Democratic Debate Liveblog
7:42 PM and hello from an Iowa City debate house party. Teams Obama and Edwards are also having get togethers here in Johnson County, but Team Clinton invited me first so here I am. Crowd is still gathering, chatting, ignoring the Obama ad running on "Deal Or No Deal" pre-debate.
7:58 and the crowd's up to 15 or so; assorted local Clinton supporters including Rep. Mary Mascher. She hints at an upcoming local activist endorsement. We've got two crowds around two TV sets.
Showtime and we switch over hurriedly, bypassing the Bionic Woman.
No intro at all just straight to Obama.
How do you end the war? Obama: I opposed this war from the start (gets grumbles from living room crowd). Phased redeployment, 1-2 brigades a month. No military solution. Russert: will you pledge no troops by end of first term? Obama: Hard to project. I'll drastically reduce our presence. We *should) have all or troops out but no promises.
To Hillary: why won't you pledge all troops out in 2013? HRC: I'll try but we don't know what we'll find when we take office. Dems have pushed hard to change Bush's course. I supported Biden's plan today. But Dems don't have the majority (sic) in the senate to get past filibuster. Bush "height of irresponsibility" to leave troops.
Edwards can't make that commitment either. I'll immediately draw down 40-50,000 out. But embassy and humanitarian workers have to be protected. 3500-5000 troops. "To me that's a continuation of the war." Takes shot at Hillary. Hillary shoots back: "wast majority of our combat troops should be out." Edwards continues with the break format and pushes back. "Combat missions mean the war is continuing. I want to bring this war to an end."
Russert turns it to genocide; Edwards says don't act unilaterally.
Richardson: I have a fundamental difference with these 3. "Their position is changing the mission. My position is ending the war." And congress has not done enough to end war. Russert: how do you get them out in a year? Bill: thru Kuwait and Turkey, leave some light equipment behind. Need stability in entire region.
Dodd: Why are we there - is the continuation of presence making us secure. No, we're more vulnerable now. Redeploy, and robust diplomacy. But Congress has an obligation. We're not getting to the fundamental power: terminate the funding. Troops out in 1st term? Dodd: "I will get that done."
Biden: "We offered a political solution today, it got 75 votes." Federal system will end civil war and let us bring troops home. If there is no political solution I would bring them out, "they're fodder." But with my plan we get a stable Iraq.
Dennis: we can get out in three months. Reconciliation, not partition. Don't privatize Iraqi oil. "All troops out by April 2007," Oops. "I'm ready to be president today" gets laughs here.
Gravel: Vote every day on cloture. He's next to Hillary and I half expect her secret service agents to tackle him. She's glaring at him as he bashes her on Iran vote. She responds: vote gives us options for sanctions to deal with Iran.
Is it practical to vote for 40 days to vote to cut off war? Dodd: we'll have lots of chances, but every day is unrealistic. We need to understand congressional powers and use them. You may not have the votes, but clarity and leadership are called for.
Biden: What we voted on was not partition.
Would Israel be justified in attacking Iran? Hillary: that's a hypothetical. Let's look at what we know about Syria. Israelis took that out "and I strongly support that." Russert repeats, in house audience grumbles.
Here's the Dodd Clock:
Russert: Would you promise no nuclear Iran? Hillary: I will do everything I can - - diplomacy, sanctions. We need comprehensive strategy.
Obama: Iran is stronger than it was pre-war. Before we launch attacks, we need to understand intelligence. We don't know all the specifics on syria. "We are a stalwart ally of Israel" but we need sanctions first. Rudy G was irresponsible. We need to talk directly to Iran. "We've got to talk to our enemies not just our friends."
Edwards: recognize that Ahmedinajad is unpopular in Iran, push sanctions. Audience: "He's gonna explain it to us again, folks." "I have no intention of giving Bush the first step to a war with Iran." We have a different approach (looking at Hillary)
Richardson: No nuke Iran and safe Israel are essential. "I've talked to a lot of these bad guys already." We don't have the international support for economic pressure. Says diplomacy about 20 times in answer.
New Hampshire reporter asks about sanctuary cities. Would you let these cites ignore fed law?
