It's 9:08 and I just tuned in.
John Edwards has pledged to remove combat troops from Iraq but plans to keep a presence there, referring to "the embassy". Unfortunately, this is that half-trillion dollar Xanadu being constructed there. Russert looks like hell. His hair is a mess and beads of sweat are dripping down his brow. You'd never see Bill Maher looking like this.
9:09 - Richardson draws a difference between himself and the "top 3" by saying their approach is to change the mission, whereas his is to end the war. He disagrees with Clinton that Congress has done enough to end this war. This is clearly going to be Try To Damage Hillary night. Richardson says it's our very presence in Iraq causing instability in the region.
9:11 - Dodd says the question is whether the military involvement is making us more secure, and the answer is no. He's good; his experience shows. He pledges to get all troops out of Iraq by 2013.
9:13: Biden reminds Russert that his amendment was voted down today. He seems disgusted by all the talk and all the gamesmanship. He reminds people that our continuing presence in Bosnia has stopped the genocide with no American casualties.
9:15 - Kucinich reminds us that he's the only one on the stage who voted against the war. He's the Don Quixote of this race, and frankly, the only "ideologically pure" progressive up there. His plan is detailed, well-thought-out, and utterly impossible. And after he finishes, he grins like a kid who just spelled a word right at the spelling bee.
9:16 - Grandpa Simpson is asked, what advice would you give your colleagues to stop the war even though they don't have the votes. He says they should vote every day on cloture; vote to override the president's veto. Anyone who says the votes aren't there, grab them by the scruff of the neck then make them vote. Gravel is a pain in the ass, but he has the luxury of truth. Good for Grandpa, he brings up the Lieberman/Kyl amendment. He congratulates Biden and Dodd for voting no, and chastises Clinton for voting yes and Obama for not showing up. Hillary responds with her Fox News laugh, which is becoming extremely irritating, because it drips with arrogance and contempt. Hillary regards the amendment as putting "teeth" into our dealings with Iran. [Insert your own vagina dentata joke here.]
9:20 - Dodd says that clarity of leadership is important, and that if you're going to run for president, you have to be prepared to lead -- gee, I wonder who he's talking about?
9:21 - Russert asks Hillary about whether Israel would be justified in launching an attack on Iran if its security were threatened by a nuclear presence in Iran. Hillary doesn't let Russert finish the question, then says she's not going to answer it. She says Israel's attack on Syria was justified. Russert asks if Hillary will use any means to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Hillary replies that she will use diplomacy, economic sanctions, and direct talks that haven't been tried yet. She still hasn't answered the question, so Russert asks Obama. Obama says Iran is stronger than before the Iraq war, BECAUSE of the Iraq war. Obama seems skeptical of the intelligence about North Korea's weapons in Syria. He talks about divestiture of investment in Iran. Russert gets partisan and accusing him of not wanting to promise the American people that he will use any means necessary to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Obama replies that we haven't tried diplomacy.
9:26 - Same question to Edwards. He reminds Russert that Ahmadinejad is unpopular even in his own country, and expresses confidence that we can work with Europe to isolate him. He latches onto Gravel's point about the Lieberman/Kyl amendment. He repeats that he voted for the war and admits he was wrong -- and that Hillary voted for the Iraq war and hasn't admitted it. He notes that with this history, you cannot give this president even the first step in war authority, because he can't be trusted. Russert has no comment. This is a very good answer by Edwards, because he sets him apart from the warhawk Hillary and the mealy-mouthed Obama by telling it like it is: you cannot work with George W. Bush, and you cannot give him anything.
9:29 - Richardson advocates talking to moderate clerics and business leaders in Iran. Russert sees an opportunity and asks Richardson if Israel would be justified in attacking Iran. Richardson babbles about a middle east peace process and says "diplomacy" about 100,000 times.
Now a question from outside the punditocracy: Here comes the illegal immigrant question -- would you allow cities to be "sanctuary cities"? The question is for Richardson, who sourly-with-a-smile asks if he got the question because he's the only Hispanic on the stage. Richardson advocates a legalization program in which those here illegally can gain legal status. Then he talks about increasing the H-1B quota,which has absolutely nothing to do with illegal immigration. And he's just lost every IT worker in the country.
9:33 - Biden points out that the Administration hasn't provided funding for existing laws and says that Giuliani doesn't know what the hell he's talking about, "he's the most uninformed person on American foreign policy currently running for president." This gets a lot of applause. Rudy may be doing well in the flyover states, but here in the Godless Heathen Liberal Northeast, we know what a blowhard empty suit he is.
9:36 - Russert asks if anyone would NOT allow sanctuary cities to exist -- setting up nicely for the Republican campaign ad. Kucinich says "of course". Obama blames the current government for not creating "a ratinoal immigration system." Hillary talks about the implications of not having sanctuary cities in terms of underreporting crimes. Gravel notes that we're scapegoating Latinos because we're failing in education, health care, infrastructure, and invading countries and that we should be welcoming the world. Russert is clearly looking to provide material for the Republicans to use in campaign ads, and Gravel is looking for -- I don't know what -- but he sure makes me wish he wasn't just the crazy old man in the attic, because he's behaving like a Greek chorus representing the party's conscience.
