MSNBC Democratic Debate: Liveblogging

PHOTO: Obama and Clinton, the only two left standing

9:00
It’s on.

9:05
Clinton isn’t shying away from her weekend attacks on Obama over his characterization of her health care plan, but Clinton isn’t taking the same agitated tone.

Obama said his campaign isn’t “whining” about her attacks like Clinton’s. I’m a little surprised he said that. He doesn’t come across well when he inches closer to the gutter.

9:10
Clinton says that Obama’s characterization of her health care plan is right out of the insurance lobbyists playbook. Sounds like a stretch to me. This debate is already a bit snippy.

I still say Clinton wins this argument about mandated health care. Obama’s stance makes sense as a stepping stone towards a mandate, but a mandate or single payer should be the eventual goal. However, saying it’s a stepping stone doesn’t fit in with his rhetoric about dreaming big.

9:15
I’m a little concerned that Brian Williams is so interested in moving the debate from health care. It may not be an exciting topic, but they aren’t just retreading the same argument over and over again. Kudos to Clinton for pointing out how important the topic is.

9:20
Clinton just attacked the media for asking her the tough questions first (she even mentioned the SNL skit from this weekend). It may be true, but it sounds pathetic to complain about it. [My friend Ryan notes that the crowd was strikingly silent, no clapping, on the verge of boos]

Clinton doesn’t have a good answer for supporting NAFTA, she just rambled the question away. Obama doesn’t carry the baggage on this issue, clearly a winner for him.

9:25
Clinton may be deflecting on the issue of NAFTA, but Tim Russert is playing gotchya. Almost makes me feel sorry for her.

Obama’s response plays up his sympathy to workers in America. Squeezes in a low key attack on Bush’s dedication to helping out rich businesses.

9:30
Tim Russert mentions his home in Buffalo. Another tough question for Clinton. It looks like MSNBC’s response to Clinton’s complaint about her treatment in the media is more tough questions.

9:35
“How were her comments unfair?” – Brian Williams to Obama

More seriously though, Clinton’s best line of attack should be on foreign policy experience. However, Obama’s line about having better judgment seems to ring true. Clinton’s explanation for supporting the Iraq invasion hurts her a lot. She basically admits she was duped by Bush. Her attack on Obama’s stance on Pakistan was cheap. She said he threatened to bomb them. That’s quite a simplification.

9:40
“She was ready to give in on Day One to George Bush” – Obama

Obama just called her BS on the issue of attacking Al Qaeda in Pakistan. Good for him. He makes a good point about Clinton’s Iraq stance not being different enough from John McCain for the general election.

I’m glad both Obama and Clinton agreed that if Iraq asked us to leave, we should.

9:45

“What if Iraq goes to hell?” – Tim Russert

Iraq isn’t already hell?

Obama makes a vague statement about reserving the right to use the military anywhere at any time to protect American interests. I wish he would narrow that to lives instead of the nebulous interests.

9:55
MSNBC plays the clip where Hillary Clinton mocks the message of hope by giving a sarcastic version of Obama’s speeches. Obama’s response was classically disarming: “Sounds good.” Even Hillary had to laugh.

Obama says he’s not all talk and that he does have plans. Clinton says her sarcastic speech was an attempt at “fun.” Uh huh.

Clinton says she’s a fighter and has a plan to bring back $55 billion from special interest giveaways and invest that money in the middle class. That’s a pretty low number in my opinion. How much do we spend in Iraq each day? To be fair, Obama’s not much better on the issue of wasteful military spending.

10:00
Obama’s attack on Hillary makes sense. She does take credit for all the good parts of the Bill Clinton years, and then says she secretly opposed all the bad parts (like NAFTA).

Russert asks why Obama is “waffling” on public financing in the general election. Obama says he will pursue it with McCain, but that it has to be a fair deal.

10:05
It does seem fishy that Clinton won’t release her tax returns. Her excuse about being too “busy” sounds baaaad.

Obama had the perfect response to Louis Farrakhan’s endorsement. He doesn’t like Farrakhan, or what he says, but he can’t force Farrakhan to not endorse him.

Tim Russert has now asked three questions basically equating to “why won’t Jews hate you now?” And now Russert has included blanket support for Israel as a sort of litmus test. Tim, thanks for making the American media seem even more crazy.

10:10
Clinton says shes more anti-anti-Semitic and pro-Israel than Obama. Obama just disarmed her again (he even garnered audience applause) by pointing out she was playing word games over their respective levels of renunciation of anti-Semitic groups.

10:20
Obama says the way things are categorized as liberal and conservative, Republican and Democratic, is wrong. He asks why ethics reform should be liberal; makes sense to me.

