7:42 PM and good evening from the home of Kent and Gretchen Fuller in rural Hills, where Iowa Independent is joining about eight Edwardians at a John Edwards house party. We also have a couple folks at a couple other parties who'll be jumping in under the comments.
The buzz is, "this is the debate where the gloves come off" and one of the candidates -- some say Edwards, others think Barack Obama -- goes after frontrunner Hillary Clinton. That's not the buzz here at Hills, they're talking about upcoming Edwards visits and phone banks. There's an invitation on the counter for a local candidate fundraiser with Edwards in a couple weeks.
7:58 and the TV is switched on with Olbermann and Matthews doing the pre-game. Matthews: "4/5 of the Democratic party are doves..." When is Keith Olbermann going to moderate a debate? Talk in the room turns to Mike Gravel's absence tonight.
SHOWTIME! A brief cheer goes up as Edwards' head flies by on the graphics. Straight in. To Obama: what does "more aggressive" mean, and is Hillary trying to "sound Republican"? In the room; "That would take all night."
Obama: Some of this gets overhyped. But I want to offer sharp contrasts with GOP and we have to be honest about challenges. Then he hits HRC on NAFTA, torture, and the war vote. She doesn't break format but they go to her.
Clinton: If you watch GOP debate I'm the topic of consternation -- because I've stood against Bush and his failed policies. "I want to go against the rush to war" gets groans in the Edwards room.
To Edwards: What "double talk" has HRC done on Iran? Edwards: Bush has destroyed trust and Dems need to decide who they can trust. I think it's fair to look at what HRC has said -- she defends a broken corrupt system and voted to give Bush authority on Iran. Also hits social security, different statements in private vs. public. I think we have our ledes for tomorrow already.
Clinton: "fighting for women and children and invisible people" (playing to her base). Namechecks SCHIP. "I've been taking on special interests for years" gets negatives from Edwardians. Back to HRC and social security fiscal responsibility.
To Clinton: Webb says Kyl-Lieberman "mandates military option." Why did you vote for that? HRC: I'm against a rush to war and have spoken out. I'm also not in favor of doing nothing and Iran wants nukes. "I prefer vigorous diplomacy" including sanctions. This is only an expression of support for sanctions. We must prevent Bush from acting unilaterally. "Very defensive" says the room. They're noisier than the Hillary crowd at the last debate party.
Dodd: There's been a series of drumbeats toward military action in Iran. Lugar and Hagel voted against Kyl. "Those 76 votes will be waved at us as a justification." That was a critical moment and wrong decision was made.
Speaking of Dodd:
Biden: We have a problem in the senate -- in the room "get her, nail her." Gee, get the idea there's some tension between the Edwards and Clinton camps? Back to Biden: "This plays into the urban legend that America is on a crusade against Islam."
Obama, when should we attack Iran? Obama: We've seen drumbeat of war in GOP debates. That's a continuation of military action as only tool. Instead, we need to talk to our enemies. This resolution sends wrong signal. (Is anyone gonna get him for missing the vote?)
Hillary: Sanctions are part of diplomacy and we're trying to pressure Bush, rein him in. I invite GOP colleagues to pass something now. "Everything should be on the table, not just their nuclear program." Bashes revolutionary Guard again. Russert pushes more, Clinton restates much of what's been said.
Edwards: The way to pressure Bush is a yes vote that gave Bush/Cheney what they wanted?!? (applause in room). The WMD talk sounds familiar, he says. "A lot of us on this stage have learned our lessons the hard way" on trusting Bush.
20 minutes in, Richardson debuts. (still no Dennis.) "I'm the only one on this stage who's negotiated." (That's not true says another candidate.) He says we can get compromise on the nuclear issues. "This resolution saber-rattles." Ticks off resume points some more. Need Europeans, Russia involved.
