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Barrier-Breaking Race, Ready For Close-Up

A polite meeting among two history-making candidates. (AP)

By Dan Balz
LOS ANGELES -- Sometimes the most important aspects of a presidential campaign are the least remarked upon. Thursday's Democratic debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama made the obvious inescapable.

Whatever happens from here forward, the Democrats will produce a barrier-shattering nominee for president. It took, finally, the departure of John Edwards from the presidential race to refocus attention on the significance of a contest that has come down to a choice between an African American man or a woman.

Sitting side by side at the Kodak Theatre Thursday night, Clinton and Obama seemed to revel in the image that their contest now projects. After the acrimony of Myrtle Beach early last week, the two competitors were (almost) all smiles as they set out their differences and argued their positions.

"It is a testimony to the Democratic Party and it is a testimony to this country that we have the opportunity to make history," Obama said, "because I think one of us two will end up being the next president of the United States of America."

Seeking to draw a contrast with the Republicans, Clinton commented on the difference in the images projected by Republican and Democrats at their respective debates in California this week. "Neither of us, just by looking at us, you can tell, we are not more of the same," she said. "We will change our country."

Race and gender have only occasionally dominated the battle between Obama and Clinton. More often those factors have been relegated to an afterthought in discussions about their candidacies. While Clinton has sought more than Obama to highlight the unique nature of her candidacy, neither has been seen principally through the prism of what is exceptional about their contest.

Whether the country ultimately is ready to elect a woman or African American as president awaits a later judgment. But the two candidates who shared the stage on Thursday provided, apart from race and gender, strong arguments in their behalf.

Both were on extraordinarily good behavior -- after their snarling performances in Myrtle Beach -- and in that way, too, they offered a striking contrast from the Republican debate in which neither of the two GOP finalists projected a winning personality.

At the Reagan Library debate, John McCain was anything but the magnanimous front-runner. Through much of the debate, he could not wipe a self-satisfied smile off his face as he poked and jabbed at Mitt Romney in what he clearly believed was their last encounter of consequence before a nomination battle that, short of a big surprise, could effectively end on Tuesday.

Romney was defensive across a host of issues, from his record in Massachusetts to his position on the Iraq war. He had cause to complain about McCain's attack on his statement about secret timetables, but McCain effectively skewered him on why he had declined to take a position on the troop surge policy as it was being formulated -- disingenuously begging off at the time because, he said, he was a mere governor and this was not a state issue.

After that debate, Clinton and Obama were wise to take the high road in their encounter. If they were able to maintain their rivalry on such a high plane they likely both would benefit.

They discussed their differences on health care in the kind of detail that would have thrilled policy wonks. They explored immigration from the unusual angle of whether it had left African Americans with fewer jobs and lower wages.

They made cogent arguments in behalf of their basic messages -- she that experience matters in a dangerous world; he that lifting and energizing the electorate can produce a paradigm shift in the conduct of politics.

Instead of personal attacks there were smiles and compliments. "I respect Senator Clinton." Obama said. "I think her service to this country has been extraordinary. And I'm glad that we've been walking on this road together and that we are still on that road."

"Really?" Clinton responded when it was suggested Obama had taken a swipe at here. "We're having such a good time. We are. We are. We're having a wonderful time."

The history of their competition suggests that what happened in Hollywood may stay in Hollywood. With his victory speech in South Carolina Obama showed his new willingness to intersperse tough talk with his inspirational flights of rhetoric.

Clinton, meanwhile, was forced to lower the temperature of her entire campaign after South Carolina, but nothing in the DNA of her operation suggests kinder and gentler is preferred to rough and tumble.

So perhaps Thursday was an exceptional moment for that reason as well -- a serious and lofty conversation between two well-prepared politicians before a return to the kind of combat that has marked the Democratic race at different points along the way.

But what should not be lost is what their competition may tell us about the state of the country when an African American and a woman can compete for their party's presidential nomination -- and have that fact become almost an afterthought. When history looks back on 2008, the significance will be all the clearer.

By Washington Post editors  |  February 1, 2008; 11:34 AM ET
Categories:  Dan Balz's Take  
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The facts. Not a Washington Insider doing the same thing for years as a politician, Romney has a sophisticated understanding of the challenges we face in both the national and global economies. He is a highly educated and successful leader in business making money by turning around floundering companies such as Staples and helping to produce thousands of jobs, understands the importance of people, organization, research, planning, communication and direction. He was class valedictorian at BYU, MBA and LAW degree from Harvard. While Governor of mostly Democrat Massachusetts, he brought the fractured constituencies together and they became the first state with a universal health care plan that seems to work, official figures indicate that roughly 200,000 previously uninsured residents have gained health coverage, a 45 percent drop in minimum premium costs and a 34 percent reduction in the uninsured. He took no salary at all as Governor because as he said, I have enough. He lowered state taxes, most of what Romney raised was in the form of fees, not taxes, such as court filings and firearm licensing fees. But he also closed loopholes on corporate taxes. Increased funding for education, Massachusetts students ranked #l in the nation in education. Increased penalties on drunk driving. Never supported the release of criminals convicted of serious crimes. Never was first to bring up religion. He turned around MA's economy from deficit to surplus, balancing their budget in less than 4 years. How dare he do his job well and for no pay on top of it!!! When the Salt Lake City Olympics crumbled under corruption/scandal and financial disaster he went to Salt Lake, took over for a one dollar salary, saved the Olympics and made it profitable. He led a massive security mobilization at the Olympics in the wake of the 9/11 attack and, as governor, helped build up Massachusetts' homeland security efforts. He supports a strong military. He is concerned about illegal immigration and what it means to the security of the United States. He wants to retool America and bring the jobs back home. I can certainly understand liberals hating Romney, after all he's been married to the same woman. He's from a close knit family and values family first. Regarding his flip-flopping on big issues? He may have flipped but not flopped! Everyone, and that means everyone in politics makes mistakes, gets to change their mind once after gaining more knowledge, and most politicians seem to change more than once. Stand all of the candidates up next to each other in a direct comparison of what they really have done and then vote for the best person to make good change and run the country in the right direction.

