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The Duel in the Desert

Chris Dodd, John Edwards and the rest mixed it up in Vegas. (AP).

The debate was about as pleasant and genteel as a dogfight. CNN should have replaced Wolf Blitzer with Michael Vick. The CNN promos had promised, with scarcely hidden glee, that the gloves were going to come off, and sure enough, the first questions were designed to maximize the verbal violence. Issues be damned: Shake hands once and then come out swinging.

Blitzer announced at the beginning that there wouldn't be a bell to signal candidates that their time to answer a question had run out. Implication: We prefer chaos tonight. And thus our political conversation drifts toward its natural equilibrium, which is somewhere on a level with professional wrestling. (Or football, or boxing, or the circus, all three of which can be found metaphorically jabbing at one another in this morning's story: "With moderator Wolf Blitzer serving as ringmaster and referee, the candidates sparred...")

The coarsening of American life takes many forms, and presidential politics is hardly immune to the trend. At least no one called Hillary an unprintable name that rhymes with knee-atch.

One might wonder who, exactly, watches these debates. The Onion just ran a story about how the American People have announced that they've dropped out of the 2008 election -- kind of like Sam Brownback. The most-read story on the CNN web site this morning was headlined "Cult Awaits End of Days In Cave," and shockingly it wasn't about the presidential candidates.

Pundits said Hillary had a much better night than she did the last time around. She certainly wanted to remind everyone that she's tough stuff. When Edwards threw out the word 'corrupt" to describe the political system she allegedly defends, she quickly hit back, saying his attack was 'right out of the Republican playbook." She insinuated that Obama's "new politics" is too delicate for the brass-knuckle politics employed by their opponents.

In a steel cage death match I 'd take her over every guy on that stage except maybe the underrated Kucinich, who is the presidential candidate most likely to be secretly a member of the X-Men. (We should abide by international law, he said at one point, but you know he was thinking to himself, "And also intergalactic law.")

Is it being too delicate of temperament to score this debate as shrill? Well, that's the word that popped up right there on stage -- Dodd said it was shrill, and Hillary said Edwards was slinging mud, and Richardson, ever the diplomat, said, "Let us stop this mudslinging. Let us stop going after one another on character and trust. Let us debate the issues that affect the American people, and let us be positive."

NOOOOOO, screamed the CNN producers. Get that guy off stage!!

Things calmed down a bit after the first 20 minutes, and even more when the audience members, actual voters, were permitted to ask questions. Truth be told, as much as the snarling and hissing is off-putting, some of the substantive stuff can get a little stupefying, too. It was a long night. The scariest moment was at 9:50 EST, fully 110 minutes into the program (not counting the pre-game), when Blitzer said there was much more to come. The first Gulf War was shorter than this debate!

Biden said at one point, "The American people don't give a darn about any of this stuff that's going on up here."

Which was maybe a little too close to the truth.

--Joel Achenbach

By Post Editor  |  November 16, 2007; 9:30 AM ET
Categories:  A_Blog , Joel's Two Cents  
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As many have already commented, CNN's "debate" was horrendous. It was blatantly unfair to the candidates, especially those with a last name other than Clinton.

For a network that made it's "political bones" on the wall-to-wall endless coverage of the (Bill) Clinton administration, the network showed selective amnesia and Wolf Blitzer must be on crack if he thinks we believe he doesn't know what "triangulation" meeans. He should have been yanked off the air in the middle of the debate for his pandering to Clinton. He failed to give anyone other than Clinton an opportunity to answer uninterrupted, blatantly and RUDELY ignored Dennis Kucinich, failed to follow-up with La Clintonista on tough questions, and so much more. On top of all of that, CNN had the "audacity of unmitigated gall" to plant questions and change the questions of the purported "undecided" voters they hand-picked for the "question and answer" section.

In short it was a sham of a a debate, start to finish.

and don't even get me started on the post debate coverage with Anderson Cooper and "all the Clintons' men." Shameful.

