Hillary Clinton

Democratic Debate V: The Scrimmage With Stephanopoulos

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Debate liveblogging will make a triumphant return at 10 a.m. ET when the Democrats kick off their debate at Iowa's Drake University, moderated by George Stephanopolous. It's the first since John Edwards demanded the candidates pledge to boycott lobbyist cash, since Barack Obama said our Afghanistan strategy sucks, since Bill Richardson claimed you can choose your sexuality then took it back. More liveblogging from Jim Geraghty here.

10:01: We start with a nice humiliation bath: Chris Dodd manages to keep his knees rigid even after a national audience hears he has lower polls than Dennis Kucinich.

10:02: Did Joe Biden say, "Oh, sheeit?"

10:03: This is what happens when 1)no one is running way ahead of the pack in Iowa and 2)everybody wants to use the semi-frontrunner as a running mate. Given the chance to take a whack at Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton drones about global warming and other "challenges the next president will face." Dodd does that parlor trick where his mouth moves and no one can remember what he said.

10:05: Biden finally takes the bait, sort of. You can grumble about the way Stephanopolous is goading everyone into a fight, but this is a nice stab at accountability. Stand by your press releases, guys. You want Howard Wolfson to shake his voodoo stick on CNN? Hey, defend that in person.

10:06: Bill Richardson finally gets to elbow in with a practised line: "With Hillary you get experience, with Barack you get change. With me, you get both!" A nice way to remind the soft Iowa voter why he likes Richardson while John Edwards (off-screen) scowls and dreams of ponies.

10:08: Obama sticks by his answer on meeting with foreign dictators. His job's made easier by the soft touch everyone else took: His is the only memorable answer.

10:10: Hillary gets one on the nuclear weapons flap, led off with video of her saying "we should take nuclear weapons off the table." She comes out bravely… against hypothetical questions.

10:11: Edwards: "How about a little hope and optimism?" How about you go home and let the grown-ups talk, John?

10:12: "If I was president I would not talk about hypothetical questions." That's not the issue. What's the point of sitting Gravel next to Edwards if he won't slug this guy in the face?

10:14: Gravel sort of wastes his time with a rant about neoconservatives and PNAC.

10:15: Richardson pledges to not make the mistakes President Merkin Muffley made. A brave man.

10:17: Obama gets a clear opportunity to state the truth that Hillary is nigh-unelectable. He lurches all over the place, refusing to say that and instead hinting that we shouldn't break America into "red states and blue states." Stephanopolous nudges him and gets some bluntness, finally. This is a really vital question–Iowans care about electability but they don't like negativity.

10:18: My God, look at Hillary's face on the cutaways. If Obama actually took her up and became her VP I think he'd spend eight years locked in a haunted wine cellar.

10:20: Edwards nails Clinton for not being willing to make crazy promises or douse lobbyists in gasoline and wave a Zippo over them.

10:21: Hillary wins the electability round by saying 1)the Republicans will drive up everybody's negatives (and, uh, force the candidates' spouses to have affairs?) and 2)she knows how to beat them. It's the perfect answer. That's the only kind of candidate-bashing Iowa voters like. And it's believeable, as it's getting hard to imagine one of the wimpy GOP candidates–wheezy Fred Thompson, creepy Mitt Romney, the mellowing Rudy Giuliani–campaigning as tough as Rove/Bush did.

10:24: Edwards comes out bravely against negotiation. Does anyone want to point out that he's basically applying Bush's leadership strategy from war to health care reform?

10:27: Kucinich and Dodd: The bathroom break candidates. I'll miss them when they finally drop out in a flurry of tears and disgrace.

10:28: Man, that's a great Biden ad. He must pledge to make every commercial a single-camera, Errol Morris-style monologue about his wacky adventures.

10:29: Richardson's distinguishing himself (or trying to) by repeating his "leave Iraq now" plan.

