April 26, 2007

Laugh about it, shout about it, when you've got to choose, every way you look at this you lose.

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!)


John Stodder said...

It only seemed like 60 minutes.

XWL said...

Quick impressions,

Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama are playing defense, the rest are on offense, except Sen. Dodd who really seems to be doing this only to justify a few extra checks from a different group of lobbyists.

And if "progressives" are honest they'll mention that Sen. Gravel is closest to offering positions they can support, but I suspect they'll drool over Sen. Obama's non-answers and pretend he had nothing but sunshine shooting from his lips.

reader_iam said...

Hey, no fair! Some of us have to do this without the capability of fast-forwarding.

(OK, I'm just jealous.)

hdhouse said...

I honestly think that Dodd is helping himself a lot. He is impressive to me anyway. Hillary isn't Obama is too careful...afraid to loose. Richardson and Dodd and we might have a country again.

Revenant said...

Richardson and Dodd and we might have a country again.

The funny thing is that lefties make comments like that -- stating that we don't have a country to speak of right now -- and then bitch when people question their patriotism.

Latino said...

They all avoid the Reid question like the plague. He's your albatross, Dems.

I'm Full of Soup said...

I like how Richardson responded. Sounded genuine.

Alan said...

Biden won the debate with his last statement--poking fun at the happy talk and saying military force is necessary at times. Obama sounded pretty good to me too.

Alan said...

My problem is how they all said Ginsburg was their model SC Justice. I wish the moderator ask them if she was right on Kelo.

Palladian said...

"I wish the moderator ask them if she was right on Kelo."

Of course she was! Remember: "We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good."

XWL said...


The MSNBC analyst are giving Sen. Gravel all sort of love.

I'm impressed.

Alan said...

Strange because Gravel, to me, came across as a loon. And even less dignified than the other loon, Kucinich.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Saying Ginsburg was a dodge to the question -- she's sitting on the court and she's the only woman. In all fairness, none of them wanted to pick a living potential Justice whose record could then be scrutinized, whereas saying you agreed with Clinton's picks can't get you in too much trouble. The question should have been worded better, or Williams should have asked whether they'd choose a Justice who had view X on an unexpected issue (one of those "raised hands" questions).

I was not too impressed with Obama. He is not too good with filibustering and I would like real answers. After this debate I have questions about Obama:
1. Would he not attack al Qaeda as soon as possible? Would he not attack a state that rendered material aid (Hillary got him on this one)?
2. Does he know how to fund his health care plan? (Hillary lost on this one; Obama talked about obscure and specific issues that intrigued me, Hillary just came across like a know-it-all, but if she knows everything about health care plans, then why not answer the question on the table about how to fund one?)
3. Does he know what "mission complete" status is?

What I liked about Obama is that his question on non-Iraq foreign policy was very interesting in selecting Europe as a whole and China as focuws points. He chose China over India and Japan over, say, Brazil. He also mentioned NATO, which isn't a country, but it shows his serious thinking on the issue. I expect more from Obama than I saw here tonight, because the fact of the matter is, HE IS THE FRONTRUNNER. THAT IS WHY HE BORE THE BRUNT OF THE ATTACKS TONIGHT.

Biden surprised me with his attack on Russian politics. He also knew a good deal about tackling energy independence, which I did not expect. If he can stay in for more debates and keep his answers sharp and focused, he has room to move up. He also is not afraid to be aggressive toward other debaters, which is good.

Richardson came across as honest and good on a number of issues, but overall he failed to make his mark. His answers on Cuba and deflecting his racialist coddling of Gonzalez were good, but his attempt to answer the 24 question about two strikes on the United States and show up Edwards and Obama for their dovish responses ("I'd double-check our emergency response system, intelligence capabilities and engage in diplomacy.") was even weaker. Saying you'll be decisive and Presidential isn't the same as being Presidential. Richardson wins when the discussion focuses on the unexpected issues, but the problem is everyone wants to talk about big ticket items. Great answer on Cuba he gave, really.

Dodd did not impress me. He's a good speaker, but he's going to need to challenge others on the stage if he wants to shine, or get into a venue where there are fewer speakers. He's gotta agree to as many debates as possible, where he can be the focus. Perhaps he should agree to debate Newt Gingrich at the Cooper Union.

