Moderator Charles Gibson started by asking Clinton and Obama why they wouldn’t team up and run together in the fall, and they both dodged the question.
Obama is asked about the bitter remarks and once again tried to clarify his answer. Clinton tries to exploit the opening, by using the word cling several times in her answer. Clinton was asked if she thinks Obama can win. She said yes, but she thinks she is the better candidate. The question was reversed and posed to Obama. He said he thinks that Clinton can win, but he is the better candidate.
Obama said Clinton isn’t helping when she calls him an elitist. Obama blames today’s politics, “The problem that we have in our politics, which is fairly typical, is that you take one person’s statement, if it’s not properly phrased, and you just beat it to death, and that’s what Senator Clinton’s been doing over the last four days,” Obama said.
He turns the tables on Clinton by bringing up Clinton’s should I be home making muffins remark in 1992. Obama gets asked about Rev. Wright and gives his standard answer.
Almost a half hour into the debate and Obama has had to deal with both “bitter” and Rev. Wright, what’s next, Clinton’s Bosnia exaggerations? We are one third of the way through this debate and the candidates have not been asked about a single issue. This is terrible coverage by ABC.
Clinton is asked about her honesty and the Bosnia story (surprise..surprise). Clinton apologized for her Bosnia exaggeration, and she tried to turn the question around and highlight her international experience. Obama was asked if Clinton has been truthful about her past, and he says Clinton deserves the ability to make a few mistakes.
Obama is asked by a Latrobe, PA woman if he believes in the American flag? (Great, she just made everybody in Latrobe look like morons). Obama said, “I revere the American flag, and I would not be running for president if I did not revere this country.” Obama talked about taking care of veterans and restoring economic equality. Obama called the flag pin a manufactured issue.
A question about Obama being affiliated with one of the former Weather Underground members provokes an answer that clearly shows his frustration with the lack of issues being discussed tonight.
We are almost halfway through this thing, and still not a single question about an issue has been asked. ABC is doing their best to spark some fireworks. Obama fights back by pointing out that President Clinton pardoned two members of the Weather Underground.
Finally an issue question was asked about the candidates’ plans to get out of Iraq. Clinton said she will take the troops out of Iraq no matter what the military advises. Clinton sticks to starting withdrawal within 60 days. She said we need to get out of Iraq so that we can address our other problems. Obama gave the same pledge to get the troops out, and pointed out that the president sets the mission. Obama said he will listen to commanders about tactics, but he sets the mission.
Obama was asked if an Iranian attack on Israel should be treated like an attack on the U.S. He said we should prevent Iran from getting the bomb and that he believes in carrot and stick approach. Obama said an attack on Israel is an attack on one of our strongest allies in the region. Clinton said an attack on Israel would result in massive retaliation. Clinton called for diplomacy with Iran and also a region wide security agreement.
Finally a question about the economy, both candidates are asked if they will raise taxes. Clinton said that she will roll back taxes to the 1990s levels on those making $250,000+. Clinton said she won’t raise a single tax on the middle class. Obama said he will cut their taxes. People making $75,000 or less will get a break on their payroll taxes. Obama and Clinton both agreed on raising the capital gains tax back to 20%. Clinton said she doesn’t want to raise taxes on anyone.
Both candidates were then asked about gun control. Clinton said she will bring back the COPS program, work to restore the assault weapons ban, and give law enforcement more ability to track guns used in crimes. Clinton said she will strike the balance between protecting rights, and keep guns out of the wrong hands. Obama was asked about the Washington, D.C. gun law case. Obama said we need a common sense approach to illegal guns, and the purchase of guns by the mentally ill. Clinton said she supports sensible regulations.
Obama got a question about poor whites being included in Affirmative Action. He said that Affirmative Action should not be based on a quota system, but should be used to provide opportunity for those who overcome struggles regardless of race.
On the topic of gas prices, Clinton said we should have a federal gas tax holiday, but combine it a windfall profit tax on the oil companies. Obama said we need a long term energy strategy including increasing fuel efficiency and investing in alternative energy technology.
Overall this debate was a waste of time that probably didn’t change any minds. Both candidates were hampered by ABC’s lousy coverage. Few real issues were discussed. What stood out to me was how much better both of these candidates are than John McCain.
Neither Clinton nor Obama was sharp tonight, but either could easily defeat McCain. Democrats are lucky to have two great candidates. I think that is what we need to be focusing on instead of non-issues like bitter and Bosnia.