10:30: Man, Hillary's good. Her Iraq answer is boilerplate but the way she tightens her vocal chords and uses phrases like "We've got to be tough" and "carefully and responsibly" makes it sound like she's offering something other than the Bush Iraq plan. "Sound like," I said.

10:33: Edwards sneers at Stephanopolous for "trying to start a fight," then takes a swing at the Republican candidates: "George Bush on steroids." Wasn't it Edwards who called the Iraq surge "the McCain doctrine?" Give him some credit, he lands a punch occasionally.

10:36: Biden is basically giving the Bush argument on Iraq: Stick it out for a while and leave some troops or we'll be fighting for generations. Some points for not playing the "my son is going over there" card.

10:38: Hm. Richardson's plan relies on Muslim countries becoming very open to save our skin in Iraq.

10:39: Ah, just when an Iraq fight breaks out and everyone's forced to agree with finger-wagging Joe Biden, Obama returns to his "I'm inexperienced but experience sucks anyway" line.

10:41: Yeah, Obama really has no answer for Iraq. His constant struggle to shift the issue back to the 2002 war vote would be easier if 1)the rest of the field wasn't so ready to discuss the current crisis and 2)Dennis Kucinich wasn't jumping up and down and shouting "What about the funding?"

10:44: What a human landfill John Edwards is. Joe Biden's son is heading to Iraq and he doesn't exploit it. Edwards gets an easy question about prayer and public decisions and dunks twice in the pity well: "Ah prayed when my 16-year old son died, ah prayed when Elizabeth got cancer."

10:45: Gravel pulls his Luna Lovegood act and says something perceptive: "A lot of the people who pray are the ones who want to go to war." Indeed, we'll never hear the word "God" pass President Hillary's lips as much as when she announces the joint invasion of Iran, Pakistan, and Mars.

10:48: This is the first election in a while when the Democrats sound more credible talking about their holy rolling then the Republicans. No one lisps and straddles like Giuliani, no one leans heavy on "Gosh" like Mitt Romney.

10:50: John Edwards, a candidate who'll battle trade agreements and ask of them "Is this good for middle-class working families in America?" Maybe he can finally end this deep depression we've been in since we signed NAFTA.

10:52: Hillary's good at the Iowa jargon, but I have no idea what she just promised Iowa farmers. I'm pretty sure one of them just got promised the deed to my car.

10:54: Obama wants farm subsidy caps. Richardson wants more time to talk. Not getting it he just spits out some words: "Trade, jobs."

10:57: Have to say, this Democratic debate has nothing on the commercials my affiliate's playing. Coming this fall: Women's Murder Club. It's like every other cops-and-crooks hourlong, but it's got a bunch of hot chicks.

11:00: We have a question from Milton of Office Space about the mistakes the candidates have made. It goes to… Mike Gravel! So is Drake University the only four-year educational institution located behind the looking glass?

11:01: Weird joke from Biden about his gaffes. He hasn't gaffed for a while now.

11:02: My worry that Obama could be the next Jimmy Carter isn't erased by his 30-second ramble about "energy sacrifices."

11:03: Oh, John Edwards. In 25 or so seconds he manages to say he was wrong to vote for the Iraq War, he didn't trust George W. Bush, he ignored his gut and trusted George W. Bush, and he was wrong to vote for the Iraq War.

11:04: And Hillary shows Edwards how he should have answered that. Honestly, let's put his wife on the stage for a few debates so he can win one.

11:05: Richardson: "I make about one mistake a week." That would make him our best president since Jefferson.

11:07: Dodd wishes he'd filibustered Alito. Yes, the tragedy of his life is that he didn't take on more lost causes.

11:09: Education's always going to be a liberal/libertarian fault line, isn't it? There's some meaty bashing of No Child Left Behind: Nice! And it's followed by lots of pledges for funding more early education, teacher pay hikes, full-day kindergarten, etc etc.

