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.

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