I want to pose, as an opening question before continuing into this analysis of last night's debate. How much government involvement do you want in your life? A second question that is being revisited from earlier campaigns rises as well: does character matter?
For a change, Senator Clinton wasn't given the opening statement last night, the result of a coin toss. Last night those honors went to Senator Obama, who immediately went into his spiel about poor working class Americans and how he can help them.
(Full transcript of last night's debate can be found here.)
SENATOR OBAMA: Thank you very much, Charlie and George, and thanks to all in the audience and who are out there.
You know, Senator Clinton and I have been running for 15 months now. We've been traveling across Pennsylvania for at least the last five weeks. And everywhere I go, what I've been struck by is the core decency and generosity of people of Pennsylvania and the American people.
But what I've also been struck by is the frustration. You know, I met a gentleman in Latrobe who had lost his job and was trying to figure out how he could find the gas money to travel to find a job. And that story, I think, is typical of what we're seeing all across the country. People are frustrated not only with jobs moving and incomes being flat, health care being too expensive, but also that special interests have come to dominate Washington, and they don't feel like they're being listened to.
I think this election offers us an opportunity to change that, to transform that frustration into something more hopeful, to bring about real change. And I'm running for president to ensure that the American people are heard in the White House. That's my commitment, if the people of Pennsylvania vote for me and the people of America vote for me.
Senator Clinton weighed in with her opening statements, paying tribute to the founders of the nation in her remarks, and then delivered her opening of how she can help the average American citizen.
SENATOR CLINTON: Well, we meet tonight here in Philadelphia where our founders determined that the promise of America would be available for future generations if we were willing and able to make it happen.
You know, I am here, as is Senator Obama. Neither of us were included in those original documents. But in a very real sense, we demonstrate that that promise of America is alive and well. But it is at risk.
There is a lot of concern across Pennsylvania and America. People do feel as though their government is not solving problems, that it is not standing up for them, that we've got to do more to actually provide the good jobs that will support families, deal once and for all with health care for every American, make our education system the true passport to opportunity, restore our standing in the world.
I am running for president because I know we can meet the challenges of today, that we can continue to fulfill that promise that was offered to successive generations of Americans starting here so long ago.
And I hope that this evening, voters in Pennsylvania and others across the country will listen carefully to what we have to say, will look at our records, will look at the plans we have.
And I offer those on my website, hillaryclinton.com, for more detail. Because I believe with all my heart that we the people can have the kind of future that our children and grandchildren so richly deserve.
Is this what we want from the Presidency? Is it the responsibility or even the role OF the President to create jobs? Since when do we elect people into office to create jobs? WHERE in the United States Constitution can it be found that the role of government, ANY branch of government, is the creation of jobs?
It was during the first commercial break that the first packet of BC Powders came out for me (I'm not paid to endorse them, they're just what I use). More big government talk. Isn't that just what we need to hear? It blew my mind that Hillary Clinton could pay respects to the Founding Fathers in one sentence and then go totally against their intention, their Constitutionally mandated intentions, by bringing up, again, the notion of the "nanny state."
It got better.
There are plenty of people out there today complaining (mostly from the Obama camp) that last night's debate didn't deal enough with the issues.
On the contrary.
To a great many people in the United States, the question of character is still a viable issue, and the character of both candidates was called into question by moderators Charles Gibson and former Bill Clinton White House staffer George Stephanopoulus (the involvement of whom [Stephanopoulus], in a debate featuring a candidate with whom he has ties, is a questionable thing in my opinion).
Senator Obama faced several "tough" questions last night, from his association with his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, who many see as a racist after his much publicized "God DAMN America" and "United States of KKK America" statements, his association with former Weather Underground member William Ayers (who has stated that he felt they hadn't done "enough" in their bombing campaigns during the late 60's and early 70's), to his own statements last week trying to explain the "bitterness" of Americans.
Senator Clinton didn't escape unscathed, either, having to answer for her comments about coming into Bosnia under sniper fire (like the Secret Service would have allowed her to land under sniper fire), her treatment of General Petraeus ("a willful suspension of disbelief," a statement made by Senator Clinton before the General had given his report), and her backpedaling on her support of the war in Iraq.
MR. GIBSON: But Senator Clinton, aren't you saying -- I mean, General Petraeus was in Washington. You both were there when he testified, saying that the gains in Iraq are fragile and are reversible. Are you essentially saying, "I know better than the military commanders here"?
She of course answered no to that question, going on to say that she couldn't predict the future and that no one else could, either. Senator Obama then fielded his response to the question of removal of troops from Iraq, stating that it was the job of the President to set the mission, and the job of the generals and the troops to carry out the mission, then said that Iraq was a bad mission, and that he, as President, would be the one to determine what missions would be conducted by the military, stating "ultimately the buck stops with me as the commander in chief."
That sounds an awful lot like micro-management to me. I don't recall seeing any military experience in either Clinton nor Obama's resumes.
So let's see what we have so far. Big government, cut-and-run, Clinton's lies and Obama's ties to terrorists and anti-American sentimentalists.
Another BC Powder is in order.
And both had to get in their shots at the Bush administration, of course.
The bottom line is this from last night's debates: on the one hand, we have Senator Clinton, coming across as calm and in her environment, and on the other, Senator Obama, trying very hard to do the same but clearly uncomfortable in being in the hot seat rather than following a prepared speech. Both candidates advocating a larger role of government in issues ranging from jobs to health care. Is that the role of government? Is it the job of the President to micromanage the economy, the military, the job market, health care, etc.?
Or is it the job of the President to lead the country at the head of a government that allows individuals their freedoms, a government that works for the people instead of the people working for the government, a government that isn't an invasive part of the daily lives of the American citizen?
That, I think, is the real issue here.
Not whether ABC treated either candidate "unfairly," as the Obama campaign is claiming with an ad that has come out today in response to last night's Philadelphia debates.
Did you see the debate last night?
If you did, you saw more gotcha politics and distractions than questions about the pressing issues affecting our country.
In fact, it took more than 45 minutes before Barack was asked about the economy, health care, or foreign policy.
Regrettably, Senator Clinton seemed all too comfortable with that type of debate. She's running a 100% negative campaign in Pennsylvania, taking every opportunity to make personal and discredited attacks against Senator Obama.
Senator Clinton's false, negative attacks are exactly the kind of say-anything, do-anything politics that the American people are tired of.
That's why polls show that the majority of Americans think she's running the most negative campaign, and 58% of voters do not find her honest or trustworthy.
Barack Obama wants to end the politics of division and distraction in Washington so we can bring about real change for ordinary Americans.
The stakes are too high to play the same old games. More than 1.3 million supporters have responded to Barack's message of change, and with your help we can reach 1.5 million by May 6th.
Is this the strength of character that we need in the White House dealing with the House, the Senate, and with foreign leaders?
What do you say, Americans. Does it take a village, or does it take the strength and determination of the individual?
Once and Always, an American Fighting Man