ABC’s Democratic debate

Top of the morning to you.  Once again, a few reporters are getting a last blast of nicotine but this mornign they’re standing outside on the balcony of Drake University’s Cartwright Hall.  Two Sundays ago for the GOP debate, they had to stand under that balcony to shelter from the torrential rain.

For that GOP debate, the only real cluster of supporters waving signs outside were chanting for Ron Paul.  This time around there are large groups of enthusiastic supporters and you could hear their chanting from blocks away. 

Interesting. We’re watching WOI-TV in the Radio Room set up for this debate, and in the moments before the debate is to begin — there’s a Barack Obama commercial.  Next up, ED in ’08 runs a commercial. 

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos is no the screen — mentioning at the on-set that this debate is "sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee."  That, of course, is relevant because of the Obama statement yesterday that he will not support in any forum that is NOT sanctioned by the DNC.

GS opens with a ? about Obama’s lack of experience — citing something Biden said — but then GS asked "Senator Clinton, is he right?"

Lots of laughter.  Biden reaches out to touch Obama’s arm.

"As soon as I wake up, I’ll answer your question," Clinton began.  "It’s really up to the voters…You don’t have to be against anybody…you can choose who you’re for."

Follow by GS back to Clinton — is Obama naive?

"We had a specific disagreement…It takes a lot of planning to move an agenda forward, particularly with our adversaries…I think that when you’ve got that big an agenda facing you, you should not telegraph to our adversaries…" Clinton added.

Dodd gets a shot — talks about his resume.

Biden now:  "I think he’s a wonderful guy," he says of Obama.

Richardson jumps in.  "I think that Obama does represent change and Senator Clinton represents experience.  With me, you get both."


GS follows:  Is Senator Obama ready?

Richardson: "He’s an enormously fresh voice."

GS goes to Obama:  "To prepare for this debate, I rode in the bumper cars at the State Fair," Obama began. Laughter and applause.

Obama continues: "I don’t actually see that much difference or people criticizing me on the substance of my opinions…I think that strong countries and strong presidents meet and talk with our adversaries…If we have bin Laden in our sights, and we’ve exhuasted all our options, we should take him out…We should describe for the American people what our foreign policy is.  We shouldn’t have strategic ambiguity with the American people….We need a fundamental change if we’re going to dig us out of the hole George Bush has placed us in."

To Clinton:  differences aren’t as great, according to GS, now they’re playing Clinton video about nuclear weapons…"I would certainly take nuclear weapons off the table," she said in old video.

Clinton:  "You’ve got to put it into context.  I was asked…about effort by Bush/Cheney administration to drum up support (for attack in Iran)…I thought it was very important, this was not a hypothetical…this administration has been restless and provacative…goes to the heart of whether we should be using hypothicals…This campaign…is looked at and followed with very great interest…Paristan is on a knife’s edge…and therefore you’ve got to be very careful about what you say."

Obama:  "There was no difference…No military expert would advise that we use military weapons to deal with them…This is what I think Americans get frustrated with politics."

Edwards interjects:  "How about a little hope and optimism?  Where did it go?…(clear path for Iran — choice betwee carrots and sticks for Iranian people)…In the case of Pakistan…they have a nuclear weapon…it is a dangerous, volative weapon….I think Senator O is entitled to express his view and it’s not shocking that people who’ve been in Washington disagree…"

Edwards gets applause.

Gravel gets a shot…"I would say that essentially they’re all wrong on this…The Admin is cooking the books on Iran…under no circumstances do you invade Iran….what have they done to us?…what abt our trying to destabilize their govt…We destroyed their democracy…When D buy into the prob of Iran, they just help Vice Pres Cheney

Richardson jumps in:  "This talk about hypotheticals has gotten us into trouble…I wouldn’t, as an America president, take the nuclear option off the table….(talking about fissionable material)."

Now playing soundbite of Karl Rove talking this past week about Hillary Clinton during an appearance on Rush.

To Obama:  "I think Senator Clinton and all the candidates up here are capable and whoever wins the primary is going to win the general election..,We all agree the last six years have been disastrous….(talking about problems that pre-date Bush admin)…If you’re tied of the back-biting…If you want somebody who can bring the country together…I’m your guy….We’re going to need somebody who can break out of the political patterns that we’ve been in the last 20 years…I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t believe I was the person best equipped to do that."

Edwards:  "I think we were out of power for 13 years.  In November of 2006, Democrats took control….because Democrats in 2006 stood for change….America wants change….and if we become the party of the status quo, it will be a disaster….The real question…is who’s most likely to bring about change."

"Listen, Senator Clinton…has been in Washington a long time….We are not the party of Washington insiders and we can say it clearly and unquivocally if we say we won’t take another dime from Washington lobbyists."

Clinton:  Karl Rove "is obsessed with me…We know how to win…I’ve been fighting against these people….The idea that you’re going to escape the R attack machine and not have high negatives by the time they’re done with you….We have a better vision for America…and I know how to beat them."


