We will post our Iowa debate coverage below our initial post (below the ABC News comments directly below). Also, as noted in the comments ABC News will post the debate after 2:00 p.m. EDT at their website. C-Span will re-air the debate at 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. EDT.
Hopefully Barack Obama will get coaxed out from under his bed and join the other Democrats, like Hillary Clinton, who are not too afraid to debate – and deign to appear this morning on This Week.
We will be cheering on our plucky heroine and cover the debate here at 9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. EDT.
A pdf file with a list of airtimes of the debate in various cities can be found HERE.
Once again, anticipate attacks on Hillary. The probable attacks are due to Hillary’s big leads in just about every poll and the absolutely desperate need for the other campaigns (especially the Edwards and Obama campaigns) to do something, anything, to try to alter reality and deny Hillary the nomination she has earned.
ABC News has this assessment of what might happen at the debate, called Edwards, Obama Ready Debate Attacks:
It all ads up to a toxic, fascinating mix of attitudes, egos, and messages going into Sunday morning’s Democratic debate in Des Moines. [snip]
As always, it will be the frontrunner, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., who is in the spotlight (and who just might use words like “lead” and “strong”). Also, per usual, the second tier — Biden, D-Del., joined by Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M. — are looking for breakthroughs.
But this is just as big a moment for Obama, D-Ill., and Edwards, D-N.C., who are desperate to break the three-way tie they have with Clinton in Iowa.
ABC assesses the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses (Hint: Hillary is doing well, the others are falling apart):
Clinton has gone a long way to erasing her problems in the Hawkeye State, while Edwards has slipped in the one state he absolutely, positively must win, and Obama needs to answer growing concerns about his experience and common touch (as if the Pakistan and arugula storylines have morphed into one).
We are all in agreement on the snake pit Hillary is courageously and without complaint facing down:
“It could well be the most confrontational (debate) to date,” writes Washingtonpost.com’s Chris Cillizza. “The question for Obama and Edwards is whether they can knock Clinton off her stride. Clinton’s extraordinary discipline as a candidate has shown through in the first group of televised debates.”
You can bet everyone else on that stage would like to change her undefeated record.
Danger, Danger Hillary Clinton:
For fireworks, keep an eye on Edwards, who has sharpened his verbal barbs in recent days (and not just when he’s talking about “she-devil” Ann Coulter). (He will also be the only candidate to come to the debate site at Drake University through the front door — an intriguing play by the ‘everyman’ candidate.)
In the midst of his six-day Iowa bus tour, Edwards told ABC News that Obama is engaging in a “fantasy“ by suggesting he can work with Washington lobbyists, and said suggested that Clinton would “replace one group of Washington insiders with another group of Washington insiders.”
Edwards added, “I mean, Sen. Clinton has been part of Washington for a very long time.”
Certainly Bill Clinton has been part of Washington long enough to know how this kind of comment plays (and if he doesn’t, he can always ask Kerry).
“Every single political leader I talk to says, ‘I hope your wife wins. We want the world to like America again,'” the former president said in Reno, Nev., on Friday, per the AP’s Scott Sonner.
Care to elaborate, Mr. President, on why these world leaders don’t want Obama, Edwards, Biden, Richardson, or Dodd to win?
Obama’s Cowardice (and yet another gaffe – Is Obama on a major gaffe a week schedule and a minor gaffe a day schedule?):
What does it say about Obama’s confidence coming into Sunday’s debate that he doesn’t want too many more of these forums? Only eight (!) more, Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe, said in a message posted to the campaign Website Saturday.
“We simply cannot run the kind of campaign we want and need to, engaging with voters in the early states and February 5 states, if our schedule is dictated by dozens of forums and debates,” Plouffe said.
He’s probably right, but it isn’t being lost on many observers that the first major candidate to make non-participation in debates a policy is also the one whose debate performances have been shakiest.
“Critics and opponents can be expected to charge that Obama is dodging debates, because he has made several statements that Clinton and others have painted as reflecting ill-preparedness,” writes Politico’s Mike Allen.
The other candidates who at least are not naive and irresponsible:
Biden maximizes the oomph of his first ad buy by launching it on the eve of the debate.
It’s him with an Iowa cornfield as backdrop, straight to camera, talking about a trip back from Iraq where he was accompanied by the coffin of a deceased U.S. soldier.
“They turned that cargo plane into a cathedral,” Biden says, “And all I could think of was the parents waiting at the other end.”
Per the Des Moines Register’s Abby Simons, the ad “differs from other candidates’ spots that feature their positions on a gamut of issues, as well as a plethora of schmoozing with Iowans.”
As something of a viewer’s guide to today’s debate, The New York Times’ Patrick Healy and Michael Cooper have a nugget-filled peek at candidates’ debate preparation.
Obama’s naive and irresponsible answer was not off the cuff – it was prepared? Yikes! It’s even worse than we thought:
Healy and Cooper also report that Obama’s answer to the question about talking to rogue leaders was prepared — though not scripted — and that Clinton was loaded for bear when asked to respond.
“Mrs. Clinton had been set to underscore what her campaign aides consider to be her commander-in-chief toughness and her experience in Washington — even encouraged by some advisers to use action verbs and adjectives like ‘lead,’ ‘strong’ and ‘experienced,’ they write. “So she chose to disagree, forcefully but carefully.”
This from Obama strategist David Axelrod: “There’s this theory that Obama needs to somehow prove his machismo by rhetorically headhunting in the debates,” he said. “But that’s not who he is. He’s going to make the points he thinks are important, but he doesn’t think the country needs someone who just scores points in debates by attacking.”
Will Axelrod stand by those words by this time tomorrow?
Prayers and fingers crossed for Hillary on this dangerous August morning.
Here we go. George Stephanoupoulos (hereinafter “George”) and David Yepsen.
George: (reads polls) Big question is Obama Ready? Can Hillary unite Country?
George: Is Obama ready Senator Clinton?
Hillary: I am running on my record. Not running against anybody. Vote for me and my plans.
George: You did say Obama is “naive and irresponsible”?
Hillary: We had a particular disagreement. The next president will have many challenges I think with such a big agenda you should not telegraph your position to adversaries.
George: Senator Dodd you implied Obama is not ready?
Dodd: I think it is irresponsible to suggest an attack on Pakistan. You will not have time to not be ready. Experience will matter for the next president.
Senator Biden: This was about Pakistan. We have a Musharaff policy not a Pakistan policy.
George: You said about Obama “He is not ready.”
Richardson: Obama represents Change, Hillary represents experience, with me you get both (laughs from audience and Hillary)
George: Is Obama ready?
Richardson: Senator Obama represents change.
Obama: People are not criticizing me on the substance of my positions. There is a substantive difference between me and Senator Clinton on meetings and taking out Osama Bin-Laden. We should not have strategic ambiguity with the American people. We need fundamental change. That will require agressive diplomacy.
George: Senator Clinton, You criticized Obama for his nuclear weapons comments but (video played) you said something similar about Iran.
Hillary: The context is I was speaking out about Bush’s potential attack on Iran nuclear facilities with nuclear weapons. We should not use hypotheticals. Pakistan is on a knife’s edge and you have to be very careful what you say.
Obama: There is no hypothetical. We have to deal with the problem of terrorists in Pakistan.
Edwards: We have a clear path to work with our friends in Europe. Musharaff is not a wonderful leader but he does help us in a dangerous and volatile situation. Obama has the right to express his view.
George: But is Obama right?
Edwards: I don’t think it is a good idea to talk about hypotheticals.
Gravel: I think they are all wrong. Congress should block Bush from attacking Iran.
Richardson: A president should not talk about hypotheticals. We need to get allies against terrorism. Stop loose nuclear weapons.
George: (video of Rove) AP wrote an article saying Dems are worried about Hillary hurting the Dem tickets locally.
Obama: I think there is something bigger at stake. Many of our problems predate Bush. A winning strategy is not crafted by dividing into Red and Blue. I’m against conventional thinking, conventional Washington thinking.
George: But you have criticized Senator Clinton?
Obama: I am interested in building a new majority.
George: So the answer is yes.
Obama: The answer is I am the best person to bring change.
Edwards: America wants change. The status quo is a loser. Who is most likely to bring change. We need to fight lobbyists.
George: So you say Senator Clinton is not?
Edwards: I asked Senator Clinton not to take lobbyist’s money. I asked the other candidates to join me. Senator Clinton said no.
Hillary: Rove is not going to endorse me. I had 18 wonderful years in Arkansas, won in upstate NY. Republicans will attack and bring up negatives for all Democrats. I know how to beat them. What matters is the American people. The American dream. New jobs. What I fought for more than 35 years.
George: Edwards says you take lobbyists money and you are not for change.
Hillary: I took on special interests on reform and health care. The artificial distinction is to deny lobbyist money but take money from lobby connected people.
Edwards: Lobbyists stopped healthcare. Fundamental question is do we make deals with them or ignore them to get healthcare. What will bring change?
George: Senator Dodd will you take the Edwards challenge.
Dodd: I am for public financing. How you vote is what matters not where you get your money. These are situational ethics. It takes leadership to get things done.
George: Dennis Kucinich is this an artificial debate?
Kucinich: You are trying to shut out other voices from this debate. Americans need real choice.
George: Iraq is important to Iowa voters. (video of Biden ad).
Yepsen: Richardson, is Biden right on Iraq.
Richardson: No, I am. We need a full strategy for Iraq and all our troops must get out. No residual forces.
Biden: There is a lot at stake in HOW we leave Iraq. I have a plan to separate the parties in Iraq. It will take at least a year to get the troops out. What about the civilians in the green zone?
Richardson: Experts such as Cordesman agree with me that we can get the troops out in 6 months.
Yepsen: Senator Clinton, who is right?
Hillary: Biden is right that we need planning that is why I have pressured the pentagon to plan. We all agree there is no military solution. The political situation the Iraq government is not capable. Richardson is right that we need a lot of diplomacy. This is a massive complicated undertaking.
