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Candidates Made Each Other's Points

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By Alec MacGillis
LOS ANGELES -- The tone tonight is so chummy that both candidates just ceded a fairly major point to their rivals.

Bill Clinton hammered Barack Obama for propagating a "fairy tale" of his opposition to the war in Iraq, noting that after opposing the war in 2002, Obama had a voting record on the war very similar to Hillary Clinton's. The former president was suggesting that Obama was not as firm in his opposition to the war as he would like Democrats to believe.

Yet tonight, Hillary Clinton more or less backed up what the Obama campaign has said in response to Bill Clinton's attack, that once the troops were in Iraq, it would have been irresponsible to pull them out haphazardly or leave them without the resources they need to fight. " We had the same policy [in the Senate] because we were trying to confront ...the reality" in Iraq, she said.

Meanwhile, Clinton has had to contend with the argument of many Obama supporters that her experience as First Lady in Arkansas and Washington did not add up to nearly as much in the way of qualification as she claims. Yet a moment after Clinton's Iraq comment, Obama said that there was no question that Clinton had the experience to lead on "day one" in the White House. This served as a setup to his arguing that there was a difference between being ready on day one and being right. But still, the point had been granted. It was that kind of night.

By Web Politics Editor  |  January 31, 2008; 10:06 PM ET
Categories:  The Debates  
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I think Obama had an excellent comment when he said, "because I will offer a clear contrast as somebody who never supported this war, thought it was a bad idea. I don't want to just end the war, but I want to end the mind-set that got us into war in the first place. That's the kind of leadership I intend to provide as president of the United State."

Senator Clinton refuses to admit she made a mistake by voting to authorize the war. She still says the president abused the authority granted in the resolution, and she does not take responsibility for her vote. Obama is taking the mindset of Hillary, the mindset that brought us into a unnecessary war, to task. Like Robert Byrd or Ted Kennedy, she could have voted for not to authorize, but she did. Obama is holding her responsible for this.

Posted by: ddust102 | February 5, 2008 2:13 PM | Report abuse

"I've been trying to determine why Obama is so effective and clear in speeches and seems incoherent sometimes in debate. I believe its because he seems to preach in speeches or he knows exactly what he is going to say, In last nights debate he stammered a lot, saying the same word two, three, or four times before he could proceed, This hurts him seeming passionate."

Spoken by someone who apparently hasn't been involved in the process of executive decision-making. BO's conversational style reflects thoughtfulness and a careful measuring of words. These are prime qualities for an executive decision-maker who will need to consider carefully advice on action, as well as all the nuances of meaning, especially when those words are to be carefully examined worldwide. Speech-making is one thing, but glibness is not needed in extemporaneous speaking and can be a big negative in decision-making.

Posted by: flarrfan | February 1, 2008 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Hold on. It was NEVER Bill's contention that Obama's senate record on Iraq was somehow ill-conceived or strategically blinkered. He was simply pointing out that, once in office, his take on Iraq was not as progressive as it had appeared to be in Oct 2002. Indeed, many more progressive senators called for timetables or immediate withdrawals. Obama very much played the realist. That was Bill's essential point--that when no longer an underdog senate primary candidate, when his vote actually affected policy, he tacked right. Sure, so did she, but she's not running as some sort of prophet on the war.

Posted by: sean.mcbride | February 1, 2008 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Since Sen Obama now has the "KEYS to CAMELOT" maybe it should be,


Posted by: sam51 | February 1, 2008 12:17 PM | Report abuse

An earlier poster said "Every American can be proud of what we saw last night. Clinton/Obama '08 !!!!"

Earnest enthusiasm like that is good to see, but we shouldn't allow it to obscure our pragmatic evaluation of the candidates' actual words and proposal. For example, Hillary criticizes Obama because "his" health care plan does not mandate insurance for everyone, while hers does. Voters and pundits alike seem to view this as a legitimate talking point without considering whether there are potentially significant downsides to mandates. Ultimately, that's a minor point compared to the overarching uncertainty as to whether any government-implemented and run plan represents an improvement for the majority of Americans. Getting another twenty million people insured is a fine policy objective, but not if funding it overwhelms other domestic spending, and not if implementing actually degrades the quality and convenience for the many millions more of Americans that have private-sector insurance. Beyond that, even the friendliest of economists flatly state that neither Obama or Hillary are anywhere close to accounting for and covering the expected expenses of their proposed plans. For Americans to be truly proud of what happened last night, we'd would have had to hear a frank discussion of those and other similarly tough issues.

Posted by: mail.mdm | February 1, 2008 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Both Obama and Clinton can of course collect enough votes from their own people to become candidate in summer. But only Obama has a chance to win in November, since Hillary simply carries too much old baggage. Ted Kennedy wants his party to win and has done the math. That's why he now supports Obama

Posted by: dunnhaupt | February 1, 2008 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Recent news - Bobby Kennedy's wife, Ethel Kennedy, supports Sen. Obama:

Posted by: maq1 | February 1, 2008 11:05 AM | Report abuse

I've been trying to determine why Obama is so effective and clear in speeches and seems incoherent sometimes in debate. I believe its because he seems to preach in speeches or he knows exactly what he is going to say, In last nights debate he stammered a lot, saying the same word two, three, or four times before he could proceed, This hurts him seeming passionate.

Posted by: bnw173 | February 1, 2008 11:02 AM | Report abuse

oops, sorry wrong link, that one had to do with Gates alienating Germany, but that's not about the debate is it? Here's the round-up

Posted by: old_europe | February 1, 2008 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Can't we stop the Clinton/Obama '08 discussion. Obama is trying to stand for change and then put up with one of the most dyed-in-the-wool Washingtonian politicians would never do. He has to go it alone.

Find some of the elections coverage from Europe here:

Posted by: old_europe | February 1, 2008 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Every American can be proud of what we saw last night.

Clinton/Obama '08 !!!!

Posted by: svreader | February 1, 2008 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Pro-Amnesty is pro-invasion. Pro-invasion is anti-citizen.

We don't need an army of INS agents to deport the illegal aliens.
Enforce the law and prevent them from obtaining jobs and they'll self-deport.
Eliminate education, medical and welfare benefits to illegal invaders.
Repeal to 'Anchor Baby' laws.
We don't need a fence, we need permission to fire.

Posted by: Regulus63 | February 1, 2008 5:32 AM | Report abuse

Which Democratic candidate can really best go up against McCain?

Super Tuesday Analysis -
The Democrats Web Battle
Google Trend & Web Hits Reports
Obama vs. Clinton and the rest...

Posted by: davidmwe | February 1, 2008 1:20 AM | Report abuse

Who won the CNN Democratic Debate in California?


Posted by: jeffboste | January 31, 2008 10:38 PM | Report abuse

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