Thursday, January 31, 2008

Liveblogging the Hill and Barack cage match 

I watched the Republicans last night, but no amount of alcohol could move me to live-blog the match-up. Not so tonight. Hillary and Barack are getting it on. Read my moment-by-moment nitwittery right here.

Wolf Blitzer is moderating, so you know there will be no discipline. Fortunately, so does he! There will be "no rules." Given Anderson Cooper's terrible management of the Republicans last night, he should have just said he would adhere to "Republican rules".

Stephen Green, who is not live-blogging, posts the rules to a promising Democratic debate drinking game.

1. Obama opens up by declaring that the "planet is in peril" and sucking up to John Edwards. He is obviously not appealing to me. Recognizing that obvious point, I think his opening is weak by his fairly lofty standards.

2. Hillary's opening comments, complete with the "ready at day one" line, is stronger than Obama's in my humble judgment, more hopeful and upbeat.

Doyle McManus opens by asking them to describe the "important policy differences" between them. Hillary says there is a difference in health care, she believes "passionately, absolutely," that we must have universal health care. She also believes we have to impose a 90-day moratorium on mortgage foreclosures -- no mention of what this will do to the willingness of people to finance mortgage loans in the future -- and a five year freeze on interest rates. The big differences, she says, are with Republicans.

Barack takes on the health care question, arguing that his plan and hers are substantially similar. The policy difference, he says, is that he believes that people do not have health care because they cannot afford it, not because they can afford it but cannot secure it; his emphasis, therefore, is on reducing costs, not mandates.

2. Barack does not agree with an interest rate freeze, because a freeze will cause rates to go up across the board and will make it hard for people trying to get mortgages now to get them. Exactly -- Obama reveals a deeper understanding of the issue than Hillary in this exchange insofar as he grasps that steps to resolve the crisis will influence the availability of capital for loans in the future.

The final difference, according to Obama, is over Iraq, which he has opposed from the start. Red meat for his voters Tuesday, but a bug from my perspective.

Goddamn, Wolf Blitzer sucks more than a Scandinavian vacuum cleaner.

3. Obama and Clinton are actually arguing over the 5% or so of people who would not choose coverage over Obama's plan, but would be required to be covered under Hillary's plan. Ezra Klein is, presumably, eating this stuff up. I have a wonkish streak myself and find the distinctions between the plans mildly interesting, but isn't this exchange Hillariously typical of the left? We are miles away from universal health care coverage, and these two smart people are in a huge argument over an incredibly arcane detail in their competing plans that have little chance of enactment anyway. Interesting stuff for those of us in the industry, but do people really understand all this nuance?

4. I just noticed that Roger Simon is live-blogging over at Pajamas Media. He's probably doing a better job than I.

5. Obama: "I don't think the Republicans are going to be in a real strong position to argue fiscal responsibility when they have added trillions in debt... I am happy to have that argument." So true, so painfully and agonizingly true. "The question is not tax cuts or tax hikes, it is who are the cuts or hikes for." Good stuff, even if I hate the substance of it.

6. The continuing health care wonkery is beginning to weigh even me down. Hillary is setting up lifespan and infant mortality rates as benchmarks against which healthcare success should be measured. Arggh.

7. Great question: How does the flood of immigrant labor hurt the African-American community, and what will be done about it?

Barack's response is that African-American youth have always had it tough, and that to say that the troubles of African-Americans is attributable to immigrants is "a case of scapegoating that I do not subscribe to." Huge applause. Are African-Americans all over the country furrowing their brows? But then he says we have to secure the borders and crack down on employers. Well, how are we going to secure the borders? With magic spells, an army of volunteers, or a wall?

Hillary goes the other way, and says that people are driven out of their jobs by immigrants, and calls for a "comprehensive immigration reform solution." Only two glasses of wine and I find her answer incomprehensible.

Roger interlude:

Obama has humor and Hillary doesn’t. That is a huge difference. He made a joke about the well-heeled crowd paying a bit more taxes and it humanized him. This is his strength. Still, this debate is breaking no new ground. There isn’t one new thing here we haven’t heard. I can’t imagine one vote changing so far. Enough of this. The Writers’ Strike better end soon. We need these people off the air.

Now Mrs. TigerHawk: "Look at her pursed mouth. Now comes the conscious making-of-faces while the other guy talks." Yep.

9. Hill: "For so many years I have stood with farm workers..." Really? Hillary has "stood with" farm workers?

I note that CNN is not shooting Hillary from, er, behind this time. Is that because she is sitting down?

10. They are going so easily on each other tonight, and focusing on such small differences, it is almost as though they understand that they will be running mates regardless. Would Hillary run as Obama's VEEP? I doubt it, but it does seem as though the door is open. I do know this -- Obama is not going to win this unless he can needle Hillary into revealing her dark side.

