In the Arena

The Debate

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Well, I had doubts about it…but the youtube format was pretty good. The informality and the irreverence of questions was classicly American. The answer to Drudge’s mocking headline “Is This Any Way to Elect A President?” is:

Hell, yeah. It’s a lot better than electing a President by having the Democratic candidate slimed via sleazy Republican leaks to your site, Matt.

As for the candidates…

Hillary Clinton–a good night. Very quick tactical move to challenge Obama on his desire to talk to “foreign leaders.” Of course, substantively, Obama and Clinton would lay the exact same groundwork before meeting with those leaders. But Clinton’s pointing out that the groundwork had to be done was, dare I say it, judicious and presidential…and made Obama look, well, inexperienced.

Obama–a pretty good night. But I fear that the operative sound bite will be Hillary’s foreign leader takedown. Also, he’s just wrong: the only way to get to universal health insurance is through a mandate. No two ways about it.

Edwards–Best of the candidate commercials. Very clever “hair” offering, mixing gossip about his haircuts with images of Iraq and Katrina. Generally strong and gracious responses. (Though wildly stupid to say that he didn’t like Hillary Clinton’s blouse.) But on the subject of haircuts, if I were spending all that money, I’d have the barber add a little gray: I’m not sure why it is, but Edwards comes off as too much the tyro to be a President. Appearances do matter. Sorry.

Biden–a generally strong night, but wrong on Darfur. (And Hillary was right.) If we put American troops there, they would attract jihadis like flies, just as they have in Iraq. It would be Somalia in no time. What’s needed is UN peacekeepers.

Richardson–I still don’t get it. You can’t pull the troops out of Iraq in 6 months. The YouTube questioner who opposed the war, but repeated again and again, “How Do you pull out…now?” had a point that no except Biden and Clinton (Again!) responded to with any honesty. (Note to Obama campaign: Removing U.S. combat troops by March 2008, as the Iraq Study Group suggested, was plausible in December 2006…but that eight months ago. Need an eight-month revision to November 2008, at the least, unfortunately.)

Dodd-He always sounds like a Senator.

Kucinich and Gravel–as ever. Enough already.