Thursday, April 26, 2007

First Democratic Debate...

I am currently watching the first Democratic Presidential debate from South Carolina. I'm going to post some of my thoughts as the debate goes on - although this will post when the debate is over...remember, these are quick hit thoughts, and written on the fly... (+ indicates that I noted it was a really top notch answer):

Round 1 - Iraq
Clinton - Steady; Looks authoritative; didn't answer the question (was Reid right in saying the war was lost); conceded to Obama on a rebutal - GREAT move, made her look deferential yet forceful

Edwards - Smooth; good answer on Iraq (foreign policy can be his weak spot)

Biden - very off the cuff; spontaneous

Obama - Slow start, but recovered well - good, but expected, position on Iraq

Kucinich - same old, same old on anti-war; he just doesn't seem Presidential

+ Richardson - Wow, made stronger impression on Iraq that I expected; no funding; leave by 31-Dec-07; specific three point plan on what to do when the soldiers came home on 31-Dec; only specific plan answers

Dodd - unremarkable

Gravel - "this fraudulent war was lost from the beginning;" old codger; law to make it a felony to stay in Iraq

Note: Clinton given two rebuttals - no one else

R2 - Perceptions in the Public
Obama - Corruption in Campaign - Smooth, in a tricky spot

Edwards - Haircut/Wealth - nice job of twisting this into running to give the same chances to all Americans as those he has had; Hedge Funds - markets are instrumental in getting rid of poverty

Clinton - Hedge Funds - we have an enterprising economy; basic answer

Richardson - AG AG, didn't call for resignation because he's hispanic - Took this right back to AG's failings

Dodd - Washinton insider - Proud of his pubic service; we've had 6 years of a President going through on-the-job-training, maybe we could use an insider

Kucinich - Anti-war candidate - Choppy answer; pushing his anti-war position genuinely

Biden - Gaffe-machine - Yes (first laugh-line)

Gravel - Doesn't matter if he gets elected - Scared of the rest of these guys; no nukes

+ Clinton - Unfavorable Republican view - ask them; Health Care, still have the scars from that battle; Republicans are worried, and that is why they are so vitriolic; promotes universal health care, energy independence, climate-change initiatives, corruption of Bush years, internatinoal alliances, not alienations; Serious - good answer

Notes: Clinton given two questions; Gravel is an utter embarrassment

R3 - Domestic Issues
Edwards - Abortion - This decision (the recent late-term abortion SCOTUS decision) shows just how important the Presidency and appointments to SCOTUS are; difficult decision that must be respected

Obama - Abortion (most of America agreed with decision) - would not agree; he would trust women to make the decision; then - really nicely - turned to prevention and other issues that would reduce abortions without bans

Biden - Litmus test on R v. W - no specific test, but nominees must share my values and understand there is a right to privacy; bad decision with dishonest reasoning; the late-term procedure itself is bad, but the decision was bad

Kucinich - Litmus test - yes, but the focus should be on other things: living wage, preventive care is support for life; listen to those opposed to abortion in order to be a healer on the issue; respect and protect women but listen to opposing views

Dodd - Regret voting for Roberts - No; disppointed but no - he didn't do what he said he'd do (respect precedent)

Richardson - Model SC Justice - Byron White (moderator says "alive") - Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Dodd - Model SC Justice - since Brennan is excluded (by moderator); Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Edwards - Model SC Justice - Ruth Bader Ginsberg or Stephen Breyer

Clinton - did govt fail at VT - YES; while respecting gun owners rights, improve gun regulation especially to mentally ill

Richardson - NRA favorite - Protection of gun rights is important in the west; moved to mental health and enforcing background checks

Show of Hands - who has had a gun in the house as an adult: Gravel; Biden; Dodd; Richardson; Kucinich(?!?)

