Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Cleveland Rocks

It's the big MSNBC debate -- Obama vs. Clinton one more (final?) time!

Feel free to comment here as I do my best to live-blog!

9:03 -- Very first question is on HRC's switch from being "honored" to be with Obama to her "shame on you" line on campaign trail. HRC says that she is "standing up" for her views in the face of Obama "distortion" of her health-care plan.

9:06 -- Asked to "unequivocally" say that the Obama photo didn't come from her campaign, she says "so far as I know."

9:06 -- Obama skips the "shame" stuff and just responds to HRC on policy. Very good. BO is also very good on hammering HRC on the "mandate" issue. Makes him sound semi-free market.

9:09 -- BO pivots back to the negative campaign material that he's received from Clinton -- "but we haven't white about it, because we know that's how the game is played."

9:10 -- HRC knows that health care is her issue and she won't let him get away from it. She takes this personal. HRC says that BO mailer is "almost as if Republicans and insurance companies wrote it."

9:12 -- BO plugs all four states that are voting next week. Good move. Also slams Massachusetts plan that "fines" people who don't purchase health care (take that, HRC and Mitt Romney!).

9:13 -- HRC is preaching on health care, but is she too preachy (even cut off Brian Willaiams -- "This is too important..").

Who are the "many experts" that say HRC's health plan is better? Who are the "many experts" that say BO's is better? BO is the only one who names anyone -- Ex-Labor Secretary Robert Reich.

9:15 -- Good reminder from BO that Medicare Part D is "voluntary" (responding to Clinton charge that LBJ didn't make Medicare "voluntary")

9:18 -- Dumb move by HRC to complain that she "always gets the first question." No one cares!! Look, if you get the first question, you can parse things on your terms. Like you forced the "first 16 minutes" of this debate on health care. And referencing Saturday Night Live's skit? Pathetic. We know find out that she was "always" against NAFTA. Hmmm...did she tell Bill?

9:22 -- Obama reminds viewers that HRC said NAFTA "on balance" was good for New York and the US when she ran for Senate.

9:23 -- Russert comes back with multiple quotes emphasizing HRC's past support of NAFTA. "Your words are very different, Senator." HRC: I have plan on telling Mexico and Canada that we will "opt out" if there aren't changes. I've worked to "ameliorate" impact of NAFTA.

9:27 -- I'll do the same as HRC (hmmm...plagiarizing her answer? Heh heh.).

9:29 -- BO: "Trade can't be the only part of our economic agenda." Not a bad line. What does he address. We have to "invest" in infrastructure, "invest" in energy. But that sounds like spending is his economic agenda.

9:31 -- Is HRC "too exuberant" in pledging 5 million new jobs in 10 years. Blames inability to bring jobs to upstate New York (she promised 200,000 in 2000, while region has lost jobs in last eight years) on George W. Bush.

9:33 -- "HRC equates experience with longevity in Washington." Explains why he thought Iraq War was bad idea from beginning. This is most powerful argument against the "experience" question -- and one HRC has yet been able to answer it.

9:36 -- HRC's response this time is to give a laundry list -- Northern Ireland? Beijing? Refugees? These are examples of her "foreign policy" experience. On Iraq, "We have voted exactly the same. When we both had responsibility...when it is about not just a speech, but actions."

9:39 -- BO response on his 2002 speech: "It is not to say I told you so, but to show how I make a decision." On similarity of votes while both were in Senate: "Once we drive a bus into the ditch, there are only so many ways to get out." Obama is now saying that Bush administration is now following his Pakistan policy! Good dig at HRC on being for Iraq policy -- "until you started running for president."

9:42 -- The way Russert sets up "withdrawal" question is pretty dumb. "If Iraq says 'get out', will you do that?" Obviously, if Iraq is a sovereign nation, we would be obligated to listen to them. Pretty easy answer for both of them. HRC gets in good dig about BO not having one oversight hearing on NATO/Afghanistan. BO saying that "I only became chairman of subcommittee at beginning of this campaign -- 2007," is very weak. This is 2008! You mean, one full year has gone by and you couldn't do one hearing? Bad stumble for Obama.

9:47 -- commercial break.

9:53 -- Oops! MSNBC runs wrong clip -- uses Hillary's speech this week mocking Obama ("celestial angels will sing") to set up question to Obama. HRC must really think media is in tank for essentially giving him a fastball in responding to the "words, not actions" charge.

9:56 -- HRC: "It takes a fighter, someone who will go toe-to-toe with the special interests." HRC cites her votes against the energy bill and the bankruptcy bill -- that Obama voted for. Not bad in a Democratic primary.

9:58 -- Obama notes that HRC's "fighting" mode back in '94 meant fighting members of her own party on health plan. Zings HRC on "taking millions from those special interests" and hoping they will go away.

10:02 -- Obama's body language shows his wavering on the public finance question, but he recovers quickly and notes how many small dollar donors he has.

10:05 -- Russert uses OH Gov. Strickland's 2006 campaign on "openess" agains HRC's refusal to release tax returns. "I have been as open as I can be." Now there's a great statement. "I will work toward releasing..." Geez, why can't she give a straight answer on this?

10:09 -- Russert brings up Farrakhan question. Obama repeats denunciations of Farrakhan anti-Semitic remarks. Obama brings up Obama pastor Wright and his support of Farrakhan. Good response by Obama that he wants to restore black-Jewish relationship. Reminds viewers of role of Jews in civil rights movement.

10:12 -- HRC inserts herself into question to remind viewers of her strong rejection of New York Independence Party line because of its anti-Semitic leader Lenora Fulani. She makes distinction between her blatant rejection of Fulani and Obama's "denunciation" of Farrakhan. Obama says that if there is difference between "rejection" and "denunciation," he will "concede the point." Audience chuckles and Williams and Russert go along. HRC may have scored a good point though on the Farrakhan-Fulani distinction. Getting your opponent to concede is a "win" in formal debate.

10:18 -- Obama makes good explanation on the National Journal "most liberal senator" ranking. However, it's hard to make that explanation work against a 30-second ad that will note that NJ is a "non-partisan" periodical.

10:22 -- HRC gets question of Russia's presidential election and makes good criticism of how Bush administration has handled Putin. Obama reminds viewers of Bush's looking-into-Putin's-eyes-and-seeing-his-soul, but then remaining silent while Vlad clamped down civil liberties. Obama thinks recognition of Kosovo is a good idea.

10:25 -- HRC gets as close as she'll ever get to apologizing for her Iraq vote. Her follow-up statement allows her to touch on the many trouble-spots in the world, reminding voters that she is the best-prepared, knowledgeable candidate. BO says he would take back his "unanimous consent" on the Terri Schiavo vote. HRC gets better of that exchange. However, he gets the "conciliatory" moment this time. Says, HRC would be better president than John McCain.

10:31 -- BO says that he can bring country together in "unique" ways, including race and "religion" (will that make people think he is a Muslim)? BO once again name-checks all four states voting. HRC says, "We both bring energy and commitment." She drops the woman card -- a "sea change" -- and the "35 years of experience" (though she mentions private and public sector question).

In essence, both of ignore Brian Willams' dumb question about what the other person needs to say to voters in the coming months.

10:36 -- And that's it.

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