Just how low have we -- no, THEY sunk?

Posted by: jade7243 | November 17, 2007 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Wolf Blitzer did not give Kucinich the opportunity to make his point about Impeachment of President Bush. Mistake to cut him off. I think he would have handled this differently had it been one of the top candidates.

Would you support Impeachment the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney over the Iraq War?



Posted by: PollM | November 16, 2007 4:06 PM | Report abuse

I agree that it was a bad format. Wolf never had control of the situation and seemed to reserve the "tough" questions for only certain candidates.

He quoted Obama as saying Clinton was a triangulator, then added "whatever that means". Does he really not know, or was he just putting in his "un-biased" view? He went on to reprimand Obama for a lengthy immigration answer - this is a yes or no question. People want an honest answer to the problems we face not a soundbite for your rating. These are definitely NOT simple yes or no questions.

Posted by: sarah_walavich | November 16, 2007 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Hillary votes no to win votes but she won't speak the truth.

Barack has the courage to speak the truth. Citizens need everybody to have drivers liscense so they can be monitored for insurance and accidents and alcohol related deaths. He also pointed out the need to PASS an imigration bill to get those people on a path to citizenship. They will be needed to feel like americans so they can keep our social secuirty system fluid.

Hillary also got BUSTED on her statement about not RAISING THE CAP on social secuirty because she says the tax increase will hurt the middle class!

Barack stated that the 6% getting paid 97,000.00 a year is NOT THE MIDDLE CLASS !

Hillary also stated that she thought the american education system served us well ?? NOT ! !

Hillary also got BUSTED on her vote for the kyle Lieberman and the mother and the Iraq war veteran son who clapped when the rest of the candidates pointed out they were AGAINST the Kyle Lieberman bill to make the Iranian guard a terrorist organization and how the bill also allows for Bush to keep troops in iraq !!

Yes Hillary got busted BIG TIME the truth always comes out.

Thank God we have a candidate like Barack Obama who speaks the truth and doesn't shift back and forth trying to get votes.

Hillarys thinking people won't catch her shifting her point of view from one location (town) to another as she lies lies lies trying to sway the american voters !!

and on Pakistan
Here's Sen. Hillary Clinton discussing Pakistan at Thursday night's debate:
... there's absolutely a connection between a democratic regime and heightened security for the United States. That's what's so tragic about this situation.
After 9/11, President Bush had a chance to chart a different course, both in Pakistan and in Afghanistan, and could have been very clear about what our expectations were. We are now in a bind, and it is partly -- not completely, but partly -- a result of the failed policies of the Bush administration.
So, where we are today means that we have to say to President Musharraf: Look, this is not in your interest either. This is not in the interest of the United States. It is not in your interest to either stay in power or stay alive.
Sure sounds like she wished Bush pushed for democratic reform in Pakistan, instead of propping up Musharraf's dictatorship.
But here's what she said in a debate from August, when criticizing Sen. Barack Obama's pledge to strike terrorists in Pakistan's border region if Musharraf would not act on actionable intelligence:
I think it is a very big mistake to telegraph that and to destabilize the Musharraf regime, which is fighting for its life against the Islamic extremists who are in bed with al Qaeda and Taliban.
Of course, as everyone now knows, Musharraf is primarily fighting for his life against lawyers and judges, not the tribal militants.
Sen. Clinton is not alone among Dem candidates in supporting Musharraf.
Both Sen. John Edwards and Sen. Chris Dodd have expressed support for Musharraf to maintain "stability."
Whereas Obama, Gov. Bill Richardson and Sen. Joe Biden have been more consistent in supporting democratic principles.--
also is she wants to count poll results see the immediate polling results below

So far, Barack is ahead in both:

Posted by: PaProgressiveDem | November 16, 2007 2:33 PM | Report abuse

This was a debate? Geez, you coulda fooled me. I thought it was the Hillary & Obama Fawn Fest. It was disgusting. How much clearer could it have been that CNN wanted to give as much air time to these two as possible? From the bulk of questions being directed to H & O to Blitzer failing to cut Hillary off so she could just go on and on and on.... Was he afraid she'd cut off his gonads if he stopped her? And I wish they'd stop asking the candidates about what they think of other candidates and their meaningless personal jibes and problems. FOCUS ON THE ISSUES, DAMMIT!

