In the Arena

The Democrats

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I know people are saying Hillary “won” it, and she does seem to be growing more comfortable in this setting–and taking some lessons from Bill, who always loved to give answers like this one when standing on a stage with a passle of Democrats in debate:

Everybody on this stage, we are all united, Wolf. We all believe that we need to try to end this war. In two nights you’re going to have the Republican candidates here. They all support the war. They all support the president. They all supported the escalation.

Smart move…but I still can’t get over the fact that her vote against funding the war–however symbolic–was a vote against a position she substantively favors: giving the troops what they need as a careful redeployment begins and a withdrawal strategy is implemented. And boy, do we need a new strategy

As for the others:

Edwards–This browbeating of Clinton and Obama on the war vote is silly, cheesy and ineffective.
Obama–Better than the first debate, but still sort of muffled. Good get on Senator Bob Graham reading the entire National Intelligence Estimate and deciding to vote against the war. (It really is so un-Hillary for her not to have read it.)
Biden–Still have the feeling he’s working overtime to figure out the right modulation for each of his answers. A little too wild-eyed last night. But I do admire his willingness to go against the flow on the war funding bill.
Dodd–Every inch a Senator.
Richardson–Great diplomat, good governor, but It’s becoming sadly obvious that he can’t play in this league.
Kucinich–Dick Armey: this guy actually is for socialized medicine. His presence makes everyone else seem moderate, which they, essentially, are.
Gravel–Makes reference to his own “meds.” Please go home.

Finally, I’m getting tired of the shallow, peremptory quality of these things. The most important question of the night was asked by the wife of a soldier serving in Iraq:

What is your vision on ending major military operations and how do you plan on rebuilding the military after such many years of conflict?

Wolf Blitzer let Kucinich, Obama and Dodd get away with not answering the first–and more important–half of the question. Soon Blitzer was off and running, asking the candidates to raise their hands on this or that. (Can we put that silly device to rest now? It peaked with the 3 Republicans who didn’t believe in evolution.)
But the Iraq question lingered. How to end major military operations is the most important issue facing the country. You could hold an entire debate on it. I wish one or another of these TV moderators would figure that out and force these candidates, in both parties, to get into some detail.