Friday, February 1, 2008

Dem Debate Quotables...?

I generally don't watch debates live, nor any political speech if I can help it. Not only don't I absorb much from vocal speech- I learn better from the written word- but I get steamed every time I hear a politician lie, waffle, backtrack, etc. I rely on the talking heads to play (and replay, and replay, and replay) the quotable quotes over and over...

... only, this time, there weren't any, at least by the lights of the news gurus.

Fortunately, CNN has provided a transcript of last night's Clinton-Obama debate. This means I get to read the words, understand them better, and pick out my own quotables. Here we go...

And I also want to note that I was friends with Hillary Clinton before we started this campaign; I will be friends with Hillary Clinton after this campaign is over.

. . .

I don't think the choice is between black and white or it's about gender or religion. I don't think it's about young or old. I think what is at stake right now is whether we are looking backwards or we are looking forwards. I think it is the past versus the future.

---Barack Obama, in opening statement, comes to praise Caesar, not to bury him- er, her

It is imperative that we have a president, starting on day one, who can begin to solve our problems, tackle these challenges, and seize the opportunities that I think await.

---Hillary Clinton, speaking direct from her campaign slogans, with zero substance at the start

What they're struggling with is they can't afford the health care. And so I emphasize reducing costs. My belief is that if we make it affordable, if we provide subsidies to those who can't afford it, they will buy it.

Senator Clinton has a different approach. She believes that we have to force people who don't have health insurance to buy it. Otherwise, there will be a lot of people who don't get it.

--- Obama nails the flaw in Clinton's individual mandate plan right on the head

Now, under any mandate, you are going to have problems with people who don't end up having health coverage. Massachusetts right now embarked on an experiment where they mandated coverage.

And, by the way, I want to congratulate Governor Schwarzenegger and the speaker and others who have been trying to do this in California, but I know that those who have looked at it understand, you can mandate it, but there's still going to be people who can't afford it. And if they cannot afford it, then the question is, what are you going to do about it?

Are you going to fine them? Are you going to garnish their wages?

You know, those are questions that Senator Clinton has not answered with respect to her plan, but I think we can anticipate that there would also be people potentially who are not covered and are actually hurt if they have a mandate imposed on them.

--- And Obama indirectly asks the question I've wanted Clinton to answer for months: how do you intend to punish those who don't buy mandated insurance? Does Clinton answer?

We cannot get to universal health care, which I believe is both a core Democratic value and imperative for our country, if we don't do one of three things. Either you can have a single payer system, or -- which, I know, a lot of people favor, but for many reasons, is difficult to achieve. Or, you can mandate employers. Well, that's also very controversial. Or, you can do what I am proposing, which is to have shared responsibility.

Now, in Barack's plan, he very clearly says he will mandate that parents get health insurance for their children. So it's not that he is against mandatory provisions, it's that he doesn't think it would be politically acceptable to require that for everyone.

I just disagree with that. I think we as Democrats have to be willing to fight for universal health care.

--- No, no she doesn't. She dodges the issue of enforcement altogether and makes insurance-at-gunpoint sound like a beau ideal.

One of the debate panelists asks how the candidates will deal with being called "tax-and-spend liberals":

Well, first of all, I don't think the Republicans are going to be in a real strong position to argue fiscal responsibility, when they have added $4 trillion or $5 trillion... (APPLAUSE) ... worth of national debt. I am happy to have that argument.

If John McCain, for example, is the nominee, I respect that John McCain, in the first two rounds of Bush tax cuts, said it is irresponsible that we have never before cut taxes at the same time as we're going into war.

And somewhere along the line, the straight talk express lost some wheels and now he is in favor of extending Bush tax cuts that went to some of the wealthiest Americans who don't need them and we're not even asking for them.

--- Now THERE'S a quotable, TWO quotables in quick succession, from Obama.

Well, let me say that the way I would pay for this is to take the Bush tax cuts that are set to expire on people making more than $250,000 a year. That would raise about $55 billion and I would put that into the subsidies for the health care tax credit, so that people would be able to afford the health care that we are offering.

The other $55 billion would come from the modernization and the efficiencies that I believe we can obtain. We spend more money than anybody in the world on health care and there is no end in sight.

--- Um, no, Mrs. Clinton. You don't pay for subsidized health care that way. That second $55 billion is a hope, a fever dream, something which is based on wild-assed guesses with no solid assurance that it will be there. You're selling us Medicare Part D again.

But Wolf, it's just really important to underscore here that we will go back to the tax rates we had before George Bush became president. And my memory is, people did really well during that time period.

---Okay, Clinton scores a quotable there, at least for those who think going back to Clintonism is a good idea.

Question: what effect has illegal immigration had on African-American unemployment?

