Debate Lost the Debate

The Las Vegas Democratic Debate began with the fanfare of an NBA game.  The players individually took the court to the cheers of their fan groups in attendance. Wolf Blitzer allowed a paparazzi moment for team photos while he briefed us on his role as enforcer of the rule that answers must be related to questions—a job he performed with the adeptness of a WWF referee.
 

There was little enlightening language, by way of being new or revelatory, spoken in the subsequent exchanges.  Joe Biden got the most laughs. But the consensus of the CNN pundits was that Hillary Clinton had won -- if for no other reason, by not losing.  Perhaps the most revealing statements of the night came from one of the CNN post-game commentators.

After the debate, David Gergen remarked that "She looked rested."  He also said,
"She put pressure on Governor Spitzer of New York to drop that driver's license deal before the debate. So when tonight when the driver's license deal came up she was able, you know, to get out of it with her one word answer. There was no discussion.  So she was able to pivot out of what had been an issue that could have driven her down again." 
Anderson Cooper, probably thinking about whom he was going to toss the discussion to next, let the comment pass without probing.  "Really, David," he didn't say, "and just exactly how did she bring that pressure to bear on Spitzer?"    

Gergen found it interesting that both Obama and Edwards were booed when they confronted Clinton, but he didn’t note the absence of reciprocity.  Clinton hit back with impunity—no boos there.  She clearly had the most aggressive, if not largest, fan base in the house.  At the very beginning of the debate, Clinton joked that “this pant suit is asbestos tonight.”  Her fans loved it—bring it on.  Then, about seven minutes later, she said she had received mud “out of the Republican playbook.”  (Point: No true Democrat would disagree with her.) It put the “boys club” on notice that she was loaded for bear (or boys, rather), and put her supporters on notice that they should back her.  But, then she isn’t running as a woman.   Blitzer missed the opportunity to ask, “Specifically, Senator Clinton, what mud are you talking about?”

 

The influence of the pro-Clinton audience discouraged the genuine debate atmosphere that the “Let’s get ready to rumble” fanfare had heralded.  Nevertheless, Anderson Cooper began the post-event commentary with “This ain’t spring training,” and called it a “slug fest.”  Actually, it was more like a pillow fight, with only an occasional wide swing with intent to do harm.  The boos had tempered the boys’ pugnacious inclinations.    

 

Candidate responses resembled those at a beauty contest.  (“When I’m President, Wolf, no American will go to bed hungry, everyone in the world will respect us again, all big decisions will have bi-partisan support, and teenagers will no longer struggle with acme.”)  In just two hours, most of the world’s problems were addressed, at least in passing, with grand solutions, some rather astonishing.  For example, Obama said that we would “build schools in the Middle East that teach math and science and not just hatred of Americans.”  Bill Richardson missed the chance to announce he had a plan to do that very thing. 

 

When it was all over, these things were clear:  Joe Biden has been a Senator since the Grant Administration.  Chris Dodd speaks Spanish.  Dennis Kucinich is an angry man.  Bill Richardson has a plan for everything except eradicating tooth decay and up-grading the rest area on Highway 70 between Alamogordo and Las Cruces, NM—today it’s a gravel pull-off with two port-a-potties and a dumpster (true).  John Edwards doesn’t like trial lawyer slams and won’t be inviting Dennis to his next birthday party.  Barak Obama remains a serious contender for the Democrat nomination, and delivered his best overall performance yet, despite Gergen’s Clinton-biased analysis (he imagines himself back in the WH, too).  But, Hillary Clinton still sits at the head of the class.

 

The least spoken word of the night was—taxes.  

 

When he was booed for attacking Clinton, the look of disconcertion on Obama’s face told us that he doesn’t yet understand that the Marquis of Queensberry rules don’t apply when debating Mrs. Clinton.  Her fans chilled him.  Next time, perhaps he’ll say, “Senator Clinton, you’ve criticized the Bush Administration for questioning the patriotism of those who don’t support the Iraq War.  But now you and your supporters are criticizing me for holding you accountable for shifting positions.  What’s that about?”

