Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hillary's Fright Night

Sen. Hillary Clinton (NY) got a scare on Halloween eve.... the Democratic presidential debate last night at Drexel University in Philadelphia jarred her inevitability mask as the seven candidates mixed it up, and at times tripped her up.

The bogeymen asking the questions, NBC's Brian Williams and a relentless Tim Russert, delivered one of the liveliest debate forums to date.

Clinton was reduced to sputtering while trying to have it both ways on Russert's question about Governor of New York Eliot Spitzer's proposal to give illegal immigrants a drivers license, and her statement in Nashua, New Hampshire that it makes a lot of sense.

Clinton defended her statement saying, "Well, what Governor Spitzer is trying to do is fill the vacuum left by the failure of this administration to bring about comprehensive immigration reform."

Sen. Chris Dodd (CT) disagreed, "This is a privilege... a license is a privilege, and that ought not to be extended, in my view."

Clinton quickly jumped in, "I just want to add, I did not say that it should be done, but I certainly recognize why Governor Spitzer is trying to do it. And we have failed---"

Dodd didn't let that pass, "Wait a minute. No, no, no. You said yes, you thought it made sense to do it."

Clinton responded, "No, I didn't Chris. But the point is, what are we going to do with all these illegal immigrants who are----"

As Clinton's nose grew, Russert tried to get a straight answer from Clinton... "I just want to make sure what I heard. Do you, the New York Senator Hillary Clinton, support the New York governor's plan to give immigrants a driver's license? You told the Nashua, New Hampshire, paper it made a lot of sense..... Do you support his plan?"

Now in full defensive crouch, Clinton responded, "You know, Tim, this is where everybody plays gotcha. It makes a lot of sense.... Do I think this is the best thing for any governor to do? No. But I do understand the real sense of desperation.... "

Former senator of North Carolina John Edwards also didn't give Clinton a pass.... "Unless I missed something, Senator Clinton said two different things in the course of about two minutes just a few minutes ago and I think this is a real issue for the country.

"I mean, America is looking for a president who will say the same thing, who will be consistent, who will be straight with them. Because what we've had for seven years is double-talk from Bush and from Cheney, and I think America deserves us to be straight."

Sen. Barack Obama (IL) pronounced his confusion at Clinton's answer, "I can't tell whether she was for it or against it, and I do think that is important. You know, one of the things that we have to do in this country is to be honest about the challenges that we face."

But, in the end, Obama agreed with Spitzer's plan leaving Dodd with his most shining moment as the only candidate willing to voice his opposition for Spitzer's dangerous proposal... which opens the floodgates for massive voter fraud by illegal aliens registering to vote using their drivers license for identification. An obvious boon for the Democratic party.

Dodd had other barbs for Clinton. When asked about his statement to an NBC station alluding to problems with Clinton's national electability he didn't dodge. "Well, first of all, I think electability is a very critical issue. Look at the end of this process here, we need to have a Democrat in the White House come January 20th, 2009.... the fact of the matter is.... there are 50 percent of the American public that say they're not going to vote for her."

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson refused to join the haunting of Clinton... "I'm hearing this holier-than-thou attitude toward Senator Clinton.... Yes, we need to point out our differences, and I have big differences with her. Over the war. I would get all our troops out. Over No Child Left Behind. I'd get rid of it.

"I also have differences over Iran. I think that was the wrong vote for her to cast, because I think it was saber-rattling. But I think it's important that we save the ammunition for the Republicans."

Richardson was ready when he was finally asked about one of his best issues, education. He said without equivocation.... "I'd get rid of No Child Left Behind." He would also have 100,000 new science and math teachers and a minimum wage for teachers of $40,000 per year

This is the issue on which Richardson is most passionate, but it's seldom he rises to the occasion on other issues which makes his overall performance unmemorable and reinforces the notion that he is really running for Clinton's Vice President.

While Richardson and Dodd had their moments, Sen. Joe Biden (DE) delivered a strong overall performance, especially on the issues of Iraq and Iran.... of overweening concern to the electorate.

Biden on Iran and the bomb: "The fact of the matter is the Iranians may get 2.6 kilograms of highly enriched uranium; the Pakistanis have hundreds, thousands of kilograms of highly enriched uranium.

"If by attacking Iran to stop them from getting 2.6 kilograms of highly enriched uranium, the government in Pakistan falls, who has missiles already deployed, with nuclear weapons on them, that can already reach Israel, already reach India, then that's a bad bargain."