And, so, I think to suggest somehow that the problem that we're seeing in inner-city unemployment, for example, is attributable to immigrants, I think, is a case of scapegoating that I do not believe in, I do not subscribe to.

--- Obama refusing to play the race card

You know, I was in Atlanta last night, and an African-American man said to me, "I used to have a lot of construction jobs, and now it just seems like the only people who get them anymore are people who are here without documentation." So, I know that what we have to do is to bring our country together to have a comprehensive immigration reform solution.

--- Clinton, gleefully playing the race card. If there were any justice, her Hispanic support would drop after this bit of racism-by-proxy. Why the hell did she use this anecdote, anyway? She's not going to win back the black vote by parroting the anti-Latino biases of one black man.

{Immigration reform] is not an issue that polls well. But I think it is the right thing to do.

--- Obama, not really quotable, just a generic I'm-brave-vote-for-me statement

BLITZER: Are you suggesting that Senator Clinton's policy was not, in your words, "humane"?

OBAMA: That is -- what I said was that we have to stand up for these issues when it's tough, and that's what I've done.

. . .

BLITZER: Was she lacking on that front?

OBAMA: Wolf, you keep on trying to push on this issue.

BLITZER: I'm just trying to find out what you mean.

OBAMA: There are those who were opposed to this issue, and there have been those who have flipped on the issue and have run away from the issue. This wasn't directed particularly at Senator Clinton. But the fact of the matter is I have stood up consistently on this issue.

--- Wolf Blitzer's trying to get a fight started. I don't know if this is Obama not wanting to engage in negatives, or Obama weaselling out of some campaign talking point. It makes him look weak, though; call this an Anti-quotable.

BLITZER: I want to let Senator Clinton respond. But were you missing in action when Senator Obama and Senator McCain and Senator Kennedy started formulating comprehensive immigration reform?

CLINTON: Well, actually, I co-sponsored comprehensive immigration reform in 2004 before Barack came to the Senate.

---Clinton both dodges Blitzer's actual question and makes Obama look like a Johnny-come-lately. Score another quotable for her.

CLINTON: Well, we disagree on this. I do not think that it is either appropriate to give a driver's license to someone who is here undocumented, putting them, frankly, at risk, because that is clear evidence that they are not here legally, and I believe it is a diversion from what should be the focus at creating a political coalition with the courage to stand up and change the immigration system.


OBAMA: The only point I would make is Senator Clinton gave a number of different answers over the course of six weeks on this issue, and that did appear political.

Now, at this point, she's got a clearer position, but it took a whole and...


--- Obama points out Clinton's waffle; alas, not in a quotable way.

From my perspective, I agree with Bill Richardson that there is a public safety concern here and that we're better off, because I don't want a bunch of hit-and-run drivers, because they're worried about being deported and so they don't report an accident. That is a judgment call.

--- Obama panders to both Latinos in general and Bill Richardson in particular. Hey, Governor! Endors me, quick, PLEASE! Good strategy, but not a good thing in my eyes. Obama damn well better stay consistent on this through the election.

A commercial break cuts off a question, and we come in midway through answers. Skip, skip, next question: How do you fight Mitt Romney?

CLINTON: And with all due respect, we have a president who basically ran as the CEO, MBA president, and look what we got. I am not too happy about the results.

OBAMA: Let me -- let me just also point out that, you know, Mitt Romney hasn't gotten a very good return on his investment during this presidential campaign.

---Zing! Zing! Two quotables in immediate succession!

What I think is exciting is that the way we are looking at the Democratic field, now down to the two of us is, is we're going to get big change. We're going to have change. I think having the first woman president would be a huge change for America and the world.

--- Clinton makes no mention, here or later, of the first black American president being a huge change. This boils down to, "I'm a woman! Vote for me because I'm a woman!"

And that is something that I have worked on all my life and we are seeing in this campaign. And one of the things I'm thrilled with -- and this is good news for Democrats... every single election that we've had so far in this contest you've seen the number of people participating in the Democratic primary double.

Now, that's not all due to me. Senator Clinton is attracting enthusiasm and support, as well. But I can say, for example, in Iowa, about 60 percent of those new voters voted for me.

And that, I think, changes the electoral map in such a way where we're going to have more people ready to move forward on the agendas that we all agree with. That's part of the leadership I want to provide as president.

--- Obama gives a better argument than "because I'm a woman/black", namely that he gets people to vote Democrat who otherwise wouldn't vote at all. Not quotable, but a better argument than Clinton's.

CUMMINGS: She asks to you: "Senator Clinton, that you have claimed that your presidency would bring change to America. I'm 38 years old and I have never had an opportunity to vote in a presidential election in which a Bush or a Clinton wasn't on the ticket.

"How can you be an agent of change when we have had the same two families in the White House for the last 30 years?"


