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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

What A Night

Here is a collection of opinions about the South Carolina Democratic debate.

Debate Transcript 1
Debate Transcript 2
Debate Transcript 3

The Dems Debate: Hand-to-Hand Combat

Analysis: Any dreams of a Clinton-Obama ticket were probably ended after their testiest encounter yet. Mark Halperin gives Obama the edge

Barack Obama

Grade: A-

Had the audience on his side from the beginning, reflecting his strength in the state and among the African-American groups who co-sponsored the debate. Went in prepared to be tough — and ready to unleash his frustrations after several unnerving weeks of intense Clinton-Clinton double team attacks — but was repeatedly thrown off by Senator Clinton (with the occasional assist from Senator Edwards), who discharged a series of pointed accusations (his words of praise for Reagan; his "present" votes as a state legislator). Nevertheless, seemed willing (or at least resigned) to battling both Clintons. Chose to abandon the politics of hope for "new" politics, apparently out of necessity, but it muddled his focus. While he made some strong points, he was often on the defensive.

OK, go ahead
Posted by Mark Kleiman

Hillary Clinton tonight:

The facts are that [Obama] said in the last week that he really liked the ideas of the Republicans over the last 10 to 15 years, and we can give you the exact quote.

Well, no, I don't believe she can. But I'd like to see her try. And I'd like to think that her supporters will mind, or even admit it, when it turns out that she can't. There's a difference between saying that a party managed to sell itself as the party of ideas and saying that the ideas were good ones.

The central Republican idea since 1980 has been cutting taxes. And Obama made it clear, in the very same editorial-board interview that the Clintons keep misquoting, that he thinks that idea has been tried and failed.

Update Apparently she also re-told the fairy-tale about Obama's voting "present."

Is incurable lying a sexually-transmitted disease?

Update The NYT news story is about as bad as it could be; making no attempt whatever to check the facts, but merely recording that Obama (but not Clinton?) "at times" "appeared angry." (Actually, in the clips I saw he seemed to be keeping his cool admirably.)

And Josh Marshall says, more or less, "Yes, Hillary was mostly telling lies about Obama, but she told them really, really well and he didn't respond very effectively. That shows that she'd be the better candidate for November." I disagree about the effectiveness of his responses; I thought Obama showed up Clinton as a fibber. But even assuming, for the purposes of argument, that Clinton dishonestly got the better of the exchange, does that really recommend her as a candidate or as a President?

Second update Not that I'm an unbiased judge, but I thought Obama really nailed Clinton on the Rezko business.

CLINTON: I was fighting against those ideas when you were practicing law and representing your contributor, Rezko, in his slum landlord business in inner city Chicago. (APPLAUSE)

[Actually, on the videotape I heard mostly boos at that point, which comes in at the very end of the clip on TPM.]


BLITZER: I just want to give you a chance, Senator Obama, if you want to respond. Senator Clinton made a serious allegation that you worked for a slumlord. And I wonder if you want to respond.

OBAMA: I'm happy to respond. Here's what happened: I was an associate at a law firm that represented a church group that had partnered with this individual to do a project and I did about five hours worth of work on this joint project. That's what she's referring to.

Now, it's fine for her to throw that out, but the larger reason that I think this debate is important is because we do have to trust our leaders and what they say. That is important, because if we can't, then we're not going to be able to mobilize the American people behind bringing about changes in health care reform, bringing about changes in how we're going to put people back to work, changing our trade laws. And consistency matters. Truthfulness during campaigns makes a difference.


And that's what I've tried to do and I will continue to try to do as president of the United States.

Concluding Thoughts

By Josh Marshall

One observation stands out to me from this debate. Hillary can be relentless and like a sledgehammer delivering tendentious but probably effective attacks. But whatever you think of those attacks, Obama isn't very good at defending himself. And that's hard for me to ignore when thinking of him as a general election candidate.

In most of these cases -- such as the Reagan issue -- I think Obama's remarks have been unobjectionable but ambiguous and certainly susceptible to both misunderstanding and intentional misrepresentation. And if you're going to talk like that -- nuance, as we used to say -- be able to defend it when people play with your words. And I don't see it.

Let's hope Mitt wins Florida.

Fertile In Myrtle

By Marc Ambinder

Obama spent the first forty minutes of the debate defending policy. On the one hand, the more Obama debates policy, the less he has to argue that he has the substance to match Clinton. On that same hand, the debate was also helpful to Obama in that it gave him a chance to answer a month's worth of charges from his opponents...charges he answered more or less effectively...certainly effective enough to the voter unfamiliar with the ins and outs of policy. But for the five minute period when both he and Clinton seemed disinclined to filter their facial expressions and excited utterances -- an exchange where Obama looked too hot -- his annoyance and anger overwhelmed his normal solitude, and Angry Obama is never as attractive as cool Obama. Their sound-bite-generating bandinage a wash; a tie goes to the runner, here, and if Clinton is the frontrunner, Obama is the runner, here.

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