The following series is an examination of last night’s debate from watching the posted debate on YouTube over and over and over and over again so that I can get down what was exactly said by each candidate. (And in fact, minutes ago, my work has been cut down as I have been able to obtain a transcript from the New York Times.) [BOLD and italics have been added to transcript for emphasis]
It is imperative that I do this because many Americans do not have the time. I do because I have chosen to free myself from a world of virtual reality and become obsessed with politics instead.
Examining what was exactly said is necessary because the MSNBC coverage is already poor and misleading. For example, Kucinich is noted for seeing a UFO and not being the only candidate to raise the issue of impeachment of Cheney then Bush.
Therefore, pull up an easy chair. Sit back. Reach out and place your hand on the down arrow and scroll leisurely through the jumble and clutter that is last night’s debate.
Part 1: The First Ten Minutes
The first ten minutes can be characterized as a segment of relentless scrutiny of Hillary Clinton as it was a chance for Obama and Edwards to speak about how Hillary Clinton is a flawed candidate. While there were four other candidates at the debate, they were ignored as MSNBC poorly chose to focus on Hillary instead of real issues for the first ten minutes of the debate.
The first question was dealt to Barack Obama who was asked to highlight the issues where he and Sen. Clinton have differed or rather, where he thought she had voted and sounded like a Republican. Obama responded:
Obama: Some of this stuff gets overhyped. In fact, I think this has been the most hyped fight since Rocky fought Apollo Creed. Although the amazing thing is I am Rocky in htis situation. Look, we have big challenges. We’re at war. The country is struggling with issues like rising health care. We’ve got major global challenges like climate change and that’s gonna require meaningful change. I’m running for president because I think that the way to bring about that change is to offer some sharp contrasts with the other party. I think it means that we bring people together to get things done. I think it means that we push against the special interests that are holding us back. And I think it requires us to be honest about the challenges that we face. it does not mean I think changing positions whenever it’s politically convenient. And Senator Clinton in her campaign i think has been for NAFTA and now she’s against it. She has taken one position on torture several months ago and then most recently has taken another position. She voted for a war to authorize sending troops into iraq and later said this is a war for diplomacy. That may be politically savvy but I don’t think that it offers the clear contrast that we need. I think what we need right now is honesty with the American people about where we will take the country. That’s how I am trying to run my campaign. That’s how I will be as president.
The response to Hilary Clinton being a Republican is interesting because if we want to really talk about sounding Republican, it is he who sounds Republican. His response was akin to a previous debate in the last election between Kerry and Bush where Bush repeatedly described “hard work” that needed to be done. For Obama, instead of repeating "hard work", he chose to repeat the word "challenges" throughout most of the debate. He spoke of the “challenges” America faces and how he will unite people and meet those “challenges” head on. He also mentioned bringing people together, which is a “uniter, not a divider” line that Bush has been dealing Americans throughout his presidency. And he went after Hillary like Bush and Republicans went after Kerry by detailing her flip-flops.
Hillary responded to Barack Obama:
Clinton: I don’t think the Republicans got the message that I am voting and sounding like them. If you watch their debate last week, I seem to be the topic of great conversation and consternation. And that’s for a reason because I have stood against George Bush and his failed policies. They want to continue the war in Iraq. I want to end it. The Republicans are waving their sabers and talking about going after war with Iran. I want to prevent a rush to war. On every issue from health care for children to an energy policy that puts on the right track to deal with climate change and make us more secure. I have been standing against the Republicans, Bush, and Cheney. And I will continue to do so and I think Democrats know that.
You aren’t sounding like them. You are sounding like a weak spineless, gutless, hapless Democrat who is finding it tough to do and say what you believe in Congress and also do and say the same thing on the campaign trail. Whether you want to end the war, prevent a rush to war, want to deal with climate change and health care is different from possessing the character, integrity, and policies to do such things. Standing against Bush and Cheney in rhetoric is not sufficient anymore. You must be taking actions through defunding, impeachment, restoration of American civil liberties that have been stolen, etc.
The debate moved to Edwards’ claims that Hillary Clinton has been engaging in double talk.
Edwards: Well first, good evening. It’s wonderful to be here. (laugh) Let me talk a little bit about the choice that I see voters have. I think that from my perspective President Bush over the last seven years has destroyed the trust relationship between America and its president. In fact, I think he’s destroyed the trust relationship between the President of the United States and the rest of the world. And I think it is crucial for Democratic voters and caucus goers to determine who they can trust. Who’s honest? Who’s sincere? Who has integrity? And I think it’s fair in that regard to look at what people have said. Sen. Clinton says that she believes she can be the candidate for change. But she defends a broken system that’s corrupt in Washington D.C. She says she will end the war. But she continues to say she’ll keep combat troops in Iraq and continue combat missions in Iraq. To me that’s not ending the war. That’s a continuation of the war. She says she’ll stand up to George Bush on Iran. She just said it again. And in fact, she voted to give George Bush the first step in moving militarily on Iran. And he’s taken it. Bush and Cheney have taken it. They’ve now declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization and a proliferator of WMDs. I think we have to stand up to this president. And then in our last debate, she said that she was against any changes to social security: benefits, retirement age, or raising the cap on the social security tax. But apparently it’s been reported that she said privately something different than that. And I think the American people given this historic moment in our country’s history deserve a President of the United States that they know will tell them the truth and won’t say one thing one time and something different another time.
It’s too early in the debate to determine yet who came out as the most sincere, honest, and who showed the most integrity, but it is not too late to highlight the fact that you, Edwards, are no different from Hillary Clinton when it comes to defending a broken system that’s corrupt in Washington D.C. By the end of the debate, it will be determined if you have told the truth unequivocally and not engaged in “double talk,” which you condemn Hillary for engaging in. And an elaboration on this broken system that’s corrupt will occur also.
Hillary responded to Edwards:
Clinton: I think that anyone who’s looked at my record of 35 years fighting for women and children and people who feel invisible and left out in this country knows my record. I fought for expanded education and health care in Arkansas. I helped to bring health care to six million children while in the White House. Now, in the Senate I’ve been standing up against to the Republicans in everything from preventing them from privatizing social security to standing up against President Bush’s veto of children’s health. You know, I have a long record of standing up and fighting and I take on the special interest. I’ve been taking them on for many years. I think all you have to do is go back and read the media to know that. But on specific issues, I’ve come out with very specific plans. With respect to social security, I do have a plan. It’s called “Start with Fiscal Responsibility.” That’s what we were doing in the 1990s and we had social security on a much better path than it is today because of the irresponsible spending policies of George Bush and the Republican Congress. If there are some of the long term challenges that we need to address, let’s do it in the context of having fiscal responsibility and then let’s put together a bipartisan commission and look at how we are going to deal with these long term challenges. But I am not going to balance social security on the backs of seniors and hardworking middle class Americans. Let’s start taking away the tax cuts away from the wealthy. Let’s take away the no-bid contracts from Halliburton before we start imposing a trillion dollar tax increase on the elderly and on middle class workers. I don’t think that’s necesary so I have a very specific plan.