CLINTON: Well, as I have often said, I regret deeply that there is a Bush in the White House at the time.

But I think that what's great about our political system is that we are all judged on our own merits. We come forward to the American public and it's the most grueling political process one can imagine.

We start from the same place. Nobody has an advantage no matter who you are or where you came from. You have to raise the money. You have to make the case for yourself.

And I want to be judged on my own merits. I don't want to be advantaged or disadvantaged. I'm very proud of my husband's administration. I think that there were a lot of good things that happened and those good things really changed people's lives.

The trajectory of change during those eight years went from deficits and debt to a balanced budget and a surplus, all those 22 million new jobs and the...


... and the hopefulness that people brought with them. And, you know, it did take a Clinton to clean after the first Bush and I think it might take another one to clean up after the second Bush.

--- Clinton ends on another Quotable, which is a damn shame, because everything she said leading up to this is contradictory. "I don't want to be judged by what my husband did as President, except when I want to take credit for it."

And the part about nobody having an advantage is absolute BULLSHIT. Hillary had a MASSIVE advantage over everybody else, Republican or Democrat, going into this campaign: name recognition, an ex-President for a spouse, the backing of most of the Democratic machine. It says a lot about who Hillary Clinton really is- and who Barack Obama is- that she's blown virtually all of that advantage at this point.

At the same time, we have got to tell the Iraqi government there is no -- there is no more time. They are out of time. They have got to make the tough decisions they have avoided making. They have got to take responsibility for their own country.

--- Clinton scores yet another Quotable...

OBAMA: Well, you know, I think it is important for us to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in.



So I have said very clearly: I will end this war. We will not have a permanent occupation and we will not have permanent bases in Iraq.

--- Obama comes back with not one but two Quotables...

We both have said that we need to have a strike force that can take out potential terrorist bases that get set up in Iraq. But the one thing that I think is very important is that we not get mission creep, and we not start suggesting that we should have troops in Iraq to blunt Iranian influence.

If we were concerned about Iranian influence, we should not have had this government installed in the first place.


We shouldn't have invaded in the first place. It was part of the reason that I think it was such a profound strategic error for us to go into this war in the first place.

--- And two MORE Quotables for Obama...

I will offer a clear contrast as somebody who never supported this war, thought it was a bad idea. I don't want to just end the war, but I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place.

That's the kind of leadership I'm going to provide as president of the United States.


CLINTON: And of course...

BLITZER: Senator Clinton, that's a clear swipe at you.

CLINTON: Really?


--- And ANOTHER quotable for Obama, landing a blow Clinton just plain cannot block or counter. Blitzer, bless his heart, keeps trying to play Jerry Springer.

Question to Clinton: "Before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, you could have voted for the Levin amendment which required President Bush to report to Congress about the U.N. inspection before taking military action. Why did you vote against that amendment?"

The way that amendment was drafted suggested that the United States would subordinate whatever our judgment might be going forward to the United Nations Security Council. I don't think that was a good precedent. Therefore, I voted against it.

--- Er, no, no it didn't. What's worse, Mrs. Clinton, your answer makes it sound as if you support the idea of unilateral, preemptive, aggressive war. Worse yet, in liberal/democratic circles the UN is considered a good thing. Anti-quotable for you.

You know, I've said many times if I had known then what I know now, I never would have given President Bush the authority. It was a sincere vote based on my assessment at the time and what I believed he would do with the authority he was given.

He abused that authority; he misused that authority. I warned at the time it was not authority for a preemptive war. Nevertheless, he went ahead and waged one, which has led to the position we find ourselves in today.

--- No, Mrs. Clinton, it WAS authority for preemptive war. It was authority to use military force to whatever extent and in whatever fashion Bush wished. It was unlimited authority to wage war, and you voted to give it to him. You still aren't admitting that you made the wrong vote based on what you knew then.

It will be important, however, that our nominee be able to present both a reasoned argument against continuing our presence in Iraq and the necessary credentials and gravitas for commander-in- chief. That has to cross that threshold in the mind of every American voter.

--- Forgive the low blows here, readers... but Mrs. Clinton, gravitas is not fighting back tears in New Hampshire when confronted with the possibility of not having the Presidency handed to you. Gravitas is not using your husband to attack your opponents when things get tough. Credentials do not come from being the spouse of someone who wields power, but from wielding power in your own right. For any thinking person, your argument works AGAINST you, not for you. Sadly, some of your supporters think you were Bill's vice-President.

But the notion that somehow we have succeeded (in Iraq with the surge) as a consequence of the recent reductions in violence means that we have set the bar so low it's buried in the sand at this point.

--- Another quotable for Obama!

