Democrats' debate and English-only

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Mon Jun 4 13:20:35 UTC 2007

The Brody File Reacts to Democrats Debate  June 3, 2007
Reporting tonight from Manchester, New Hampshire...the scene of the
Democrats second presidential debate.

  Hillary Clinton went in as the front runner. Sunday in Manchester
she showed why she deserves it. Senator Clinton came across natural,
forceful, knowledgeable and kept her cool when put under the microscope.
It's not that the other candidates did so poorly. But if this was a Head and
Shoulders shampoo commercial, Hillary was the star.

When John Edwards and others confronted her on her vote against funding the
war, she never hesitated and explained it as best she could. Here's what she

*"I think it's important particularly to point out: This is George Bush's
war.  He is responsible for this war.  He started the war.  He mismanaged
the war.  He escalated the war.  And he refuses to end the war. And what we
are trying to do, whether it's by speaking out from the outside or working
and casting votes that actually make a difference from the inside, we are
trying to end the war. And each of us has made that very clear.  We have
different approaches."

Clinton came across as strong on national security when she told Edwards
point blank that there is a global war on terror and that it is not just a
bumper sticker. Yet at the same time she was able to weave in lines about
how this is George Bush's war and though she took some heat on that from
Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel, she didn't lower herself to street fight
level. For a front runner, that's the way to do it.

On the English Only question, she was the only candidate who actually tried
to explain the difference between her support for English as a national
language but not an official language. She said:

"*The problem is that if it becomes official instead of recognized as
national -- which indeed it is, it is our national language – if it becomes
official, that means in a place like New York City you can't print ballots
in any other language.  That means you can't have government pay for
translators in hospitals so when somebody comes in with some sort of
emergency there's nobody there to help translate what their problem is for
the doctor.So many of us -- I did, at least -- voted to say that English was
our national language, but not the official language because of the legal
consequences of that."  *Clinton also came across as human when she poked
fun of her failed universal healthcare experiment.

Before I get into the other candidates, let me give you a sense of the tone
of the debate. The first debate found the candidates agreeing more often
especially when it came to the failings of the Bush administration. But
Sunday, the tone was different. The differences were clearly on
display. Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich made clear this is not just George
Bush's war. They say Senate Democrats (like Clinton, Obama Edwards Dodd and
Biden) are responsible for allowing it to go forward. Clinton and Biden
fought back saying hold on a minute. This is about Bush not the Democrats.
Edwards and Obama seem to clash quite a few times. First it was over the
Iraq war. Edwards tried to get on Obama because he was one of the last
Senators to cast his vote on the war funding bill. He said:

*"Senator Clinton and Senator Obama did not say anything about how they were
going to vote until they appeared on the floor of the Senate and voted.
They were among the last people to vote."

Obama Responded strongly by bringing up how Edwards voted for the war four
years ago:

*"The fact is is that I opposed this war from the start. So you're about
four and a half years late on leadership on this issue."

Ouch. Edwards and Obama also got into it over healthcare. There is some bad
blood between those two. Both are competing to be in the final medal round
with Clinton so they need to knock each other off to get their shot at

Finally, some quick observations about the other candidates.

Barack Obama had a very smart, workmanlike performance. He seemed to always
answer the question and spoke eloquently and didn't get rattled by Edwards
or Mike Gravel when he went after Obama on the war and VA benefits.

I thought John Edwards had a rough night. His campaign themes are about hope
and optimism but I didn't hear much of that. Instead he looked serious, a
little nervous and was in clear attack mode.

I thought Joe Biden did the best of the second tier candidates. He was
extremely direct and kept telling everybody that he was going to "give it to
them straight". It's like he drank a couple liters of of Pepsi before he
went on stage. But it helped him even saying at one point that General Peter
Pace was "flat wrong" on America's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy.

Bill Richardson seemed to get better as the debate went along but he looked
so serious and grim at first. Also, how many times are we going to hear the
line, "As governor of New Mexico, I did X…". I mean, cue up the tape

And as for Mike Gravel, well, I'm just afraid he's going to beat me up.

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