It's my birthday and I'm going to spend it watching the eight Democratic candidates for president condemn MoveOn.org debate the issues of the day. These debates are, at best, about 27 percent as fun as the Republican ones, but the rumor's that Barack Obama, Chris Dodd, and Elizabeth Edwards's husband will actually take the claymore to Hillary this time.
The "fun" begins at 9 p.m. Eastern Time on MSNBC. Tim Russert, moderator.
Other liveblogging to check out, if your browsing finger gets itchy: John Tabin at the American Spectator, the hivemind at Daily Kos. (Kos, by the way, now supports Chris Dodd. Bill Richardson's libertarian Democrat cred couldn't overcome his campaign gaffes.)
8:55: Keith Olbermann is warming us up with rumors that Obama might "draw blood." Chris Matthews is telling Obama to ape Rusty Sabich in Presumed Innocent.
9:00: It's the 47th anniversary of the first Kennedy-Nixon debate! In commemoration of this, Bill Richardson's flop sweat will be sponsored by the Richard Nixon Presidential Library.
9:01: President Obama will "call together the Joint Chiefs of Staff" and start phasing out the occupation of Iraq, long-windedly.
9:03: Hillary "agrees with Barack." She doesn't even knock him for being out of town for the vote on Biden's Iraq plan. Ah, the confidence of the Terminator-like frontrunner.
9:05: Man, Russert is teeing up the field for Richardson — the lone Democrat who's pledged to pull all troops out of Iraq. Edwards, the self-designated anti-war candidate, is forced to talk about "immediately drawing out 50,000 troops" when his wife moves into the White House. I'm glad Russert is forcing this discussion, though.
9:07: If Edwards is the nominee "the debate will be between a Democrat who wants all combat troops out" and a Republican who wants them in. Or between a Democrat who will be beaten senseless for flip-flopping on his war support. You know, one of the two.
9:08: Edwards is still talking like he matters.
9:09: Richardson: "We can't do the separation unless we get all our troops out." Hm. That's one way to split up the country.
9:11: First Clinton says "Kucinich is in the House," now Dodd says "We can do this thing!" The Democrats are really rubbing in that GOP snub of the Tavis Smiley debate. (Also, vote in the comments: Does anyone care if I ignore Dodd?)
9:13: Biden slathers praise on himself for passing his pro-partition resolution: "The Biden plan that got 75 votes." And no one wants to commit to pulling all the troops out by 2013.
9:15: Kucinich plugs House Resolution 1234, co-sponsored by Congresswoman Feist (D-Canada).
9:16: Russert asks what Gravel would do "if you were a senator." Is there any reason he can't run against Ted Stevens? He would overcome Republican opposition by grabbing senators "by the scruff of the neck." Can he run in both party primaries, please?
9:18: Gravel goes wild, calling out Hillary ("I'm ashamed of you!") for voting for the Lieberman-Kyl Iran amendment. Hillary laughs like Daryl Hannah in Blade Runner.
9:20: Hillary needed to vote to designate Iran's army as a "terrorist organization" because we alienated Iran by calling them part of the Axis of Evil. Why don't we really patch things up and slap Ahmedinijad's wife in the face?
9:23: Interesting debate between Russert and Hillary Clinton between what Israel should do if Iran builds nukes. She's definitely going to win that seat in the Knesset.
What? This is an American presidential debate?
9:25: Obama, dodges, technically, but why the hell were we talking about what Israel should do?
9:27: Edwards: "I want to make sure everyone understands what Senator Gravel was talking about." Indeed. Drop out and endorse him!
9:28: More Edwards: What the Iraq vote taught him was that GEORGE BUSH BAD! BAD, BAD!
9:29: Bill Richardson's going to bring back diplomacy by talking to everyone in Iran except the tiny president. A good idea.
9:31: Next question to Bill R: "Hey, you look like a Mexican. What'll you do about Mexicans?"
9:33: Hey, Biden reads Hit and Run?
9:34: Biden's soundbite: "Rudy Giuliani is the most uninformed person in American politics when it comes to foreign policy." It comes during an immigration question, but let's forgive him one.
9:36: Why, why did Russert throw a question to the stage? You do that, you're going to end up with Kuchinich quoting Emma Lazarus.
9:38: Never trust Gravel when he says "real quick." He's not going to be real quick. Rich Lowry is liveblogging up a storm, also.