Horrible debate, just horrible.

Posted by: amc6541 | November 16, 2007 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Joel, you seem like a nice, bright guy. Why do you waste this opportunity? You have a loud megaphone, you can make a difference.

Posted by: zukermand | November 16, 2007 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Um, I'd just like to say, uh, "Hi, Mom." And, Dave, you should go back on your meds. OK?

Posted by: jp1954 | November 16, 2007 11:40 AM | Report abuse


I guess the only way to challenge it is to have another law passed that annuls the first one.

Who knows what it is that goes back to 1897, but it may be rendition, which of course Clinton used to, and that leads to torture in other countries. So I think they did it to protect themselves from all the torturing they have been doing, and the secret pow camps (ghost camps). It is sickening.

But our Congress will go along. They also are hand in hand with the power brokers and big business, and no one care about Americans or even America. They will dissolve America into a North American Union as soon as they can, so they can reapi windfall profits, and our country will disappear.

Here you had the DIP candidates (Democratic Illegal's Party, formerly the Democratic Party) debate and they don't tell Calderon of Mexico to take a hike. TWo days ago he interfered once again in US affaires telling the Presidential candidates to law of the issue of "immigration".

I don't have much hope for our country anymore.

Posted by: Bettybb | November 16, 2007 11:39 AM | Report abuse

i watched the " debate" holding my breath; CNN should be embarrassed to sponsor & produce such a terrible spectacle; the ' moderator' had lost control immediately and there was NO organization, system or plan, other than to reduce the ' minor' candidates and highlight the ' major' candidates. i watched only to hear what each had to say and how they said it. I was totally disgusted with the format.
if CNN was attempting to submit a " cat fight" it succeeded; if it was planning to present an intelligent examination of issues directrly affecting/ impacting average Americans, they failed miserably

Posted by: jackonbeach1 | November 16, 2007 11:33 AM | Report abuse

clinton helped make it law( why) lets ask her (WHY) anyone out their in the media have the go-nads to ask..i dont think so.

TO ALL AMERICA YES, CONGRESS HAS AGAIN SLAP AMERICANS RIGHT IN THE FACE WITH THIS, PLEASE DONT BELEIVE ME THAN GO AND READ THE LAW BUSH SIGN INTO LAW. ITS CALL THE MILITARY COMMISSIONS ACT 2006, AND HIDDEN IN FINE PRINT CONGRESS HAS GIVEN THEMSELFS AND ANYONE WORKING IN THE GOVERNEMNT IMMUNEITY ON ANY THING THAT HAS HAPPEN IN THE WAKE OF THE WAR,OR ANYTHING ELSE THEY CAN FIND. THIS IS THE BEST PART, THEY BACK DATED IT TO ( 1997) why????? why would they need to back date this all the way before 2001???? because they have been ease dropping on america way back then...think about it america, and you better think about this, cheney/bush/rumsfeld/rove/rice started this war on all lies on top of lies, and remember 18 out of 19 involved in 2001 was saudi araibans you know the king and bush hold hands walking in the woods??? and this is why bush said he doesn''''t care about finding bin laddan because bin is part of the royal family that bush loves.. so if you look at the hole law, hillary help get it into law, why why why sounds funning because her husband bill was president at that time in what are they all hideing in washington??????????????? david a belanger,veteran,us army, 978-618-3105, so how can americans fight this,and get this change????

Posted by: wethepeople1 | November 16, 2007 11:32 AM | Report abuse

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