Posted by: dcdinnell | February 2, 2008 11:05 PM | Report abuse

Through out my life, I never thought that I would see an election as exciting as this. Being a democrat and a christian, I have faced Evangelical Christians criticism for voting democrat. The criticism of women for not vote for Hillary. That is the true lost argument. Who do I see Hillary as...the WIFE of Clinton! When Bill was president and before he exercised a true disregard for commitment to his wife and the office of the President. (Hillary still sees him as committed to her) Dishonesty was his mantra for life. Why do I bring this up? Well what I know is that if his charecter and values were or are vastly different from hers, most could not remain married to a man with poor charecter. Who is dishonest.
Can someone answer the question of why those who have known Hillary for over 16-35 years as first lady and now senator refuse to endorse her. What do they know about her specifically that we don't. If you were hiring someone foir a job and all references from past employers, and co-workers were no I will not endorse her for this job, would you hire them anyway. After all they worked with her not me. I trust that you would not. You have to rely on the people that know her personally..not her husband and certainly not the daughter who can only say how proud she is that her mother could be the first woman president...that is not enough. I as a by-stander would have to believe that her friends from the Children Fund and the NOW organization who once endorsed her...Ted and Ethel Kennedy who have broken bread with them, know something I don't. I am not in Hillary's intimate circle and yet those who are, are running quickly...they are breaking camp...the past Clinton campaign director, her past co-workers at the Children fund she speaks of often and the Director of NOW who watched on as she (Hillary) lied about Obama's record time and time again. Ir is not about the is about lying. Others call it integrity issues. I call it lying. Bill knows something about this and so does she. She has done this so many times that the only true way to know who she is, is to look at the writing on the stop and watch the people who have known her for years and are choosing to not choose to support her...that includes the Kennedy's the Kerry's, Ms. Eisnehower (republican) and so many others that once supported the Clinton's and are now snubbing them completely. I would not vote for Hillary simply because she is a woman or Bill's wife. I would vote for Kansas' Govenor. 20 years as a govenor...and sound in reason and a person with sound values and integrity. No vote. Obama is a true gentleman. Not once has he brought up Hillary's dirt or Bill's for that matter. Do the research on those two for yourself. Visit or just do a No Clinton or No Obama for that matter and watch the pages for Hillary and Bill just stroll and stroll. Come on why pray that this couple is not consumed by greed. New York...The capital of financial income possibilites. Personal friends of the Bush family. Did Bill not say tht Mr. Bush was like a father to him as he traveled the country with him. They chose Wall Street for the income possibilities..earmarks and deposits into Prez Clinton's library fund. You know, we can always like the Clinton's write the outpour for Obama as a democratic conspiracy, a Media Conspiracy, another Republican conspiracy or an American Conspiracy. No one from that camp would call it poor judgement. Sound a lot like president Bush! After all it is never the Clinton's wrong doings...far be it to admit a wrong doing or to apologize for it. Nope! They are always as clean as the driven snow. I have two words for the lost... who are still in the dark...wake up and see the light!

Posted by: belinda629 | February 2, 2008 6:33 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the following comment:

"It is almost sad to see that Obama's only claim to fame is having not to vote for the Iraq war; because he was not in a position to do so. What an arrogant view to say he would be "right" on the first day in the White House. He was NOT right on the Iraq issue - nobody was; but everybody was wrong; including CNN and Blitzer, the NY Times and Washington Post and an overwhelming part of the histerical US population; which wanted to beat up someone and the clown in Bagdad was just about the right guy."

When is the media's apology coming on covering for the administration and trying to convince all of us this war was necessary? Does everyone forget the George Bush poll numbers were sky-high before he invaded Iraq.He was supported by most americans. We were complicit as well by going along, I didn't see all of us out on the street trying to stop the Iraq invasion. So I do find it high and mighty when Obama says I would be right on Day 1 . After all most of us were wrong and he wasn't in the Senate to make the big decision. So if we are going to lay the the blame at Hillary's door, we should take a good look in the mirror. But I don't see many posts doing that. So stop making her the scapegoat when there is a so much blame to go around including all the media who are happy to showcase her mistake but not theirs..

Posted by: shazzer42000 | February 2, 2008 6:24 AM | Report abuse

As an outsider, foreigner , it's easier
for me to see who american should vote for a president. Use your brain rather use you heart to vote. For me it's very very clear that Obama will make a better President for America and the world , Because the President of America is not only for Americans but also the President of the world. Pls don't be selfish.

I will surely vote for Hilary if there is no better choice, But Now come Obama , He is much much superior compare with Hilary in term of intelligent, education from
Columbia and Harvard graduate. Talented. first class unique talented orator. Polished politician, well verse in use of words, funny likeable , high intergrity, sincerity, energertic and many more. Of all thing, I said, He is born to serve . He is God sent to Americans and to the people of the world. Pls , my dear white brothers and sisters , I know you are all Christian and so do I , pls don't ever vote base on race. Pls remember , we are all taught by the same bible, I Just want to remind you that Our God is colour blind.


