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Here's a transcript of the April 16, 2008 ABC Democratic presidential debate in Philadelphia.
I mostly want to deal with the second hour of the debate, since the first hour was about both candidates various gaffes, pratfalls, and lies, which has already been discussed in the media and on the internet. The second hour was about the issues. I would like to congratulate Hillary for basically admitting that she lied about the Bosnia sniper fire incident, although you might not have noticed unless you were paying careful attention, given the way she parsed her admission -"On a couple of occasions in the last weeks I just said some things that weren't in keeping with what I knew to be the case..."
Yes, Hillary, we know. Thanks for admitting it. For his part, Obama finally admitted "there's no doubt that I can see how people were offended" by his remarks about small town midwesterners clinging to guns and religion and having antipathy to immigrants and those different from themselves. The problem is that in the next breath, Obama again characterized people's religion and stances on issues as a refuge against their disappointment in government rather than a genuine reflection of their beliefs, so he STILL doesn't get it. This is very curious for a man who professes to be carried by his faith. Here's the relevant excerpt:
"the point I was making was that when people feel like Washington's not listening to them... then politically they end up focusing on those things that are constant, like religion...They end up being much more concerned about votes around things like guns...what is also true is that wedge issues, hot-button issues, end up taking prominence in our -- in our politics. And part of the problem is that when those issues are exploited, we never get to solve the issues that people really have to get some relief on, whether it's health care or education or jobs."
Every word of this is utter nonsense. What Obama is saying here is, 'Your issues don't matter rubes, only mine matter, so let's not get distracted by your petty beliefs. Let's concentrate on mine.' Plus, I'm pretty sure it's possible for this country to focus on both the Second Amendment AND health care at the same time. It's not a one or the other scenario.
But enough about that. The second hour of the debate, which I'll call, PROFILES IN DOUBLETALK !, was about the issues. Since I just mentioned the Second Amendment, listen to this torturred statement from Obama on that issue (and I apologize to Barack for bringing up this "wedge issue", but hey, it IS an actual Constitutional right, as opposed to, say, the Clinton/Obama faux 'right' to universal health care:
"As a general principle, I believe that the Constitution confers an individual right to bear arms. But just because you have an individual right does not mean that the state or local government can't constrain the exercise of that right"
Got that, america ? Obama says you have the right to bear arms...unless the government decides you don't. Is it just me, or does such an attitude pretty much nullify the Bill of Rights ? Don't presidents have to swear to uphold the Constitution ? I'm sure I read that somewhere. I do have to agree with Obama about one thing. This country IS at a "critical juncture in it's history." It's critical that we keep Obama out of the Oval Office.
Hillary had about the same ambiguous take on the gun rights question. Both candidates claimed they had to study the issue some more. Incredible.
When it came to a very important policy question, taxation, both Democrats stumbled so badly (with Obama being the worst) that it would have been comical if not for the fact that both of these big government turkeys want to pluck our financial feathers. In classic liberal class warrior 'soak the rich' fashion, both candidates promised to only raise taxes on those making $250,000 and above (or possibly $200,000 and above in Obama's case). Charles Gibson sliced their lies to the bone in the ensuing exchange, when he pointed out that they both advocated raising the capital gains tax, which would raise taxes on 100 million stock owning americans, not just the rich. In Obama's case, he had proposed nearly doubling the capital gains tax. Gibson also had Obama hem-hawing when Gibson pointed out that history shows capital gains revenue actually rises when the rates are lower (because more money is invested - that spurs economic growth). Obama also advocates lifting the Social Security payroll cap, which is a tax increase for everyone making over $97,000 per year, not just the wealthy. Obama did a whole lot of backpedaling on issues of taxation following Gibson's astute observations. He looked like a Not Ready For Prime Time Player. A related question I'd love to hear the Dems attempt to answer is "Isn't it deeply irresponsible to be proposing the biggest tax increases in the history of the country when we are already in an economic recession ?" I also think someone should try to add up the revenue vs. expense numbers on Hillary and Barack's huge government expansion proposals. I can't see how the numbers can possibly add up. Obama keeps referring to his tax proposals as an issue of "fairness". In Obama's world, "fair" is when the wealthy pay 50% or more in taxes, and the lower half on the income scale pay nothing. I'm not sure what word describes that scenario (maybe "theft" ?), but I know "fair" is not it.
But at least Obama had a proposal for Social Security, even if it was the wrong proposal. Hillary dodged the issue. She said she wouldn't cut benefits, wouldn't raise taxes, and outrageously blamed Bush for the whole mess (Hillary blames Bush for absolutely everything, in case you haven't noticed). She basically said nothing (which pols have been doing for decades now about Social Security). Charlie Gibson should have exposed her non-answer, but instead he let it go and moved on to the next issue.
On foreign policy, Hillary said she would pull out of Iraq regardless of conditions on the ground and regardless of what her military advisors told her the consequences would be. It was pretty much an 'Iraq can go suck an egg' policy. Obama said close to the same thing. Hillary said she wanted to pump up the american presence in Afghanistan. Then, incredibly, both candidates stressed the importance of containing IRAN, not pulling any options off the table in denying Iran nuclear weapons, backing Israel, striking Iran if it attacked Israel or didn't stop it's nuclear program, and preventing Iran from aiding and abetting Hezbollah and Hamas. As glad as I was to hear them say these things about Iran (who says I never agree with Democrats ?), I was thinking, why is it critically important for the United States to stop Iran's influence everywhere EXCEPT Iraq ? That doesn't make any sense. If it's all important to stop Iran from destabilizing the Middle East (it is), then it's damn well important to stop them from doing the same in Iraq, as they HAVE BEEN DOING. There was a real mental disconnect from the candidates there. Foreign policy has to be about more than controverting everything B-U-S-H. The Dems can't be hawkish everywhere except Iraq merely because it goes against Bush. That's childish.
I could go on and on, but I'll stop here for now.
Here's my two cents worth - If I was a Democrat, I might want Hillary Clinton representing my party against John McCain for one simple reason. Hillary's skeletons are already known far and wide. There aren't likely to be any new surprises with her, whereas the other shoe is just beginning to drop with Barack Obama. We are 7 months away from the election. Obama could self-destruct by then. Since both candidates have similar views, Hillary seems to be the better bet to take the White House.