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Democrats Square Off In New Hampshire
Published on June 4, 2007 By Sean Conners aka SConn1 In Current Events
Last Night, the 2nd debate for the Democrats took place, this time on CNN. It was the 4th debate overall, with the Republicans going at it twice already on MSNBC and Fox. The Democrats chose to skip Fox's offer for a debate last month.

This production wasn't quite as slick as Fox's, but like the NFL on CBS, it had it's own charm. CNN chose to go back to the "no-applause" rule, sticking to a more traditional debate format than Fox, who encouraged applause, something usually not part of a formal debate. Wolf Blitzer hosted the event, and did a fine, if unremarkable job. The overall production was smooth and competent, sans a microphone malfunction early on. Pretty much what one would expect from the cable news giant.

This time, it was obvious that the "big 3" candidates were going to get the most face time. Candidates like Chris Dodd and Mike Gravel weren't even allowed to speak until 8:15. The debate began @ 8pm.

The Iraq war was of course a big topic of the night, as expected. Each candidate laid out their particular brand of ending the war. From Kucinich and Gravel's more extreme measures to Joe Biden's uber-responsible and widely touted federalist plan for Iraq being brought forth. Hillary Clinton summed up the differences nicely when she reminded everyone that this was George Bush's War. She said that Democrats were all trying "in their own way" to bring an end to the quagmire. She mentioned her 3 point plan and reiterated that the differences between the democrats were on the minor side, where the differences between the demcorat and republican candidates were clear.

But it was Barack Obama who had one of the stronger "zings" of the night, after John Edwards went after him for not voting against the war "loudly enough" whatever that means. Obama struck back by reminding everyone that Edwards was a little late in his criticizm. About 4 & 1/2 years late.

Obama said " you're about four and a half years late on leadership on this issue.” He looked directly at Edwards, who was at the podium to his right when proclaiming that.

Checking the truth meter, since Edwards has been speaking out against the war since his VP run in 2004 and has conceded the error of his vote to authorize the President's hand since sometime in 2005, Edwards is about 2-3 years late in leadership on this issue. Of course, Obama was debating issues on a much smaller scale in the Ill. State Senate when Edwards was contemplating his vote in the US Senate.

But Obama's performance was much improved over round 1 overall. Aside from his line on Edwards, he was the candidate people expected last time around on the MSNBC debate. His was articulate and deep. He challenged "old school" assumptions and traditional "left vs. right" rhetoric and offered more of his brand of unifying politics that has made him so popular.

Hillary too was on her "A" game. Not only diffusing Blitzer's attempts to divide democrats with her own talk of party unity. She also was fairly bold (maybe too bold) in scolding the Iraqi Government and assumingly their people for not taking advantage of their post Saddam opportunities. I'm guessing most Iraqi citizens were too busy looking out for their own hyde and avoiding "death squads" to contemplate that much tho.

Joe Biden, who was the only Senator to vote for the spending bill defended his vote with eloquence and charm. He painted a more "realist" view and, maybe since he is a rare breed of candidate, one with an actual family member who served in the military, gave more sober words and the voice of tempered experience in his answers. Amongst Biden's best points was his continued emphasis on the "V shaped hull vehicles" that have been shown to save lives in spades. He called for "fast tracking" the vehicles to get them to Iraq and Afghanistan. He also pointed out the realities of the Congress. Exactly how many votes they have (50) and how many they would need (67) to bring the war to the swift end the more staunch anti-war crowd wants. And if anyone was still wondering who was "emboldening the enemy," Biden reminded them it was President Bush.

Bill Richardson set himself apart by talking about Darfur. He also spoke about his ideas of redeployment into Afghanistan and Kuwait, where an AMerican presence is slightly more welcome. On energy, Richardson spoke of an "Apollo" like program to reduce and eventually eliminate our dependence on the supporters of terrorism to meet our energy needs.

Of course, health care was a hot topic and Hillary took the bull by the horns, talking about what went right and wrong in 92-93 and how today, people are more ready for some of those and some more refined ideas. She emphasized the lowering of costs and elimination of waste to make some ideas more affordable. She also warned of the impending attacks from industry pundits and lobby groups and warned doctors and other people to remember to stand firmer this time around.

Edwards was all for Universal care like yesterday, while Obama took a more realist, step by step approach. Both men emphasized the highest responsiblility to those who had little or no choice to be left out in the cold, the children.

One of the few spontaneous applause lines came for the New Hampshire Governor, who recently signed into law a civil union bill for the state. A bill that grants spousal type rights to same sex couples.

And while just about everyone could agree that "Don't Ask, Dont Tell" was a flawed policy and should be re-looked at, it was Hillary who had the best line on the subject. Smartly quoting her old mentor, Barry Goldwater when he said "you don't have to be stratight to shoot straight." An appropriate sentiment in a time when we are at war with an Arabic region, and desperately need Arabic linguists and translators while firing 58 very competent ones who just so happen not to like to play with the opposite sex in their own spare, private time. If anyone can explain to me how that move does anyone any good, i'm all ears. At least the military waited until the 1st Gulf War was over before they let the gay soldiers go.

Bill Richardson threw out an interesting stat for the fact checkers before the contest was over. He contended that if our economy could grow by 1.8% annually, vs 1.3%, that Social Security solvency would not be an issue. I haven't checked that out or done any math, but if he's right, or close to it, it might offer a different way to look at the issue.

Chris Dodd was smart in finally bringing up the fact that he speaks fluent spanish. He also brought up the point that the talk time was weighted heavily towards only a few on the stage. Whether or not things like that will get him anywhere in the race is still a mystery. But Dodd did come off more natural than his 1st, more "son of a Senator" performance did.

Mike Gravel offered an interesting tidbit that again, if holds water, could be interesting. He mentioned that the Inspector General had offered a sit-down with each candidate, from both parties, to help them create sound fiscal policy for the future. He contended that only 2 of the candidates, him being one of them, took the IG up on his offer. None of the other candidates owned up to any briefings with the IG, so one has to assume the other candidate mentioned was from the GOP. Maybe Ron Paul was the "mystery date?" You would think that candidates who want to present their fiscal plans to the American voter in the next year or so would be eager to be briefed by someone who is that "inside" on America's finances beyond the media and political rhetoric. But I guess not.

Kucinich, while sometimes putting forth very noble and well thought out ideas, again managed to shoot himself in the foot and show his radical, un-democratic side. When asked what he would do 1st in office, he gave a typical reponse from a fringe candidate. He said he would "use the Justice Department" to repeal the Patriot Act.

Huh? Use the Justice Department? Don't we have a problem with that now? Someone needs to let Dennis know that it is statements and views like this that overshadow his better words and actions on issues like reducing special interest influence and big money from politics and his other pet issues.

So in the end, Obama was more "as advertized" while Biden was the realist on the stage. Edwards continued on his "Bobby Kennedy" tribute while Chris Dodd finally emerged as a real candidate. His last line about bringing the Constitution back drew another of the night's rare applauses.

Meanwhile, Hillary again looked polished, Presidential and finally looked somewhat "warm" on the stage. Bill Richardson's good ideas often got mired in a lack of polish but sometimes came thru in his less "highbrow" delivery.

And Gravel and Kucinich worked the fringes, speaking theri brand of "truth to power" on the National stage. Something they rarely get to do and probably will be a more rare occurence after the August straw polling and people clammer for more info from candidates that actually have a shot.

And while Barack's line about Edward's and some of his fellow democrats being "4 and a 1/2 years late in their leadership" might at least ring partially true, another addage that is true comes to mind.

Better late than never.
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on Jun 04, 2007
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