Posted by: rayanwijaya | February 2, 2008 1:59 AM | Report abuse

I used to think the Republican nominee could beat Hillary without too much trouble. That is still true. Now I think that Obama could be brought down as well when I read some many leftists here and other places agreeing that Obama is a political lightweight

Both these alternatives seem more likely the more I read about how Hillary supporters hate Obama and won't vote for him and how the reverse is true as well. That's not a good sign for a party when the last two national elections have shown the country almost exactly evenly divided. Yes, some conservatives say they won't vote for McClain (look at that nut case Ann Coulter) but I don't sense the intensity of feeling that could hurt Republicans as much as Democrats stand to hurt their chances.

Oh well, as long as I don't have to read about "stolen" elections in November, I'll live with the result.

Posted by: jpturner | February 2, 2008 12:06 AM | Report abuse

I used to think the Republican nominee could beat Hillary without too much trouble. That is still true. Now I think that Obama could be brought down as well when I read some many leftists here and other places agreeing that Obama is a political lightweight

Both these alternatives seem more likely the more I read about how Hillary supporters hate Obama and won't vote for him and how the reverse is true as well. That's not a good sign for a party when the last two national elections have shown the country almost exactly evenly divided. Yes, some conservatives say they won't vote for McClain (look at that nut case Ann Coulter) but I don't sense the intensity of feeling that could hurt Republicans as much as Democrats stand to hurt their chances.

Oh well, as long as I don't have to read about "stolen" elections in November, I'll live with the result.

Posted by: jpturner | February 2, 2008 12:06 AM | Report abuse

Regarding the electability question, the Democrats don't seem to have a great track record against the GOP when we nominate safe, boring establishment choices like Gore, Kerry, and (possibly) Sen. Clinton. This kind of candidate can easily round up the entire Democratic base, but struggles to win more than 50%+1 of the vote. Even Bill Clinton in 1996 only won 49% of the popular vote (and less than than in 1992).

What we need is a candidate who can potentially expand the Democratic base, bringing in a lot of independents and some Republicans, too. And while there are certainly risks involved in nominating Obama for the general election, he's the only one who has already demonstrated an ability to attract new voters. We need him not only to win the election in November, but also govern the country effectively with a winning coalition for years to come.

I'd also add that if Obama can manage to beat the Clinton Machine in the primaries, he'll be well-equipped to tackle McCain (whose fundraising ability is abysmal and support among evangelicals is minimal) in the fall.

Posted by: rguha | February 2, 2008 12:06 AM | Report abuse

Amid all the mutual admiration (debate), however, we still found a few factual missteps:

Obama claimed Democratic voter turnout has doubled in "every single election that we've had so far in this [nominating] contest." Not true. It doubled in only two. In New Hampshire the turnout increased by 30 percent.

Obama misleadingly said corporate tax loopholes totaled $1 trillion. That figure is an estimate for a 10-year period and includes items such as low-income housing tax credits and tax-free bonds for state and local governments.

Obama mischaracterized Clinton's earlier statements on driver's licenses for illegal aliens, saying, "You said you were for it. Then you said you were against it." Actually she avoided giving a yes-or-no answer in one debate, then made clear she opposed the idea.

We also found that Clinton's response to a question about her vote on a key amendment to the Iraq war powers resolution may have left viewers confused, because the question didn't correctly describe what the vote was about. What she voted against was a measure that would have allowed the U.S. to invade Iraq only if authorized by the United Nations Security Council or by a separate vote of the Senate at a later date. Clinton said she opposed that proposal because it could have subordinated U.S. judgments to those of the Security Council.

Note: This is a summary only. The full article with analysis, images and citations may be viewed on our Web (Univ of Pennsylvania)

Posted by: accountability_in_gov | February 1, 2008 8:19 PM | Report abuse

To hsnkhwj and ovwong:

I'm not saying Clinton was right; only that Obama's position was easier one to take. The Senate resolution was in fall 2002. Obama began his Senate run almost a year later, in 2003, for the 2004 primary.

Their foreign policy will be the same, so the war resolution vote is irrelevant in this election. Look at their ideas and proposals on domestic policy, such as health care and mortgage regulation) and decide which one is really more progressive.

Both would be good presidents, but I think Clinton would be a great one.

Posted by: bob23 | February 1, 2008 7:45 PM | Report abuse

It should be obvious now that most of us don't want to choose between Hillary and Obama. We like them both and watching them fight is like watching your parents fight. A Hillary/Obama ticket is a dream ticket because EVERYBODY WINS!! We get her experience and pragmatisim, and his vision. Plus, we could all look forward to the possiblity of 16 years of progressive leadership instead of just 8. Let's face it, it's going to take a very long time to clean up the mess GWB left behind. Everyone vote for Hillary and we can make this happen.

Posted by: ngcummings | February 1, 2008 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Spot on, billwalton4444. Self-loathing Dems like to set themselves up for failure. Look at Kerry in 2004. How did Bush ever get re-elected?

They're doing the same thing with Obama. Anyone who watched the Democratic debate and the GOP debate the night before should have no doubt that Obama would get steamrolled.