Richardson: "did you ask me because I'm the Hispanic here?" We need a comprehensive fix. Border protection, "not this silly wall." Mexico: give yoyur people jobs. Earned legalization. Don't deport everybody.
Biden: there is no funding at federal level for the enforcement, that's why cities ignore the law. Rudy Giuliani "is the most uninformed person on forign policy ever to run for president." Gets great reacts even from the Hillary crowd.
During the sanctuary answer I note that something really technically weird is happening... I recover just in time for Gravel to say "the whole nation should be a sanctuary from the war."
We're back at 8:42. Russert puts Dodd on the spot with Bush's "Hillary gets the nomination" comment. He mock-squirms and gets some laughs. Russert keeps pushing, Dodd rejects the premise and implication and touts himself.
Russert to Hillary on health care: "If you made fundamental misjudgements" why should we vote for you. "Biggest mistake was we didn't take the opportunity" for health care. And "it's a different time." "I intend to be the Health Care President" and cites SEIU's bumper stickers...
Russert: "your bill today could have passed in 1993" and is just like John Chafee's. She disagrees.
Biden: In order to get health care you have to persuade 15% of GOP to get on board, and she can't do that, I have experience in doing that. "I'm not suggesting it's Hillary's fault," but Old Stuff comes back. "I'm referring to policy," he qualifies, as MSNBC cits to a split screen.
Edwards: plays the take congressional health care away card, to applause. Russert: "You've changed dramatically on this issue." Edwards: "That's true, and so has America." The in-room crowd seems to react more negatively to Edwrads than anyone else.
Russert hits Obama on the Experience Thing. Obama: country "needs somebody who can bring people together, and that's what I can do." Audience: "that's what Bush said." Obama: I can take on special interests and win. I'll tell the truth even when it's unpopular, and did I mention I oposed the war in 2002? Clinton and Edwards deserve credit on health care. But "Part of the reason it was lonely, Hillary, it was because you closed the door."
Russert takes a bunch of time talking about Gravel's personal finances, Gravel gets some laughs and gets to mention national referendum. Then he hits Dennis on Cleveland bankruptcy, Dennis talks about Cleveland's public power and sounds pretty good. "I put my job on the line."
It's still elephant in the room time as Russert hits Richardson on nuke spy scandal and all his verbal oopses. Bill: "I make mistakes, but I deliver." He re-uses "with me you get both." Sorry Bill, you only get to use that once.
The NH reporter: gay marriage. Edwards: Unlike me, my whole family loves gay marriage -- then the laundry list of everything short of marriage. Obama: "there are times in our history when I was considered different, or Bill Richadson was." Feed our children hope and tolerance. (grumbles of "didn't answer the question" in the room.) Clinton: talks around it, eventually gets to Hate Crimes Bill.
At break time, audience members take offense at Russert's "what would you do if Israel bombed Iran" question, with a grumble of "breach of national security" and an implication that maybe ya shouldn't be able to ask that. Hmm....
9:08 and we're back with social security and medicare. Biden, will you consider removing
social security cap? Joe: "Yes, I'm probably the only one up here who's going to say that." Would you raise retirement age? Biden: no, we did that, raising cap will solve.
How about you, Hillary? Clinton: Get back on path of fiscal responsibility, get a bipartisan process with a president who is dedicated to Social Security (with a retro `78 Bush bash). Russert repeats, Hillary repeats. Russert: "What do you put on the table?" HRC: nothing until we get fiscal responsibility.
Obama thinks lifting cap is preferable to other options. Young people don't believe it'll be there. No privatization.
Dodd won't go as far as lifting cap, but seems open to raising it. Look at seniors in a holistic way. Do simpler thinsg, not draconian measures.
Richardson: don't lift cap, privatization off table. Russert: "It's not funny money, it's real money." Is he running? He's got the one-liners. Richardson drops in his balanced budget amendment support.
Edwards; we can't grow our way out. American people deserve truth, too much politician double-talk. Want's to created a "protected zone" in the mid-100,000s of income.
