Friday, February 22, 2008

Clinton/Obama debate lacks fireworks

Last night’s debate was short on fireworks. Many pundits, in offering their pre-debate two cents worth, indicated that Senator Clinton would have to try to come out, guns ablaze, trying to prod Senator Obama into making a major gaffe. That didn’t happen.

The only time anything close to a heated exchange occurred, was on the issue of healthcare coverage. Clinton also appeared to have some designs on pressing Obama on the issue of plagiarism, and charges that his material in his speeches may have been lifted, without conferring credit.

On this issue, Clinton said, “If your candidacy is going to be about words, then they should be your own words. That's, I think, a very simple proposition.”

This brought some cheers, but also a chorus of jeers.

Clinton added, “Lifting whole passages from someone else's speeches is not change you can believe in, it's change you can Xerox,” a barb targeted towards her rival's campaign slogan.
Obama was up to the task and shot back that he rejected the accusations that he had stolen language from Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, calling the charge “silly season” politics and in a cheeky quip defended his speeches with, “I've got to admit, some of them are pretty good.”

While I still consider myself in the Clinton camp, I thought Mr. Obama acquitted himself well, handled the healthcare accessibility issue well enough (since none of the media people pressed him enough on this) and both candidates were respectful of one another. I still have my issues with Obama on healthcare and accessibility, however. In fact, the differences in both plans are really the difference between healthcare for some and healthcare for all, or true universal care.

Mrs. Clinton, closing strongly, when asked about her greatest personal challenges, alluded to the Monica Lewinsky affair, but demurred that this was minor compared to what “ordinary” Americans go through.

"I just have to shake my head in wonderment, because with all of the challenges that I've had, they are nothing compared to what I see happening in the lives of Americans every single day," she said, telling of a recent visit to wounded servicemen at a new hospital, in Texas.

And in a generous tribute to the man who is threatening to sink her hopes of becoming the first woman president, Clinton said:

“You know, no matter what happens in this contest, ... I am honored to be here with Barack Obama. I am absolutely honored,” she said, and reached out to shake her rival's hand.

Both candidates displayed a level of class that isn’t always apparent in the political world.

Mrs. Clinton faces an uphill battle and the next two weeks will decide whether she goes on, possibly to the convention, or whether it becomes a two-horse race, between Obama and McCain.

On a related note, I found an opinion piece in the LA Times that helped me understand why Mrs. Clinton has fared well with Latino voters. The article does a good job of dispelling some of the accusations of “racism” being hurled around. The Clintons have been courting the Latino vote for 16 years, going back to 1992. This history and voting track record remains her best hope for pulling out a victory in the Lone Star State.

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