9:43 - Nice rimshot for Chris Dodd, when asked about his response to Bush's comments about Hillary making a good president. Dodd says that last time Bush said that we got Heckuva Job Brownie. Hillary does her Fox News Laugh again.
9:46 - Hillary says she wants to be the healthcare president.
Is John Edwards still running? You wouldn't know it from this debate. Gravel is getting more face time than he is. If you needed any further proof that Edwards is the candidate who scares the punditocracy to death, it's this debate.
9:48 - Biden points out that Hillary will have more trouble than anyone else getting major health care reform through because of her history. He makes a point of emphasizing that when he talks about "old stuff" coming up, he's talking about policy.
9:49 - Ooh! Edwards IS still running. He talks about how Obama and Clinton are going to give everyone a seat at the health care policy table EXCEPT THOSE WHO WOULD BE INSURED! Good point. He reiterates that under his administration, if Congress do not pass universal health care, he will take away theirs. Russert attacks him for "changing" from earlier talk of just universal care for children.
9:51 - Obama gets the "experience and judgment" question. Russert asks why if it didn't make sense for him to run for higher office in 2004, why does it now? Obama says he's the one who can bring the country together. (Bill O'Reilly might beg to differ.) Now he talks about being the one who can bring Republicans and Democrats together. Oh. So you mean together like the Lieberman/Kyl amendment today? Like capitulating to everything the Republicans want together? This is the kind of creeping Joe Liebermanism that I see in Obama that keeps him from being the strong candidate he could be.
9:54 - Well, it's about time something funny happened. Gravel says he stuck the credit card companies with $90,000 in credit card debt when he went bankrupt, in a new definition of virtue.
Boy, Russert is really digging into everything these people have done wrong in their entire lives. I wonder if he'll do the same with the Republicans? And I can't wait to see what he asks Hillary on this front. Chris Matthews was already behaving in his short segment on Countdown
as if he were in love with her, presumably trying to ensure access. Let's see if Russert does the same.
9:58 - Richardson is babbling.
10:00 - Do you know where your children are? Are they reading a book about same-sex marriage? Would you want your children to read such a book.
10:01: YAY! Edwards says absolutely. But he strangely detaches himself and his own emotional state from his children, saying that he wants his two young children to reach the same conclusion that his daughter Cate and his wife have, and not the one he has. I don't know if his position of eliminating DOMA and DADT and mandating benefits for same-sex couples is going to be enough for the gay community, and it does seem kind of strange that he hasn't been able to make that leap. It's sort of like recognizing you're a racist but not quite being able to leave racism behind. I don't quite get it.
Next up: Social Security. Russert asks Biden if the entire income of all Americans should be taxed. Duh. Biden says a definitive yes, and ever the egomaniac, he reminds Russert that he was in the room when the retirement age was raised.
Same question to Hillary, who goes into a speech. She reminds us that Bill Clinton left a budget surplus. She wants another bipartisan process. Excuse me, Hillary, but have you been in the Seante the last few years? There is no such thing as bipartisanship with this bunch, certainly not where Social Security is concerned. This is odd -- she says she would take everything off the table until the budget is returned to fiscal responsibility and a bipartisan process takes place. In other words, the twelfth of never.
Same question to Obama, who favors lifting the cap. He points out the young people who don't think Social Security will be there for them. (Note to Gen-Xers: Pssst....we don't think it's going to be there for us either.)
Same question to Dodd, who brings up the importance of health care, financial education and pension security as related issues. He's the only one who has said explicitly that privatization is off the table.
Richardson says you don't need to lift the cap. I wish Russert would let these people answer the question. Is this the Tim Russert show, or a debate? It feels odd that Richardson doesn't get the same boos at his advocacy of a Constitutional amendment to balance the budget that he did at Yearly Kos. But now he's babbling about growing the economy through environmental research and education. He sounds like thomas Friedman.
Same question to Edwards: Can you grow your way out of this? "Absolutely not." He says the American people deserve to hear the truth. "Why would you believe a bunch of politicians who say the same thing over and over?" He would create a protective zone between $97,000 and $200,000 for middle-income two-income couples, but he says someone making $50 million shouldn't have a $97,000 cap.
Kucinich is now channelling FDR, talking about a new WPA. He advocates raising the cap and LOWERING the retirement age. It would have sounded less nutty if he'd talked about the latter in the context of older workers being shunted out of the work force.
Chris Dodd thinks it's possible to go back to the days when Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill could sit down and hammer out legislation.
Gee, was Hillary's husband president? I'd forget that if she didn't remind me every 20 minutes.
