Thursday, April 26, 2007

"Some of these people frighten me." and other thoughts on tonight's presidential debate

Like opening day or the last day of school, today is a great day. That's right. The first debate of the presidential election season. By the time the next 18 months have passed, we'll be tired of all of this. But not tonight.

Don't you just love it?

Let me get my biases out of the way right off the bat. If the primary were held today, I'd be voting for Bill Richardson. There is no doubt in my mind that he is the best candidate. That may change over the course of the debates, but for now, he's my man. John Edwards (who I voted for in the 2004 primary) will also get my consideration. Other than that, the rest have a lot to prove.

So without further ado, let the proving begin...

You're looking live at South Carolina State University. Following this commercial for the college (masked as a historical overview), we'll get going. There's only one given tonight: there will be a question about the confederate flag.

  • Bill Richardson looks shell shocked right out of the gate. I wonder if he realized he was on.

  • That local anchor is right out of central casting.

  • Can Richardson hear, does he have a cold? He appears slack jawed. He's got to act like he's on camera all of the time.

  • First question is on Iraq. Clinton: "Let me start by saying..." Just say it. It's your time, we'll let you do anything you want.

  • Biden: "This is not a game show. This is not a game." And then he says Bush needs to "get on the game plan." I don't think he generally remembers what he's saying from one minute to the next.

  • John Edwards conspicuously has a couple of hairs out of place. I wonder if that's on purpose.

  • I don't understand why politicians can't just say they were wrong. I don't think this "If I knew then what I knew now" stuff washes very well.

  • This is what I like about Bill Richardson, he is the only one who has spelled out a specific plan. Michelle just said "the poor guy looks nervous. Look at him shaking." He does sound a little nervous. Talking too fast.

  • Gravel wand to "make it a felony" to stay in Iraq. Huh?

  • So Mr. Anchorman is just there to read emails? Great. Looks good doing it though. He can't hear either.

  • Why is Clinton getting a "rebuttal" to Obama's point on Iraq? I didn't hear Obama say something that needs to be rebutted? I hope this isn't going to turn out to be the Obama-Clinton show.

  • I think Obama meant to say the donor was involved in "unethical" behavior. He doesn't sound ready to answer the question.

  • Don't apologize for how you pay for your haircuts. Do what you do. But he did an excellent job turning around the question to his "son of a millworker" story.

  • What is the deal with the hedge fund questions? Is this a big deal? Is this is big problem? I could have listed 100 things that I'd like to hear them talk about, and hedge funds wouldn't be one of them. And if the idea of this segment is to look at the elephants in the room, it seems like there's a lot more to ask Clinton about than hedge funds.

  • Michelle on Chris Dodd: "He has no chin." Lance on Chris Dodd: He sounds like "the most Washington" of all of the candidates. He talks like a senator.

  • Senator Gravel: "Some of these people frighten me." The answer to the question of who hasn't taken nukes off the table is John Edwards, if not others. Michelle: "I agree with his position, but he's a bit of a fruit loop."

  • Biden is muffing his abortion question. Does he not remember the first names of the supreme court justices? Putting a Trojan horse into what? I'm not sure I have the first idea what he was talking about.

  • Why would you cut off the question about each candidate's favorite justice? Let 'em all answer. In fact, I wish they'd have let them each of them choose any justice (including past justices) and explain their answer. That might have been the most interesting question of the night.

  • Five gun owners out of eight. Dodd looked like he had to think about it. Biden hasn't owned a pistol, just a shotgun. Can't you just raise your hand and shut up? You don't have to explain away everything. You own (or have owned) a gun. OK.

  • Edwards is right, they have not had the chance to talk about specific issues. Good for him for talking the opportunity. Now the others are following suit. Hopefully the debate will become more substantive.

  • "Let me start by saying..." again Senator Clinton, just say it. She sounds like she's yelling. I wonder if she realizes that she is using a microphone. I think that's one of the reason she turns some people off. She sounds shrill.

  • And Mr. Anchorman asks the confederate flag question! Do I know my stuff or what? Obama clearly did not want the question. Put the confederate flag in a museum. Okey-dokey.

  • Biggest mistake: Kucinich fired the police chief of Cleveland live on TV on Good Friday. Good answer. That would in fact be a mistake.

  • Edwards blamed the high price of gas on over-consumption and asks Americans to increase consumption and "be patriotic on something other than war." What about the oil companies? Shouldn't we also ask them to be patriotic?

  • Obama can't list three allies. European Union, Japan. And that's just two.

  • Wow. Biden just listed Putin's Russia as one of the three greatest threats to America. Good for him for saying it. I couldn't agree more.

  • Richardson is so credible when he talks about foreign relations. It's obvious that he has a handle on what's going on. I'm not sure he's doing a great job of appearing presidential, however.

  • Four candidates raised hand acknowledging "Global War on Terror." Gravel looked unsure, as though he was sheepishly trying to order a drink.

  • Obama is fumbling a question about how he would respond to simultaneous terrorist attacks. He sounds wonky, not presidential. Edwards on the other hand, immediately said he would react "swiftly and strongly."

  • Clinton doesn't seem to sound like she can envision herself as president. She says things like "a president should," "I think we should," etc. She doesn't say "I will do" this or that. Maybe that's not a big deal, but if she can't envision herself in the job, how does she expect me to see her as commander-in-chief?

  • Joe Biden couldn't answer the question of what he would propose to deal with climate change that would be "hard." Passing legislation to fund this or that or to mandate this or that is not hard.

  • Obama fumbles another question. He and his friends planted three thousand trees. He mentions energy-saving light bulbs only after being prompted by Brian Williams.

  • Kucinich and Gravel getting into it with Obama over Iran. Apparently Obama joins Edwards as candidates who won't take any options off the table.

  • I thought Edwards did a great job with the question of who his moral leader is. He seemed thoughtful and sincere, and articulated his answer well.
More to come after I've had some time to digest it all.

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