Kucinich, I have to say, came across with more charisma than Dodd, Hillary, Gravel, and to some extent Edwards. Bizarrely enough, Kucinich doesn't share my politics, but whipping out that pocket Constitution was perfect rhetoric. He delivered a clear, consistent position without b.s., hemming and hawing, or arrogance (might want to work on that Mommy-Knows-Best attitude, Hillary).

Gravel's attack on other candidates speaking in code was great, and his prescription for how to tactically take down the war with cloture votes was spot-on. He certainly made the "top tier" look phony, though he also made himself look like a zany old coot.

Hillary just plain turned me off except on the "attacking states who provide material aid to terrorists" question. She bellows, she lacks cogent answers sometimes (all that supposed valedictorian-level preparation and you got stumped?), she panders to sentiments she clearly lacks, and she thinks she's the smartest person on the stage. Ugh.

Edwards lacked, hmm, masculinity, although his answer to the "Why are your haircuts so expensive?" question was heartfelt and good. But he lacks a moral leader? You could almost see he was going to say "My wife." (That was a mean question -- if a Catholic had said "The pope"...) Lacking a moral leader makes you look like an atheist. But the pause was no good, because he then said "My Lord" which is generically Judeo-Christian, rather than "Jesus".

I liked the aggressive style of Brian Williams to discipline the filibustering and the use of the audience gotcha questions. Also, the use of candidate-specific questions really zoned in on what we care about and want answered. This debate made obvious who is unprepared for what answer, where the weaknesses are in the answers, and who lacks courage of what kind in what degree. I hope the future debates build on the success of this one and further pin down the candidates, force them to answer tough questions, and get them on the record as to how they contrast with the polls, with public opinion, and with each other. I loved most about this debate that it did not focus on Bush or on the War in Iraq, but on the Democratic candidates and what they are about.

Based on what I see, most of them have some brushing up to do (or more debating!) before I would ever vote for anyone of them to be President. But the field is serious. If they can be kept to answering real questions in a concise fashion, we can have a good electoral season. The filibustering is just a waste of time.

XWL said...

I always find the rush of family members at the end of these things interesting, and after seeing that, I have a sudden new respect for Rep. Kucinich.

His 27 year old wife is very lovely.

Revenant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Revenant said...

whipping out that pocket Constitution was perfect rhetoric.

He should buy a full-sized copy sometime. Then he could read it and find out what it actually says. :)

Titus said...

You could of saved yourself time in simulblogging and just said they all are awful.

I am excited about the republicans coming up because there will be no canned response and they are like super awesome and patriotic.

dave said...

Stick to critiquing "American Idol," lady. You're waaaaaaay over your head here.

Maxine Weiss said...

what is simublogging?

Rosie wanted 10 million for 1 year's work. And, it's not a year since she'd have gotten July and August off, plus Fridays off.

10 million for that?

Brian Doyle said...

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.

How very partisan! Who does he think he is, bragging about not having been completely duped by Slick Dick and Howdy Doody.

I think in Ann's world, opposition to the war in Iraq is incomprehensible. It's like she honestly can't see why anyone would object either the invasion or the 4+ year occupation of Iraq. It's been all strong, prudent, pro-national security goodness from her nuthatch in Madison Wisconsin.

Maybe as a result of this assumption that everyone knows that most of the country is like totally wrong in advocating withdrawal, she never addresses the issue directly. So all we can do is guess.

hdhouse said...

This is too funny. All the loony rightwingies on this board are obviously glued to the TV on MSNBC yet....so I draw 2 conclusions:

1. They want to see what real candidates are like and,
2. Their field is so pitiful that they are living vicariously off the talent of the liberals.

Hail Mary full of grace! Gosh where is Newt when you need him? Divorce court? lol

Pyrthroes said...

Why persist in calling this glorified press conference a "debate"? But Brian Williams, gingerbread man of parts, could no more moderate a true debate ("Resolved: This Chamber will not fight for King and Country") than solemnly state, "Loose lips sink ships."

Not one of these puerile pretenders (including MzBill, a prophetological insult to boyhood) revealed anything but moral cowardice, a stunning intellectual vapidity. They may retain some few, selective facts, but as nerdlike grunts in the War on Terror, context and perspective are entirely lacking.

We know about their Copperhead version of Iraq. Just ask 'em: How much will you raise taxes? How soon will you bless waves of treacherous Reconquistas? Who will be your first two choices to replace senile holdovers like Kennedy and The Only Female on our interstitial-seeking Supreme Court?

Guaranteed, no answers will be forthcoming. MzBill, however, might utter a word for Mde Ginsberg, whose fish-head shines and stinks by moonlight, more with every passing term.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Here's the thing: I had stepped out to the bathroom, and hadn't seen Obama correct his answer on terrorism, in which he took down Kucinich and Gravel. I just saw it online. That was Presidential and it was beautiful.

Obama wins this debate in my book.

dave™© said...

Sorry for the delay getting through this. Life beckons!

Translation from Blithering Idiot-ese: I had to run down to the 7-11 for another sixer.

Unknown said...

It's still early. Maybe by November 2008 one of them will be prepared to run for the state legislature.

Chip Ahoy said...

Thank you so much for watching that debate (?) and reporting on it so that I don't have to. Bless your heart.

I'm also interested in what Pelosi and Reid and Kennedy say but can't bear to listen to either of them, so likewise must rely on reports.

Ann Althouse said...

Doyle: A "nutchatch" is a bird.

Dave: You idiot. You picture me drinking a "sixer." Even if all you think I do is drink, you're crazy to picture me drinking like that. But in fact, it was good old human interaction, believe it or not.

reader_iam said...

Goodness Gracious Great Balls O' Gravel. Posted an hour ago, central time, the east-coast date-stamp of that blog notwithstanding, as a riff off a comment from my on-duty, presser partner on Debatable.

M. Simon said...

I Support Democracy In Iraq

Tiny Bunch said...

I would like to see debates recorded then edited. A panel of linguists, grammarians, and my high school English teacher, Mrs Dillon, vote on whether the candidate answered the question asked. If not, the question and answer are edited out.

Probably a three hour debate would fit in 15 minutes and some candidates never seen except when they walk on stage.

Michael The Magnificent said...

boston70: You could of saved yourself time in simulblogging and just said they all are awful.

They probably sounded much more impressive in the original French. "Surrender" just doesn't roll off the tongue as well in English.

John Stodder said...

1. They want to see what real candidates are like and,
2. Their field is so pitiful that they are living vicariously off the talent of the liberals.

Actually, hd, I think the only possible takeaway from this debate is, "You got anybody else?"

Don't you remember the 1992 campaign? There were some interesting people in those debates. The formats were lousy then as now, but the big personalities and ideas of candidates like Bill Clinton, Paul Tsongas and Jerry Brown provided some intellectual stimulation, and a little suspense. These three candidates actually had distinct difference they didn't try to obscure with a bunch of verbal fog.

By contrast, this was terrible! Where is the Obama that turned people on so much a few months ago? How could Hillary be "the inevitable one" if she's so dull and unappealing?

This debate was very good for Biden and Richardson. I realize the wise guys have already boiled this campaign down to the three front runners, but all three of them seemed weak and defensive compared with the slightly more straightforward Joe and Bill.

Gravel seemed like a nut, but his performance also illustrated the grey tonelessness of the pack.

Mark Daniels said...

Like you, Ann, I was shocked when, several months ago, I learned that Mike Gravel was not only still living, but running for President. Gravel, so far as I'm concerned, lost all credibility back in 1972, when, at the Democratic National Convention, he nominated himself for Vice President.

I only saw the last twenty minutes or so of the debate. Richardson, Biden, Obama, and Dodd were all pretty impressive, without regard to the content of their answers. Clinton managed not to hurt herself, which is probably all she needed to do as the ostensible frontrunner.

Kucinich got out-Kuciniched by Gravel. I don't know what that says about either one of them.

But these impressions are the result of an admittedly short sampling period.

Mark Daniels

J. Peden said...

I wasn't paying attention, but did any other network besides MSNBC cover this debate - a non-pay network, a big one? If not, that somehow just doesn't seem right.

Attn. Leftoids: so Hillary says she will pull out of Iraq if elected? That'll probably change to "I have a plan to end the war", ala Nixon, if she's nominated. I just don't think she really wants to be responsible for the very likely repercussions of surrendering. Who would?

Eli Blake said...

One observation:

Richardson's statement might sound like 'magic,' except that he has a long record of making the seemingly impossible happen diplomatically, getting hostages out of some difficult situations with unsavory characters, earlier this year getting a temporary cease fire in Darfur and then going on a mission, ironically at the request of George Bush, that got some concessions from the North Koreans.

Now, either he has the ability to work 'magic' in places like Darfur and North Korea, or else he gains by comparison because this administration is so singularly inept diplomatically.

hdhouse said...