11. Wolfie to Hillary: "You have not been a Senator much longer than Senator Obama. What experience as a First Lady qualifies you to be president of the United States." Mrs. TigerHawk: "She ran the Travel Office!" Ouch! If I were the Clinton campaign press disciplinarian, I'd be pretty unhappy with Wolf for that one.

12. Doyle McManus asks Hillary about the various miscellaneous Kennedy endorsements for Obama, citing their interest in elevating a new generation of leadership. Instead of saying what I would wish to hear -- "who gives a rat's ass?" -- Hillary declares her happiness that three of Robert Kennedy's children support her. So we're counting Kennedy progeny now? This is still a vote-getter among Democrats, forty years later? Please let us not hear any more mocking from the left about the Republicans' Reagan obsession.

Obama cites the surge of voting in Democratic primaries as evidence of the enthusiasm for his participation, and then modestly suggests that some of that enthusiasm is certainly due to Hillary.

In response to a question that gets to the Bush-Clinton dynasties issue, Hillary says she wants to be "judged on her own merits." Mrs. TigerHawk gives voice to the world's thought balloon: "Is that why Bill is running around playing attack dog?"

13. Hillary has been moving to the left on Iraq, and continues to do so tonight, still leaving room to deal with all the complexities. Obama agrees that it is important to be as careful getting in as we were careless getting out -- good line, but his unequivocal opposition to permanent bases both confuses me and disturbs me. While that might have made sense during the height of the rejectionist insurgency (to diffuse those elements of the insurgency that were anti-occupation), it makes no sense today and is rank pandering to the left.

Obama does have an imperial moment here: "If we were concerned about Iranian influence, we should not have had this government [meaning Maliki] installed in the first place." Dude, the Iraqis elected Maliki. We did not "have him installed," much as it would be convenient for the left to argue that we did and for George W. Bush to have been able to do so.

14. Clinton just sucked up -- again -- to Maxine Waters, and I just figuratively blew chunks all over my keyboard. Now she is raising the huge red-herring that President Bush is trying to "bind" the United States with regard to bases in Iraq. Really silly stuff that is red meat for the left.

15. Wolfie serves up the hawks' favorite question, "what about the progress in Iraq?" Obama says something I have not heard him say before, "I welcome the progress," and he conditions withdrawal on "honor." He specifically rejects the idea that Democrats do not want a good outcome. It is almost as though he read our notes from the last debate (see paragraph 15)!

16. The big old fight over Hillary's vote in advance of the Iraq war. "Senator Clinton is claiming -- fairly -- that she has experience on day one. It is important to be right on day one." Ouch.

Still, the civility between them is very disheartening.

17. Obama stares into the heart of Hollywood, and claims he does not like slasher movies. There's another point of difference between us.

Hillary got the question about controlling Bill ("if you cannot control him on the campaign trail, how will you control him in the White House"). Of course, he did not control her in the White House back in the day, so no answer from Hillary on this subject will be persuasive.

My own view is that Bill will weaken Hillary's presidency somehow, and that is probably a reason to vote for her.

Finally, they get a question on whether they would be willing to run together in "a Democratic dream ticket." Dream ticket? Oh, that liberal media. Still, their ridiculous good humor and civility tonight, which has been enormously disappointing for all of us, suggests that neither has an interest in burning bridges with the other.


UPDATE: A final thought. The Republicans are in a lot of trouble, especially if Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee. On personality and charisma, he will crush either of McCain or Romney, and the big issues -- the economy and the war -- are running against Republicans right now.

MORE: Roger Simon snapped some pictures of the hangers-on at the Democratic debate just finished. From which of the two Americas do they come?

TOTALLY MORE: I have more cognative dissonance over Obama than any candidate I can remember. I like listening to him enormously, even though he supports policies that I oppose. He is the most liberal member of the United States Senate, but is not nearly as annoying as at least 80 other Senators from both parties. Whether he wins the nomination this time or not, Barack Obama is going to be a powerful force for the Democrats for a generation. Republicans had better get used to it.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jan 31, 09:47:00 PM:

The CACKLE! We just got THE CACKLE!  

By Blogger Will Cate, at Thu Jan 31, 10:37:00 PM:

So what you're telling me is that I wasted perfectly good Tivo space recording this damn debate while I was watching Lost?  

By Blogger Christopher Chambers, at Thu Jan 31, 10:45:00 PM:

I thought you were going to talk as much smack as Plaxico Burrus of the Giants but you had some great points. I think the GOP has more to worry about from McCain himself than Obama. Frankly if Obama's the nominee, and McCain beats down Romney and silences Huckabee, I'd draft Hillary. She's basically Romney with breasts...  

By Blogger SR, at Fri Feb 01, 01:05:00 AM:

No CC. I don't hear Romney boasting of seizing the profits of American companies owned by American citizens.
Hillary is Hugo Chavez with breasts and about the same sized ass.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Feb 01, 03:23:00 AM:

Romney would crush Obama. Obama has plenty of Nation of Islam people spread all over, hung out with Edward Said, has made anti-Israeli statements, and has blamed "the Jews" for the middle east mess.