Hillary is going easy on him and he still showed a general lack of competence with the issues. All McCain has to (and will) do is hammer him on security. Obama's inability to fully grasp the issues will scare people into voting McCain. Same as with Bush in 2004.

All you need to know is that the New York Post, Rupert Murdoch's (you know, Fox News' owner) paper, endorsed Obama and, in the same piece, called him "beyond naive -- blithely unware that America must defend itself against those sworn to destroy the nation."

The GOP machine is already honing its talking points.

'nuff said.

Posted by: ghokee | February 1, 2008 6:28 PM | Report abuse


You are right on the money. The Democrats will be making another catastrophic boo-boo by sending Obama against McCain. When all is said and done voters often vote for a "feeling of security" when they get into the booth. They'll sometimes vote for the "known entitity" {whom they might not particularly like} over the unknown entity {who they like but are not quite sure of.} It would be a gross miscalculation if the Democrats nominate Obama. A major, major, gaffe.

Posted by: billwalton4444 | February 1, 2008 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Hillary won the overall debate on Healthcare, immigration and the economy. Barack won on Iraq. Even though Hillary won the debate, in my opinion, she probably will not will the nomination. She demonstrated again her command of issues and solutions and a superior grasp of those issues over Barack. She is a better candidate and would make a better President than Barack, but she is not running against Barack. Unfornunately, she is runnning against the myth of Barack which has been created and the myth of JFK. For instance, we are now being gold that JFK made this nation one andBarack has been presented as the reincarnation of JFK who will make us one, again. That is a fictionalized fabrication. JFK did not make this nation one. When JFK was assassinated in 1963, he was in Dallas trying to hold that state in line for his renomination, because, even though LBJ, a Texan and his VP, was with JFK, Texas was showing signs of slipping away from JFK. JFK did not make this nation one and when JFK died, this nation still was not one. Remember the divisiveness of the Viet Nam war, the assassinations of Malcolm X, RFK and Martin Luther King, Jr., the Democratic Convention in Chicago, the Racism and brutality suffered by MLK, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, etc. It is pure myth to say that JFK made us one and to assert that Barack is the reincarnation of JFK and will now make us one, again. And when Hillary and Bill have tried to rationally point out the fallacy of this myth, they are both demonized and accused of playing the race card. Even though Barack will probably will the nomination, my fear is that he has positioned himself so far to the left that he will be too vulnerable and have too much baggage to win in November. If Hillary does somehow manage to pull it off and get the nomination, she will be a very strong candidate in November because she will not have the baggage which the Republicans will exploint as being too liberal (Ted Kennedy, having been endorsed by, Barack's untenable position on immigration, Barack's lack of foreign policy credentials, other than he didn't vote for the Iraq war,etc.). Republicans will expose the myth of Barack and exploit the deficits of the real Barack and win in November. All Hillary has to do is wait until 2012 and run again agains President John McCain. Maybe by then, after the Republicans have made an even bigger mess, we will have awakened from the myth of Barack and be ready to deal with the real issues and Hillary's real strength's to deal with those issues.

Posted by: strongleodis | February 1, 2008 6:10 PM | Report abuse

It is really ridicules how different people on this board accuse Obama in all kinds of sins, violating arrogantly all well known facts. Was Bill Clinton's example really so infectious?

Posted by: aepelbaum | February 1, 2008 6:09 PM | Report abuse

"dream ticket?" i don't think either candidate would bite; and, for obama, it would be an insult that i don't think he'd be willing to stoop. as Michelle Obama said: if you can't keep your own house in order you can't keep the white house in order. both clintons lack the integrity to deserve the white house. and, all of these comments and criticisms about obama's lack of ..."management or executive experience," - geez, haven't you paid attention to his background? or maybe you don't understand what's required to do what he's done for the past 20 years; obviously someone's lacking exerience, but its not mr. obama. bottom line, we don't need the clintons in the white house telling more lies about where missing documents are or aren't (oh! i found it after 6 months on my night stand, says hrc) and her husband (and why, other than her political future, did hrc stay with the found guilty husband) who should have been impeached if for nothing more than having oral sex - which according to the liar husband wasn't really the same as having sex - with a young woman in dark doorways afterhours (or was it during hours as well?); their house was & is still out of order; check mr. obama's resume again and pay attention, too, to the fact that he is not tied or committed to anyone in washington; he is someone who can bring people together; God forgive us if we don't seize this opportunity!! visit with an open mind and see what this movement is really all about....

Posted by: dnbonthelake | February 1, 2008 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Obama supported Howard Dean, and did it intesely. I was in Illinois at the time and watched it first hand, vaidyatk.

Posted by: aepelbaum | February 1, 2008 6:06 PM | Report abuse

meehyun, no sir, it is just vice versa. Obama can defeat McCain. But Clinton would face questions why her husband administration didn't destroy Osama Bin Laden, when he had this oportunity. And why she initially voted for iraqi war, then was sorry about this vote, etc., etc. Clinton can fool some people, but she is extremely inconsistent (visibly, of course) about everything, except of her own welfare. Obama can bring change, reasonably steady policies, and security. Clinton can't. Besides, all people, who are against Iraqi war, would support Obama against McCain, because he opposed this war steadily. And there is a majority of these people, as we know by election of 2006.

