The most interesting debate yet

Obama missed some big chances, while Edwards, Dodd and Biden looked their best. And why are we talking about UFOs?


Joan Walsh
November 1, 2007 7:30AM (UTC)

I loved the Democratic debate in Philadelphia Tuesday night. I know many people think Democrats shouldn't attack one another, but I didn't see cheap shots, I saw valid arguments and fascinating disagreements.

Joe Biden and Chris Dodd finally looked presidential. Bill Richardson looked vice presidential, defending Hillary Clinton unconvincingly against the others' attacks. Clinton looked brittle and then recovered. Obama flubbed the opening softball questions -- Brian Williams and Tim Russert sometimes seemed to offer to hold Hillary's arms back while he hit her -- but he did better later. Edwards held his own, which was less than he needed to do, but he got off one of the best lines, accusing Clinton of supporting an anti-Iran resolution "that looks like it was written by the neocons." My favorite moment was Biden ranting about Rudy Giuliani as the least qualified person to seek the presidency since George W. Bush, a man who constructs all of his sentences solely with "a noun, a verb and 9/11."

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Clinton's big mistake was waffling on New York Gov. Elliott Spitzer's decision to give undocumented immigrants drivers licenses. Obama's was saying didn't know "all the details" of Rep. Charles Rangel's progressive tax reform plan, and thus couldn't comment. Can Obama really not know what Rangel is proposing? I'm sorry, but I didn't miss former Sen. Mike Gravel, excluded because of his low support in the polls. By contrast, I've always supported Rep. Dennis Kucinich's inclusion in these debates, though I was sorry his views on UFOs became a dumb sideshow at the end.

But I challenge anyone to watch this back to back with the last few Republican mixers, marked by their long, eccentric detours about dead-end Christian right fixations and waterboarding, and tell me who's most qualified to lead this country. As I was typing those words, Biden said the exact same thing to the MSNBC crew: "The only qualified guy is John McCain, and he's wrong."

I'll be on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" at 6 ET Wednesday to debate who won the debate.


Joan Walsh

Joan Walsh is the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America."

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2008 Elections

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