So who caught the Democratic debate last night? This time around, I actually feel kind of sorry for you if you missed it — it was definitely the most interesting so far, and I didn’t even need any alcohol to make it through!
The questions weren’t new or exciting. It was all Iran, Iraq, and more foreign policy, with questions about immigration, health care, global warming and (inexplicably) UFOs confined to the “lightning” round. No questions on Florida, no questions on the Obama homophobia controversy and nothing even on the Mukasey nomination. And neither Brian Williams or Tim Russert knows how to keep the candidates in line and on time — can we please get Anderson Cooper back?
The interesting part was how, as predicted, Edwards and Obama finally let loose on Hillary Clinton.
I’m not sure what to think quite yet. Neither are most other analyses that I’ve read so far. Who won this thing, and whether or not this will have any impact, or if it foreshadows other moments of impact, I don’t know. But here are some observations.
Even when on the offensive, Obama seems very diplomatic. Is this a good thing? Well, the positive side is that he keeps his cool very well. The bad side is what he’s already been struggling with — he always looks slightly less interested than he should. Personally, I like the guy’s personality, but he has yet to show me one that I think will help him win.
Edwards, on the other hand, was pretty ruthless. But at the same time, he struck me as fair. I mean, he could be harsh — the line about believing in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, but not being able to believe that Clinton was the person to change Washington politics had me screaming BURN at my TV. But he seemed passionate, not angry. I thought that he stuck to her record instead of personal attacks, and — thank god — didn’t try to use her gender (she’s too soft! too tough!) against her.
Bill Richardson pissed me off. After Edwards and Obama were going at Hillary for a bit, he decided to swoop in and tell them just how very unfair and disappointing they were being. It seems like after going off on some random tangent about personally rescuing some POWs, he felt the need to rescue Poor Little Miss Hill, too. I don’t think that Clinton’s gender was why Obama and Edwards attacked her — they attacked her because she’s beating both of them in them in the polls. But I couldn’t help but feel like Richardson’s defense of her, which sounded a bit like “aw, come on guys, lay off,” had something to do with the fact that she’s a woman. Would he have done the same for a male opponent? I’m highly skeptical. But I also can’t stand Richardson, half of his plans or his style of speaking/debating, so maybe I’m off on that one.
As for Hillary herself? That was the most interesting of all. In other debates, I think that she has done an excellent job of remaining calm and refuting attacks and all kinds of ridiculous questions about things that her husband has said. She has constantly impressed (and since I don’t want her to win the nomination, disappointed) me with the way that she has remained firm, confident and colleted. This time around, I kind of felt like she lost it. When Edwards criticized her, her eyes were burning a hole in his skull. She was angrily staring down the moderators, too. And I found her voice and choice of words to be clearly agitated at several moments.
Now, I imagine that I would’ve been pissed off, too. And to be fair, she had attacks flying at her from all directions, not only from the candidates on stage but also from Williams and Russert. I’m not saying that she doesn’t have the right to get pissed — but I don’t think that we’ve seen it in debates too much before. It was the first time I’ve seen the veneer crack for any real length of time, and I’m curious as to how that’s going to play. And I can’t help but point out that if you want to be president, these kind of attacks aren’t even the beginning of what stress is going to feel like. I personally don’t like the anger — on anyone. It’s why Biden (other than his racism and misogyny) and Kucinich (other than his pocket Constitution) piss me off, with their constantly angry, righteous indignation. I’m sure that a lot of asshole pundits are going to criticize the anger in a gendered way, and that’s just plain fucked up. But the fact is that if I don’t like it on Biden or Kucinich (or Giuliani or Tom Tancredo, for that matter), of course I’m not going to like it on Clinton, woman or not.
So, what do you think? Did the criticisms work? Did they backfire? How’d Clinton do? I’m interested to see some other perspectives.