I am happy to have that argument. I also think it is going to be important, though, for the Democrat -- you know, Senator Clinton mentioned the issue of gravitas and judgment. I think it is much easier for us to have the argument, when we have a nominee who says, I always thought this was a bad idea, this was a bad strategy.

Obama throws Clinton's argument right back at her, scoring another Quotable.

BLITZER: So, what I hear you saying -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- is that you were naive in trusting President Bush?

CLINTON: No, that's not what you heard me say.


Good try, Wolf. Good try. You know...

BLITZER: Was she naive, Senator Obama? deserve to answer.

BLITZER: I thought you weren't going to answer.

CLINTON: You know, I think that, you know, that is a good try, Wolf.


---Way to go, Blitzer. You just let Clinton bail herself out from a wandering ramble about how Bush failed. You just let her play the victim again. You just scored her a Quotable with zero substance. Heckuva job you're doing, Wolfie.

Knowing that {Saddam Hussein} was a megalomaniac, knowing he would not want to compete for attention with Osama bin Laden, there were legitimate concerns about what he might do. So, I think I made a reasoned judgment. Unfortunately, the person who actually got to execute the policy did not.

--- Um... what? Is Hillary Clinton seriously suggesting that Saddam was jealous of bin Laden? Is she suggesting that Saddam would launch an attack on the United States out of pique? Anti-quotable, and look for this one to haunt her for a while.

The reason that this is important, again, is that Senator Clinton, I think, fairly, has claimed that she's got the experience on day one. And part of the argument that I'm making in this campaign is that, it is important to be right on day one.

- Obama scores yet another Quotable- by throwing Clinton's campaign motto back in her face.

Yet again CNN asks questions during the commercial break, but since this question apparently hit my single biggest political issue, I'm not skipping over it...

OBAMA: ... and, as a parent, yes, I am concerned about what's coming over the airwaves. Now, right now, my daughters mostly are on Nickelodeon, but they know how to work that remote.


And, you know, the primary responsibility is for parents. And I reject the notion of censorship as an approach to dealing with this problem.

--- EXACTLY the right answer. I only wish Clinton's answer was in the transcript.

CUMMINGS: Greg Craig, who was one of your husband's top lawyers campaign can't control the former president now, what will it be like when you're in the White House?


CLINTON: Well, one thing I think is fair to say, both Barack and I have very passionate spouses...

--- She goes on for a lot longer, but to be perfectly blunt she never comes any closer to answering the actual question.

I can say this about -- about who I want not just as vice president but as a cabinet member. Part of what I would like to do is restore a sense of what is possible in government. And that means having people of the greatest excellence and competence. It means people with integrity. It means people with independence, who are willing to say no to me so, so that, you know, no more yes-men or women in the White House. Because I'm not going to be right on every single issue.

--- That last is a very, very dangerous admission for Obama. Very few politicans ever admit the possibility that they will, in the future, be wrong, and those who do generally lose. It's even more dangerous for Obama because the core of his message, and the reason he won the overall debate in my opinion, is that he didn't get it wrong about Iraq.

Clinton was ahead in the debate- getting in the quotable one-liners that will be all anyone recalls from any debate- until the subject of Iraq came up. Iraq unraveled her. Iraq is Obama's strongest suit and Clinton's weakest. If it weren't for the housing and credit bubbles bursting just now, I think Obama would be clearly ahead in the polls rather than not quite pulling even. Fortunately for Obama, Iraq was nearly the last thing in the debate, so those answers will be remembered where the others on healthcare and immigration aren't.

On actual substance I think Obama should have won this as well. (Of course, I'm biased- I just donated $20 to Obama's campaign yesterday, and if you think I'm giving a dime to Hillary you're crazy.) The problem with Obama is that, absent a prepared speech, he talks like a legal brief or a scholar's thesis. Obama needs to simplify his vocabulary for maximum impact as a campaigner. There were quite a few near-quotables in his responses that failed not because of their ideas, but because Obama took ten words to say what two words would say better.

On the whole, I don't think this debate changed much. People who give Iraq top priority have, for the most part, already chosen Obama. Obama's support of driver licenses for illegal immigrants, plus Clinton's subtle scapegoating of immigrants for minority unemployment, will have only a minimal effect on Obama's Latino support. Clinton's presentation of her healthcare plan carefully avoided the fact that she will punish people who don't buy corporate healthcare- thus making it sound better than it really is, preventing defections to Obama.

From the clips I see of the debate (not many), the two look like equals- both presidential, both competent and knowledgable, both having given the major issues serious thought. That might give Obama a modest name-recognition boost, but not much.

On the whole, I look for trends before the debate to continue afterwards: both candidates gaining strength as the undecided decide, with Obama closing the gap. The question is whether or not he can overtake her where it counts by Tuesday...

No comments: