Update, Update: Hillary tells Edwards to stop the mud slinging and the Ripublican Talking Points:
Debate highlights video:
Amidst all the mud slung last night in Las Vegas, there was one shining, sparkling, glittering, dazzling, gleaming object – a pearl – our Hillary.
Slinging mud on the debate stage last night — Barack Obama and John Edwards — the big losers.
The other big losers, not on stage last night, were Tim Russert and the Ripublicans.
* * *
Moderators Wolf Blitzer and John Roberts did a good job. They asked tough questions of all the candidates. Hillary was asked about the “gender” card, “polarizing”, all the attacks leveled at her by Obama and Edwards. Obama was asked tough questions too, including his failure to vote on the Kyl-Lieberman resolution. Along with Dennis Kucinich and Hillary Clinton, the moderators finally explored, in front of a national audience, John Edwards’ voting record – which is so dramatically in conflict with Edwards’ current rhetoric.
Blitzer and the CNN team, unlike Russert/Williams, did not lead the charge against a single candidate. Tim Russert and the NBC/MSNBC team are today complaining about the audience booing Obama and Edwards but Russert/NBC had nothing to say when Hillary was booed in the CHICAGO (Obama’s home town) debate several months ago. Russert still has not apologized for his misrepresentations targeting Hillary at the previous Democratic debates.
Ripublicans, already behind Hillary in the polls, now know for absolutely sure that Hillary is Texas Tough and most difficult to beat.
* * *
How Bad Was Obama?
Paul Krugman discusses, in today’s New York Times, Obama’s position on Social Security. Krugman labels Obama a “sucker” and a “fool”. Krugman labels Obama’s “transcend partisanship” whine “neither possible nor desirable”:
Lately, Barack Obama has been saying that major action is needed to avert what he keeps calling a “crisis” in Social Security — most recently in an interview with The National Journal. Progressives who fought hard and successfully against the Bush administration’s attempt to panic America into privatizing the New Deal’s crown jewel are outraged, and rightly so.
But Mr. Obama’s Social Security mistake was, in fact, exactly what you’d expect from a candidate who promises to transcend partisanship in an age when that’s neither possible nor desirable. [snip]
As Peter Orszag, the director of the Congressional Budget Office, put it in a recent article co-authored with senior analyst Philip Ellis: “The long-term fiscal condition of the United States has been largely misdiagnosed. Despite all the attention paid to demographic challenges, such as the coming retirement of the baby-boom generation, our country’s financial health will in fact be determined primarily by the growth rate of per capita health care costs.”
How has conventional wisdom gotten this so wrong? Well, in large part it’s the result of decades of scare-mongering about Social Security’s future from conservative ideologues, whose ultimate goal is to undermine the program. [snip]
That should have been that. But what Jonathan Chait of The New Republic calls “entitlement hysteria” never seems to die. In October, The Washington Post published an editorial castigating Hillary Clinton for, um, not being panicky about Social Security — and as we’ve seen, nonsense like the claim that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme seems to be back in vogue.
Which brings us back to Mr. Obama. Why would he, in effect, play along with this new round of scare-mongering and devalue one of the great progressive victories of the Bush years?
I don’t believe Mr. Obama is a closet privatizer. He is, however, someone who keeps insisting that he can transcend the partisanship of our times — and in this case, that turned him into a sucker.
Mr. Obama wanted a way to distinguish himself from Hillary Clinton — and for Mr. Obama, who has said that the reason “we can’t tackle the big problems that demand solutions” is that “politics has become so bitter and partisan,” joining in the attack on Senator Clinton’s Social Security position must have seemed like a golden opportunity to sound forceful yet bipartisan. [snip]
We all wish that American politics weren’t so bitter and partisan. But if you try to find common ground where none exists — which is the case for many issues today — you end up being played for a fool. And that’s what has just happened to Mr. Obama.
Hillary nailed Obama on Social Security for all the reasons Krugman appropriately labels Obama a fool. Politico has more:
She gave as good as she got. And those who tried to kick her, stubbed their toes. [snip]
But when it came to a real stumble, Clinton left that to her chief opponent, Barack Obama. [snip]
At one point, Obama said he would sit down and talk to the leaders of rogue nations such as Iran.
“Hillary and I had a disagreement on this,” he said. “I said I would meet with not just our friends but also with our enemies.”
But Blitzer pointed out that Obama had missed a key Senate vote on Iran.
“This is true and it was a mistake,” Obama said. “This is one of the hazards of running for president.”
No, debates are one of the hazards of running for president.
Though often accused of not being clear on what she would do to save the Social Security system, Clinton was very clear during the debate about one thing: She was against Obama’s plan to increase Social Security taxes on some people making more than $97,000 a year.
“I do not want to fix the problems of Social Security on the backs of middle-class families and seniors,” she said.
“If you lift the cap completely, that is a $1 trillion tax increase. I don’t think we need to do that.”
A visibly upset Obama responded: “Understand that only six percent of Americans make more than $97,000 a year. So six percent is not the middle class. It is the upper class!”
Then he lashed out with his strongest language of the evening. “You know,” he said, “this is the kind of thing that I would expect from Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani, where we start playing with numbers.”
But Hillary had scored exactly the way she wanted to: by raising the electability issue.
It is no secret the Republicans intend to come at the Democratic nominate on the issues of immigration and raising taxes.
And Obama has now given them plenty of ammunition on both.
How Bad Was Edwards?