Heeere's Dennis! Reject any move to war with Iran. Democratic enablers have said "all options on the table" and that licenses Bush. Preemption is
illegal, including Iraq war. (Richardson and Kucinich are on one end.) Oh, and impeach now. Gets good marks in Edwards room.
Clinton: I will do everything I can to prevent Iran developing nuke bomb. Says it three times. Russert goes around the room, Obama suggests cutting it short. Obama: "We're seeing the same pattern now" and is drowned out by drink orders, one downside of a house party. Biden: "we can't talk about this in isolation" from Pakistan.
Dodd turns it to experience and background (ahem, here I am). Agrees with Biden on Pakistan. Audience: "who's this guy,"
Richardson: I'll pledge no Iran nukes, through diplomacy. Loose nukes are the bigger threat. "I want head to head with
Saddam and brought two Americans out" and he brought one to the debate. Experience, experience, experience.
Dennis K: "The media has to be careful how it phrases these questions." I'd urge Iran to give up nuke power, too. Ultimately, abolish all nukes.
Clinton, do you oppose the war? HRC: "absolutely" but praise the troops praise the troops praise the troops. Says war can't end under Bush. Bush has alienated world.
Obama: HRC answer not consistent with her vote on Iran resolution. "Another rationale." We need someone with the credibility who didn't vote for this war in first place.
Edwards: "If you believe combat missions should continue, etc. Clinton is your candidate. I don't."
Sound bite for the morning -- or did I say that already? I worry that I'll hear "If only I knew then what I know now" again. We need to be in tell the truth mode not "general election mode."
HRC: rebuttal seems to be point by point, not visceral like the Edwards attack. "I don't know how to engage al Qaida without engaging them in combat." Edwardians call that "a royal screw up." HRC continues point by point.
First ad break. Hope the commentary from the peanut gallery isn't disruptive -- it's what's happening here. What's happening in the other camps? The Dodd Talk Clock reads Hillary 9:19, Edwards Obama tied at 5:37.
Edwardians watch the debate at the Fuller's in rural Hills.
Back on at 8:42. Electability! This oughta be fun, it goes to Hillary. Williams reiterates Rudy's attacks. "The kind of experience GOP candidates have is experience we don't need." Children, families, children... "in a perverse ways the GOP obsession with me says I'm communicating effectively." Edwards room erupts in shouts. "They want you, you can't win!"
To Hillary again: will Nat'l Archives release your records? HRC: "The archives is moving as rapidly as they do." Health care is already out. Russert pushes. HRC: "not my decision to make."
Obama: "this is an example of not turning the page." We need to be open to rebuild trust. That's part of the job of the next president. GOP is obsessed with Hillary because they're used to that fight, we need people to work together to solve problems not eight more years of bickering.
Edwards: "They may actually want to run against you so they keep bringing it up." Does the entrenched interests rap... "do you believe the candidate who's raised most money from lobbyists, defense
industries.. will she bring about the change? I believe in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy but not that." "If you like status quo Clinton's your candidate."
Yeah... I guess the gloves did come off.
"I'll be fine... will America be fine?"
Hillary: We made good progress in the 90s till "the supreme court handed presidency to Bush" (playing that card for the base) Hard to hear with the Edwardians hooting.
To Obama on experience. Obama says his experience is in bringing people together. The Edwardians grumble, but not as much as they do at Hillary.
Richardson: "I'm hearing holier than thou attitude" to Hillary, "Its getting close to personal attacks we don't need." Notes differences on issues, but "save the ammo for the Republicans." Keep it positive. And... the resume again.
Dodd: "We need a Democrat in the white house... and whether it's fair or not, 50% of public says they won't vote for her." They let Dodd do the heaviest lifting. Attacks Edwards for trial lawyer money, talks public finally. He sound a little... not desperate, but maybe frustrated. "Don't discount the importance of electability."
Edwards: "no one on this stage is pure, and that includes me." But I don't want to attack personally. "This is about whether we believe this system works." Power to the people not the rich and powerful (cue John Lennon...) "Can you look your children in the eye and say I'm turning this mess over to you."