Biden - what could federal govt have done for VT - (I owned a shotgun, not just a handgun); Assault weapons ban should not have been allowed to lapse; close the gun sho loophole; focus on mental illness

Notes: No one really hit a homerun; Obama's not standing out

R4 - Health Care (HC)
Edwards - What taxes will be raised to pay for your HC plan - Repeal the Bush tax cuts on anyone over 200k; I have a specific, different HC plan

Obama - How to pay for plan - (doesn't answer, just discusses plan); Pool to buy into like Congress; must control costs; preventive care; technology; catrostophic coverage

+ Clinton - Pay for plan - (doesn't answer) - Experience of fighting for a plan; Control and decrease costs for all, including those with insurance currently; save monies in the current system before we transform to a new system

Richardson - No taxes? - No - don't want to raise taxes to pay; as Governor deal with this issue every day: 1. Cut existing beuracracy; 2. Share savings throughout system; 3. Prevention; 4. clean up inefficiencies (insitute HC Info System); 5. reinstate Dr./Patient relationships

Biden - NAACP ban on SC due to flag - more important to show of the capabilities of the people of the host historic black college, than to avoid the state

Obama - Conf. flag - Confederate flag belongs in a museum; but there are bigger issues on the table to discuss tonight - black infant mortality rates/poverty; deferred to "Hillary"

Notes: Obama finally warming up; Clinton carries the air of a President; Richardson focusing on specifics all night

Rd5 - Serious Mistake in the Past 4 Years
Gravel - Wouldn't have held the youth of the other candidates againist them

Kucinich - Years ago, fired the Cleveland Police Chief live on local news

+ Clinton - not enough time to list all mistakes; HC message; believing the President was going to go to the UN and listen to inspectors

+ Obama - when first arrived in Senate; left after debate on a law re: Schaivo - should have stayed and had a full debate/vote

Biden - overestimating the competence and underestimating the arrogance of Bush administration

Edwards - Voting for the war; lesson = listen to own judgment

Dodd - Voting for war

Richardson - too impatient, has tried to force changes, including a minimum wage in NM when should have used diplomacy

Rd6 - Miscellaneous
+ Clinton - Amnesty for immigrants - Comprehensive immigration reform including additional enforcement, helping states pay for costs of illegals, get 12MM immigrants out of the shadows so we know who is here, give current residents a chance to pay a fine, pay their taxes, learn English and get in back of the line to become citizens

Biden - Tech degrees/brain drain - Change the way we educate our children; smaller class sizes and better pay for teacher to get better teachers

Dodd - Welfare drug tests - No; over-tested all over; addition is an illness; show respect and compassion

+ Edwards - Oil Comp. windfalls - much is due to demand, we need to focus on transforming that - climate change initiative, cap carbon emmissions, clean energy resources; let's ask America to be patriotic about something other than war

Kucinich - HC premiums - due to For Profit Insurance companies; non-profit HC

Richardson - 1st thing accomplished in office - 1. Get out of Iraq; 2. Energy independence plan like Apollo program; 3. Climate change initiative

Notes: Clinton cruising

Rd 7 - Non-Iraq Foreign Policy
Obama - 3 biggest allies - 1. EU/NATO; 2. Japan; 3. Emerging China; distraction of Iraq ---follow up question - what about Israel - covers on Palestinian quote; strong ally

+ Biden - 3 biggest threats - 1. N. Korea; 2. Iran; 3. Russian/Putin; we need a change in policy - jettison preemption & regime change - we don't need regime change, but conduct change

Gravel - 3 threats - No important enemies; treat the world as equals; not afraid of any nations; military industrial complex

Edwards - Russia, friend or for - they have moved from democracy to autocracy; how does America change the dynamics of the world? Set America as a force of good in the world; lead on education of children of the world; clean water; economic independence

Richardson - 4 time nominee for Nobel Peace Prize, what about Russia - Assess strategy interests: 1. contain the nukes; 2. Humane treatment in Chechnya; 3. develope Russia as a stable source of energy for US; 4. Promote democracy; stubborn is not a foreign policy; fight terrorism and nuclear proliferation