Obama and Clinton agree the new president of Russia will likely be a puppet of Putin. They both think we haven’t pushed Russia enough toward human rights.

10:25
Obama would work with NATO to keep Russia from using its military to takeover Kosovo. He makes a strong nod toward the “international system.” Iraq war Republicans everywhere are likely shocked and horrified Obama wouldn’t act unilaterally.

Hillary Clinton admits she would want her Iraq vote back. She says she’s said that before. Does anyone know if that’s true?

Obama would want his Terry Schiavo vote back. He says the entire affair was unconstitutional.

10:30
Solid closing statement from Obama about the need to return a sense of public service to Washington. Steals a bit from Clinton’s playbook by saying he’s honored to run against her.

10:35
Clinton repeats her line that it’s been an honor to run against Obama. It rings a little more hollow after her attacks this weekend. Solid closing otherwise.

My Conclusion
The debate was snippier than the last week’s in terms of emotion, but it was still civil in terms of substance. Overall, I think Obama came out better in this debate. Clinton was understandably forced to attack Obama, but he was able to deflect all of her attacks with style and charm.

On the details, Clinton won, as usual, on healthcare, but I think she came across worse than Obama on just about everything else. She spent too much time playing defense against her position on NAFTA, Iraq, and lobbyists. Obama just has the more ideologically pure stance on these issues and it helps.

I don’t think there are going to be any major shifts in momentum as a result of tonight. That hurts Clinton more than anything else, if she does need to win Texas and Ohio by large margins as her campaign contends.

Flickr photo by Why Tuesday? Saturation effect added by yours truly.

13 Comments

  1. Tonights debate wasnt much better, alot of mudsinging and what-if questions.

  2. dr.e

    Hi there, I noticed y our comment at TMV and followed your link to here. I liked your psychological insights about tough/ soft, badgering etc. Good overview

    Dr. E
    from The Moderate Voice

  3. George Sorwell

    I also came from TMV, and I also thought this was a good job!

  4. Chris

    Thanks!

  5. Ian

    Do they really need to keep having these debates? Has something new come up that they really need to talk about? The only new crap I see is how they choose to criticize each other. Is it necessary to see them discuss that?

    And who cares about Hillary’s tax returns? Why do you assume that its bad if she doesn’t show them? I don’t see you posting yours on here, so maybe your opinions are null and void.

    You love Obama so much, but half of the things he seems to be winning on aren’t really fair, like NAFTA and voting for the Iraq war. I don’t think its fair to call Hillary out on NAFTA and act like Obama wouldn’t have done the same thing at the time. She can’t come out and say now that she doesn’t support that decision because it makes her look weak and like a “flip-flopper”. But its easy for Obama, since he’s new and can just take whatever the current most popular stance is because he wasn’t there. They call out Hillary on Iraq, but at the time she was making the popular decision. Its stupid, the American people wanted the war because of the propaganda machine, and now that its gone bad they are going to go after her like she should’ve resisted them. Obama, again, wasn’t there to vote on it. Its a stupid issue to be even talking about. The wide majority of the Congress voted to give Bush the means to go to war. Why aren’t they all out of office now? Why can’t we just focus on what needs to be done with the war, not the childish notion of who started it? On many things, I actually agree with McCain’s stance on Iraq, so I’m not bothered that Hillary has a similar view.

    This is what kills me: “Obama just has the more ideologically pure stance on these issues and it helps.”

    Its certainly easy to be ideological when you haven’t been around in the government for very long. Theres a really big difference between ideology and practicality. She is right, the dude is completely all talk. Just go to his campaign website. The first thing you see is all this stuff about hope and believing. I can’t find the article right now but I have read his door-to-door people are instructed not to talk about any of Obama’s actual policies, but to only reiterate stuff about hope and change. I don’t dislike him, and I sincerely hope he means what he says, but he sounds like a freaking cult leader sometimes.

  6. Chris

    And who cares about Hillary’s tax returns? Why do you assume that its bad if she doesn’t show them? I don’t see you posting yours on here, so maybe your opinions are null and void.

    Obama released his returns, it’s a gesture of openness. They are running for public office, not me. And for the record, I take more of an issue with her response, which was a pathetic lie “I’m too busy” as if she doesn’t have people that handle her taxes for her.

    I don’t think its fair to call Hillary out on NAFTA and act like Obama wouldn’t have done the same thing at the time.

    That may be true, but she should at least have the integrity to admit she was wrong then and has changed her mind. It’s like it would kill her to avoid showing any weakness. In contrast, Obama admits he was wrong to get entangled with that Rezko slum lord guy. It’s certainly better than Clinton claiming she secretly opposed it while publicly supporting it up to at least 2002.

