About That Debate Last Night

I didn’t watch the Dem debate last night, but there sure is plenty to read about it today, as the media and the blogs are all opining on it and th etopic du jour is the Clinton Pile-on (which was incredibily tacky). Chris Cillizza of the WaPo’s The Fix has his usual Winners and Losers piece up in the debate,  and he leads of with this:

The Fix grew up a HUGE fan of professional wrestling. So, it was with a mixture of fascination and glee that we watched last night’s Democratic presidential debate, which resembled nothing so much as an out and out brawl.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) spent the first hour of the debate fending off shots from her opponents and parrying pointed questions from the moderators. Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) made good on his pledge to be more aggressive against Clinton, albeit it in the low-key manner that has come to be his trademark in this campaign. Former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), on the other hand, took it directly to Clinton — challenging her at every turn and effectively ensuring that the stories coming out of the debate didn’t focus solely on Clinton versus Obama.

Even Sens. Chris Dodd (Conn.), Joe Biden (Del.) and Gov. Bill Richardson (N.M.) got in their shots — although this debate was designed (rightfully so, to our mind) to give Obama, Edwards and Clinton a chance to mix it up.

Keep reading The Fix for Cillizza’s picks on the Winners and Losers. Tom Curry at MSNBC points out that Joe Lieberman is an “unseen force in the Dems’ clash” on the Iran issue. Clinton’s vote has been explained and clarified every which way, but Edwards (who didn’t have the option to vote) and Obama (who didn’t show for the vote) are still making it an issue. The full transcript of the debate is available here.

Despite the poor reviews for Clinton, many still see her as the frontrunner to be beat and the Clinton campaign noted today in a press release that was the reasoning behind the pile-on last night. She’s still the winner, the campaign says:

What happens when the “politics of pile-on” replaces the “politics of hope?”

Hillary comes out on top.

Scarecrow on Firedoglake noted on the debate: Going Negative on Clinton Is A Mistake

If one of the cardinal rules of progressive politics is that you never repeat the talking points by which your opponents beat up on your own party, then what are we to think of last night’s Democratic debate, in which a principal tactic used by some of the non-Clintons was to repeat Republican talking points about Hillary Clinton?

I can understand why the non-Clinton Democratic candidates, having watched her pull away in recent national polls (though not in Iowa), feel obliged to challenge Senator Clinton on the merits of her positions, her Senate votes on Iraq and Iran, the soundness of her ideas, judgments and statements in contrast to their own. […]

I can’t think of any reason why any Democratic candidate should help the Republicans keep their last hopes alive. Clinton, like any politician who has actually tried to accomplish something against the political tide, has “negatives,” but I think the notion that they’re disqualifying or make her unelectable, or that she can’t overcome them is just nonsense; it flies in the face of her own history, her struggles, and her steady rise in national polls. And I think it’s a mistake for any of the Democratic candidates to buy into this, perpetuate it, and enable it, no matter how badly they want to be President.

I said here the other day, I’m tempted to say, wake me when it’s over. I’m so glad I missed the debate — really I am. Just reading the blow by blow after was enough to give me a whopping headache. The whole aspect of “going negative” in politics is a big turn-off to me. Disagree on the issues, but don’t get personal and use the other team’s talking points. When our own candidates start pulling that on each other, I’m inclined to veer towards the candidate who doesn’t use that tactic. Honestly when you at the stage and how the debate played out last night, it’s not pretty. In fact, “It just looks bad” as Tom Watson notes:  

It just looks bad – eight men versus one woman in the MSNBC Debate on Hillary Clinton tonight. It just looks bad. The strange, manic, almost desperate set-up by Tim Russert and Brian Williams. The scripted, agreed-in-advance questions (wink, wink) all about Clinton, little green softballs to the other Democratic candidates. They’ve all bought into it. The one topic of the evening? Hillary Clinton.

And Tom is not the only one who picked up on that, as he points out, so did the WaPo’s Howard Kurtz; Taylor Marsh; The Hill’s Peter Fenn;  The Daily Howler and RCP’s conservative blogger Jay Cost. Take the time to read through the links and see Jane’s post at FDL and TalkLeft. As The Hill’s Peter Fenn says, “when these questions come from opponents from her party who have one main theme — “Get Hillary” — they simply elevate her and lower them.

So indeed, who comes out on top. Perhaps the Clinton campaign has it right, despite what some pundits and bloggers may claim: Hillary comes out on top.

Stay tuned… ’08 is heating up and getting ugly. I think I need some Advil and a nap.

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7 Responses to About That Debate Last Night

  1. Pingback: About That Debate Last Night | Political news - democrats republicans socialists greens liberals conservatives

  2. Darrell Prows says:

    My newspaper had a piece by Rich Lowry this morning talking trash about Obama, and hyping Hillary. That old right wing strategy of pushing the one they think will be the weakest candidate.

    It’s really weird that they can’t seem to concede that the Dems could run anyone other than Ralph Nader and take it in a walk this time.

  3. alrudder says:

    Two things to follow are:
    1) The National Archives. If Hillary keeps her White House records under wraps, and still touts her “experience” as first lady, that will continue to dog her. At the end of the day, she can’t release them, it’d be a distraction.
    2) Immigration. It touches so many issues, hard and soft. I’m in a small minority thinking she did a good job defending Eliot Spitzer’s plan to issue drivers licenses to undocumented people. She’s stuck in that very unpopular position now, and she’ll be hammered for it.

  4. ironxl84 says:

    Interesting. “Candidate Calculator” here….

    Just answer yes/no/unsure and assign a priority level.

    http://www.vajoe.com/candidate_calculator.html

    I wasn’t surprised at my result!

    Tom

  5. As to the Archives, there was a detailed and literate response in a thread at DKos which effectively removed that as an issue. I can’t remember the details but it was complicated and a systemic analysis of the system in place for any President.

    One thing I remember, I think, is that the decision about the timeframe for release was made in 1994, far before anyone would see the need for an earlier release. I also seem to remember that is was one of 6 choices that had to made.

    I think it’s a non-issue. She’s an attorney and she’s naturally going to oppose a situation where private communications could be analyzed by opponents and ‘spun’ in any direction they wanted.

    But I’m not sure that the release is something she could accomplish at this time merely by making a new choice.

    I’ll try and find the post but I’m not good at using the search system at Dkos.

    I’m in no one’s camp at this point. Yet I think the field and the moderators demeaned themselves when they attack the frontrunner in such a one-sided manner.

  6. Ian Welsh says:

    Sad thing is, negative campaigning works. Saying “don’t go negative” is very often saying “lose gracefully”. I prefer candidates who don’t do that.

    And nothing said in the debate is 1/10th as bad as what Clinton will face in a general election. If she can’t handle it, we’d better know now.

  7. Ian Welsh

    Yes, sad thing is they do work. I happen to think this backfired some though. Time will tell.