11:11: I really don't understand Gravel right now. (Ed: Right now?) We need more competition but we need to fund education into your mid-30s or something. He really falls apart trying to link education spending and warfare, but he produces a sweet line for some DJ to spin on his next Nelly Furtado megamix. "Look, Iran–not Iran. Spain!"

11:15: Dodd: "You can't get a mortgage in America today." Thanks, Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Chairman.

11:18: Obama bashes lobbyists, Kucinich bashes market capitalism. "Save the American homeowners!"

11:20: Odd: Obama's written the best autobiography by a presidential contender since maybe Teddy Roosevelt and his answer on "what was a decisive moment in your life" is a snooze. Gravel should talk about reading the Pentagon Papers or the draft, but he mutters something from Dianetics.

11:22: The defining moment of John Edwards' life was his final answer in the 2004 Vice Presidential debate. He's probably right. (I'm joking, but he just shortens that story about his uncle learning to read off PBS that concluded his debate with Cheney.)

11:23: The defining moment of Hillary Clinton's life was… Susan B. Anthony's life.

DEBATE WRAPUP

WINNERS:

Hillary Clinton. There's something to be said for how she muddles through the easy questions and nails the "gotcha" or tough questions. Her answer on electability was perfect probably because she's done so much Sun Tzu-ing of her own weaknesses.

Bill Richardson. No gaffes, some good humor, some effective debating on the Iraq issue when he refused to let Joe Biden push him onto his heels. He's not the Huckabee of the race yet but he's getting there, and clearly getting strong enough to leapfrog Edwards or Obama if one of them falls apart.

LOSERS:

Mike Gravel. There are times when you smile at this codger lacing into the next president of the United States and times when you realize "Oh my God, he has no idea what he's doing." His answer on education was just embarrassing for all involved.

Me. No one reads Hit and Run on Saturdays Sundays, I'm guessing. Ninety minutes of liveblogging produces less blog comments than Matt Yglesias's post about how he missed most of the debate. (UPDATE: Not true anymore, as the thread filled up once the debate was over. Just a little different from the usual debate threads which follow the debate in real time.)

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  1. You’re a good man, David Weigel.

  2. Dave, are you liveblogging it?

  3. 9:18 Obama ducks Clinton question with a stump speech . .

    9:19 Edwards We have to take this power back, George gets Hillary back in it. Never take another dime from a Washington Lobbyist.

    9:20 Slick Hilly gets it back with a joke. I’m from upstate NY and never voted for a major party candidate.

  4. “Debate” doesn’t air here until 11 EDT.

    This saves me the trouble of actually watching it.

  5. I really have no idea why we should care.Both the dems and the repubs are running to be the national nanny.The message is the same ,I’ll take care of you.Except of course for Paul,and that scares people away.

  6. … no one reads Hit & Run on Saturdays …

    But it’s Sunday. Have a fun night, last night?

  7. No one reads Hit and Run on Saturdays, I’m guessing.

    I’m guessing hardly anybody reads H&R unless they’re at “work”, and then only if they have boring or unimportant jobs (thus explaining the high proportion of statists here — people who actually engage in free enterprise are too busy to read H&R, much less post comments). Once quitting time rolls around, the thread discussion ends.

  8. 10:12: “If I was president I would not talk about hypothetical questions.”

    You see that little word at the beginning of your sentence?

    Ah, nevermind. Sure, great answer.

  9. Now, jh, the time I kicked you ass so badly on the minimum wage thread that you resorted to agreeing with yourself under an assumed name, but forgot to type in a different email so we wouldn’t know it was you, I was on vacation.

  10. I’m guessing hardly anybody reads H&R unless they’re at “work”

    I always thought that was odd about H&R. Most of the other forums I’ve been on have very lively weekends and nights.

  11. H&R use to have more lively nights. That was when there were more evening posts. If we had more evening and weekend postings, there’d be more commenters at those times. Probable people who work second shift and weekends.

  12. There was a Democratic debate?

    This seems to have been advertised as well as the Republican one with George…

  13. “No one reads Hit and Run on … Sundays, I’m guessing.”

