Tuesday, February 26, 2008

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Live-blogging the Ohio debate

This could very well be the last presidential debate for the next six months, so it seems worth live-blogging. On the other hand, this is the 20th debate on the Democratic side of the ledger, and I've watched enough of them to feel like we're in re-runs.

Updates once the debate starts.

12:00 PM: One last thought -- my bet is that the press coverage will focus on the tonal contrasts between Clinton and Obama. It should focus on the fact that both candidates want to threaten withdrawing from a treaty as one of their first acts in office as a way to build up America's image abroad.

10:39: ACK!!! Keith Olbermann!! Run away, run away!!!

10:37 PM: Well, it's over. My take is that Obama brought it home -- his tone and demeanor were measured -- he seemed unflappble and, you know, presidential. Clinton had too many carping moments. The times where she could have proffered grace notes (the to and fro on Farrakhan) she was overly aggressive.

10:29 PM: Obama tries to end on a similar grace note to mirror Clinton's Texas valedictory. The funny thing is that Hillary's face is completely impassive during the first part of his answer.

10:28 PM: Clinton's last answer always seems to be her best.

10:20 PM: Obama gets political science props for critiquing the methodology of the National Journal rankings. He gets political props for turning the question back to his overarching campaign themes.

10:17 PM: Sullivan thinks Obama's Farrakhan response was, "A weak response - reminiscent of Dukakis." I'll just note that the Official Blog Wife concurs. Greg Sargent disagrees. What I found really disturbing was this statement by Clinton:

I just think, we've got to be even stronger. We cannot let anyone in any way say these things because of the implications that they have, which can be so far reaching (emphasis added).
Um... as a really big fan of that whole first amendment thingmabob, let me suggest that at president, Hillary Clinton damn well should "let anyone in any way say these things."

10:13 PM: Wow. Did Hillary Clinton just say that rejecting an anti-Semitic party endorsement was going to put hurt her 2000 Senate campaign at risk.... in New York?!! That is just so politically brave of Hillary Clinton.

10:08 PM: Russert tells Obama, "You have to react to unexpected events in this campaign." I half-expect him to then leap over the table, stab Obama with a shiv, and then say, "like that!!"

10:05 PM: And at 65 minutes, my Russert allergy kicks in.

10:01 PM: Obama's response to Clinton's "fighter" point on health care is pretty sharp. His counterpunching has definitely improved over the course of the campaign.

9:57 PM: Hillary gets off a good line in response to her Obama-mocking: "It's hard to find time to have fun on the campaign tail."

9:49 PM: A sign of growing debate fatigue -- I welcome the commercial break. Hmmm.... must consult doctor about Abilify....

9:45 PM: I can't tell whether Russert is more obsteperous towards Clinton in his questions... or if Clinton is so used to Russert that she feels she has to interrupt him to make her point. Neither of them looks particularly good during these exchanges, however.

9:40 PM: I do hope that the general election debates are at this level. Clearly, these two are disagreeing, but on the whole it's been at a pretty high level. The resolution of today's McCain-Obama dust-up is encouraging here.

9:39 PM: Josh Marshall: "you've clearly got both of them right on their game tonight. These are both just incredibly accomplished sharp people and both at the top of their game."

9:34 PM: Sullivan is right: "[H]e seems like a president. She seems annoyed."

9:27 PM: I'm glad that the first thing Hillary Clinton will do to improve America's image abroad is inform Canada and Mexico that we'll withdraw from NAFTA unless we renegotiate the trade deal. That'll do wonders. UPDATE: Oh, goodie, Obama agrees. Excuse me while I go bang my head against a wall. [UPDATE: Hey, shouldn't someone call Obama for flip-flopping on withdrawing from NAFTA?]

What I find so fascinating is that both Obama and Clinton are saying that NAFTA benefited some parts of the country but not others. This is undoubtedly true, but the policy response to that is not to renegotiate NAFTA -- tougher labor and environmental standards won't affect Ohio's economy. The answer is to expand trade adjustment assistance programs within the United States.

9:19 PM: Did Hillary Clinton actually complain that, "I keep getting asked the first question" and then reference Saturday Night Live?! And she says that Obama isn't tough enough for the general election?! You got to be f***ing kidding me. UPDATE: The Clinton campaign is apparently obsessed with SNL.