Johnstodder: Clinton and Obama are who they are and you are quite right that Biden was pretty good tonight and Richardson I think should be anyone's VP or sec of state. As I said earlier, Dodd didn't hurt himself at all.

After a bit it will boil down to these 5 with Gore lurking somewhere.

A sure thing? Not at all. But we have 18 or so months of Bush and Cheney left to infuriate the country and by that time the -R after a name will not stand for republican but for riding out of town on a rail.

LoafingOaf said...

dave said...
Stick to critiquing "American Idol," lady.

If it wasn't for this thread, and for Drudge making fun of all the Dem candidates flying in separately on carbon-emitting private jets, I wouldn't have known this debate took place.

People can say whatever they want about us Idol viewers, but I don't see how watching presidential candidates well over a year before the election - giving soundbites and talking point one after another for a couple hours - is more intelligent television.

But I'm glad Dennis the Menace is busy on his second vanity campaign, waving his pocket constititon around on MSNBC. Having to live in the city he helped destroy, I hope Cleveland's politicians will do as little as possible for their constituents so they won't do more harm.

Anyway, flipping around the TV this morning, I see no breaking news out of the debate no one knew took place. What's the theme for Idol next week?

Roger J. said...

The silly season is starting awfully early--at this point its too easy because the administration is such a convenient target; someone wake me up when they start to turn on each other--THATS when I love to watch.

MadisonMan said...

They all avoid the Reid question like the plague. He's your albatross, Dems.

Better the Reid albatross than the Bush one.

Thanks for the "simul"blogging. I had no interest in watching candidates debate last night.

MadisonMan said...

I had to run down to the 7-11 for another sixer.

There are no 7-11 stores in Madison. We are the land of Kwik Trip and Open Pantry. I don't know if I've ever seen a 7-11 anywhere in Wisconsin, actually.

Sloanasaurus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Icepick said...

But he'd apply "intensive diplomacy" that would have the three religious factions working out their problems.

Did he really say three religious factions? Is he aware that Kurdish isn't a religion but an ethnicity?

Titus said...

Madison Man thanks for pointing out my bad "simulblogging" mistake. Yes, I am dumb because I didn't spell it correctly or don't understand the correct terminology.

You are superior living in Madison, "alrighty then". Feel better about yourself?

My recollection of "madison" is a bunch of fat Fargo types eating their all you can eat friday fish fry.

I am actually from Madison and I love going back there. It reminds me why I moved to the east coast where people can actually see their toes. As well, all my friends that went to the UW were out there the day after graduation. We ended up fabulous cities San Fran, Boston, NYC. All horrible liberal cities too-cities that are the technology centers of the country.

Yes State Street is all cool and hip but you leave that immediate area and you are at East Towne-lovely.

My company recently acquired a little biotech company in Madison and was a hoot going out there through the acquisition process. Madison is thinking it is going to become this big biotech hub. Unfortunately for Madison and Wisconsin much of the "talent" for the biotech jobs are in Cambridge, San Diego and San Francisco and lets face it no one from any of those cities are going to relocate to Madison. Everyone from my company said, "could you imagine living in this dump?" And then I talked all Wisconsin to them (don't you know) and we laughed. I guess I kind of felt the same way returning to WisCONsin as you just felt correcting my simulblogging mistake-superior.

MadisonMan said...

boston70: Please don't assume that I always read what you write. Having now gone back to read your comments, I'm still not sure why you're ticked off. Oh well. I can remain mystified.

To clarify, my thanks were to Ann -- and she wasn't simulblogging, hence my quotes.

R C Dean said...

Everyone from my company said, "could you imagine living in this dump?"

Having lived in both Boston and Madison, I would say nobody from Boston has any reason to call Madison a dump.

Fen said...

Boston: I guess I kind of felt the same way returning to WisCONsin as you just felt correcting my simulblogging mistake-superior.

Well, you certainly are a provincialist. Not the first time you've gone out of your way to bash another region of the country. Is there a reason for that? Do you have some need to feel superior? Compensating for some shame? Your identity seems so invested in where you live. And your attacks on Madison make you look small. Whats wrong with you?

PeterP said...

as Paul Simon wrote

...I'm more than happy to fantasise you as a Mrs. Robinson de nos jours.

Not quite the level of sadness of course, but the wine and the seductive potential.

We could of course alternatively sing 'Old Friends', but then somewhere inside lurks youth never mind the chronology of years.