    Ran straight to your piece from the couch, and looked forward to it through the whole debate. Thanks! The only other joke I was hoping for was one about how Dodd would protect farmers by giving them broadband.

  14. Dodd: “You can’t get a mortgage in America today.”

    Getting a conforming mortgage with a 20%+ down payment is no harder than it has ever been.

  15. Maybe the traffic patterns of H&R are such because:

    A: Posters are gainfully employed.

    B: Posters are productive enough that a few posts around lunch and before the night commute will not ruin them.

    Two things unlikely with other blogs.

    Why am I posting on Sunday? Waiting for a pizza before watching “300,” which just became available on Pay Per View.

    Sparta!

  16. Mike Gravel has successfully out-weirded Dennis Kucinich. That makes us all winners.

  17. It’s possible that people are sick of the endless debates, particularly on Sunday mornings five months before the first primaries. Don’t these candidates have other things to do, particularly the Senators?

  18. joe, posting more comments than anyone else or calling them names or misstating their arguments isn’t winning a debate. You’ve lost pretty much every thread you’ve posted on, because you start out with the thoroughly erroneous assumption that one can be virtuous and do good things by hiring someone with guns to rob someone, or prohibit voluntary transactions that benefit both parties. You certainly lost the minimum wage thread, since your arguments were based on the erroneous assumption that forcing someone to be unemployed by requiring them to demand a wage that no one will pay them is for their own good.

    Your unwillingness to accept that you’re almost always wrong, and your penchant for proclaiming victory after suffering a stunning defeat, is similar to the Bush administration saying the Iraq war isn’t lost because we haven’t withdrawn the troops.

  19. I’ve lost every debate, because I write things that don’t conform to your political ideology.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you, jh.

  20. My god, it really sucks to be Dave.

    He actually has to *listen* to all inane bullshit… write it down, and like, care about it…

    I would not wish such a fate on my worst enemies

    As for Persians…Give them nothing, and take from them…EVERYTHING!

    300 left me feeling a little abdominally deficient. I had to do 1000 situps, oil myself up, and then massacre a crowd of people with a rusty backhoe before I felt better

  21. Biden’s a gasbag of stunning proportions, but he should be given credit for not pimping out his son’s service. A frontrunner wouldn’t need to, since it would be given plenty of media play, but a guy way back in the polls would typically be sorely tempted. Edwards is a perfectly contemptible human being, of Gore-like proportions, for his eagerness to pimp out misfortunes involving family members for a few crappy votes.

    If Senator Clinton wins the nomination, and picks Obama instead of Richardson as a running mate, she’s nuts. There’s no way Illinois goes Republican in any circumstances, and Obama is unlikely to drive up black voter turnout enough to make a difference in critical states. Richardson just about guarantees New Mexico, which is small, but has gone Republican, and he would also help in Colorado.

  22. Dave Weigel, I love you.

  23. > practised??

    Someone’s been writing for The Economist too much…

  24. Maybe the traffic patterns of H&R are such because:

    A: Posters are gainfully employed.

    B: Posters are productive enough that a few posts around lunch and before the night commute will not ruin them.

    I meet both of those and most days I’m usually too busy at work to post anything. Having some H&R “action” after business hours would be nice. C’est la guerre.

    And Dave, yeah, it sucks to be you. I’d sooner plunge an ice pick into both ears than listen to debate drivel.

  25. The fact that Obama is willing to get off “debate drivel” – the incredibly narrow field of statements the permanent Washington class decided people are allowed to say – is one of the things I like about him.

    Gravel called them on it in the first debate, about his opponents’ refusal to state the obvious, that they weren’t going to launch a nuclear first strike on Iran, and he was right. Nobody on that stage is going to launch a nuclear first strike on Iran. Not Hillary, not Biden, not Edwards, not Dodd, none of them.

    But Obama is the only one with the stones to admit that Gravel had a point, and talk to us straight, at least a little bit, about these matters that our Beltway Betters have decided can’t be discussed in front of us proles.