Posted by: aepelbaum | February 1, 2008 6:04 PM | Report abuse

I wonder why Obama did not support anti-war candidate Howard Dean in 2004 primaries, if he was passionately against the war from day one. Instead, he gave the keynote speech in support of John Kerry who voted for the war resolution. I think some one has to ask him where he was when Howard Dean was campaigning for the 2004 primary elections. Was it because it was politically incorrect? Then he is playing the same old politics which he accuses other of playing. So change is just a slogan, and is part of the same old political game.

Posted by: vaidyatk | February 1, 2008 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Vote for Obama, and say hello to President McCain.
On a national security issue alone, McCain and Republicans will chew him up and spit him out like a minced meat.
Republicans want so much to have Obama be the nominee they are salivating. And you the liberal left will give them that gift as you have done with the President Bush with Ralph Nader votes.

Posted by: meehyun | February 1, 2008 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Many of you are touting obama as having the "judgment" when he gave a speech in IL in 2002. However he then said he didn't know how he would have voted for it, and when it couted and when he was in the postion to REALLY take a stand on the issue, he didn't, he voted to fund the war. So if this is your issue? Why aren't you voting for Kucinich? This is by far the most non issue. Because we then have to look at all the debates and look at his answers to some serious questions. He would meet "personally" with the most hated dictators. He would attack Pakistan, but didn't think of the consequences to the reality surrounding this idea, like notifying Pakistan we were coming so they didn't think the attack came from India that would have started a war. So if you want to make this an issue go ahead, it doesn't mean anything really, Hillary's vote was reasonable and if you read her entire text you would see that. She is tough you are not. But again, if this is such a big issue for many of you why aren't you supporting Kucinich? Thought so.

Posted by: sjl106 | February 1, 2008 5:40 PM | Report abuse

She would have taken credit for her war vote if the war was perceived as a success. Her statements about being tricked with faulty data exposes her lack of leadership and experience. Our congress is supposed to hold the line against the expansion of presidential power. They are supposed to be the one's asking questions, exposing faulty data, exposing propaganda, expressing dissent. Representing the people. Instead, she and all of her other war authorizing compatriots, didn't do their due diligence and capitulated to the weakest propaganda campaign perpetrated on us in years. I'm not even a political scientists and I could see the clear manipulation, the parallels to Vietnam, understood how insurgencies work, know that Al Qaida have never operated in Iraq and are not connected, can read the weapons inspector reports... According to her logic, I have more experience than her, and should be able to hit the ground running on "day one."

On the flip side, Barak Obama's position against the war took conviction. He was not in the majority. He did not even need to express his opinion at all, which would have been politically expedient.

Just as importantly... none of these candidates are anti-war candidates. Both would easily support a continued war in Afghanistan, and none have come out against our foreign policies, the military complex, and need for energy resources which compel us to war in the first place.

Posted by: blarf | February 1, 2008 5:39 PM | Report abuse

Wouldn't a gay liberal Dem candidate really get more attention? Wouldn't that be barrier-shattering?

I don't hear a peep out of the gay libs. They're quite as mice peeing on cotton.

Posted by: DaTourist | February 1, 2008 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Naive? Sorry to disagree with that - if HRC claims that she was brainwashed by GWB, after her eight years in the white house and despite a husband who had access to the best intel on the planet (barely two years before her senate stint) - I find that to be either downright dishonest; or her judgement is badly flawed.

If she cannot accept her part of the responsibility of the thousands of American troops that are dead or injured - precisely because of this war - a war that she voted for - the choice for every reasonable democrat should become obvious!

And why should we simply forget about it as she suggests? Lives have been lost; parents have lost their sons and daughters; children have lost their fathers and mothers! I teach my kids to accept mistakes, learn from them. If the president of this nation does not have the guts to face her own mistakes - how can we even think of supporting her?

Posted by: amitavar | February 1, 2008 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Yes. Both Sens. Obama and Clinton stood in stark contrast to McCain and Romney, who fell all over themselves pandering to the extreme coservative wing of the Republican Party (is there any other wing at this point?). But Sen. clinton ultimately demonstrated why she is the 2d best Democrat running for President when she (once again) refused to say she made a mistake in voting for the resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq. It probably seemed like a safe vote in 2002, especially since she did not want to appear weak on national security if she ever ran for President. She said in the the debate she did not believe she was voting for war, but every perosn with half a brain back then knew that Bush was intent on concoting a pretext to invade Iraq. Unfortuntely for her, her ambition clouded her judgment, and apparently still does. As Sen. Obama said, what is needed on Day 1 is not just experience but judgment. He has the better of that criteria.

Posted by: cdonham | February 1, 2008 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Duh? Wasn't feisty Geraldine Ferraro a barrier-shattering Dem candidate?

Hmmmm? I'm trying to remember who Geraldine's running mate was?

I'm thinking, but it just won't come to me!

Where is Geraldine now?

Posted by: DaTourist | February 1, 2008 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Obama having been "against the war" from the IL legislature is akin to an NFL practice player being "against the other team" from the practice field. HRC was on the court, not on the sidelines like Obama, so let's STHU about all this Obama was right nonsense. HRC never endorsed the war, regardless of how the white-washed Obama camp wants to spin it. The only reason this is touted so heavily is because of HRC's preeminence over Obama in all matters of foreign policy -- or on any substantive issue for that matter. Obama is largely a facade.

