Friday, April 27, 2007

Hillary Tops Obama in Round One

Revised significantly at 2:45 pm on Friday, including comments on Brian Williams' failure to ask appropriate follow-up questions, Obama's need to be psyched up and why was Gravel invited to the Party?
Former Senator Mike Gravel [D-AK]: Who, Barack, do you want to nuke?

Senator Barack Obama [D-IL]: I am not planning to nuke anybody, right now, Mike, I promise you.

Gravel: Good, then we are safe for a while.
Give Hillary a win for last night’s Democratic Primary presidential debate. Put aside the technical scoring and ask yourself: if you were an undecided Democrat or independent, who won more of such votes? The answer is Hillary. She was strong, but not strident, and generally gave the “right” answer for her Democratic following. She was relaxed, confident and seemed Presidential.

Barack, on the other hand, had a slow start, seeming somewhat stiff and ill at ease. Obama seemed to loosen up in the middle of the debate and then warmed up to the challenge from Senator Gravel near the the end of the debate. By that time, Obama was pulling even with Hillary, but Obama clearly lost some voters early on.

John Edwards neither gained nor lost in the debate. He is treading water. Edwards seems unable to find his footing in the campaign-- and the debate was yet another manifestation of that. Richardson, with perhaps the most solid resume, was a disappointment. The New Mexico Governor seems to get lost in his answers. Richardson may want to stick around to show improvement--as a way of competing in the Veepstakes.

Senators Dodd [CT] and Biden [Del] have no chance of getting either the VP or Presidential nomination. Dodd is over the hill and Biden never made it to the hill [People like Biden who make up stories out of whole cloth are seldom trusted to be President]. Why Biden and Dodd are in this race—no one knows. An ego trip for both? Most likely.

That would leave former [35 years ago] Senator Mike Gravel [D-AK], who actually helped Obama by baiting him. The Gravel challenge gave Obama a chance to shine, helping him look better toward the end of the debate. Obama seems to need someone to hit him a few times to get his adrenalin going. His campaign might want to retain an intellectual sparring partner to psych him up in the hours preceding his next debate.

With Gravel going to the left of Cong. Kucinich [D-OH], that made Dennis redundant. Actually, both Gravel and Kucinich should be off the island by the next debate.

Gravel kind of reminds you of a senile grandfather who loves to rant to the family on Thanksgiving Day dinner. He one upped Kucinich on impeaching Cheney. Gravel would pass legislation making it a "felony," for Bush to refuse to order the troops home. Sure, why not. Perhaps Gravel would amend the Constitution by using some white-out to remove the phrase Commander-in-Chief from the President's Article II powers. . Who invited this guy to the Party? Couldn't we give him some kind of sobriety test?

Brian Williams, who handled most of the questioning, was way too easy on the candidates. If the candidate didn’t answer the question, Williams didn’t follow-up and didn't press for an answer. Senator Clinton was asked if she agreed with Senator Reid’s statement that the War already has been lost. Clinton simply ignored the question and talked about the importance of bringing the troops home.

Williams asked Obama, “What would Mission complete look like in Iraq.” Obama never answered that question, other than to say the War required a political solution. As with Hillary, Williams gave Obama a pass. Apparently, Brian Williams' rule is "you can answer my question or any question you damn well please." Another great moment in political journalism.

Indeed, why was it Williams and not Tim Russert who was asking the questions? Bad move on MSNBC's part. Russert has a little more experience in how to question pols.

Topics covered in the debate included the social utility of hedgefunds, climate change, partial birth abortion, stopping future gun shootings at public schools or colleges, civil unions and gay marriages, Bush Tax cuts [Edwards would repeal those tax cuts for people with incomes over $200,000], brain drain and teacher salaries [Biden says Japan, China and India pay their teachers as much as their engineers-- and he argued the U. S. should do so, too], the most important allies for the U. S., Israel-Palestinian issues. Healthcare and gun control, the desireability [or lack thereof]of Wal-Mart, the appropriate response by the Commander-in –Chief to another attack on two American cities by Al-Qaeda.
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at