9:40: The commercial break provides yet more reasons to close our porous borders. Penelope Cruz, tempting red-blooded Anglo men! That British spokesman for A&T Wireless! They're taking our jobs!
9:41: Here I was, trying to make a stupid joke, and America's Survival Inc. has bought an ad against the Law of the Sea Treaty.
9:42: There's a commotion: What happened during the commercial break? Did they tase Dodd? Oh, no, he's still there.
9:43: I break from my Dodd Vacation to note this phrase: "I realize I have some gaining of ground to do."
9:44: Hillary can bring us universal health care because her enemies have been vanquished or grudgingly admitted her power and prescience.
9:47: Biden can get more done than Hillary because Republicans don't hate him. I'm actually in the camp that thinks that she can get more done because of that. Republicans can't remain cool and sober at the sound of her name. They sort of just chortle at Biden's name.
9:49: Ah, I missed John Edwards and his soft fascism. He won't let "the special interests sit around a table" to decide what health care reform we'll have, because that would exclude "the rest of America." So is he going to book a room for 300 million people? No: He's going to decide what health care plan we should have.
9:51: Obama remains pretty calm after a Russert "gotcha" on his experience. And then, as usually happens halfway through these things, he crackles back to life. Makes the excellent point that the plans made during a presidential campaign will hit the reef if the president doesn't have the political capital–the charisma, I guess, in this case–to shove it down Congressional throats.
9:54: Let us now praise famous Tim Russerts: He's doing a round about the candidates' worst cock-ups. Gravel first, challenged on his mountains of credit card debt, which he is proud of because he hates credit card companies. I think the lesson is that you can't instill shame in a streaker.
9:56: It's a little sad that Kucinich's best moment in politics was, still, getting ridden out of Cleveland on a rail.
10:00: Edwards on gay rights: "I'm a depraved bigot but, hey, maybe my kids won't be. Why can't my wife be here to answer this?"
10:02: Obama pledges to "feed people Reason!" He wins. Have a good night!
10:04: Wow, Clinton doesn't enjoy talking about gays. She likes hate crimes legislation, though–not because she just wants to wash her hands of the issue! Who said she does?
10:05: During this American Cancer Society ad I keep waiting for John Edwards to burst into the frame and start saying stupid things.
10:08: It's a Social Security round, which allows Biden to break out his favorite play: "I don't care what the rest o' you wimps do, I'm gonna tell the truth!" He wants to raise taxes to pay for it, as does Hillary, basically.
10:11: This is when the Bush years really sting: Hillary is able to sound like a fiscal conservative. She's nailing Bush for "spending the Social Security trust fund," which LBJ actually pioneered–but that's not the point! It's incredible how little the country cares about Bush's tax cuts, how ready they are for a Democrat to come in and raise them to pay for some sweet, sweet entitlements.
10:18: Wow, Russert really lost control on the Social Security round… unless he's just handing the Democrats rope to hang themselves with. Nothing surprising happens until Kucinich pledges to lower the retirement age.
10:21: Clinton points out that her husband's budget projections had the country on track to eliminate the debt until George W. Bush came and ruined it. President Clinton II will put us back on that track, right until Jeb gets elected and cuts taxes again. Here, let me illustrate:
10:23: Jesus, they're playing leapfrog to be the loudest one promising a smoking ban.
10:25: A question about lowering the drinking age! Biden's against it.
10:28: Gravel: "Anyone old enough to die [in wars] should be able to drink." In related news, Mike Gravel will be president.
10:33: It's time to admit that the only people who care about a Clinton-Bush dynastic duopoly live in and around Washington. Obama can't get any traction on that, Clinton relishes bragging about her looking-better-ever-damn-day husband.
10:34: Weirdness from Biden re: MoveOn.org. They "haven't changed politics"? Totally false. They "told him" something about their Petraeus ad before it ran? But they don't run the party?
10:36: Kucinich tells a fantastic little joke. That should be the end of his campaign. And yet it won't be.
10:37: This debate is two hours long? Don't these people have jobs?
10:45: I've been experiencing internet connectivity issues all night and I've got a few deadlines in the a.m. so I'm going to cut and run. Please alert me if there's news, if Biden tackles Richardson to the floor and screams "RAHOWA" or something.