Posted by: dm_frank | February 1, 2008 5:28 PM | Report abuse

I believe that Obamas claim that he was against the war in 2002 means nothing. He was not in the US Senate to vote on the issue. Clinton and Edwards who did vote on the issue, voted for the resolution. That said, they were lied to by the President of the United States. Never before regarding war has a president lied.
Sfter Obama became a Senator, he had opportunity after opportunity to vote against the war. He position is no differnt that Clintons. The only candidate consistent from day one was Dennis Kucinich. I am tired of Obama claimed to be so antiwar, when he action do not back up the claim. We have no idea how he would have voted of he was in office in 2002. And neither does he.

Posted by: GSWAGNER | February 1, 2008 5:20 PM | Report abuse

I was very impressed with their final debate: the tone, the substance, the friendliness. I wonder, though, at all the comments on the Iraq vote. Is it because Hillary is doing better? I was very angry at her and others who voted for authorization. I was out demonstrating, wrote letters and an article before that vote and no, I don't believe her rationale. But I think she would make the best president. I appreciate Obama's early opposition. I hope he would have taken the same position if he had been a serious contender for the presidency back then. He was not. She was.
Wolf deserved to be booed. He wasn't substantive. He was trying for sparks and they weren't giving him any. I would love the dream ticket of Clinton/Obama. I have less hopes of an Obama/Clinton but I'd work for that, too. The reader who said they'd vote for McCain or Romney cannot really be serious. The state of the country is surely more important than whether one is irritated with either Obama or Hillary. Either one would make a very good president. I just think Hillary might be better.

Posted by: Joseph.G.Anthony | February 1, 2008 5:20 PM | Report abuse

jp1954, if HRC apologizes or not for her votes on Iraqi and incoming Iranian wars is fully out of no consequences, as, if elected, she would continue these polices, no matter what she says now. so, who wants the change of these and many other policies should vote Obama. If HRC is in White House, it would be even worse than Bush. I am practically always right. So, exect what I predict.

Posted by: aepelbaum | February 1, 2008 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Barack Obama:

1) The most liberal senator in 2007
2) Endorsed by Ted Kennedy
3) Endorsed by
4) Only two years experience at the federal level
5) No management or executive experience

Which one of these things will we see in a Republican attack ad in November? Which ad won't work?

Posted by: lpeter59 | February 1, 2008 5:17 PM | Report abuse

it is almost sad to see that Obama's only claim to fame is having not to vote for the Iraq war; because he was not in a position to do so. What an arrogant view to say he would be "right" on the first day in the White House. He was NOT right on the Iraq issue - nobody was; but everybody was wrong; including CNN and Blitzer, the NY Times and Washington Post and an overwhelming part of the histerical US population; which wanted to beat up someone and the clown in Bagdad was just about the right guy. He decided one way (which I share) and was lucky enough that history came out his way; without any of his doing and not because he knew anything more than anyone else. As to HRC having to appologize: for what? to whom? For a mistake she has already recognized as having been one? What more do you people want - beyond a creepy need to humiliate her. If you do not like her, just say so, but do not come up with a substitute argument; after all funding the war latter instead of steadfastly demanding the immediate withdrawl of the troops (as some in Congress and outside have done) is what Obama has been doing - is it not?
Have a woman as Pres and maybe he can bite his arroganz and power hunger, become VP, wait for 8 years and run on more experience for his own 8 year stint in the WH

Posted by: noway | February 1, 2008 5:15 PM | Report abuse

The founding fathers understood that the ability to declare war was of singular importance for, once the sovereign declared war, any further discussion could be considered treason. For that reason they insisted that the power to declare war, to go to war or, as is done nowadays, to commit troops to battle for more than 90 days, be in the hands of Congress NOT the executive.

Senator Byrd was the most eloquent in arguing against support of what was clearly (and now demonstrably) a rush to war. To avoid the possibility that she might be accused of being "weak on defense", Hilary failed to take the heat and vote correctly. Obama, while not in the Senate at the time, went out of his way to argue against the invasion of Iraq, knowing that that might destroy his political career. He made the tougher call and the correct call.

Posted by: thebobbob | February 1, 2008 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Tell you what, I'll join in the chorus demanding that Hillary apologize for her vote on the war AFTER all those people who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 and 2004 apologize to the rest of us.

Posted by: jp1954 | February 1, 2008 5:12 PM | Report abuse

They're just a couple of far left whining nanny-staters. The Dems have been out in left field since McGovern - they deserve they're fate. They've become lunatics.

Posted by: birvin9999 | February 1, 2008 5:11 PM | Report abuse

They booed at Wolf for asking HRC if she was naive regarding GWB and his intentions on going to war with Iraq. I think Wolf nailed it. She was remarkably naive to think the GWB and his neocons weren't just chomping at the bit to do away with Saddams regime, and any excuse - certainly 9/11, was just what they needed for cover.

Aside from the fact that Saddam tried to kill his father, didn't the neocons (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle...) actually present a position paper on the military overthrow of the regime in Iraq to the Clinton administration in 1998, suggesting exactly what they eventually did? HRC must have been out that day saving the women of China or securing health care for children. On 9/12/01, you didn't need a high security clearance to understand that GWB was going to invade Iraq!

Posted by: drum777 | February 1, 2008 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Hernova, these two people can't be on the same ticket. Supporters of Obama, at least 90% of them, would not vote for the ticket Clinton/Obama, as this ticket means fully different policies than what they expect from Obama. The ticket Obama/Clinton means nothing less than physical or at the very least political assassination of Obama, if and immediately after this ticket succeed. And Obama perfectly knows it.