Kucinich bashes Edwards on hedge funds. Touts single payer health care, and
Biden: "I'm not running against Hillary, I'm running to lead this country." Repeats his rap on Rudy G. about Rudy G. and describes his speeches as "a noun a verb and 9/11." Oh, and Richardson, "I was negotiating when you were still in congress, man." He's having fun.
Russert moves to Social Security. (Are all questions going to Hillary first?) "Why one public position and one private? HRC: I don't. Fiscal responsibility first, and I don't want to balance SS on "backs of seniors and middle class families" Edwards room wants to raise the cap. "Bush wanted to decimate the surplus to privatize SS," and even the Edwardians agree. "For us to act like SS is in crisis is a Republican trap."
Russert brings up a 1998 Bill Clinton quote. HRC: He moved us to a surplus. 'He believed in SS which Bush does not."
Obama: All us candidates are against privatization. But there is a long term problem: 78 million retiring boomers. One option is raising the cap. "We've got the facts on our side." Clinton has not been truthful about the actuarial gap.
HRC jumps in uninvited, which may have been a smart format break. "Best way to handle it is a bipartisan commission." Fiscal responsibility Fiscal responsibility Fiscal responsibility.
To Obama on Romney's Obama/Osama Tourette's. "I don't pay much attention to what Mitt says this week -- it may be different next week." Notes he is a bit... different for a presidential candidate. Says he's been through this before in Senate race. "respond forcefully and truthfully" to swiftboating.
Second ad break. People discuss the oddness of the name Mitt. Edwards staffer raps during the break: calls for letters to editor. Time clock: Hillary 14:58, Obama 12:49, Edwards 9:09. Damn near a three way debate with three candidates under five minutes and Bill barely above. Anyone miss Mike Gravel yet?
Back on, OH NOES! LIGHTNING ROUND! The bane of the liveblogger! Oil prices first to Dodd. Dodd: me and Dorgan have discussed consumer rebates. But that's short term.
Drops the url.
Biden: why do we keep the foreign policy that drives up prices?
Edwards: investigate oil companies. "Be patriotic about something other than war." Satellite glitch. "The aliens don't want Edwards to win," says one wag.
Hillary offers several points: weatherization, help to low income, efficiency, etc.
Obama: we need to lower the rhetoric to lower the risk cost. Car fuel standards, go to Detroit like I did.
Dennis K: The war is about oil and everyone knows it. And impeach now.
Richardson: 50 MPG fuel standard. More numbers faster than I can type. Doesn't even mention he was energy secretary.
Dodd: Corporate carbon tax. "Need to deal with price, frankly." Consumers can't afford the newer technologies without it. Namechecks Al Gore (must not be worried about Gore getting in).
To Edwards: should there be bottomless $ for rebuilding risky areas? Edwards: takes Southern California fires and turns it into a Katrina answer. "We need a surge in New Orleans not Baghdad." Russert repeats. Edwards: "Our country needs to be there for our people."
To Hillary on Bill's support of Rangel's tax plan and alternative minimum tax. "I don't know all the details of what Charlie's recommending but I agree with the goals." "We've not been asked to sacrifice anything," she says of the well off. "I never thought Bill and I would be in that category. We should be investing in" (a laundry list). The Edwardians grumble more the longer she talks. Definite dislike in this room...
The question of this debate: will Edward's attack earlier on stick tomorrow?
Obama: "There has to be a restoration of balance in the tax code." Restore some fairness.
Kucinich asked about hedge funds. (Throwing him a softball right up his alley) DK: People are asking what's the difference between the Dems and GOP, Democratic congress has let people down. Single payer gets some cheers. Kucinich says impeach again, everyone the room takes a drink.
