Ooh, I've still got the song "Mrs. Robinson" running through my head. It was playing on the radio as I drove off to work today. But now it's evening and I'm -- as Paul Simon wrote -- "going to the candidate's debate." Not going, really. Watching on TV. I said I'd "simulblog," but, truth be known, this is just a TiVo-blog, and I may just fast forward through some of the candidates. And I'm starting on delay. I don't want to deceive you, my friends. Let's start now.
FIRST ADDITION. Mike Gravel? The hell? I was trying to count up who the 8 were. I'd forgotten Dodd. Gravel... that's news to me. I didn't even know he was still alive!
We're told they will be limited to 60 second answers. Cool!
The first question is to Hillary Clinton. She's asked about Harry Reid's statement that the Iraq war is lost. Does she agree? She avoids answering, instead choosing to talk about how the Congress has voted to end the war and how "proud" she is of that. She refers to Reid as "Leader Reid." She sounds hoarse. It's entirely scripted. The 60 seconds expires, the question unanswered.
SECOND ADDITION. Biden is given the same question and he, like her, reels out a scripted, nonresponsive answer. Now Obama, in an indication that he's more of a serious candidate than Biden, is given a new question. He's quoted as saying the war in Iraq is "dumb" and asked to square that with the sacrifices of the troops. He expresses pride that he's always opposed the war. He talks about the importance of equipment. I'm struck by how quickly he speaks. He sounds different from the way he has sounded in his solo appearances.
Edwards is asked about his apology for voting for the war and a statement he made about the need for an honest leader who will admit mistakes: was he talking about Hillary? He says "no." So much for honesty! Edwards is fast off the mark with a lie. A lie about honesty. We need someone who will restore our trust, he says.
THIRD ADDITION. We go back to Clinton, because she was attacked (though Edwards tried to act like it wasn't an attack). She says she takes "responsibility" for her vote and that she would not have voted as she did if she knew what she knows now. The real question, she says -- correctly! -- is "what do we do now?" But then she runs Bush down for "stubbornly" refusing to accede to the "will of the American people," which makes me wish I could ask her whether she thinks the role of the President is to adopt the military strategy that the polls show the people preferring (which would be completely incompetent).
Kucinich says we shouldn't fund the war.
FOURTH ADDITION. Richardson is asked if he would fund the troops if he were in Congress. He says "no." The war is a "disaster." He would "withdraw all of our troops" by the end of the year. But he'd apply "intensive diplomacy" that would have the three religious factions working out their problems. He'd have a "security conference" that would include Iran and Syria. And he'd have other countries take over the reconstruction and security. Okaaaay. He's for magic. Great.
Chris Dodd talks fast. Gravel would "find another way." He'd "make it a felony to stay there," he says, sounding nutty.
FIFTH ADDITION. Obama is asked what "a mission complete status in Iraq" would mean. He avoids the question and sounds stressed and clipped in a way that is, again, different from the way he has sounded in his more controlled, individual appearances. He taps into some prepared tape loops about the "strain" on the military and sounds a little desperate. He's scowling. He says we're "one vote away, we are one signature away, or 16 votes away from ending this war." He avoids the question and consumes all his time. He really seems too green and unprepared for this.
Clinton is given time for "rebuttal"! But nothing was aimed at her. She must feel great. Everyone wants to know what she thinks, and Obama is not looking good. She doesn't answer the question either though. She repeats the idea that the President is intrasigent. Ho-hum.
SIXTH ADDITION. Obama is asked about a seemingly corrupt deal.
Edwards is asked about the haircuts. It was a mistake to pay for them out of campaign funds. He does a good job of saying that he lives a "blessed" life now, but "it's not where I come from." He tells a folksy anecdote about having to leave a restaurant when he was a child because his father couldn't afford the prices he saw on the menu. He's asked about hedge funds and how they could be "helping America." I don't think he answers.
Hillary is given a shot at the hedge fund question. She praises the market economy and the regulation of it. She segues into talk about New York and its manifold interests.
Richardson is asked about his statement that he's taking a long time to think about what to do about Gonzales "because he's Hispanic." "He came from nothing. I know the guy. Did it affect that he was Hispanic in what I said? Yeah, it did." People want "candor," not "blow-dried perfection."
SEVENTH ADDITION. Gravel sounds wacky. He's wasting our time. Or worse. Everyone who dies in Iraq is "dying in vain." He's passionate and angry about that.
Clinton is asked about the unfavorable opinion people have of her. She says it's that she's stuck to what she believes. Among other things: universal health care. America is ready for that.
EIGHTH ADDITION: Sorry for the delay getting through this. Life beckons! Okay... now they're going to talk about abortion. Blah, blah, blah... complexity. They all support the right to privacy but also try to show respect to those who care about the right to life. A few candidates are asked who their favorite Supreme Court Justice is. The official answer seems to be: Ginsburg.
The Virginia Tech question: what should government do. This leads only to talk of gun control. They're asked if they've owned guns. Those who have are: Gravel, Richardson, Biden, Dodd, and -- hey! -- Kucinich.
NINTH ADDITION. A question about the Confederate flag in South Carolina. No answer of significance. A question about what mistakes they will admit to. I'm getting bored and burnt out. There's still another half hour to go. Maybe I'll come back to this tomorrow. But I've had all I can take for one night. (This is the problem with TiVo, of course. I stop it to write something, and before you know it, 90 minutes expands into 4 hours!)