Posted by: aepelbaum | February 1, 2008 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Senator Obama in White House means the independence (real independence) for many countries, and the end of the intentional cleansing of the entire sub-saccharin population in Africa. Senator Clinton means the continuation of Bush-Clinton international policies, as they present the joined dynasty with the mutual agenda. What Mrs. Clinton is saying now has no sense and would be of no consequences, if she reaches White House.

Posted by: aepelbaum | February 1, 2008 5:03 PM | Report abuse

I want to see the "Dream Ticket"

Posted by: Hernova | February 1, 2008 4:55 PM | Report abuse

I want to see the "Dream Ticket"

Posted by: Hernova | February 1, 2008 4:55 PM | Report abuse

There was a clear loser in Thursday night's Democratic debate: John McCain, whose Wednesday performance was childish in comparison to both Democrtic contenders. Clinton and Obama both conducted a mature, substantive discussion of the big issues that affect the future of the vast majority of Americans. McCain and the other Republicans were having trivial arguments about who is most like Ronald Reagan. McCain's "straight talk" reputation is a house of cards.

Posted by: evons | February 1, 2008 4:46 PM | Report abuse

HRC has a much stronger grpas on all the issues. Her answers in the debate were detailed and ipressive. Mr. Obama stands on one issue he didn't vote for the war. He was lucky in that if there turned out to be WMD his no vote wouldn't be looking so good. You can't elect a president on one issue. The fact is the US is there and HRC answer about withdrawal demonstrated her knowledge of the complexity of the withdrawal. While O'bama's answers were good they did not demonstrate the depth that HRC answers contained across many policy issues.

Posted by: politicalobserver1 | February 1, 2008 4:42 PM | Report abuse

When we talk about Iraq, we need to remember this: Both senators have voiced criticism of the way President Bush has conducted operations in Iraq.

Yet when they were given the chance to enact Sen. Russ Feingold's measure ordering Bush to withdraw most U.S. troops by July 1, 2007, both Clinton and Obama voted "no."

Obama didn't take a seat in the Senate until 2005, so he didn't vote on the 2002 congressional resolution authorizing Bush to use force in Iraq.

Clinton did vote for that resolution, as did 28 other Senate Democrats.

Let's remember too, that it might have been different if Obama had been in on the 2002 congressional vote. He voted for all the war-related funding after he was a sitting senator, and in my humble experience, a leopard does not change its spots. So, I venture to say that simply based on his ONLY voting records on Iraq, which are IDENTICAL TO CLINTON, let's just say that he would have gone along with ALL the other if in that same position as Hillary. Let's just be real about this. Obama is a politician. He is not some mystic or visionary. He has a good speech writer and he is is charming.

Posted by: slarsen | February 1, 2008 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Dear Bob and Becky,

The point is that Obama was right and Hillary was wrong. I agree that voting for war was a difficult decision, but this difficulty does not come close to the pain the soldiers and their families are going through.

There are moments when a politician must take a stand. Deciding to send young people in harms way qualifies as such a defining moment.



Posted by: felixklein08 | February 1, 2008 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Bob wrote:

"I'm sorry, I'm not impressed that Senator Obama was against the war. For him, it was an easy political decision to make."

What a twisted argument!

On the contrary! The easy road was taken by Senator Clinton. It must have been a very difficult decision for Sen. Obama to vote with a minority of senators. Who strengthened the hands of Dick Cheney and the President by voting for the war?

That said, I am glad that last night's debate was not hostile.

Posted by: hsnkhwj | February 1, 2008 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Frankly. I think this is bordering on the ridiculous. Obama is an attractive, likable, intelligent young man, but Presidential material? C'mon. He has no real track record. At this point in time he's a political lightweight. You mean to tell me people are gonna vote for him because he's black, or likable, or cute, or the flavor of the day. Regardless of what you think of the Clintons they {Billary} have been tested. Hillary has the experience. {She was co-president. Who cares?} She is a bright, capable, mature, woman...........I'm a Democrat. If Obama is the nominee I'll vote for McCain.{ I might even vote for Romney.} I do NOT think Obama is ready to be the leader of the Western world. I think this is unbelievable.It is the political equivalent of the Britney Spears, Lindsey Lohan mentality.

Posted by: billwalton4444 | February 1, 2008 4:28 PM | Report abuse

"Compounding her hubris is HRC's lack of due diligence when she did not read the NIE report on Iraq prior to casting her vote." I didn't read it either and given the information that was running ad naseum on all the news channels, I would have voted to do the same. Hindsight is famously clear especially when coupled with real intelligence that leaked out after we were already bogged down. The execution of this war by this administration is the problem. Let us get beyond the 2002 vote, what has happened since that time is what is affecting us now and will be affecting us for many years to come.

Posted by: lorac58 | February 1, 2008 4:23 PM | Report abuse

We, Americans are making history, or the two candidates left would not be where they
are today. Both very intelligent,
charismatic. The Iraq war question, should
be thrown out by now-we are there, thru no
fault of the people that voted-they got
wrong data from the commander-in chief,
noless. Had Obama been in the Senate, I can
bet my shoes he would have said yes- he has
agreed to back the war fund since. But, that aside, India,Germany,Africa,Argentina.
Chile and probably Paraguay are electing
women to the top job. Why not the nation
that has been the leader in the worls and
will be again, The United States ofAmerica?

Posted by: gladysp34 | February 1, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Mrs. clinton didn't make a simple "mistake", when she voted for Iraqi war. She knew everything, as she was the freshly ex-first lady then and knew much more than any regular senator or member of congress. She did it on purpose, as she helped Bush Jr. to White House on purpose. Mrs. Clinton is the terrible choice for the presidency and democrats should not make this deeply erroneous choice.