The Las Vegas Democratic Debate began with the fanfare of an NBA game.  The players individually took the court to the cheers of their fan groups in attendance. Wolf Blitzer allowed a paparazzi moment for team photos while he briefed us on his role as enforcer of the rule that answers must be related to questions—a job he performed with the adeptness of a WWF referee.
 

There was little enlightening language, by way of being new or revelatory, spoken in the subsequent exchanges.  Joe Biden got the most laughs. But the consensus of the CNN pundits was that Hillary Clinton had won -- if for no other reason, by not losing.  Perhaps the most revealing statements of the night came from one of the CNN post-game commentators.

After the debate, David Gergen remarked that "She looked rested."  He also said,
"She put pressure on Governor Spitzer of New York to drop that driver's license deal before the debate. So when tonight when the driver's license deal came up she was able, you know, to get out of it with her one word answer. There was no discussion.  So she was able to pivot out of what had been an issue that could have driven her down again." 
Anderson Cooper, probably thinking about whom he was going to toss the discussion to next, let the comment pass without probing.  "Really, David," he didn't say, "and just exactly how did she bring that pressure to bear on Spitzer?"    

Gergen found it interesting that both Obama and Edwards were booed when they confronted Clinton, but he didn’t note the absence of reciprocity.  Clinton hit back with impunity—no boos there.  She clearly had the most aggressive, if not largest, fan base in the house.  At the very beginning of the debate, Clinton joked that “this pant suit is asbestos tonight.”  Her fans loved it—bring it on.  Then, about seven minutes later, she said she had received mud “out of the Republican playbook.”  (Point: No true Democrat would disagree with her.) It put the “boys club” on notice that she was loaded for bear (or boys, rather), and put her supporters on notice that they should back her.  But, then she isn’t running as a woman.   Blitzer missed the opportunity to ask, “Specifically, Senator Clinton, what mud are you talking about?”

 

The influence of the pro-Clinton audience discouraged the genuine debate atmosphere that the “Let’s get ready to rumble” fanfare had heralded.  Nevertheless, Anderson Cooper began the post-event commentary with “This ain’t spring training,” and called it a “slug fest.”  Actually, it was more like a pillow fight, with only an occasional wide swing with intent to do harm.  The boos had tempered the boys’ pugnacious inclinations.    

 

Candidate responses resembled those at a beauty contest.  (“When I’m President, Wolf, no American will go to bed hungry, everyone in the world will respect us again, all big decisions will have bi-partisan support, and teenagers will no longer struggle with acme.”)  In just two hours, most of the world’s problems were addressed, at least in passing, with grand solutions, some rather astonishing.  For example, Obama said that we would “build schools in the Middle East that teach math and science and not just hatred of Americans.”  Bill Richardson missed the chance to announce he had a plan to do that very thing. 

 

When it was all over, these things were clear:  Joe Biden has been a Senator since the Grant Administration.  Chris Dodd speaks Spanish.  Dennis Kucinich is an angry man.  Bill Richardson has a plan for everything except eradicating tooth decay and up-grading the rest area on Highway 70 between Alamogordo and Las Cruces, NM—today it’s a gravel pull-off with two port-a-potties and a dumpster (true).  John Edwards doesn’t like trial lawyer slams and won’t be inviting Dennis to his next birthday party.  Barak Obama remains a serious contender for the Democrat nomination, and delivered his best overall performance yet, despite Gergen’s Clinton-biased analysis (he imagines himself back in the WH, too).  But, Hillary Clinton still sits at the head of the class.

 

The least spoken word of the night was—taxes.  

 

When he was booed for attacking Clinton, the look of disconcertion on Obama’s face told us that he doesn’t yet understand that the Marquis of Queensberry rules don’t apply when debating Mrs. Clinton.  Her fans chilled him.  Next time, perhaps he’ll say, “Senator Clinton, you’ve criticized the Bush Administration for questioning the patriotism of those who don’t support the Iraq War.  But now you and your supporters are criticizing me for holding you accountable for shifting positions.  What’s that about?”