Clinton continues: "What’s important is what’s happening in the lives of the American people….universal health care, new jobs for the middle class with rising incomes….I’m looking forward to going up against whoever the Republicans nominate."

Follow from GS:  taking lobbyist money?

"I’ve taken them on in so many different fronts…but there’s this artificial distinction people are trying to make…I think we can move to a much better job (public financing)." 

Edwards gets to respond:  "Senator C did a terrific job in the 1990s trying to do something about health care…(says you can’t deal with health care industry and get universal health care)."

GS tries to cut him off….but Edwards finishes.

Dodd:  "I find this sort of situational ethics here…Public financing…that’s what’s needed in this country."

GS throws ? to Kucinich, who complains because he hadn’t been called on yet:  "This debate is insufficient because you’re not including all the candidates here and you’re tryibg to polarize people out of the race….(now talking about Iowa AFL/CIO)…Let’s give the American people a real choice…for health care, for their families, for a not-for-profit system."

GS shifts to Iraq.  Playing part of Biden ad up today.

Richardson:  "My plan is to end this war, we have to get all the troops out….My plan has diplomacy…I would have a division of oil revenues….but none of this peacebuilding can begin until all of our troops are out…If you leave any residual forces…What is key all of the troops out."

Biden:  "It’s time to start to level with the American people…there’s much more at stake for our security in the region…There’ll be a regional war (if we leave precipitously) that will involve us for a generation…The bottom line is it’s going to take one full year…to get every single troop out."

Richardson:  "We can complete this withdrawal within 6 to 8 months…."

Clinton:  "We need to begin moving our troops out….cannot happen without careful planning…We need much stronger pressure on the Iraqi govt….and I would certainly condition any aid…There is no military solution…and the political solution seems to be out of the grasp of the Iraqis….This is going to be very dangerous and very difficult.  A lot of people don’t like to hear that….This is a massive, complicated understaking…and I think my plans take all of that into account."

Is Richardson wrong?

Clinton:  "Based on the conversations I’ve had with military planners…Joe is right….It is so important that we not oversell this….This is not going to be easy or safe."

Gravel:  "I disagree with (all three previous speakers)….This is American imperialism that you’re hearing up here….We’re trying to make the Iraqis the fall guy."

Edwards:  "I think we can responsbily and in a very orderly….I know you’re trying to create a fight….Any D president will end this war."


"The differences between us….are very small but compared to the differences with the Republicans who best I can tell are George Bush on steroids," Edwards continues.

Richardson interjects himself:  Asks Cinton directly about residual troops… are they going to protect themselves?"

GS goes to Biden:  "Look, the fundamental disagreement…is they seem to cling to the fundamental, strategic mistake…is that there is any possibility….of unity govt in Baghdad…It will not happen in the lifetime of anyone here….There’s much more at stake here.  This war must end, but there’s much more at stake over how it ends."  (warns of regional war — see Turkey move in and take on the Kurds…)

GS — all troops out….

Biden:  Cites experience of Bosnia.

Richardson:  Why do you leave troops behind?

Biden:  Because there are 4000 civilians there….

Gravel tries to jump in.

GS goes to Obama.  "I think Joe is right on the issue of how long this is going to take.  This is not going to be a simple….All of us would begin to bring this war to an end….There are only bad options and worse options….The thing that I wish had happened is that all of the people on this stage would have asked these questions (before the war)….partition may be the right one….It is important for the Iraqis to arrive at the decision….If the perception is that we are carving up the country….that could antagonize some of the parties."

GS goes back to Obama:  "My sense is that what all of us need to do over the next 16, 18 months is to put pressure on Republicans to stop giving George Bush a blank check…..(talks about being president)…orderly, phased withdrawal….George Bush drove the bus into the ditch."


Kucinich jumps in:  "Let’s not forget there was a Democratic Senate in charge that okayed the war and those senators up on this stage authorized that war…and have to take responsbility for it…You cannot expect a new direction with the same kind of thinking that took us in there in the first place."


Emailed question from Utah about the power of prayer and whether prayer can prevent things from happening.

Clinton:  "It’s hard to hear you George."

GS repeats question.

"I don’t pretend to understand the wisdom and power of God.  I do believe in the power of prayer….I am very dependent on faith and prayer is an important part of that."

Dodd:  "I don’t want to second-guess the Lord…the power of prayer is important to all of us."

Edwards:  "I have prayed most of my life…pray daily now and it’s very important to me…I prayed before my 16 year old son died..(before his wife was diagnosed with cancer)..there are some things that are beyond control….but I don’t think you can prevent bad things from happening through prayer."

Gravel:  prayer leads to courtage.  "I was also struck by the fact that many people who pray are the ones who want to go to war…what we need is more love and then we’ll find the courage to dispel many of the problems."

Richardson:  "I’m a Roman Catholic.  My sense of social justice comes from being a RC…Prayer is personal…and so in my view, I think it’s important that we have faith, that we have values, but if I am president, I’m not going to wear my religioun on my sleeve."