    They call out Hillary on Iraq, but at the time she was making the popular decision. Its stupid, the American people wanted the war because of the propaganda machine, and now that its gone bad they are going to go after her like she should’ve resisted them.

    In the terms you describe, it shows that Hillary lacks the ability to lead. If she thought Iraq was a bad idea, she should have come out and said so. She could then vote for the war and say she was just pleasing her constinuency. She didn’t do that, until last night she hasn’t even admitted her vote was a mistake.

    Why can’t we just focus on what needs to be done with the war, not the childish notion of who started it?

    It’s a question of judgement. She fell for the war hype without as much as a peep. And worst of all, she didn’t even review the intelligence estimate before voting to give authorization for the war. If Clinton won’t even do her homework before invading another country, why should we trust her to head military?

    Its certainly easy to be ideological when you haven’t been around in the government for very long. Theres a really big difference between ideology and practicality. She is right, the dude is completely all talk.

    Obama’s been a legislator for just as long as she has been, just not at the national level. The Clinton’s have both staked their political fate on walking the centrist line.

    As for ideology vs. practicality, I want to know what’s Clinton’s done that’s so great. It’s just conventional wisdom that she is more experienced and has greater achievements. They are both light weights in that category from where I’m sitting.

  7. Ian

    While I don’t support it, you know how the Congress acted between 9/11 and Iraq. It was whatever Bush wanted with no dissent, otherwise you would appear to be weakening the country in what was probably the most trying time in the past 30 years. Solidarity, at the time, was seen as more important than anything. While naive, its not crazy for people to think they should trust the president. We couldn’t, at the time, say that he was lying. And as for reviewing the intelligence? You know it was all doctored and hand picked.

    You and I both know that Hillary has far more experience at the Federal level than Obama. There’s a big difference between being a legislator and being the president. If you are going to say they are equal on that front, why hold her accountable for NAFTA?

    What has Clinton done that is so great? She has been upfront about who she is and what she stands for. Whether good or bad. If we elect her or McCain, we know exactly what we are getting. If we elect Obama, its a roll of the dice.

  8. Chris

    And as for reviewing the intelligence? You know it was all doctored and hand picked.

    Having not read the 2002 NIE on Iraq myself, I can’t say for sure. But I know I’ve heard it said that the meat of the NIE did not change. What did change, and wildly so, were the conclusions of the NIE. If Clinton or her staff had studied the NIEs, that should have raised red flags.

    Besides all that, you don’t need secret intelligence to know that Iraq is historically a divided nation, and that previous attempts to occupy the area were quagmires for Western powers like Great Britain. There are also opinions from the leaders of the first Bush administration that said invading Iraq would be a big mistake. Clinton should have asked herself what had changed since 1992 that would make an invasion more favorable now.

    You and I both know that Hillary has far more experience at the Federal level than Obama. There’s a big difference between being a legislator and being the president.

    I’m not convinced there is a huge difference between being a state senator and a U.S. senator. As far as presidential experience, I don’t believe being first lady is the same thing. They’ve both met with foreign leaders, and wasn’t her big health care initiative a huge failure?

    What has Clinton done that is so great? She has been upfront about who she is and what she stands for. Whether good or bad. If we elect her or McCain, we know exactly what we are getting. If we elect Obama, its a roll of the dice.

    So, she is all talk and no results? 🙂

    What about Obama’s political positions are unclear?

  9. Ian

    I think its just to the point where I’m gonna sit back, accept the fact that Obama is the candidate, and accept that theres a lot of people out there who buy into his style of advertising like people buy into Apple products. I’m just gonna stay away from posts like this from now on. No use in arguing with you. You’ve had an Oboner for quite sometime now. All thats left to decide for me is Obama or McCain.

  10. Chris

    I don’t think he’s a perfect candidate by any means, but I just don’t think Hillary is better in any single way I can think of.

  11. Ian

    I think you should be more willing to call him on his crap too.

  12. Chris

    I will certainly endeavor to be objective when discussing Obama.

  13. Ian

    Here:

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-campaign_04mar04,0,5412950.story

    Here’s some important passages:

    “Obama and his campaign had initially denied a Canadian television report from late last month that Obama’s top economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee, had met with Canadian government officials in Chicago and told them Obama’s call for reopening labor and environmental rules in NAFTA was merely campaign rhetoric.”

    and

    “He cautioned that this messaging should not be taken out of context and should be viewed as more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans.”

    I don’t particularly care which one of the Democrats wins, as neither is really ideal. Obama has some shit to answer for too though.