"Saving My Face"

What should I do on this cold Thursday night? Oh, I know! I’m going to live blog the California Democratic debate! Let’s go!

7:04 – It’s Wolf Blizter! I wonder what he’d look like if he’d shave his beard? He states there will be no rules. Now come on, Wolf – no rules? How will we ever survive?

7:06 – Opening statements. Obama opens by pandering to the Edwards camp (please endorse me! Please!). And now we’ve got that whole “Kumbaya” moment – let’s all hold hands and unite as Democrats to defeat the horrid Republicans! And here’s his message: past vs. future.

7:08 – Hillary’s turn. Good solid statement. Not too long. She’s clearly outlining all of the issues. Health care, economy, global warming (!). And then there’s her thinly-veiled rookie vs. veteran message. Puts in Edwards without clearly trying to get his vote. Whoa! Barack is left-handed?

7:10 – First question to Clinton. What do you consider the most important policy distinction between the two of you? Health care – universal health care. Calls it a moral responsibility. Emphasizes differences between Republicans and Democrats, more than between herself and Obama. Good line about being different from the Republicans.

7:13 – More “just the two of us” lingo from Obama. Health insurance – did he really have to bring up his Mom? Emphasis on reducing costs. Hillary mandates enforcement of health care insurance? How’s that gonna work? I’ll have to Google it. He sure isn’t succinct. He needs to keep his answers to the point. There’s an hour and a half to this debate. No need to get all of the talking points out within the first 5 minutes. Interesting idea: reducing roles of lobbyists/special interest groups. It’ll never happen. Not the way the American system is set up. And now Iraq: his trump card. Offering Iran carrots and sticks? Or did he mean carrot sticks?

7:18 – Health care question directed to Obama. Explain why 15 million people will not be able to get health care under your plan, since it is voluntary. This is beyond me. I don’t get the US health care system. But, I do think Obama’s plan is a little more complicated than Hillary’s. Oh, pandering to Arnie! Hey – he’s Republican! And John McCain already has his endorsement.

7:20 – Health care is clearly Hill’s area. I like the idea of choice: if you’re happy with the health insurance you have, then nothing changes. Barack wants into the conversation…

7:24 – Barack is all about points. Point #1, point #2, etc. Oooh – name dropping Ted Kennedy! That’s got to hurt… But I just don’t understand the whole health care premium thing. How I love Canada. He’s talking about transparency and accountability. Sounds like something a man named Gomrey just chastised Harper about…

7:28 – Good tough talk against the health insurances companies and the drug companies by Hillary. She’s using her experience card again.

7:31 – Health care plans = new spending, new taxes. How do you argue against it? Both obviously see John McCain as the Republican frontrunner. They’re dropping his name quite a bit already. Barack has a nice line – the Republicans have no business arguing fiscal responsibility when they’ve added billions to the national debt.

7:33 – WTF? Jason Alexander of ‘Seinfeld’ fame is in the audience!

7:34 – Hillary explains how she’ll fund her health care plan. Taking $55 billion from the rich to pay for the poor? How Robin Hood-esque. The other $55 billion – from modernization and efficiency. She’s got the hold on this health care thing. She knows her figures, how HMOs, drug companies work – Round 1 goes to Hillary.

7:37 – Wolf “just wants to be precise” – yes, you rich people making more than $250,000 a year – you will be taxed more after this year. That’s the way it should be. Excuse the socialism. Good line by Hillary – tax rates will go back to pre-GW Bush era – “and if my memory is correct, everyone did really well.”

7:39 – Immigration (insert ‘Jaws’ music here). Scary topic in Californ-I-A. “A nation of laws and a nation of immigrants” says Obama. Um, huh? Forcing immigrants to pay a fine and learn English? Reminds me of Quebec… Obviously a pro-Obama crowd. Way too much applause for a so-so response.

7:42 – Excellent response on immigration by Clinton.

7:45 – Could the pro-Obama crowd please take a Valium? Not every sentence the man says is perfect. Oh! He’s stumbling! Wolf is trying to corner him on his “my opponents’ immigration policies are not humane” statement. Wolf continues to push him. Barack tell him not to. He completely dodges the question.

7:48 – Barack accuses Clinton of not working on immigration. Not so, she says. She began working on the issue in 2004, before Barack was even a Senator. In other words, “Back off, whippersnapper!” Quote of the Night for sure: “That would have criminalized the Good Samaritan and Jesus Christ himself.” I missed the context of the quote, but it’s a great quote, nonetheless. She opposes allowing immigrants to have driver’s licenses.

UPDATE: Here’s the transcript:
Clinton: “Well, actually, I co-sponsored comprehensive immigration reform in 2004 before Barack came to the Senate.
(APPLAUSE)
So I’ve been on record on behalf of this for quite some time.
And representing New York, the homeland with the Statue of Liberty, bringing all of our immigrants to our shores, has been not only an extraordinary privilege, but given me the opportunity to speak out on these issues.

When the House of Representatives passed the most mean-spirited provision that said, if you were to give any help whatsoever to someone here illegally, you would commit a crime, I stood up and said that would have criminalized the Good Samaritan and Jesus Christ himself. I have been on record on this against this kind of demagoguery, this mean-spiritedness. And, you know, it is something that I take very personally, because I have not only worked on behalf of immigrants; I have been working to make conditions better for many years.