Biden didn't pull his punches with the opposition either.... "Rudy Giuliani, probably the most underqualified man since George Bush to seek the presidency.... I mean, think about it, Rudy Giuliani. There's only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun and a verb and 9/11."

Sis-boom! The most memorable line of the evening.

Responding to Richardson's oft made assertion that he's the only one on the stage with negotiating experience, Biden set the record straight.... "I led a delegation of 19 senators negotiating the START agreement with Brezhnev, I was deeply involved in Bosnia.... I'm running to be the leader of this country, to put it back on track..."

On the recent Kyl-Lieberman resolution.... which basically says Iran is a danger to our war in Iraq and the The Decider has enhanced power to act.... Clinton, the only one on the stage who voted for it, said it was because she wanted to "maximize the pressure on Iran."

Edwards response was scathing.... "So the way to do that is to vote yes on a resolution that looks like it was written literally by the neocons? I mean, has anyone read this thing? I mean, it literally gave Bush and Cheney exactly what they wanted.

"It didn't just give them what they wanted; they acted on it. a few weeks later, they declared the Iranian Revolutionary guards a terrorist organization and-- this is going to sound very familiar; remember from Iraq, the prelude to Iraq?--proliferators of weapons of mass destruction. The way you put pressure on this administration is you stand up - you say no."

When Biden was asked if he agreed with Sen. Webb that this resolution was de facto a declaration of war.... "I think it can be used as a fact - a declaration" And, that there are other "consequences for what we do -- and it's not even about going to war."

"Let's look at what happened from the moment that vote took place.

"Oil prices went up to $90 a barrel.... Secondly, we have emboldened Bush at a minimum. His talk of World War III, totally irresponsible talk. We've emboldened him....

"Thirdly, this has incredible consequences for Afghanistan and Pakistan.... we have now driven underground every moderate in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. This literally -- literally -- puts Karzai, as well as Musharraf, in jeopardy.

"The notion here is it plays into this whole urban legend that America is on a crusade against Islam. This was bad policy -- Big nations can't bluff."

When Clinton was pressured about releasing her papers as first lady from the National Archives now, and not as President Clinton requested until 2012, Clinton had the vapours.... why Bill made that decision, these things just take time.

Obama didn't let that go unremarked upon, admonishing her, "We have just gone through one of the most secretive administrations in our history, and not releasing... these records at the same time, Hillary, as you're making the claim that this is the basis for your experience, I think is a problem.

Obama also hit at the reason the GOP candidates are targeting Clinton, because "It's a fight they're comfortable having. One they've been having since the 90s."

Edwards put a different light on the subject... "I mean, another perspective on why the Republicans keep talking about Senator Clinton is -- they may actually want to run against you, and that's the reason they keep bringing you up....

".... I think that voters have to ask themselves, do you believe that the candidate who's raised the most money from Washington lobbyists, Democrat or Republican; the candidate who's raised the most money from the health industry -- drug companies, health insurance companies; the candidate who's raised the most money from the defense industry, Republican or Democrat; -- and the answer to all those questions is, that's Senator Clinton -- will she be the person who brings about change in this country?"

"You know, I believe in Santa Claus, I believe in the Tooth Fairy, but I don't think that's going to happen. I really don't. And I think that if people want the status quo, Senator Clinton's your candidate."

Yes, Clinton's "turn the page" rhetoric was left in tatters. So Williams thought he would lighten things up a bit. He asked Biden if, with the Holiday season nearly here, he would advise Americans against buying imported toys from China in light of the health and safety problems.

Biden took the question head on.... "If I were president, I'd shut down, flat shut down any imports from China, period, in terms of toys -- flat shut it down, number one.

Number two.... they [China] have a mortgage on our house because Bush mortgaged us to a trillion dollars to them. He is responsible for this. This is outrageous."

Obviously, not a subject Biden takes lightly.

But, we did have the impish Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH) to bring a smile. He handled well the mild ridicule aimed at him by Russert about his allegation he had seen a UFO.... "I did.... it was an unidentified flying object, okay.... I'm also going to move my campaign office to Roswell."

Ending the debate on a spooky note, Williams asked Obama what he will be for Halloween.... "I am thinking about wearing a Mitt Romney mask, which I think.... has two sides to it."