Maybe it's the vocal, feisty labor crowd, but this is the most contentious -- and interesting -- Democratic debate so far. Dennis Kucinich got a lot of applause for being the only candidate willing to say he'll scrap NAFTA. But Hillary Clinton got off the best early line: Keith Olbermann gave her a chance to reply to a veiled John Edwards dis about Fortune depicting her as the best candidate for corporate America, and she ducked it well. "I've noticed a lot of other campaigns have been using my name a lot," she said, but she insisted she's not campaigning "to get in fights with Democrats." Then she went on: "For 15 years I've stood up against the right-wing machine and come out stronger. So if you want a winner who knows how to take them on, I'm your girl."
But the others have continued to take on Clinton, and Obama. Sen. Christopher Dodd hit the Illinois senator hard for his hawkish-sounding remarks last week about how to deal with lawless areas of Pakistan. Gen. Pervez Musharraf "is no Thomas Jefferson," Dodd acknowledged, but he went on to criticize Obama for ignoring that the general could be all that keeps Pakistan from being an Islamic state. "I find it amusing that those who helped engineer the biggest foreign policy disaster in history are criticizing me," Obama retorted, referring to the four senators -- Edwards, Clinton, Dodd and Joe Biden -- who voted to authorize the war in October 2002. He insisted they'd caricatured his Pakistan remarks, and depicted as fact ideas he was merely thinking about. Clinton quickly shot back: "You can think big, but remember you shouldn't always say everything you think if you're running for president, because it has consequences across the world. And we don't need that right now." She got some boos for that remark, which she seemed to regret as it crossed her lips, since it plays into suspicions that she's secretive.
Olbermann's doing a good job coping with the unruly crowd that ignored his requests that they hold their applause. I think he knows it's good show business. He grilled both Obama and Clinton for their late votes against the Iraq Supplemental in May, which he inveighed against on "Countdown." Obama defended his late vote: "It's difficult to send a message to a president who's been so obstinate. All of us want to make sure our troops are funded, be orderly and careful in bringing them out." He took another dig at Clinton: "We have convinced some people on this stage that it was time to bring the troops out ... But understand this, Keith. Unless we can convince some Republicans, [ending the war] will have to wait until I'm president." Clinton said she voted late because she had "to think long and hard" about the vote. "This is George Bush's war, he rushed us to war, he mismanaged the war ... We've got to force George Bush to begin to end the war he took us into."