God, Russert is annoying.
Kucinich: "We've all been breathing a lot of second-hand smoke tonight." Zing!
This is a college town, so a question is asked about returning the drinking age question back to the states. This, and the previous question about national laws banning smoking in public places, are the Dumbass Questions of the Night. And by the way, the drinking age issue WILL come up again if there's a military draft.
Does anyone else find it odd that NOTHING IS BEING ASKED ABOUT THE JENA 6????
Why the hell are they wasting time on questions about changing the drinking age, and why the hell is Richardson answering a question about the drinking age, by talking about stem cell research, and why the hell are we not talking about what the Jena 6 case, and what this case, and Don Imus, and Bill O'Reilly, say about the state of race relations in this country?
Oh God, they're back with more. I want to go to sleep.
The lightning round:
If I had a drink every time Obama talked about ending divisive politics, I wouldn't be able to go to work tomorrow.
Russert asks Hillary if it's healthy for this country to have a 2-family political dynasty. Hillary says Bill was a pretty good president, and wild applause results. She's running the campaign Gore should have in 2000. But it's till not health.
Oh, Jesus fucking Christ. Russert asks if Moveon has been a positive force. Biden punts.
Kucinich reminds Russert that he was saying about Iraq four years ago what Alan Greenspan says now. Time runs out, and he says "...or you could have a persident who's tall." He's cute, but he's just not serious.
Gravel advocates a carbon tax. He reminds me of George Carlin's old routine about "wanna...."
Russert asks Dodd if he favors a moratorium of imports of Chinese toys until their safety can be confirmed. Dodd gets a chuckle when he says "If you promise not to tell my daughters, I will."
FINALLY! A Jena 6 question, but it goes to the black guy. Russert asks if he should have been more active in the protests, and he says no, he was busy in DC trying to end the war in Iraq. Good answer. He said the issue is to make the justice system work for all Ameridans.
This seems to be the "Meet the Press" debate. If you've appeared on Russert's Sunday show, you get a lot of face time. Hence, lots of time for Richardson, Biden, Dodd and Kucinich. Obama and Edwards, not being the frontrunner and not being Russert's drinking buddies, get the short end of the stick here. Of course Russert is also trying mightily to make Hillary the nominee.
Gee, is John Edwards running? Ah yes, he gets a question. Would he be in favor of developing nuclear power in the United States? Terse answer: "No."
Listening to Obama speak, I get the sense that an Obama presidency would have a lot of blue ribbon committees and group discussions and not get anything done.
Have I mentioned tonight how much I hate Tim Russert? What an ass. He brings up the "If we captured the #3 in Al Qaeda, and there was a bomb, and he knew where it was, wouldn't we be justified in beating it out of him?" Biden hits this one out of the park, pointing out that it doesn't work and it gives us bad information. Russert ignores his response.
This question is ridiculous. It's like the old George Carlin bit from Class Clown
where the kid comes up with this ridiculously convoluted scenario where it would be impossible to receive communion because you're on a ship at sea, and then the chaplain goes into a coma, and asks, "Would that then be a sin then, fadda?"
What debate would be complete without a reference to Norman Hsu? I am not going to vote for Hillary Clinton under any circumstances, but Russert asks if Hillary would favor revealing all donors to the Clinton Library.
Oh, Russert, go fuck yourself. Now he asks Edwards about Haircuts and Hedge Funds. Edwards is pissed. He reminds Russert of what he comes from and that he's spent his life fighting for people like those he grew up with. He says he's not ashamed of his success. If I were him I'd climb over the podium and punch that sanctimonious asshole pumpkinhead right in the mouth. Russert isn't giving up. Edwards scares the shit out of him, and he's not taking the bait. Good for Edwards, he's taking the hedge fund question head-on. Yay!
Russert, go double-fuck yourself. Now he asks Obama what his favorite Bible verse is, and he says the Sermon on the Mount. Why is this question even being asked? Why is this relevant? And why doesn't any of these people have the guts to ask Russert why this matters?
The baseball question wraps it up. Oh, please. Last time I checked the Mets game they had blown a 5-run lead and were losing 7-6. Hillary says she's been a Yankees fan for a long time, which Chris Matthews will dig into for tomorrow's Hardball
and if she has ever expressed any affinity for the Red Sox, he'll ask if she has the integrity to be president.
Oh, thank God, it's over. Bible verses? WTF??? NOTHING about global warming. NOTHING about FISA. NOTHING about the Constitution. Only one question about the Jena 6 and that to the black guy.
Interesting....the consensus among the MSNBC talking heads is that Edwards, despite his lack of face time, emerged as the "Hillary Alternative" tonight. Imagine what he could have accomplished had Russert not been so determined to deny him any more time than was absolutely necessary.
If you asked me if I'd rather sit through this debate again or have root canal, I'd take the root canal. At least I get nitrous there.
Labels: 2008 election, Democrats