Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Democrats' debate

I didn't watch them tonight. I've already made up my mind (I'm for Hillary).

His spoofing about Romney aside, Joshua Marshall hasn't endorsed a candidate, although tonight he wrote this ("Concluding Thoughts"):

It's hard for me to think of much good from this debate. If you view debates like a boxing match, I guess it was lively and perhaps entertaining, in the sense that a good boxing match can be, though the fighting was more intense than well executed. But that's only if you have no investment in the outcome. If you're watching this with a mind to wanting one of these three to be president in 2009, as I do, it wasn't a great thing to watch.

One observation stands out to me from this debate. Hillary can be relentless and like a sledgehammer delivering tendentious but probably effective attacks. But whatever you think of those attacks, Obama isn't very good at defending himself. And that's hard for me to ignore when thinking of him as a general election candidate.

In most of these cases -- such as the Reagan issue -- I think Obama's remarks have been unobjectionable but ambiguous and certainly susceptible to both misunderstanding and intentional misrepresentation. And if you're going to talk like that -- nuance, as we used to say -- be able to defend it when people play with your words. And I don't see it.

Let's hope Mitt wins Florida.

One of Josh's readers writes here:

I submit that your mixed feelings about Hillary are the result of two different desires: to nominate the best Democrat, and to nominate the best candidate. I suffer from the same problem -- the idealist in me is disquieted by Hillary's attacks and backhanded smears on Obama, while the pragmatist in me sees her ability to throw elbows as a plus. The general election will be a bitch-slapping muckfest no matter who gets the nomination. I've been a longtime Obama guy, mainly out of the belief that he has the best chance in the general, but Hillary is starting to seem pretty good. Every time she (or Bill, or another of her surrogates) gets in a shot at Obama, part of me is disgusted . . . but another part of me counts it as a point in her favor.

Hillary is who she is; she can't change her spots just for the primary race. A lot of people who now condemn her for being a cunning operator will despair when Obama, if he wins the nomination, responds to bitch slaps from the right with "hope and unity" language. But you can't have it both ways. I'm reminded of people who hate lawyers because they're too contentious and sleazy and aggressive -- but when they get sued, they insist on getting the meanest bull dog of a lawyer they can find.

Amen. Hillary is ripe for that fight.

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