Biden:  quotes mother — "God sends no cross you’re unable to bear…(talks about death of his wife and child)…Pray that God can give you the strength….Prayer will give you the courage to respond…to devastation."

Obama:  "Thru prayer, not only can we strengthen ourselves in adversity…but (get power to change problems)….Part of what I pray for is the strength and the wisdom to pray for the things that I can control."

Kucinich:  "I’ve been standing here for the last 45 minutes praying to God that you were going to call on me." Laughter from all.  "I come from a spiritual insight which says that we have to have faith, but also good works….All of these things relate to my philosophy."

GS — question about agriculture — from an Iowa farmer, WHO IS OF COURSE WEARING OVERALLS AND STANDING IN FRONT OF A BARN.

Yepsen follows with question about trade — directed at Edwards.

Edwards:  "In an Edwards administration, the first question I will ask…is this good for middle class families in America….We will have real labor and environmental standards written in…and we will end these loopholes for companies that leave America."

Clinton:  "I agree with everything John said….We do export a lot of ag goods….We have to have more focus on family farms….I’ve tried to become a real advocate (for the 34,000 family farms in NY)…..I want to be a smart, pro-American trader…quit being taken advantage of by other countries."

Obama:  "There’s one other thing that we’ve got to talk about….Our congress subsidizes these big mega-farms…We’ve got to cap those subsidies….We’ve not going to suddenly cordon off America from the world.  Globalization is here and I don’t think Americans are afraid to compete….but what we’ve got to make absolutly certain of is that in that competition we are hard bargainers."

Richardson:  "I want to find a way to make sure that the big agribusiness interests don’t hurt the small family farmer."

GS makes reference to what happened during the commercial break…but doesn’t tell viewers what was going on….now, playing a video question asking candidates to talk about a mistake.

Gravel:  can have public financing right now….there’s a little hypocrisy abroad here.

Biden:  "Many times I’ve said too much of what I did think." (laughter and applause)  "My problem is saying too much about what I do think."

Kucinch:  "My entire life I’ve been saying things that other people have been afraid to say."

Obama:  "I think there are a # of issues where there are going to be some choices we’re going to have to make and some sacrifices…(talking about global warming)….There will be some costs involved.  We can’t do it on the cheap…but all of those steps are going to require a little bit of hardship and a little bit of pinching."

Edwards:  "Wasn’t the ? if there was something we didn’t say?….I was wrong to vote for this war in Iraq…I had huge, internal conflict at the time…I didn’t cast the right vote."

Clinton:  "I too regret giving George Bush the authority (to go to war)…Looking back on it, I wouldn’t have voted that way again….obviously, for me, that is a great regret…."  GS pressed her, but Clinton stuck to the same language.

Kucinich asks:  "Were you tricked, Senator Clinton?"

Richardson:  "I make about one mistake a week…I’m not the scripted candidate…but when the chips are down…I perform."

Dodd:  "I wish I had done more on…maybe worst votes in congress…abandonment of habeus corpus (opening door to torture)…thought of filibustering that, and I didn’t do it."

Yepsen:  differential pay/merit-based pay for teachers????

Dodd: give more money to tougher schools.  I’m not in favor of giving more preference to teacher performing better.

Obama:  we should be able to get buy-in from teachers in how to measure progress….they can’t be judged simply on standarized tests.

Clinton:  support incentive pay for school-wide performance to change the culture in schools. 

Richardson:  not for merit pay…but for a minimum wage of $40,000 for teachers.

Gravel:  is FOR merit based pay.  ‘They’re all talking politics as usual…we’re 46th in literacy in the world…what does that mean for the future of this country?" 

Obama:  "I want to be clear…I actually think we can implement a performance-based system…but can’t be imposed on teachers."  (mentions that his sister’s a teacher)

GS:  describe a turning point in your life that led you to run for president?

Kucinich:  "When my family was living in a car in the inner city…as president, the American people will have someone who will remember where I came from."

Obama:  "The transition from high school to college…..(didn’t know my father; values his mother instill him were reawakened in college)….Ultimately it’s what led me to this stage."

Biden:  "I got involved in the civil rights movement….I found out and realized it does make a difference if you’re engaged."

Richardson:  "When my wife Barbara decided to marry me….It has given me strength and been an anchor in my life."

Gravel:  "Human governance is extremely complex and representative govt is broken…the people must be equipped as lawmakers."

Edwards: "When I was a young boy….my father, who worked in mills all his life…the TV was on….and he was trying to learn from public television so he could get a better job in the mill….and I made the decision then….whatever I did in my life…those are the people I would fight for."

Dodd:  "Joining the Peace Corps."

Clinton:  "I could not be standing here without the women’s movement…I owe the opportunity that I have here today….more personally, to my mother…..who gave me a belief that I could do whatever I set my mind to."

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. Paraphrased quotes from Obama: he prepared for the debate by going on bumper cars at the fair; Rumsfeld and Cheney had experience! (thought that was a home run)