Edwards: "this is an example of corruption in the system. hedge fund lobbyists killed it." "There's nothing wrong with the American people but their voice needs to be heard." (applause)
Lighting round again: Classroom days. Extend the year? Richardson: yes. Competitiveness gap. (They actually show a 30 second clock.) Bill goes over. Dennis: "peace protecting genius." Cut military 15%. Impeach now (just kidding) Obama: more classroom time, feds need to help local districts, more research grants. Clinton: help families (play to the base play to the base), pre-K... Edwards: two Americas. Biden:
minimum 16 year education (half his answer drowned out by Edwardians). Dodd; this is the single most important issue (everyone else said everything else).
I get a break before more lightning round.
A time clock check shows Biden dead last even behind Dennis. The top three are getting roughly double the time of the rest.
Back on at 9:45. Student question, how do we expect to get people to go into medicine? Dodd:
couldn't answer in 30 seconds. Biden: Help pay off education, get insurers off their backs. Edwards: get docs out of dealing with insurance every day. nursing nursing nursing says Mr. SEIU. Clinton: I agree with everybody, make
insurance actually cover people. Obama: Medicare Medicaid reimbursement, preventive care, overall college costs, nat'l service. Dennis: single payer. Richardson: 2 years of tuition for 1 year national service.
To Obama, is commercial aviation Aeroflot-bad? Obama: Blames deregulation, need connections in remote areas.
Drivers license for illegal aliens? Hillary: need to fill vacuum of Bush failure on comprehensive immigration reform. Only Dodd says an illegal immigrant should not get a license. "This is a privilege." But health care is OK. Dodd and Hillary go after each other. Dodd takes a stand, Hillary talks around the NY governor's stand without committing. Russert follows up with HRC; she doesn't answer.
To Edwards: gov't internet content guidelines? Edwards instead says "Clinton said two different things in the course of two minutes." Obama tries to get in on it too. "Leadership is not looking backwards and saying what's popular."
Dennis gets asked about seeing UFOs. He says he did. "I'm moving my campaign office to Roswell NM" and Jimmy Carter saw one too.
Obama says he doesn't know about life on other planets, but "there's life here on earth" and tries to bring the debate back down to earth.
Hillary and cancer research: "will do everything I can."
Decriminalizing marijuana: Edwards says no. "Sends wrong signal." Dodd: "We're locking up too many people." I didn't see who all raised hands.
To Biden, Chinese toys: "I'd shut down the imports." Gets applause in the room and at the debate.
Halloween costumes?!? Obama: "I'm thinking about wearing a Mitt mask, it has two sides." No one else has time for that one, ball game over!
The room is glad the students will be out of town for the caucuses: "throws Obama down the tubes." Someone dissents. Staffer thanks the room, candidate spouses work the stage. Room wonders where Elizabeth Edwards is, but Elizabeth Kucinich is sighted.
Room asks what letters to editor are needed: staff talks electability. "He puts southern swing states in play." Audience member: "he's not a black and not a woman and that helps in southern states." Staffer notes that Edwards has said he doesn't want that type of support. "He's the only one talking about the poor." Staffer notes no PAC $ and no lobbyist $, public financing. "Trial lawyers aren't an entity, they're individuals. Atticus Finch was a trial lawyer." And a fictional character, but we'll let that slide for now. Does Edwards fancy himself as Atticus Finch, I wonder?
Behind Chris Matthew's head, several Ron Paul signs. Some staffers in charge of sign war will be packing their desks tomorrow...
First post debate interview to... Richardson?
Final time clock shows two completely different debates: a three way frontrunner debate and a four way Other Guys debate.
Sound bite of the night is this Edwards sequence:
Edwards: "They may actually want to run against you so they keep bringing it up." Does the entrenched interests rap... "do you believe the candidate who's raised most money from lobbyists, defense industries.. will she bring about the change? I believe in Santa and the tooth fairy but not that." "If you like status quo Clinton's your candidate."
Dodd might get some play for actually citing Hillary's 50% unpopularity but it's less likely because he's Dodd. With that, we'll sign off.