Saturday, January 5, 2008

A Few Thoughts on the Dem Debate Tonight

I missed the GOP debate tonight, but this was only second Dem debate I've watched in full. I can't imagine the GOP debate was more interesting than this one.

Some thoughts:

- The level of fatigue on that stage was incredible

- Edwards' response to Hillary's setup of Obama was astounding. First you have Obama doing an excellent job of not taking Hillary's bait, allowing him to retain the posture that has driven his rise. Then, Edwards comes into the issue, with Hillary thinking she's guaranteed that Edwards will be merciless towards Obama....and Edwards defended Obama! The whole exchange was the most interesting exchange I've ever seen in a debate. Was Edwards accepting that he has no chance of winning after failing to win Iowa (where he staked everything for the last 4 years) and implicitly telling his supporters to back Obama?

- I missed the GOP debate, but it seemed like the first several questions were a bit too close to GOP talking points- and I say that as someone who is generally far more sympathetic to the GOP on several of these issues. I would love to know if ABC took the same approach in the GOP debate.

- Every time I watch Richardson I can't help but wish he was having more of an impact on the race.

- Obama's response to the Iraq question typified one of the things the less partisan among us most like about him- an outright willingness to acknowledge the truth and gravity of politically inconvenient facts but then explaining how they do or do not affect his policy ideas. In his case, he did a fairly adequate job of explaining why those facts actually strengthen the case for his plan.

- Substantively I just can't see Hillary's appeal to Progressives anymore. She's the Dem equivalent of the two-headed monster that is Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani on the GOP side. Still, I think she probably stopped her free-fall tonight; whether that is too little, too late is still to be determined.

- I'm growing to respect John Edwards again. The idea of him as President scares the hell out of me, to be sure, but I can respect him in much the same way as I can respect Huckabee- he knows what he believes and he's not afraid to say it.

- The reason this libertarian can get behind Obama isn't that he favors libertarian policies- he most definitely does not. The reason is that he understands the problems caused by trying to make change work from the top-down. Top-down change just pisses off the people upon whom change is forced; they get left out of the process, depicted as evil, and then to add injury to insult have to pay the price of the change forced upon them. Bottom-up change and consensus building insures that the people upon whom the change is forced are at least accepting (if not necessarily supporting) of the change. He understands that no group is monolithic in nature, and that there are members of any particular group whose support you may need on another, unrelated issue. In essence, Obama seems to have as his goal making sure that his policies are the best possible policies; he wants to reduce, if you will, the amount of asymmetrical information. Importantly, I might add, is that most people who subscribe to a particular opinion do so because they think that opinion is right and, if implemented, will achieve the best results; for instance, I identify as a libertarian not out of a slavish devotion to libertarianism, but because I think that less government intervention is the best way to allow humans to live best; but I'm willing to be convinced otherwise. Obama will give me the opportunity to be convinced otherwise.

- Sticking with Obama, there is a stark contrast between the way in which Obama and Ron Paul discuss the impact of our foreign policy on our national security. Substantively they are saying much the same thing; the difference is that Paul dramatically oversimplifies the issue when he speaks and leaves himself open to false charges of "Blaming America First." Obama substantively says the exact same things, but does so in a much more nuanced fashion that shows he understands the complexity of the issue. I actually don't think it's a conscious attempt by Obama to show that he understands the complexity of the issue- that would come across more clearly as Romney-style pandering. Instead, it seems to be just his general manner of handling things- he comes across as appreciating nuance and holding a considered position precisely because he actually does appreciate nuance and hold a considered position.

- When Hillary gets agitated, all that comes through to me is "Ack!ACK!ACKACKACK!ack!Ack!ACK!"

- If I was a Dem, I'd say Edwards won the debate- but his defense of Obama makes me wonder how much Edwards really wanted to win. Hillary did well enough to stop her free-fall. And Obama did what he needed to do- no home runs, but no gaffes either. Which means that the only possible loser was Richardson, which isn't fair because he was so limited in speaking time.

- From the point of view of a political independent, Hillary proved just how nasty she can be (her quip on the likability question aside). For those of us unwilling to have either party's agenda shoved down our throats, she did a good job telling us that is exactly what she would try to do. As did Edwards- but in a much nicer and considered manner of speaking.