George: So Richardson is wrong that all troops can be out by the end of the year?
Hillary: Biden is right. It will take a lot of time to get out troops and equipment. We don’t know if Turkey will let us go through Turkey.
George: Anyone disagree?
Gravel: I disagree with everyone.
George: Edwards, can you get the troops out by December?
Edwards: We will all end the war. We have small differences unlike the Ripublicans.
Richardson: I’ll ask Clinton and Biden, how do you protect the non-combat troops? Bring in Iran, Syria, Turkey etc. We need stability but we need to get all troops out, no residual forces.
Biden: You have to separate the parties like we did in the Balkans. There is much more at stake here than ending the war. If it ends badly there will be decades of fighting.
George: Biden, the fundamental difference is can we get all the troops out by December.
Biden: Can’t be done by December. Do what we did in the Balkans.
Richardson: why residual troops?
Biden: because there are thousands of civilians.
Obama: Joe is right on how long it will take. Clinton laid out the problems. Edwards is right there is little difference between us. I wish they had asked the right questions before we got in. Cheney and Rumsfeld had experienced. That judgment moving forward is important. Biden might be right on partition of Iraq.
George: Obama, what are the differences right now between you and Clinton
Obama: We need to put pressure on Ripublicans. There are no good options.
Kucinich: It was a Democratic Senate that voted for the war. You keep funding the war. I have a plan.
Viewer question: power of prayer, personal God.
Hillary: I believe in prayer. Do not presume about God.
Dodd: Agree with Hillary
Edwards: I pray. To Christ.
Gravel: I believe in love. Many who pray want to go to war. Love.
Richardson: Prayer is personal.
Biden: Pray before and that you have the courage.
Kucinich: I have been praying to God you would call on me. (laughs from all).
Viewer question: how to protect family farms?
Dodd: We need to extend broadband access. Bring opportunity to rural america.
Yepsen: How do you fashion trade agreements without hurting farmers.
Edwards: Trade agreements have been good for multi-national corporations but not family farmers. I would reverse that. Real labor and environmental standards and against currency manipulations like Chinese do.
Clinton: I agree with John and do 3 things, focus on family farms, we have 34,000 family farms in NY so I work with them and their difficulties such as getting goods into Canada; trade needs to be win-win. Quit being taken advantage of.
Obama: Good recommendations. Our congress subsidizes big farms and hurts family farms. On trade, we need a good negotiator.
George: Should we cap subsidies like Obama says?
Richardson: Smart trading.
Viewer question: Ever not tell the full truth?
Gravel: Everyone else is lying.
Biden: My problem is saying too much about what I think.
Kucinich: I am always saying what others are afraid to say.
Obama: On energy we have talked about global warming. There will be costs involved. We don’t discuss this enough.
Edwards: In my case, the Iraq vote. I had huge internal conflict. But did not express my distrust of George Bush.
Clinton: I regret giving George Bush the authority he abused. I was assured privately and publically they would pursue diplomacy. Bush had no intention of doing what he said he would do.
Richardson: I am making about 1 mistake a week. I am not a scripted candidate. But I perform. We will end evesdropping and Guantanamo and equal role for legislature and restore confidence.
Dodd: Last fall the abandonment of habeus corpus.
Yepsen: Performance pay for teachers?
Dodd: we need fundamental reform of No Child Left Behind. I think we need more resources for teachers in tough school districts. Snapshots of how we are doing is not a good idea.
Obama: I spoke with teachers in Iowa. Teachers are frustrated with teaching for tests.
Clinton: I support incentive pay for schoolwide performance. Teachers want to do the job. Kids from disadvantaged areas need more help. Reform No Child Left Behind. We need a conversation with teachers, children, parents. We act as if our schools are unchanging, we need to bring technology to classes. Pre-school.
Richardson: Scrap NCLB. Arts in schools
Gravel: Politics as usual. We are 46% in literacy in the world. We need competition in education. [Attacks Obama on 100,000 more troops]
Obama: We can implement a performance pay system but only with teacher cooperation.
Kucinich: How to do this? 15% cut in pentagon budget for universal pre-school.
Biden: My wife is a teacher. Performance based pay at the beginning with best students getting high salaries.
George: Turmoil in the Markets. Should Federal Reserve lower all interest rates?
Hillary: No easy yes or no. But good move on the discount rate.
Dodd: good move, but need help for homeowners.
Gravel: follow the money
Richardson: more transparency.
Biden: more transparency
Obama: need more liquidity, tough regulation. Blame lobbyists.
Kucinich: they are bailing out money lenders.
George: Decisive moment in your life?
Kucinich: when my family was living in a car.
Obama: From High School to college. I was an angry young man.
Biden: Civil rights movement. You can make a difference.
Richardson: My wife marrying me. and 9/11
Gravel: Representative government is broken.
Edwards: My dad trying to learn using public television.
Dodd: Peace corps and John Kennedy. Week before my father died.
Clinton: the women’s movement. Civil rights movement. Some known to history, some not. My mother, who gave me confidence.