Plus Obama doesn't know what the hell he's talking about in Iraq (snatch a defeat from a win) or Pakistan or Afghanistan (look at a map Obama-doofus, it's landlocked and supply is through PAKISTAN). On the Economy Obama wants to send jobs to China to save the polar bear. That's a winner.

Heck black talk radio is burning up on the Illegal issue and Obama's hispander. Every black worker knows Mexican ones displace him. I saw it first hand in New Orleans BEFORE Katrina and god knows what it's like now.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Feb 01, 03:24:00 AM:

Oh and I forgot Obama's "Muslim Summit" where presumably he'll offer creeping Sharia to Muslim leaders so they won't attack us.

Good job Hussein Obama!  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Feb 01, 03:49:00 AM:

I think the best conservatives can hope for is a Hillary victory. She will then have to perform and she will be under the microscope from both the left and the right. There will be a huge backlash, all laid at the door of the Democrats. Then the conservatives just have to ride the backlash wave.

If McCain gets elected we'll get many of the same policies and all of the blame.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Feb 01, 08:33:00 AM:

McCain, Obama and Clinton are current memeber of the worst Congress in the history of the United States which means more of the same Establishment misery, ie more bashing of troops, more anti-American hatred, more accusations of torture, gulags and nazism, more calls for joining the International Criminal Courts, more Go Green speak, more snobbery about how Americans are lazy bigots and nativists, more rebates for people who never paid into the system, more caps and regulations, more tax increases, more fees,etc.

A vote for any of the three who are current members of the worst Congress in the history of the United States is just more of the same Establishment misery.

Romney is not my first choice or my second but he is my last choice between an anti-Establishment candidate and three current Establishment candidates.

That said Obama cannot win the Dem primary he cannot get the most powerful and largest voting block in America, the AARP voter.

Unfortunately, no candidate will be elected unless they can give a bunch of goodies to the most powerful and largest voting block in America, AARP is the generation which expects its Big Goverment goodies so for the time being America will have to deliver.

Romney understand this, his two strongest positions are supporting/expanding the military and 'taking care of our elderly'

Romney can win the general election because he understands who is the most powerful voting block in America.  

By Blogger Eric, at Fri Feb 01, 09:11:00 PM:


"I have more cognitive dissonance over Obama than any candidate I can remember."

Me, too. A big part of me thinks of Obama as the President I badly want - charismatic, principled and decent, serious, post-Baby Boom, multiethnic and multicultural, cosmpolitian, idealistic and progressive in the Kennedy sense. Also, he's a fellow Columbia grad. Remove the Long War from the equation, and he'd have my full support. However, the fact remains that the issue that matters the most to me is that we win the peace in the Long War. Obama's pandering to the anti-war Left deeply disturbs me.

"Obama agrees that it is important to be as careful getting in [do you mean 'out'?] as we were careless getting out [ditto for 'in'?] -- good line, but his unequivocal opposition to permanent bases both confuses me and disturbs me."

My hope is that, if Obama is President, that this turns out to be more wordplay than actually impactful. After all, are American bases in Europe and Asia "permanent" like they are in CONUS? Certainly, where I served as a soldier, in Korea, our bases explicitly are not permanent. Our military presence is conditional to the mission of defending the ROK from nK and maintaining the status quo, a mission which has lasted for nearly 60 years, with a US troop presence in Korea that is now over 60 years (since liberating Korea from Japan in WW2). A military presence does not have to be "permanent" to be in place long enough to complete the mission.

Obama presents himself as a Wilsonian progressive liberal and our mission in Iraq is a Wilsonian progressive liberal mission. The part of me that wants to support Obama is trying to convince me that once Obama deliberates upon his own principles as a serious leader, he could not - in good conscience - abandon Iraq and our critical liberal goals there for the sake of appeasing the illiberal Left.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Fri Feb 01, 09:23:00 PM:

Nice comment, Eric. And, yes, I did transpose the "in" and the "out". Oops.

I hope you are right about Obama, but I fear he is much leftier than he is letting to those of us who want to hear moderation.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Feb 01, 10:36:00 PM:

How come no one ever seems to remember that Wilson's idealist initiatives catastrophically failed and led directly to World War II? Why would anybody want to portray themselves as a 'Wilsonian?'

Further, how could you describe our Iraqi endeavor as such?  

By Blogger Eric, at Sun Feb 03, 12:41:00 AM:

Dawnfire82, something I wrote about 3.5 years ago: "Contextualizing the argument over Operation Iraqi Freedom".

Indeed, if President Bush's idealistic initiatives in the Long War fail, we'll be in a catastrophe. Let's not fail.

Tigerhawk, thanks. As far as an "oops", I just noticed I badly misspelled 'cosmopolitan' in my comment - lions and tigers, oh my. Also, the Moveon.org endorsement of Obama gave me a hard shove away from him.  

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