7:58 ET: I am so ready for this. It's do or die time for Hillary. And I'm watching the debate with a big Hillary supporter. I want to see some major action in the first 20 minutes. MSNBC is banging drums and hyping the debate (which starts in an hour). They show a picture of Jonah Goldberg and call him a "clown" who compared Obama to Hitler. I think the sensible people will switch over to "American Idol" and then return to MSNBC when this silliness is over.
9:01: "Oh, the debate."
9:04: Brian Williams plays Hillary the "I am absolutely honored" from the last debate followed by the "shame!" routine from the other day. What's with the mood swings? It's a "contested" campaign, she says and segues into a discussion of health insurance. The follow-up is about the "native garb" photo of Obama. Hillary doesn't know where it came from and doesn't condone it. Obama accepts her assertion about the "native garb" photo. Both of them derail Williams's plan and make this whole huge segment of the debate about the details of their rival health care programs. It's one filibuster after another.
9:19: Hillary seems to think that her getting the first question again is worthy of note, and she makes a clumsy reference to "Saturday Night Live," something about Barack Obama needing "another pillow." I don't like this infantalizing of Obama, and I don't her acting like people are picking on her. Tim Russert is struggling with her over NAFTA now, really trying to pin her down. Is she ready to opt out of NAFTA in 6 months? She says yes — unless it can be renegotiated on labor and environmental standards. This sounds harsh, but since Obama proceeds to agree with her entirely, it's not a point of distinction and should have no effect on anyone's decision.
9:35: Is anyone still watching? So far, it's been an annoying combination of wonky and angry.
9:48: Tim Russert seems angry too as he hypothesizes about how the Iraqis may react to a new President announcing a planned pullout.
9:53: "I think Senator Clinton showed some good humor there," Obama says after seeing the clip of Hillary being sarcastic about his speaking ("the heaven's will open," etc.). He nicely avoids the bait and gets back to talking policy (which is exactly what his strategy should be, since it's only Clinton who can benefit by shaking things up tonight). "I'm not interested in talk. I'm not interested in speeches," he says. Hillary offers that she was "having a little fun," and it's hard to have fun on the campaign trail.
10:08: Russert is raging. Hillary needs to release her tax returns! (She's too busy to do it before next Tuesday, she says, as if she'd personally get the papers together.) Obama should denounce Farrakhan! (He blusters.)
10:13: Hillary scores! When she ran for the Senate in 2000, she rejected the support of the anti-Semitic Independence Party. She "wouldn't be associated with people" like that. So far, Obama has only said that he gave a sermon denouncing anti-Semitism. Then there's some confusing byplay over whether "reject" is a stronger word than "denounce," and Obama gets away with resolving it by saying he would "reject and denounce." So her strong point got fuzzed over. He still hasn't denounced Farrakhan. She loses the moment and says "good, good." He beams. We go to commercial. Her moment is squandered. He got away with something there.
10:19: Obama is confronted with his "most liberal" ranking. I find his talking tiresome and will need to check the transcript to see if he said anything interesting.
10:33: In lieu of a closing statement, each is asked about the other, and many tedious words are blabbed. Arghhh! I hit the wall after that reject-and-denounce fiasco.
11:18: So what did you think of "American Idol"? Did David Cook deserved to be slammed for liking crossword puzzles when the other guys were about tennis and drag racing? Cook was the hardest rocker... yet somehow he's a pussy because he's — by his own admission — a "word nerd." Tonight was interesting because 2 guys who were unimpressive last week were really good: Chikezie and David Hernandez. I really liked Hernandez doing "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" — it was 70s night — what a great song. Now, I'm watching the adorable, scream-inducing David Archuleta singing "Imagine." Randy — who loves him — asks why he skipped the first verse. David does not say because it's against religion, just that he had to cut it shorter and he likes the last verse best, but I think he didn't want to disrespect religion. Now Paula says she wants to hang him from her rear view mirror, which I suppose means she thinks he's Jesus. Either that or she thinks he's air freshener. But the way she goes on to break down crying over how it was the most beautiful thing she's ever heard, I don't think it can just be that he's super-fresh. Simon says "Right now, you're the one to beat." Two guys who fell in my estimation this week were Michael Johns (why is the macho guy bleating Fleetwood Mac?) and Jason Castro (dull). And what are we to think of Luke Menard? He picked an incredibly complicated song — "Killer Queen" — and pulled it off decently (but couldn't be Mercury). Something I don't even want to think about: Robbie Carrico singing "Hot Blooded" (man, I hate that kind of song). Or Jason Yeager (what a cheeseball!). And then there's Danny Noriega. He's very sweet, and he sang a great song ("Superstar"), but he's just not good enough. (Here, listen to Karen Carpenter sing it.) He could be the Sanjaya this year, but the young girls are going crazy for the kid who's actually really good, li'l David Archuleta, so we won't be having a Sanjaya.