Posted by: aepelbaum | February 1, 2008 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Hillary did not goof in regards to the Iraq vote. She stood up for New York and the American people. No one knew whether there were WMD's or not at that time. What if there had have been and no one would have voted???
Bush goofed later when he used these votes and took everything and the American people's lives in his own hands.
Obama was right... he didn't vote on the war,as he didn't vote 130+ times for important issues in Illinois. He was "present". And no one picked up on the question regarding child sexual violance last night. he spoke of TV programs.
This question was actually in reference to the "present" vote in Illinois where Obama didn't vote to close sex and porn shops near schools and protect the children's safety from them.

Posted by: beckyglass | February 1, 2008 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Balz just spins out another liberal
Democrat piece - nothing new or of
analytical substance.

Posted by: Emmettwjr | February 1, 2008 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Hillary made a political calculation when she voted for the war in Iraq. There is the problem. Sending kids off to war to die and get maimed because you want to advance your political career! WHOA!

America needs to remove itself from the deceit that is Bush/Clinton.

Posted by: Maddogg | February 1, 2008 4:03 PM | Report abuse

This has been an extraordinary race. All of the Democtratic candidates were so good that it was very hard to choose between them. I ultimately settled on Hillary, but if by chance she doesn't get the nomination, I'm sure that Obama would do a great job.

Let's put a Dem in the White House in '08!

Posted by: jes991 | February 1, 2008 4:03 PM | Report abuse

James Carville ("that ragin' Cajun) notes in a book he wrote (I think with another Clintonista, Paul Begela) that the vote to authorize military action in Iraq is a for for the war; any other explantion of such a vote is nonsense and intellectually dishonest.

I beg to differ with the Senator from New York that the American people are not interested in this record. HRC to this day stubbornly refuses to acknowledge she goofed and apologize to the public. Compounding her hubris is HRC's lack of due diligence when she did not read the NIE report on Iraq prior to casting her vote. I am sure HRC wants this to "go away" but it will not; her lack of a solid explanation only gives more credence to her lack of candor and character.

Posted by: meldupree | February 1, 2008 3:57 PM | Report abuse

To Bob:

Actually, Sen. Obama's position against the war in Iraq was not an easy position to take. He was running for U.S. Senator at the time when the decision to go to war was supported by most of the establishment (Democrats and Republicans). If you remember at the time, people were called unpatriotic if they were against the war. It took some guts to stand up and say otherwise.

He was right in his predictions and everyone else was wrong, period.

Posted by: ovwong | February 1, 2008 3:55 PM | Report abuse

I don't see how that was an easy choice to make when he was a state senator. He took a HUGE chance that he wouldn't be elected to the US Senate, much less keep the seat he was in at the time. Real guts, that man there.

Posted by: inmyforces | February 1, 2008 3:28 PM | Report abuse

"Whether the country ultimately is ready to elect a woman or African American as president awaits a later judgment."

I believe the country has already spoken. The country is ready to elect an African american. The country is ready to elect a woman. If it weren't, these two would not be the last two standing.

Whether they are ultimately elected president may have more to do with WHO these two are, rather than their gender or the color of their skin.

Now, if the Republican nominee wins the election in a landslide with 2-to-1 vote differential, then I might buy that race/gender was a factor. But a Republican winning in Nov doesn't necessarily mean that race/gender was the cause.

Posted by: MDLaxer | February 1, 2008 3:07 PM | Report abuse

I'm sorry, I'm not impressed that Senator Obama was against the war. For him, it was an easy political decision to make. Yes, I think Clinton made a mistake, but Obama was not in the Senate at the time. Other Senators did vote against the resolution (less than half of Democrats), but who is to say how he would have voted had he been representing Illinois as a US Senator.

Posted by: bob23 | February 1, 2008 3:02 PM | Report abuse

The general comity permitted a more serious discussion of differences. It also focused on the fact that Obama not only has proposals and policies to try to transform into law, but a strategy for doing so, a notion for having Congress adopt his proposals with some measure of bipartisan support. Obama is faulted for being a hard-nosed realist, for not going for a universal that is pure enough, for example. Hillary had her big "u" universal already before Congress, doing it her way or not at all. Well, it was not at all. That's some experience.
The only rough handling of the night came from Wolf Blitzer who nailed Hillary Clinton on her Iraq vote. Her song and dance, which she went into on several occasion, saying that Americans aren't interested in looking back but looking forward, begged the question if she regretted her vote authorizing the use of military force in Iraq. She continually claimed George Bush was responsible for her vote, or the results of her vote--she out-and-out refused to take responsibility for her own vote. Finally, Blitzer distilled her response to an admission that she was, indeed, naive. She retorted "Nice try, Wolf!" and hoped to leave it there. Blitzer, however, turned the same question to Senator Obama. Suddenly, Hillary felt compelled to answer, spinning the same circular argument that avoids answering. Hillary Clinton is all for the past and looking back when she thinks it might be advantageous, and never where we might catch a true glimpse of her in action. While her polished and confident glib responses rehearsed for any and every situation kept her in the ball game up until then, with Senator Obama winning on substance but trailing on polish, suddenly, the empress had no clothes. She is ready on day one, maybe, but for what, it is hard to say.

Posted by: rarignac | February 1, 2008 11:58 AM | Report abuse

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