+ Clinton - Giuliani/Dem perception - Disconnect between rhetoric and reality; current administration hypes fear without delivering on promises; our foreign policy under Bush is less stable; this is a Myth they can put to rest

Dodd - Dem perception - Myth; not building international support; problem of stateless terrorism

Hands - Who does NOT believe there is a Global War on Terror - Kucinich/Gravel

Kucinich - move away from Bush's aggressive war; the world is waiting for US leadership

Obama - Terrorist attack 2 cities, what do you do? - 1. Effective emergency response (re: Katrina); 2. Intelligence - cannot allow the world community to be doubtful of our intelligence; 3. Talk to the international community

+ Edwards - Same question - 1. Act swiftly and strongly to hold the culprits responsible; 2. Assess what happened, address DHS; need to use more tools than bombs - work to get the next generation of potential-terrorists on our side

Clinton - Same question - Immediate retaliation - but do not look for other fights which are not ours

Hands - Who would support impeachment of VP Cheney? Kucinich alone

Kucinich - Constitution - Cheney must be held accountable for Iraq and ginning up a war agaisnt Iran; notes that he is the only candidate willing to impeach

Notes: Clinton stumbles for the first time; in both answers here, she is clearly thinking while speaking and not as commanding as previously; Obama's first answer here was poor

Rd 8 Miscellaneous
Dodd - Civil Union vs. Gay Marriage - Supports civil unions; consider what he would want for his own daughters - same rights; yet marriage is distinct due to the tradition

Biden - Hard choices on climate-change - Manhattan project for climate change; "Barak and I" proposal; Car emissions/ethanol/lithium battery technology/cap emmissions now, today; hard choices

Richardson - Cuba - goes back to question about an attack - retaliate mightily, then build coalition; on Cuba, beginning planning for a post-Castro cuba; bring in Cuban-Americans to develop a plan; change policy on family visits; re-evaluate the embargo

Gravel - Nuclear energy - maturation process; back to the war - there has been a mischaracterisation of terrorism - a war won't work; change in foreign policy

+ Obama - what have you done personally for environment - on Earth Day organized volunteers to plant trees (moderator - no, personally, like light bulbs); making an effort to use efficient light bulbs and teach his children of conservation; back to terrorism - terror networks must be hunted and demolished; build alliances (great answer - I didn't get too many notes because I was caught listening - his best of the night)

[Bit of back-and-forth between Kucinich/Obama/Gravel/Obama] - Obama looks Presidential others...not

Edwards - who is your moral leader - thoughtful; cannot identify one person; the Lord who I pray to for forgiveness and counsel; wife - who is my conscience; father - every person is of value

Clinton - Is Wal-Mart good or bad - mixed blessing; it allowed rural America to stretch its dollar; but now it is raising serious questions about corporate accountability - providing HC, discrimination in the work place, work place safety; Bush and Corporate America no longer even see Middle Class America

Biden - Is there a winner on the statge - YES, a bunch of winners; if anyone on the Republican side is wishing for Hillary, they are making a mistake; back to security - for security, specifically in Afghanistan, Darfur, Balkans, have to use force; all the "happy talk" (from Kucinich and Gravel) is unrealisic

Notes: Finally - Obama hits a home-run (about time) he got better and better as things went along; Clinton closed strong; Edwards limped to the finish

Overall Immediate Impressions:

Clinton did great - she was Presidential, composed, and articulate; she stumbled a bit toward the end, but was consistently the strongest candiate on the stage...but she also got the most opportunities

Edwards did well until the very end; he is substantive and charismatic

Richardson really proved himself to me this evening - specifics, strong, bold; the biggest winner of the 2d tier

Obama really warmed up as the debate moved along; started slowly but grew commanding by the end

Biden is just really off the cuff and unrehearsed; probably the funniest, and you can see depth, but it doesn't completely come through

Dodd was essentially invisible

Kucinich towed his standard line, and actually almost looked relatively mainstream due to the man on his political and physical left...

Gravel was a joke, simply did not belong

90 minutes simply isn't enough time for 8 candidates.

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