Barack Obama closed tonight’s Democratic debate saying that he’d participated in 20 debates with Hillary Clinton and that he had no doubt that Hillary Clinton is a capable, competent candidate for the office they are both seeking. Obama’s tone said that he’s tired of the debate process and has had enough of it.
As well he might be. Hillary got the better of him this evening, albeit with a little help from MSNBC’s moderators who pinned Obama down like an entomologist sticking a butterfly to a mounting board on the subjects of Louis Farrakhan’s endorsement of him and his waffling on his promise to accept public funding of his presidential campaign upon winning the Democratic nomination.
Obama’s normal eloquence failed him as he did not respond adequately to either question and even left himself open to Hillary’s quite precise – and accurate – observation that Obama’s previous distancing of himself from Farrakahn was not equivalent to rejecting his endorsement in the here and now. Obama was forced to agree, though to his credit he did so with a grin.
It’s open to debate how much the public funding question matters. While McCain might hammer away at an Obama turnabout on this issue, my instinct says that this is not something that voters care about. It’s an inside-the-beltway legalism that neither cuts taxes nor provides additional government largess – few care outside the media and blogosphere. Still, watching Obama squirm on the hook was enlightening. I think the man is a genuine believer in what he’s selling, that he doesn’t like to lie, and that he is going to do everything he can to make his agenda of directing the American government to the benefit of the middle and lower classes during his administration.
In addition to sticking Obama on the Farrakahn issue, Clinton did the right thing by saying that she now regretted her vote for the Iraq invasion, something that’s a no-brainer given the events of the last 5 years. Meanwhile, Obama boldly stated that he would re-commit troops to Iraq after withdrawing them in the event that al Qaeda, et al, resurfaced there.
That I don’t get. Although the Iraq war was a horrific case of misjudgment, we are there now and have invested upwards of a half trillion dollars while causing the deaths of thousands of Iraqis and destroying their country’s infrastructure. We are honor-bound to do right be them, regardless of how we got to this point. That both Obama and Clinton would immediately withdraw from Iraq demonstrates their party’s fundamental lack of suitability to lead America at this time. At least Hillary had the sense – or good fortune – not to be the one to say that she’d go back into Iraq after prematurely exiting.
Final analysis: Hillary closed the debate well and demonstrated that her ability to think on her feet is far superior to Obama’s. Unfortunately, I think it’s too little, too late. Obama, to the soon-to-be detriment of the U.S., has it all going his way now and one debate on a 2nd-rate cable TV station isn’t going to change that.