Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Debate

What a good debate! First, let's just get this out of the way: Jorge Ramos from Univision is delicioso. Que sabroso!

Okay, so that being said, this was an interesting evening. The first 45 minutes saw HRC dominating, IMHO, on topics like Cuba. Obama was doing fine, but she was clearly in her element in this format. And then OH SNAP! She brought up the plagiarism stuff and it was ON. Obama offered that it was ridiculous to characterize him using phrases given to him by his national campaign co-chair as "plagiarism." Clinton, in an obviously-rehearsed response, said that it was "change you can xerox." Instead of laughter and applause, she got a smattering of boos and dead silence, which highlights her challenge in delivering that kind of supposed smackdown: it just doesn't feel authentic. Talk about someone else writing your words for you...

I will say that her summation in answer to "what was the moment you were strongest during a crisis" or something like that, got a standing ovation, and for good reason. I'm disappointed that she raised the "well, we all know what that was..." thing but she then pivoted it to what Americans live through, returning soldiers, etc. Obama's answer was good in that it answered the question of what makes you able to assume this most critical of positions; but HRC gave a showstopping answer that will play to those amenable to its message of "it's not me; it's about you."

In any case, it was worth watching. Objectively, I think it was a bit of a tie between them for different reasons. Hillary because she did dominate the first 45 minutes and also ended well. Obama because he used each of her points of contrast with him to support his argument that what is needed in DC is not new ideas ("DC is where good ideas go to die") but a new way of working to get those ideas and policies enacted. He also won because he had ample opportunity to ding her on her new 527, her refusal to release her tax returns and did not. So when she went on the plagiarism jab, she looked petty and he looked magnanimous.

And lest you think I'm a total loser, I flipped to Lost during the commercials. ;)

***Although on second thought, he SHOULD have hammered her on the 527 her friends have just formed that is of course not at all in any way trying to influence an election toward a specific candidate in the grand tradition of the Swift Boaters. I'm sure her campaign has nothing to do with it being as it is illegal, right?

***Further Update****Did it seem to anyone else that Obama was not aware that that was the closing opportunity of the evening? He seemed to be looking at the moderators during HRC's ovation for the next question, for the usual "summation" part of the campaign. Which would explain his rather brief answer to the question at hand.

Secondly, it occurred to me that HRC's moment of discussing the "wounded warriors" (a phrase used earlier in the evening by Obama, for the record) seemed genuine. However, other bloggers have picked up on some phraseology in her statement that directly mirrors a quote from John Edwards in an earlier debate, having to do with "whatever happens we'll be fine, but will the American people be fine?" I think what I'm saying is that HRC is being ill-served by her campaign staff who can't help themselves going negative. Because the second you call someone out for something, you are immediately in the spotlight for it yourself. Her campaign is a disaster, even if she pulls it out and gets the nomination. Political studies courses will dissect her campaign for years to come, victory or defeat, for what NOT to do. I don't hate Hillary and I don't wish terrible things upon her personally. But she is missing the significant flip side of the style vs. substance debate in her refusal to consider that the style in which a candidate conducts her campaign is an indicator of how she will govern. It's painful to watch, even though I don't support her. Win or lose, her campaign has been a disaster.


Vigilante said...

E, you certainly grade stuff with a razor-sharp red pencil. But you sure raised even your personal bar with this:

... she is missing the significant flip side of the style vs. substance debate in her refusal to consider that the style in which a candidate conducts her campaign is an indicator of how she will govern. It's painful to watch, even though I don't support her. Win or lose, her campaign has been a disaster...

In my book, this is a text-book, bulls-eye, quotable comment on your part. I have always maintained that what decides my vote in election after election is the question, "Who do I want to watch and listen to for the next 4-8 years?" Wonkish promises of 3-point programs do not sway me. Health Care reform? Who's to say what Congress is will do with Obama's or Clinton's proposals? What matters is can a candidate, as an eventual president, speak over the heads of Congress and over noise of the media pundits to pull in the American people (or the world's)? It's good to remember that campaigning doesn't end after inauguration; energetic, creative governing and leadership for change requires continued campaigning. Style is hugely substance.

Obama is the one who can put America Barack on track.

Emily said...

Great post, E!

I am sickened at the way Hill and Bill are slinging mud at Obama, a la Rove and Atwater.

The powerful lines, uttered in her concluding (and rehearsed?) "speech" noting that she and Barack "will be fine", and raising the question: "but will the nation be fine?" originated with John Edwards. She has also stolen Obama's campaign promise to bring "change" to Washington.

I have lost so much respect for Hill and Bill. I hate seeing her feeding distortions and lies about Obama to John McCain for his use in the general election.

She and Bill are genuinely damaging the Democratic party, as well as showing us their true character. They are each, and both, conniving, unprincipled, and dedicated to "winning", no matter the cost to their personal integrity and/or to the country.