The New Hampshire Republican Party expressed its disapproval with Fox News’ decision to exclude Ron Paul and Duncan Hunter from an upcoming debate by severing its partnership with the network. “We believe that it is inconsistent with the first in the nation primary tradition to be excluding candidates in a pre-primary setting,” said New Hampshire GOP state chair Fergus Cullen.
The usual pattern of these things, in my view, is that John Edwards has done the best, and Hillary Clinton has done what she needed to do to consolidate her position as front-runner. With fewer candidates in the field, I thought the debate became much more watchable and the same basic pattern held up — Edwards is running as a strong progressive, has a strong message, and in this format has enormous charisma. Clinton doesn’t wow you, but she takes care of business. Barack Obama is clearly not at his best in this format — he delivers great setpiece speeches and is very appealing in a small group, but doesn’t quite seem sure of his tone when seated around the table.
The difference, though, is that Hillary Clinton’s not the front-runner anymore in the kind of way she used to be. She wanted to use tonight to cut her opponents down to size, but while she had good answers to questions she didn’t have any devastating attacks. Edwards will have done himself a lot of good if a lot of New Hampshirites stayed in tonight and watched, but presumably the press will just move back to ignoring him. Obama, now, seems to me to be the guy who did what he needed to do delivering a competent performance and not letting his main rival draw any meaningful blood.
I think voting for Bill Richardson would be a pretty bad idea, but much credit to him for noting that “land use policy” is something we need to improve to deal with global warming. This is the aspect of the issue that few people in politics seem to want to talk about. In a big-picture sense, all of the candidates have excellent positions on climate change issues so there’s very little to debate here.
Bill Richardson mentioned in response to a question about whether or not “relative youth” is a detriment in Presidential politics that JFK was his idol. Among Democrats of a certain age, this seems to be an incredibly common sentiment. Barack Obama’s campaign often likes to invoke JFK. And in The Washington Monthly, Ted Widmer complains that Obama is no JFK.
But from where I sit JFK, um, wasn’t a very good president. His signature accomplishment was . . . the Peace Corps? Basically, boomers seem to have taken the Kennedy/Johnson years, attributed all of the Vietnam stuff to Johnson even though Kennedy initiated the policy, then attributed all of the popular domestic stuff to JFK even though almost none of it passed while he was president, and then you get a lot of hand-waving. At some point, can’t we act like grownups and let this drop. The Republican hagiography of Ronald Reagan is embarrassing but the JFK business is even more detached from reality.
Charlie Gibson directed a taunting “will you admit the surge worked?” question at Hillary Clinton and she gave the exact right response — she admits nothing, the purpose of the surge was political reconciliation, reconciliation hasn’t happened, the surge failed.
UPDATE: Good for Obama, too, complaining that “the bar of success has gotten so low” and pointing out that we’re now where we were two years ago, which was a bad place to be.
I thought this was the most enlightening exchange we’ve had yet on the mandates issue. Folks have convinced me over time that Obama’s got this wrong on the merits … his notion of a mandate-less big-picture reform sounds appealing, but it’s fundamentally unworkable. Indeed, by the same token (and for the same reasons) you could never get it passed into law — if you want guaranteed issue, you need a mandate.
Everyone seems to be rambling a bit in response to Charlie Gibson’s question about Pakistan. It seems to me that the main thing to say about a hypothetical scenario where in radicals somehow seize control of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons is that one of the first responsibilities of a President faced with a crisis in Pakistan would be to make sure that doesn’t happen. Once it does happen, obviously all the options look bad.
John Edwards pivoted a bit to the broader issue of non-proliferation policy where he gave a fantastic answer about the need to combine short-term efforts with a long-term commitment to “rid the world of nuclear weapons” as part of a broad push to revitalize the non-proliferation framework.
On his second go-round Barack Obama gets to drive home the point that the Iraq War is one of the major reasons that our policy in the Pakistan-Afghanistan area has gotten so screwed up. This is the kind of strategic-level argument that any Democrat is going to need to make against a Republican who can’t be specifically tied to the details of Bush’s inept Iraq policy.
UPDATE: Given a second, clearer shot at the nuclear proliferation issue Edwards and Obama both offered great responses. Clinton’s decision to put bureaucratic reorganization of the non-proliferation apparatus — rather than substantive shifts in policy — struck me as a bit odd, but perhaps in line with her broader argument about experience. She knows the nitty-gritty details of executive branch organization.
I didn’t think Mitt Romney did as poorly as the post-game TV commentary suggested. He was on the defensive all night, since a lot of different candidates targeted, but under the circumstances I thought he did okay. Mark Levin at the Corner agrees with me.
Mike Huckabee is clearly the best politician out of this crew — everyone but him and Ron Paul looked tired, and Huckabee is really the only one who’s in touch with the mood of the country. His policy solutions are empty or crackpotty, but since his rivals don’t deign to engage with him that doesn’t come across during the debates. Meanwhile, his empty or crackpotty solutions are aimed at real problems real people have. The others often seem to be living on another planet.
Rudy Giuliani and John McCain both agree that if they wind up running against Barack Obama their go-to line of attack will be against his lack of experience. Having just watched the experience issue fail for Hillary Clinton in Iowa, I’m left wondering if experience has ever worked well as an issue in presidential politics. Not for HW Bush in 1992. Not for Richard Nixon in 1960. I could be wrong, but what are the big counterexamples out there?
During tonight’s Republican presidential debate, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney sharply attacked former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee for criticizing President Bush’s foreign policy.
Huckabee responded by pointing out that Romney had previously “supported a timed withdrawal” from Iraq. Indignant — and once again unwilling to give up his role as Bush’s biggest booster — Romney retorted, “I do not support and have never supported a timed withdrawal, so that’s wrong, Governor.” Watch it:
Romney must have forgotten about his plan to devise a secret strategy to get out of Iraq. In an ABC News interview in April, Romney revealed that he would “plot out a series of timetables” with the Iraqi government:
ROBERTS: As president, would you set a deadline for bringing the troops home?
ROMNEY: Well, I wouldn’t publish it for my adversaries to see.
I would certainly sit down with al-Maliki as well as his government, plot out a series of milestones, timetables as well, measure how well they’re doing.
But that’s not something you’d publish for the enemy to understand, because, of course, they can just lay in the weeds until the time that you’re gone. So these are the kinds of things you do privately, not necessarily publicly.
More recently, on Sept. 3, Romney said that “sometime in ’08,” he publicly predicted that U.S. troops would be able to shift to “a support role,” where they would be “no longer in the front.”
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