[digg-reddit-me] First of all: yes, I was sitting at home on a Saturday night watching the Democrats debate in New Hampshire. Second, here’s why I started clapping and cheering in the middle of the debate – something those of you who know me know I would tend not to do:
Senator Clinton had obviously made the judgment that she could get Senator Edwards to team up with her against Obama during tonight’s debate. It is a strategy I think she regretted rather quickly. She accused Senator Obama of attacking Edwards as being unelectable, and accused Obama of switching positions on health care (a characterization Obama clearly refuted just before this exchange which Senator Edwards refers to as “some Associated Press story”.) Right now, all I have is the transcript which is below.
After Hillary attacked Obama for attacking Edwards, Senator Edwards responded:
Any time you speak out powerfully for change, the forces of status quo attack. That’s exactly what happens. It’s fine to have a disagreement about health care. To say that Senator Obama is having a debate with himself from some Associated Press story, I think is just not – that’s not the kind of discussion we should be having. I think that every time this happens – what will occur every time he speaks out for change, every time I fight for change, the forces of status quo are going to attack. Every single time. And what we have to remember — and this is the overarching issue here – because what we really need in New Hampshire and in future state primaries is we need an unfiltered debate between the agents of change, about how we bring about that change, because we have differences about that. But the – the one thing I do not argue with him about is he believes deeply in change and I believe deeply in change. And anytime you’re fighting for that, I mean, I didn’t hear these kinds of attacks from Senator Clinton when she was ahead. Now that she’s not, we hear them. And anytime you speak out – anytime you speak out for change, this is what happens. [my emphasis]
(From the New York Times. The full exchange after the jump… )
Hearing Edwards respond, I literally started cheering. If they had both teamed up against Obama, the night would have been very different. But as Hillary glared at Edwards, it seemed as if the forces of history were aligning in Obama’s favor.
I should say though, my judgment about the probable motive of Edwards’ comments has changed since my immediate reaction. Looking on it with an hour’s hindsight, it seems clear that Edwards is trying to knock Hillary out of the race and make it a two-man race – with him facing off against Obama. Especially after listening to him tonight, I want that as well. I want the Democratic party to have a debate about how to accomplish change – and I am confident Obama will win.
Here’s a video of Hillary just after the exchange described above getting a bit heated:
Edit: In an unfortunate, but predictable turn of events, the highlight of the debate is not John Edwards’s truly moving performance – both here and throughout – or Obama’s cool demeanor and parrying of every attack, including those by the Republicans on the stage immediately before him – but Hillary’s angry outburst – the one found at the very end of this clip. Drudge is already linking to this. And Jake Tapper of ABC News sees this as the key event of the night. If anyone can find the clip of Edwards talking about the “agents of change” that I referenced above – I’ve been looking for it and I’d love to put that in here. To me, that speech changed the course of the evening – not Hillary’s outburst.
Edit: Clip found. Poor quality, but gets the point across. Thanks.
And here’s the clip that appears at the end of the longer one above of Hillary getting “hoppin’ mad”:
Let me also defend my title here – as I am already sensing the flack coming in from the feminist angle about my title. Yes, it’s provocative. But in reality, the “bitch” in “bitch slap” refers to the person slapping. What I wanted to convey with the title was both the shock I felt (and seemingly Hillary’s as well) at Edwards’s move despite the fact that it was certainly foreshadowed by Edwards’s previous debate performances. In my mind, a bitch slap is a term used to describe a slap that “is preceded by ample forewarning and delivered with a flourish”. That was Edwards. And I loved him for it.
From the New York Times, this excerpt from tonight’s debate:
SEN. CLINTON: You know, I think that two weeks ago you criticized Senator Edwards in saying that he was unelectable because he had changed positions over the course of four years, that four years ago he wasn’t for universal health care, now he is. Well, you’ve changed positions within three years on, you know, a range of issues that you put forth when you ran for the Senate and now you have changed. You know, you said you would vote against the Patriot Act; you came to the Senate, you voted for it. You said that you would vote against funding for the Iraq war; you came to the Senate and you voted for $300 billion of it.
So I just think it’s fair for people to understand that many of the charges that have been leveled not just at me, but also at Senator Edwards, are not totally, you know, unrelated to the very record that you have.
And you’ve said records matter, and I think that we should get into examining everybody’s record.
SEN. OBAMA: Let me – I want John to be able to get in on this, but since this was directed at me, let me just make sure that I — I address this.
First of all, I never said John was unelectable. Somebody asked me specifically what did I think was the difference between myself and John, and I pointed out some areas where I thought we had some differences. And –
SEN. CLINTON: And you said that he had changed positions, did you not?
SEN. OBAMA: And I did, because I thought that I had been more consistent on those positions.
I have no problem, Hillary, with you pointing out areas where you think we have differences. But on health care, for example, the reason that I mandate for children is because children do not have a choice. Adults do, and it’s my belief that they will choose to have health care if it is affordable. Now, that’s a perfectly legitimate policy difference for us to have. That is different from saying that I will refuse to cover or leave out a bunch of individuals.
And the last point I just want to make on this is — Charlie, is these are all good public servants, and everybody has great qualifications and has done good things. But what I think is important that we don’t do is to try to distort each other’s records as, you know, Election Day approaches here in New Hampshire, because what I think the people of America are looking for are folks who are going to be straight about the issues and are going to be interested in solving problems and bringing people together. That’s the reason I think we did so well in Iowa.
MR. GIBSON: You’ve been very patient [to Senator Edwards].
SEN. OBAMA: You have, and I appreciate it.
MR. EDWARDS: Thank you. Thank you. No, you’re welcome. You’re more than welcome.
Let me just say a quick word about this. You know, Senator Obama and I have differences. We do. We have a difference about health care, which he and I have talked about before. We have a fundamental difference about the way you bring about change. But both of us are powerful voices for change.
And I might add, we finished first and second in the Iowa caucus, I think in part as a result of that.
Now, what I would say is this: Any time you speak out powerfully for change, the forces of status quo attack. That’s exactly what happens. It’s fine to have a disagreement about health care. To say that Senator Obama is having a debate with himself from some Associated Press story, I think is just not — that’s not the kind of discussion we should be having. I think that every time this happens — what will occur every time he speaks out for change, every time I fight for change, the forces of status quo are going to attack. Every single time. And what we have to remember — and this is the overarching issue here — because what we really need in New Hampshire and in future state primaries is we need an unfiltered debate between the agents of change, about how we bring about that change, because we have differences about that. But the — the one thing I do not argue with him about is he believes deeply in change and I believe deeply in change. And anytime you’re fighting for that, I mean, I didn’t hear these kinds of attacks from Senator Clinton when she was ahead. Now that she’s not, we hear them. And anytime you speak out — anytime you speak out for change, this is what happens.
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