a save.

7:06: John Edwards sort of forgets the origin of the "war on terror" term. It started on 9/11 with reporters grappling for ways to describe the coming retaliation, didn't it? Hillary Clinton, trying to grab back some of that "Democratic hawk" mojo after voting against the Iraq supplemental, basically agrees with Rudy Giuliani that it's not a bumper sticker and 9/11 9/11 9/11.

7:07: Dennis Kucinich closes the bumper sticker debate by… quoting a bumper sticker. (A Ben Franklin quote bastardized into a bumper sticker, yes, but he's this close to launching a Baby on Board initiative.

7:10: Why won't Joe Biden say his colleagues were wrong to vote against the supplemental? "These are my friends! We're busting our neck every single day!" There are chuckles in the press gallery when he claims this (his pro-supplemental vote) is the reason he might not get the 2008 presidential nomination.

7:12: Here's the difference between Hillary and Obama. She warbles the song of centrism in perfect, robotic, utterly incredible sentences. He reaches for eloquence and drowns it in "ums" and "ahhhhs." Also, she's a lady.

7:13: John Edwards, excruciatingly, speaks truth to power by calling Hillary and Obama wimps. Obama kicks him in the groin and slices his throat with a rusty garden trowel. (Actually he says "You were about five and a half years late on this," and the media room rumbles with the sound of reporters finding their ledes.)

7:15: Hillary refuses to punch down. She ignores Edwards, blaming the war on Bush. When Edwards flings back some mush about leadership, she laughs at him.

7:17: Chris Dodd is also in this debate.

7:19: As is Bill Richardson.

7:20: Reason magazine reader Mike Gravel takes another swing at Edwards, because it's just that easy.

7:21: Kucinich: "The Democrats were put in charge because they were going to stop the war."

7:22: Biden: "The last thing we Democrats need to do is not tell truth. I love these guys who tell you they're going to stop the war." You can understand his attitude, but is he aiming at Kucinich or at the guy who spent 6 years in the Senate and thinks he can lecture Joe Fucking Biden?

7:24: Hillary Clinton doesn't read National Intelligence Estimates, but she knows what's in their tables of contents.

7:27: Wolf Blitzer fails to get Obama to say the senators who voted for the war "don't deserve to be president." So he says the magic words: "Senator Gravel…" And Gravel explains how you can "lack moral judgment" and "kill more Americans than died on the Eleventh of September" and yet not be "a bad person."

7:29: "Gov. Richardson, you're kind of a Mexican. Should we kick out all the Mexicans?" (I'm paraphrasing.)

7:31: A few minutes ago John Edwards' campaign sent out an e-mail assuring us his "Still Winning the Issues Debate." Is that a forfeit?

7:33: Obama gets the immigration question and links it to the TB scare, when Andrew Speaker was able to cross the border because US-Canada border guards didn't think the guy looked sick. The solution: More US-Canada border guards!

7:36: And here's the first Ron Paul moment. Blitzer asks if we should make English the official language (this is something GOP leaders want to introduce again), and only Gravel raises his hand. Obama breaks format and laces into Blitzer for asking "one of these questions that divides us." It's not the obvious out-of-the-park homer that Rudy's Ron Paul interruption was, but it has a similar effect. The other candidates desparately try to jump in and agree with him: Clinton and Dodd succeed.

7:39: Oh, thank Christ, an actual policy question. Edwards knocks Obama for not offering mandatory universal health care and not promising to explode the deficit. Obama disagrees that you need to make everyone buy insurance. Hillary splits the difference: You don't need a plan, apparently, as long as you break the back of the insurance companies and make them accept your will.

7:43: If we repeal the Bush tax cuts, can I have a lifetime supply of root beer and a perpetual motion machine? Because apparently repealing them would pay for everything.

7:46: Blitzer, seeking to cut off the health care scrap, calls on Kucinich. I love politics: Where else do you wrangle the short guy to stop the fight?

7:49: The gays in the military question would be dealt with a little faster in a Republican debate. I mean, Mike Huckabee would probably call Edwards a queer and run around the stage for high fives, but otherwise they'd all say "nope" and we'd move on to a new question. After a little tussle, everyone agrees: Gays in the military now! (UPDATE: There's some echoey sound in this room and I missed Clinton's citing Barry Goldwater. Read about it in the comments.)

7:54: Blitzer asks several people who are not Hillary Clinton what, as president, they'd "do with Bill Clinton." And then Barack tosses it to Hillary Clinton. Everyone loves dynastic rule and, uh, peace in the Middle East.

7:58: While Chris Dodd is speaking, let me point out that Joe Biden's office is firing off press releases blasting Edwards (for "cutting off funding for the troops") and Richardson (for "following Biden on Iraq plans.")

8:00: Edwards is practically glowing as he dreams up ways to use government power to make gas cost less.

CNN breaks to let the candidates shake hands and reporters drain their bladders. Part II is here.