9:17 PM: Just 16 minutes on health care, and no applause -- yay, MSNBC!!

9:11 PM: Hillary's giving a good rebuttal on health care -- but at the beginning of her answer, she seemed to iply that it's perfectly fine to use attack mailers on other, lesser subjects -- but it's different with health care.

9:08 PM: I continue to be impressed with Obama's improvement over the arc of these debates.

9:03 PM: Health care is a passion of Hillary Clinton? Who knew? After the debate, MSNBC will be airing its 14-part series, The Passions of Hillary Clinton.

9:01 PM: Oh, MSNBC gets immediate bonus points ffrom your humble blogger for not bothering with the walking-out portion of the debate.

8:00 PM: The debate starts in an hour. In the meanwhile, to liven things up, consider the following drinking rules while watching this debate:

Take a sip if:

a) Obama holds Clinton's chair for her;

b) Clinton talks about how universal health care should be a core element of the Democratic party;

c) Either candidate suggests the other one said something nice about NAFTA;

d) Hillary says "35 years";

e) Obama scapegoats China for Ohio's economy.

Take a shot if:
a) Hillary mentions Tony Rezko;

b) Obama mentions the Clintons' tax returns;

c) The health care section of the debate exceeds 30 minutes;

d) Either candidate starts a sentence with "John Edwards and I...."

e) Either candidate has to respond to questions about their spouse;

f) Either candidate offers to bar foreign actors from competing in next year's Academy Awards.

Drink everything in your house if:
a) LeBron James is in the audience;

b) Either candidate says a positive word about trade

c) Hillary shouts, "Bitches get stuff done!"

d) Obama grabs an American flag, tears it in half, spits on it, then jumps up and down and shouts "Attica!! Attica!!"

e) Clinton says to Obama, "You know, I've earned this so much more than you have."

f) Obama says to Clinton, "You're going to be just fine."

posted by Dan on 02.26.08 at 07:31 PM


I certainly agree with you on not renegotiating NAFTA, but do trade adjustment assistance programs work? I read about some research a year or so ago suggesting they had little effect. Which programs work, and why?

posted by: Bill N on 02.26.08 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

9:03 PM: Health care is a passion of Hillary Clinton? Who knew? After the debate, MSNBC will be airing it's 14-part series, The Passions of Hillary Clinton.

As someone who saw the movie that is alluded to, I can only hope (no pun intended).

posted by: Joseph Sixpack on 02.26.08 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

What I find fascinating is how little attention Canadians are paying to what Clinton and Obama are saying about NAFTA. Most Canadians and an even larger number of people here in Quebec favor the Democrats,who are seen as the kinder and gentler Americans.

However, their policy prescriptions really would hurt our economy. We have really prospered here since NAFTA was enacted.

Canadian governments go out of their way to cultivate these trade relationships. They could however, do more to explain their advantages to the American people. If the Canadian government had any guts it would run ads showing how important the Canadian-American relationship is.

The ads would not even have to mention NAFTA. Perhaps they could point out that we are one of the few safe sources of energy the U.S. has. When American politicians talk about the dangers of dependence on foreign oil, I don't think they are thinking about the tar-sands in Alberta or oil off the shores of Atlantic Canada. We also provide a safe source of hydro-electricity.

I agree with you that it is hard to talk about improving America's image in the world while you're pandering to isolationist sentiment. However, politicians think it works. They see how McCain's candor in Michigan paid off for Romney and they think that pandering is a sure recipe for success.

It will take a lot more people like you speaking up on the advantages of trade to turn the tide on this.

posted by: steve albert on 02.26.08 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

On Farrakhan, let's not forget:

McCain 2000 (paraphrase): Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson are agents of intolerance of the right, similar to Lousi Farrakhan on the left.

McCain 2007: goes to Falwell's university, praises Falwell, embraces Falwell.

Obama has never praised or embraced or solicited Louis Farrakhan. McCain's more of an extremist than Obama according to McCain's own logic.

posted by: jared on 02.26.08 at 07:31 PM [permalink]

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