  26. OK. Barack Obama would never win the big prize at the Harvard Debating Club. I was glad to read that he won’t be accepting any more debate invitaions until December (he’s already committed to SIX MORE). This isn’t his best format.

    That said, Obama is the candidate most open to rational thought about changes that we need to make. He is not constrained by years of backroom deals and trading favors. He is not controlled by lobbyists and big-money interests. He doesn’t have a closet full of skeletons that GOP attack mongrels can use to throw up smokescreens.

    I think it’s pretty early to annoint the head of Clinton II.

    Bye the bye, I enjoy reading posts on the weekend, even if I don’t make a lot of comments.

  27. Hey…..I”m reading it…..thought you did a great job…..brightened my day….I’d NEVER waste the time to watch those buffoons

  28. David, no one reads or posts here on Sundays, because it’s The Lord’s Day. We’re resting, praying, worshipping, attending church.

  29. As with the earlier GOP version, the debate featured absolutely no questions about ImmigrationMatters.

    I suggest we consider Stephanopoulos a complete hack unless someone can provide an explanation.

  30. TLB,

    You lose all credibility when you call Stephanopoulos a complete hack. He’s clearly a CompleteHack.

  31. the innominate one | August 19, 2007, 3:10pm | #
    David, no one reads or posts here on Sundays, because it’s The Lord’s Day. We’re resting, praying, worshipping, attending church.

    and BATIN. Don’t fergit BATIN!

    (bot no bowlin’. We never roll on the lord’s day)

  32. Sorry not to comment on it last night, but great live-blogging, Dave. I laughed, I shared it with others.

  33. The fact that Obama is willing to get off “debate drivel” – the incredibly narrow field of statements the permanent Washington class decided people are allowed to say – is one of the things I like about him.

    You mean like his Pakistan gaffe that got him lumped in with Tom “nuke Mecca” Tancredo?

  34. I *like* Mike Gravel, but then again I have a soft spot for earnest but slightly befuddled codgers like Admiral Stockdale (“Why am I here?”), Ronald Reagan (“Hello, Mr. Mayor”) or Strom Thurmond (insert anything he ever uttered since 1947).

  35. Much enjoyed your Sunday bloggin!

  36. Regarding the note about sparse comments – I think you have to accept that a good number of Reason readers are intensely engaged in the development of the Paul campaign – losing sleep even. Reason is being lacadaisical and even antipathetic about it. The lack of coverage for a very high-profile Republican debate was seen as significant and maybe even editorially unsound. You’ll take the time for Hillary and Barack, but not for Ron. Do you guys really still care about this libertarian stuff?

  37. I usually don’t check H and R on Sundays because there usually aren’t any new postings.

    This week there is, hooray!

  38. I doubt H&R will post an entry regarding this subject, so I guess I’ll have to hijack a thread: the Reason Foundation is giving an award to Giuliani??! WTF?

  39. I read this daily, not because I’m working but because sometimes it’s informative. Often it’s interesting, as this post was. It could have been more cutting if it wanted to, more snide. They need that right now.

    Sadly, the “debate” among the comments here makes the candidates’ debate almost look polished. No argument for issues? Candidates? The future of our own laws/lives? It’s not a good time to be bitter or dismissing and reject the point for a tangent easier to digest. It’s never a good time for that.

  40. Gravel called them on it in the first debate, about his opponents’ refusal to state the obvious, that they weren’t going to launch a nuclear first strike on Iran, and he was right. Nobody on that stage is going to launch a nuclear first strike on Iran. Not Hillary, not Biden, not Edwards, not Dodd, none of them.

    They almost certainly wouldn’t launch a first strike, but it drives actual military officers crazy to hear a potential commander-in-chief take that possibility off the table — because if the Iranians think there’s the slightest chance we might do something that lolo, they won’t dare push the envelope quite as hard. Saying you won’t use nukes no matter what is like playing poker when everyone knows that you never, ever bluff.

