Wolf Blitzer is still blabbing... 8 minutes into it! He's stumbling oddly. What the hell?
8:23 ET: Clinton sounds stressed and intense. When Obama speaks, she turns and faces him, as if her sheer presence might intimidate him. When it's her turn, she challenges him on multiple grounds, including his recent praise of Reagan.
8:26: Obama tries to respond, and Hillary interrupts him and denies that she referred to his statement about Reagan. She's trying to throw him off and make him lose his cool. He'd started out the debate seeming quite relaxed, maybe too relaxed. Now, he's sizzling. Edwards is begging to get a chance to speak. But Hillary has been attacked, so she has the right to respond. "We're just getting warmed up," she says with some relish. It gets very tense, but at some point both Hillary and Obama are saying that Reagan's ideas may have been distinctive and transformative, but they were bad ideas. Shaking things up, Hillary throws in the charge that Obama represented a "slum landlord" in Chicago. Obama fails to insist on his right to respond, and Blitzer picks this point to let Edwards in. Obama was wronged there, I think.
8:39: Lots of talk about the mortgage problems, and then Blitzer goes back to the "slum landlord" issue and gives Obama a chance to respond. (Not that he has much to say about it... which is perhaps why he didn't demand response time earlier.)
8:43: "You never take responsibility for any vote," says Hillary to Obama. She keeps up the pressure, accusing him of always having an "explanation" for his bad votes. There are all those "present" votes, she says, and we need a straight answer. Hillary came into this debate well-armed, and she's succeeding in throwing him off. Obama is sweating visibly.
9:04: "Of course, the surge was able to pacify some parts of Iraq" — Hillary slips in the concession that the surge worked, even as she is saying that there is no military solution. It just goes to show you can say everything if you really try.
9:07: Edwards wants to know if the others will commit — as he has — to removing all combat troops from Iraq in their first year. Obama goes first and blows a lot of smoke. I don't hear a "yes." Blitzer doesn't pin him down. Was that a yes or a no? Now, it's Hillary's turn, and she waffles too. But, to me, Edwards is the one with the worst substantive position here. Nevertheless, I must say that Obama and Hillary were asked a simple question, neither answered, and they got away with it.
9:11: After the break: Fisticuffs!
9:15: We return from commercials to see that they are rearranging the furniture. Wolf Blitzer informs us that they are rearranging the furniture. I'm annoyed. They had plenty of time to rearrange the furniture during the commercials. Why am I supposed to watch them rearrange furniture? Of course, the break isn't over. This was pure fakery. We're supposed to be titillated by Wolf's repeated assertions that after the break there will be no rules. So put up with some more break, will you?
9:23: Hillary says she's on a "mission." I think the other 2 said they were on a mission as well. This "no rules" part of the debate seems like squishy blather. Or is it me, losing my focus?
9:28: "A race where you've got an African American, a woman... and John."
9:31: "Do you think Bill Clinton was our first black President?" Funny to hear Obama asked that straight out. Bill Clinton had a great "affinity" for black people, he says. He goes on about white southern men, growing up through changing times in the south. Hillary nods knowingly in the background. Obama: "I would have to investigate more Bill's dancing abilities... before I could accurately judge whether he is in fact a brother."
9:40: Is Bill Clinton too big of a presence in Hillary's campaign? Blah, blah, blah, "at the end of the day," blah, blah, blah, she's the one who is running for President. And "ultimately, it's really not about any of us"... it's about people... and their stories... Total non-answer. Ridiculous.
9:47: Edwards: Who will be tough enough and strong enough? Who can go everywhere in America and compete — head to head — with John McCain? I give him credit for trying. In this context, how is he supposed to say the white man is the best bet?
9:51: Obama says he can beat John McCain too. He can "attract independents and some Republicans." Yeah! Obama is the one of the 3 who's most likely to interest non-Democrats, because he's a different kind of candidate. And Hillary can get some because she's more of a centrist. Edwards is the least likely to get them, I think. For some reason, Obama announces that he's "a proud Christian" and gets big applause. "A proud Christian" — is that a good phrase? I thought "pride" was a sin.
10:00: Doesn't this thing end after 2 hours? One more question... "on this important day." Why would Martin Luther King — if he were alive today, and unfortunately he's not — vote for you? Edwards: poverty, poverty, poverty. This question provided on more opportunity for Edwards to say "poverty." Obama: "I don't think Dr. King would endorse any of us." I like that. Hillary: change, values, blah, blah... And it's over.
POST-DEBATE UPDATE: Here's video — via Instapundit — of that first big interchange between Hillary and Obama:
Obama quote I noticed this time: "I can't tell who I'm running against sometimes." This was after Hillary claimed she never mentioned Ronald Reagan and brushed off whatever Bill may have said.