Kucinich: lower retirement age, raise the cap. I just realized Clinton is between Kucinich and Gravel. Back to Dodd: fixing this will take someone who brings people together to get things done (here I am).
Clinton jumps in to restate fiscal responsibility and basically says we don't want to put our cards on the table before the negotiating starts.
Russert: National law to ban public smoking? Clinton: let FDA regulate but let locals. Obama: I'd prefer local laws. Biden, Dodd, Richardson, Dennis and Gravel all favor. John chimes in "and Edwards."
NH reporter asks about lowering drinking age, gets applause. Biden: No. Dodd: No. Both dart back to talk about other earlier questions. Dodd and smoking, Biden and Hillary's reluctance to lay the cards on the table re; Social Security. Richardson: No, mentions treatment. I'm just startled that this issue was even on the map enough to get asked. Gravel: "Anybody old enough to fight and die for this country should be able to drink." Dennis is for 18 and for voting at 16.
Lightning round? I HATE lightning round when I'm liveblogging!
9:32 and Obama asked about "turn the page." Obama: gets the bullet points out.
Hillary asked the dynasty question. HRC: "I though Bill was a pretty good president."
Biden, is moveon a positive force? Biden: on some things, yes. They have a time clock. Kucinich asked about Greenspan's $3 a gallon gas tax. Dennnis: Greenspan said Iraq war was about oil, I said that in 2003. BUZZ, he's cutting him off. But Dennis gets the "tall" joke in.
Raise gas tax, folks? Gravel: Carbon tax.
Dodd, ban Chinese toys? "If you promise not to tell mu children I will." US would shut those places down in 20 minutes.
Obama, should you have gone to Jena? "No because I was in Washington trying to end the war." I've spoken out on Jena.
Richardson asked about Boy Scout discrimination, Richardson launches onto war and civil liberties and goes long. Obama challenges Bill on pace of withdrawal.
Edwards, more nuke power? Edwards: no. Obama: can't take it off the table, store it safely, reduce threats. No magic bullet on energy. Kucinich: nuke power very expensive, storage is forever. Go solar, wind, no more resource wars. Gravel says the answer is wind power, and volunteers to stand in front of a turbine and debate it (OK I made that last part up). Hillary doesn't like nukes much unless costs go down and there's a viable waste solution.
Russert asks the Jack Bauer Ticking Bomb Scenario question. Obama says no. Biden says no, the generals hate torture, want him to commit to it. Clinton: against our values, little evidence it works. Hypotheticals are dangerous -- have you noticed over all these debates how much she dislikes hypotheticals?
Russert tries the gotcha, that the time bomb question was from Bill Clinton. Hillary gets the night's sound bite with "He's not standing here now."
Dodd and Richardson both agree that torture is bad. Dodd tried to work in habeas corpus but runs out of time.
Russert hits with campaign finance, and should Bill's library publish donors? Hillary: I sponsored legislation. But ultimately it;s up to Bill... she looks annoyed at the followup question. Obama moves to bundling and lobbying.
How about your haircut, Edwards? He was the son of a millworker... he seems annoyed too, and I thought we already played the tabloid gotcha round.
Obama, what's your favorite Bible verse: Obama cites Sermon on the Mount and "the empathy deficit." Hillary: Golden Rule. Kucinich: Prayer of St. Francis. Edwards: do unto the least of us. Richardson: Sermon on Mount. Dodd and Biden and I'm getting behind here.
Last question from the New Hampshire reporter is baseball. Richardson finally takes the side of the Red Sox. Hillary and Biden dare to side with the Yankees before a New Hampshire crowd, and we spent too much time on it.
10:11 and the living room crowd quickly mutes Joe Biden and goes to the conference call. Hillary gives props to Jeanne Shaheen. The conference call audio is rough, she's giving the standard stump speech to a crowd of believers. The living room crowd ignores the "it all begins here in New Hampshire" line.
The speech is over, the spinner is on the call, and they lead with the "I'm the one who's standing here" sound bite. The talk makes it sound like Russert was the opponent, not Edwards, Obama, et al. "Not letting him make her give soundbite answers to complex issues."
10:19 and folks drift away while I grapple with technical glitches.