7:51 – Barack rebuttal. Calls Hillary a flip-flopper. I believe he’s correct. Hill then reminds Barack that he wouldn’t answer the question at first. Hmmm. The first true ‘conflict’ of the night. But both are working real hard at trying to unite the party and keep things civil.

7:53 – Time for a break. And another WTF moment– Stevie Wonder is in the audience!

8:03 – Experience question. Nothing terribly exciting, except digs at current President GW Bush and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Well done by both Barack and Hillary.

8:04 – Question to Hillary about Ted Kennedy’s endorsement of Obama as ‘true change.’ Points out other Kennedys support her. Dodges the question. But really, what do you say?

8:08 – Barack responds to the idea that the eight years of the Clinton administration are looked at by Democrats “with pleasure.” I don’t think Wolf meant the double entendre, but there were a few who chuckled, – including Hillary. Barack talks about bringing in new voters. Definitely one of his strengths.

8:10 – WHERE’S THE IRAQ QUESTION??

8:11 – The dynasty question. How can Clinton bring change if (WTF moment #3 – Pierce Brosnan is in the audience! Isn’t he British? No. He’s actually Irish. Does he have American citizenship? Can he actually VOTE?) she’s part of one of the two families that has run Washington since 1988? Excellent line: “It took a Clinton to clean up after the first Bush, and it might take another one to clean up after the second Bush.” Point, Hillary. Completely unrelated: As we go to another commercial break, I see Diane Keaton in the audience, as well as Rob Reiner. The celebutantes are out in full force tonight, team.

8:16 – OOH, IT’S THE IRAQ QUESTION!! Hill’s question – your lack of an end date may be construed as an open-ended commitment. Good points follow – there are hundreds of thousands of American civilians in Iraq beyond just the soldiers, how can we walk out on the translators, drivers and other Iraqis who have saved American lives? She understands the intricacies of the situation. I see America Ferrera! And she’s wearing a Hillary ’08 button!

8:19 – Barack is talking about Pakistan. Not the question! Believes setting a date will show the Iraqis how serious the US is about leaving. No offense, Barack, but you could set a date for 10 years from now, and the problems would be the same. He’s rambling… Good line: “I don’t just want to end this war, but I want to end the mindset that got us into this war.” Amen to that.

8:22 – Wolf says Barack’s line was a swipe at her. Good response by Hillary not to take the bait. But I’m disappointed with the lack of firewords tonight. Then again, the Democrats on both sides are probably realizing that divide and conquer is what has kept them out of the White House since 2000. Whoa – Isaiah Washington sighting – and with a beard! Wouldn’t his homophobia make him a Republican? Point, me!

8:25 – Ack! Topher Grace! I’m not sure I like Hillary’s suggestion that the US should not be held to the UN Security Council’s resolutions…

8:30 – This has turned into Barack and Hillary vs. the Republicans. I thought it was a debate between the two of them, not a round table strategy session on how best to defeat the Republican scourge…

8:31 – A little dig at Hillary about voting for the Iraq War. Barack says he never voted for it. Well, he wasn’t even in the Senate yet. Nice to say you never voted for something YOU COULDN’T HAVE VOTED FOR!

8:32 – Wolf asks Hillary is she made a mistake voting for the war. She has some complicated answer that I don’t understand. Just admit you’re wrong! Lots of talk about Afghanistan. Looks like Canadian troops will be getting help – soon.

8:35 – Oooh, Wolf’s playing dirty! The crowd is booing! But I missed what he said. I really need a transcript of this…

UPDATE: Wolf’s question was: So, what I hear you saying — and correct me if I’m wrong — is that you were naive in trusting President Bush?

8:36 – I think Barack’s trying to let Hillary dig herself into a hole on the Iraq question, but he’s letting her monopolize the conversation. Now he’s back. I’m not a fan of his ‘I’m morally right’ message on everything. Especially on Iraq. He wasn’t there to vote. Celebrity sighting: Lou Gossett Jr. Hmmm. Does he actually count as a celebrity?

8:43 – Damn Canadian feeds. We’re late getting back from the commercial break – I missed the question! But I see Steven Spielberg! Oh how convenient – it’s on the bottom of the screen: How would you address concerns about sex and violence coming out of Hollywood? More of a Republican question, don’t you think?

8:45 – The ‘Bill’ factor question: If your campaign can’t control your husband now, how will you control him in the White House? Good first line: “I’M running for President. This is MY campaign.” Pretty evasive. You’d think she’d have a good answer to that one by now…

8:47 – Last question! From Wolf: You two are a dream ticket! Stevie Wonder likes it! He stands up and applauds! Would either of you consider becoming the others’ running mate? Well, they’re sure not jumping up and down to embrace each other! But then, once again, Democrats, let’s all join hands and sing “Kumbaya my Lord, no more Bush!” Hillary even uses the word ‘unified.’

8:51 – And that’s it! Hillary plugs her national town hall on Monday night. And they both remove their mics ASAP. They receive a standing ovation from the crowd assembled in the Kodak Theater. And Wolf’s words are being drowned out…

And Anderson Cooper HAS to say, “A Kodak moment at the Kodak Theater.” Groan…
He calls it an “electric” evening. I don’t really think so. It was basically a regurgitation of all of their talking points. And unity was the code word of the evening.

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