Bad, very bad. Relegated to the sidelined space usually reserved for the equally moribund Mike Gravel, John Edwards launched wet noodle attacks against Fortress Hillary.
LAS VEGAS – New York Sen. Hillary Clinton responded to weeks of increasing criticism from her rivals at a debate here Thursday night with a rhetorical show of force of her own.
She accused former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards of “throwing mud” and said Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is being too modest in his plans for healthcare and too aggressive in aiming to raise Social Security taxes.
Clinton was cheered — and her rivals’ criticisms were, at times, booed — by an unusually raucous crowd made up of students, labor union members, and Democratic activists at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
“I don’t mind taking hits on my record on issues, but when somebody starts throwing mud, at least we can hope that it’s both accurate and not right out of the Republican playbook,” Clinton said. [snip]
But after an unusually tense opening 10 minutes, Clinton’s two chief challengers seemed to lose momentum.
Asked whether she was guilty of playing the “gender card,” Clinton had one of the evening’s top applause lines.
“They’re not attacking me because I’m a woman,” she said. “They’re attacking me because I’m ahead.” [snip]
Edwards, meanwhile, seemed to back off some of his campaign’s criticism of Clinton after she fired her own shots in his direction.
Besides the charge of “mud-slinging,” Clinton criticized Edwards’ record on health care, saying that in his 2004 campaign, he didn’t support universal coverage.
David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register, in Iowa, praised Hillary in his article That’s Why The Lady Is The Champ.
Give Thursday’s debate to Hillary Clinton. [snip]
The evening gave her rivals a chance to trip her up some more.
They blew it. Barack Obama had only an average night, and on a couple of questions he seemed flummoxed. On the question of driver’s licenses for immigrants here illegally, his answer was as nuanced and fuzzy as Clinton’s was a couple of weeks ago. Moderator Wolf Blitzer underscored Obama’s fumbling by reminding him the question “is sort of available for a yes or no answer.”
By contrast, Clinton gave the answer she should have in the last debate: “No.”
Also, Obama got booed when he accused Clinton of using logic worthy of Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani. (That did seem a little canned. His handlers need to provide him some fresh material.) He also needs a more cogent answer for what he proposes to do with all the nation’s nuclear waste until someone invents that new processing technology he wants.
John Edwards should have stayed home. Clinton took the wind out of his sails early in the evening by implying he was “throwing mud.” He never seemed to bounce back from that slap, and he also got hooted when he talked about her as a corporate Democrat. Edwards also had a poor night because for the first time, the differences between his votes as a U.S. senator and his talk now came into clear focus. He voted for the Iraq war, the Patriot Act and using Yucca Mountain as a nuclear-waste disposal site. Those votes are at odds with the populist rhetoric he serves up today, and it will undermine the credibility of his message.
Other observers scored the night a big Hillary win:
DAVID GERGEN – HILLARY CLINTON SHOWED SHE IS ‘PASSIONATE ABOUT WANTING TO BE PRESIDENT.’ “You’ve got to be hungry for this, and Hillary Clinton is clearly hungry. She’s passionate about wanting to be president. You don’t have a sense that he [Obama] wakes up every day saying I’m going to take this away from her and I’m going to be president. You just don’t have that sense of inner fire, that fire in the belly that we like to talk about in politics.” [CNN, 11/15/07]
TIME’S MARK HALPERIN GAVE HILLARY THE BEST GRADE OF ALL THE CANDIDATES. [Time’s The Page, 11/15/07 ]
THE ATLANTIC’S MARC AMBINDER: HILLARY ‘GAVE HER MOST COMMANDING PERFORMANCE TO DATE’: “Tonight’s debate will probably stop the talk of a huge momentum swing away from Hillary Clinton… Clinton had the most at stake tonight, and she arguably gave her most commanding performance to date.” [The Atlantic, 11/15/07 ]
NBC NEWS’ CHUCK TODD – ‘THIS DEBATE WAS ABOUT CLINTON EFFECTIVELY FIGHTING BACK’: [First Read, MSNBC, 11/15/07 ]
TALKING POINTS MEMO’S JOSH MARSHALL – HILLARY ‘CAME OUT AGGRESSIVELY, AND BASICALLY KNOCKED OBAMA AND EDWARDS BACK:’ “She came out aggressively, and basically knocked Obama and Edwards back.” [Talking Points Memo, 11/15/07 ]
AMERICAN PROSPECT’S GARANCE FRANKE-RUTA – ‘SHE’S BACK’: “Clinton is back in business, and she’s feeling fine.” [Tapped, American Prospect, 11/15/07 ]
CNN POLITICAL ANALYST JC WATTS – ‘I THINK SHE DID VERY WELL’ [CNN, 11/15/07]
HOTLINE’S JENNIFER SKALKA: ‘CLINTON HITS THIS ONE OUT OF THE PROVERBIAL PARK:’ “Clinton hits this one out of the proverbial park. No doubt. … ‘I’m not exploiting anything at all. I’m not playing, as some people say, the gender card here in Las Vegas. I’m just trying to play the winning card.’ ‘They’re attacking me because I’m ahead.'” [Hotline Blog, 11/15/07 ]
ABC NEWS’ RAELYN JOHNSON – ‘I’M HARD PRESSED TO THINK HOW SHE COULD HAVE ANSWERED THAT BETTER.’ “Again Campbell Brown gets to ask Clinton the tough question — the gender card…I’m hard-pressed to think how she could have answered that better.” [ABC Political Radar, 11/15/07 ]
Hillary is a pearl. Obama and Edwards? They were in the mud.