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The “OC” Showdown Debate

Peter B here. 


(I’ll  be frequently adding on to this blog post as I watch the debate).

Obama and Clinton are having a face-off polite debate on CNN as I type this message.  Edwards officially dropped out of the Democratic race yesterday, leaving two big guns to square off debate in tonight.

CNN’s Political Ticker blog posted an article earlier today showing some stats that Obama was technically the most liberal senator in 2008.  Read the article for details on the "technically" part (you’ll hear some echos from John Kerry’s 2003 campaign).

On the far edge of the scale, Rolling Stone’s latest issue features an article by Matt Taibbi that compares the Obama-Clinton faceoff as a rehash of the Kennedy-Nixon debates of the 60’s.  "It’s Kennedy-Nixon redux – two superficial conservatives selling highly similar politics".   Interesting reading, suitably rant-heavy for today’s Rolling Stone – and tears into Hillary as much as Nixon was torn into years ago.  Special applause to Victor Juhasz for the illustration of Hillary looking like a sweating Nixon.

I tuned in a few minutes late into the "OC" debate,  but my first observation was similar to Juhasz’s illustrations – Obama is looking cool and charsimatic with (seemingly) little effort, Clinton looks like she’s trying too hard to keep it at Obama’s level.  When Barak’s talking and rolling out the laughs (laughs on underlying serious subjects), Hillary seems to nerviously shrink into the background and scribble on her notepad with a grimace on her face.  I think that smirk/grimace is what Juhasz  depicted as the "Nixon drips of sweat", although she looks more pissed off than nervous.   Charisma is going to be the big final factor here, and Hillary is losing on that front.

Hillary is talking about smaller, more important details that make more sense, and her points are ones that can only come from someone with experience.  Obama is handing out the promises and the ideas on the bigger picture issues.  

~~~more commentary to follow.

7:55pm CST:  Hillary is looking more and more pissed off as Obama talks.   If you’re ever looking for a poker partner, don’t pick Hillary – she can’t keep a straight face.  Just don’t pick your president based on their poker face skills.
The "webcast" version of the debate on CNN.com features a live "people meter" overlaid over the debate, a kind of line graph that apparently tallies the positive reactions of a large panel of largely "undecided" voters.  According to the "people meter", the panel is getting the best reactions from Hillary’s turns on the camera.  It spikes when she talks about her experience on human rights.  When she’s talking about her experience, her charisma spikes – both on the chart and in here.
The chart dips whenever Hillary leaves the camera – my first reaction when tuning into the debate may have been wrong…

One of the questions towards Hillary is her stance on change when her presidency would be another link on the the Bush/Clinton/Bush/Clinton cycle.   Best reaction so far for Hillary – "it took one Clinton to clean up after the first Bush, it will take another to clean up after the second one".   Obama’s chagrin to that line -and the resulting applause- was clear.

Hillary (paraphrased): we need someone that not only start getting us out of Iraq, but who has the balls to stand up against the barrage from the Republicans when we start doing it.
So True!
Hillary’s gained steam and shining over Barak.  Obama’s the one now in the background, hands crossed nervously, doubting himself.

~After the debate~
Hillary has shown her strengths by responding with specifics and realistic proposals, contrasted by Obama’s generalizations and idealistic "wishes".
I originally missed the critical part of the debate (at the beginning) about healthcare, which was one of Obama’s few strongpoints of the debate – CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider mentions in his political ticker:

 Obama is very clever, to mention Ted Kennedy early in the evening – and follow that reference with a reminder of his bi-partisan credentials. This is a very important point: no major policy initiative in the United States can be passed without bi-partisan consensus. That’s the way our system was designed, and he understands that.

Meanwhile, Clinton is seizing universal health care as her issue – saying, in a very subtle way: I’m for universal health care, and he’s not. This is a core Democratic issue

She also takes a much more conciliatory view of insurance companies – we have to work with them instead of fighting them. That may not be a view that resonates with Edwards supporters.
Wolf Blitzer was keen on needling both candidates throughout the debate, hoping for more of a traditional "fight" debate, but both candidates kept their cool, aiming their ire against the Bush administration than against each other (a choice for the better).  The way it should be – less finger pointing at each other, and a unified finger at the Bush administration.

Unified…. the final question – the possiblity of a Clinton/Obama (or Obama/Clinton) ticket – is a question everyone wanted to know about.   But it was a typical "polite" response with the expected smiles and light jokes, not worth the last few minutes of the debate when more important questions could have been answered.   In contrast, the question to Hillary about keeping Bill’s "firestorm" in check was not, as many on CNN mentioned, a pointless question – a lot of undecided voters have a little of the right wing thought process still lingering in them and need to be assured about this.  Clinton’s response didn’t exactly help assure them, unfortunetly, other than trying to get people to feel sorry for her for having to put up with the echo of the right wing firestorm that Bill Clinton endured in the 90’s.

The debate was a good sign that the democratic candidates (the two of them remaining) finally ending their tearing at one other’s throats.  Despite my original impression (most likely resulting from tuning in right at the end of Obama’s brief high point on healthcare) Hillary seemed to come out ahead on this one.  Experience and change are both the key points here for a president.  Obama has to learn some things, and has to gain some experience before he can sit in the Oval Office.  He’s a very smart candidate, but as Hunter once said…

Even smart people have to be taught… that’s all well and good but I don’t have to do the teaching
Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Good night.

-Peter B 

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