    Not a big fan of presidential lying, and I’m totally opposed to using our nukes, but it’s just wrong of a presidential candidate to weaken our negotiating position like this for the sake of pandering for votes.

  41. joe: “I’ve lost almost every debate, because I write things that don’tconform to your political ideology are objectively wrong and morally reprehensible.”

  42. “I think you have to accept that a good number of Reason readers are intensely engaged in the development of the Paul campaign”

    That explains the 216 votes in Alabama.

  43. Not a big fan of presidential lying, and I’m totally opposed to using our nukes, but it’s just wrong of a presidential candidate to weaken our negotiating position like this for the sake of pandering for votes.

    This makes no sense. If you know it’s a bluff, then so does everyone else. If you don’t know it’s a bluff, then you would have to be insane to support a politician backing a position that you’re totally opposed to.

    There is really no downside to the U.S. making no-first-strike official policy. The current stance is a legacy of the Cold War where people were worried about an invasion of Western Europe that could only be repeled by nuclear weapons. Inertia keeps in it place, not reason.

  44. I have no idea why people watch debates when H&R liveblogging does the hard work.

    Bra-fucking-vo.

  45. *comment placeholder for monday, do not remove.*

  46. Thanks for keeping us updated.

  47. god bless you dave weigel. you took a bullet for us here.

  48. Clinton, Obama or Edwards aren’t confident enough in their judgment and lack the foreign policy expertise to order a complete withdrawal should they get elected. We saw this today again at the debate in Iowa. They’ll keep forces in Iraq for years to come.

    What difference then will there be on the most important issue of the campaign between the Democratic and Republican Presidential nominees?

    The path out of Iraq for Clinton, Obama and Edwards will be a long march spread over years. That will be true as well with any Republican Presidential nominee. No Republican will advocate an endless commitment to Iraq. All will be critical to a degree of how Bush has waged the war.

    I am supporting Richardson in part because he has the best plan for leaving Iraq. William M. Arkin who writes on National and Homeland Security for the Washington Post recently commented:

    “It is on Iraq though, that Richardson really shines. “I believe that we need to withdraw all of our troops within six months,” he writes. “Other than the customary Marine contingent at the embassy, I would not leave anyone behind. And if the embassy isn’t safe, they’re coming home too. No airbases. No troops in the Green Zone. No embedded soldiers training Iraqi forces, because we know what that means. It means our troops would still be out on patrol — with targets on their backs.”

    We are spending $10 billion a month on Iraq, Richardson says. “Of the many ways in which Mr. Bush’s ill-conceived war has distracted us from our real national security needs, this is the most dangerous,” he concludes. “There is not a single sign that Iraq is improving. To the contrary, every indication is that it’s getting worse, and a smaller force will do nothing to change that.”

    And so Bill Richardson says something that the other candidates evidently can’t or won’t: “A regional crisis is worthy of military intervention. A true threat to our country’s security is worthy of war. But a struggle between a country’s warring factions, where both sides hate the United States, is not worthy of one more lost American life.””

  49. You lose all credibility when you call Stephanopoulos a complete hack. He’s clearly a CompleteHack.

    Hey! Leave ME outta this!

  50. I think “Democrats for Luna Lovegood” is a good companion sticker for “Republicans for Voldemort”.

    Hell, she’s got the argles vote already.

  51. For crying out loud, how many more debates are these people going to have. It’s months before the first primary votes are cast and already there has been a dozen or more debates. This is why so many people are apathetic when it comes to elections. The overexposure here is just plain ridiculous.

  52. Not enough debates and not enough info to make an informed decision? Or too many debates and still not enough info to make an informed decision? It would be better, though, if there were more promotion for the debates. It doesn’t do anyone any good when all we hear about them are journalists’ rehashing. (Oh, but YOUR work was priceless, Dave!)

    Frankly, I prefer debates to stumping, and we’ll get a whole lot more of stumping before this is finished.

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