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Mystery Debate Theater 2008

Once again the Mystery Debate Theater team of Steve Rhodes, Tim Willette and Andrew Kingsford settled in for a night of rollickin' good times, brought to us by CNN and Univision. Well, I don't know where Andrew was last night and me and Tim were in our separate quarters, but we managed to squeeze out another round of commentary that easily surpasses that of highly-paid pundits in both wit and wisdom. As usual, this transcript is edited for space, clarity and sanity.

*

OBAMA: The problem we have is that Washington has become a place where good ideas go to die.

STEVE: As opposed to, say, Springfield.

OBAMA: They go to die in Washington, because too many politicians are interested in scoring political points rather than bridging differences in order to get things done.

STEVE: As opposed to, say, Springfield.

*

UNIVISION'S JORGE RAMOS: Would you be willing to sit down with Raul Castro or whoever leads the Cuban dictatorship when you take office at least just once to get a measure of the man?

CLINTON: I would look for opportunities to try to make that happen and to create the momentum that might eventually lead to a presidential visit. But there has to be evidence that, indeed, the changes are real, that they're taking place, and that the Cuban people will finally be given an opportunity to have their future determined by themselves.

RAMOS: Very simply, would you meet with him or not, with Raul Castro?

STEVE: That's Spanish for "Answer the question!"

CLINTON: I would not meet with him until there was evidence that change was happening because I think it's important that they demonstrate clearly that they are committed to change the direction. Then I think, you know, something like diplomatic encounters and negotiations over specifics could take place.

But we've had this conversation before, Senator Obama and myself, and I believe that we should have full diplomatic engagement, where appropriate. But a presidential visit should not be offered and given without some evidence that it will demonstrate the kind of progress that is in our interest and, in this case, in the interest of the Cuban people.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN: Senator Obama, just to follow up, you had said in a previous CNN debate that you would meet with the leaders of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, among others. So presumably you would be willing to meet with the new leader of Cuba.

OBAMA: That's correct. I would meet without preconditions, although Senator Clinton is right that there has to be preparation.

STEVE: You know, non-precondition preparations.

OBAMA: It is very important for us to make sure that there was an agenda and on that agenda was human rights, releasing of political prisoners . . .

TIM: Theirs or ours?

OBAMA: . . . opening up the press . . .

STEVE: You know, a non-precondition agenda.

*

OBAMA: I would not normalize relations until we started seeing some of the progress that Senator Clinton talked about.

BROWN: But that's different from your position back in 2003. You called U.S. policy towards Cuba a miserable failure, and you supported normalizing relations. So you've back-tracked now.

OBAMA: Well, I support the eventual normalization, and it's absolutely true that I think our policy has been a failure. So I think that we have to shift policy. I think our goal has to be ultimately normalization, but that's going to happen in steps.

STEVE: She's right, he backtracked.

OBAMA: I recall what John F. Kennedy once said . . .

STEVE: Ich bin ein backtracker?

OBAMA: . . . that we should never negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate.

STEVE: And we all know how well JFK did with Cuba.

TIM: I guess the Bay of Pigs was a failed negotiation.

BROWN: Senator Clinton, do you want a quick response?

CLINTON: There has been this difference between us over when and whether the president should offer a meeting without preconditions with those with whom we do not have diplomatic relations, and it should be part of a process. But I don't think it should be offered in the beginning because I think that undermines the capacity for us to actually take the measure of somebody like Raul Castro or Ahmadinejad and others.

And as President Kennedy said, he wouldn't be afraid to negotiate but he would expect there to be a lot of preparatory work done.

STEVE: A lot of preparation.

*

JOHN KING, CNN: Senator Obama, tell us as specifically as you can how would a President Obama be different than a President Clinton in managing the nation's economy.

OBAMA: Senator Clinton and I both agree on many of these issues. The question people are going to have to ask is, how do we get it done? And it is my strong belief that the changes are only going to come about if we're able to form a working coalition for change, because people who are benefiting from the current code are going to resist, the special interests and lobbyists are going to resist. And I think it has to be a priority for whoever the next president is to be able to overcome the dominance of the special interests in Washington, to bring about the kinds of economic changes that I'm talking about, and that's an area where Senator Clinton and I may have a slight difference.

STEVE: If they both essentially agree on the issues, how come only one is deemed the change candidate - and it's the conciliator!

TIM: I want you to get up now, go to your window, open it, stick your head out and yell, "Yes, we can!"

*

RAMOS: Federal raids by immigration enforcement officials on homes and businesses have generated a great deal of fear and anxiety in the Hispanic community and have divided the family of some of the 3 million U.S.-born children who have at least one undocumented parent. Would you consider stopping these raids once you take office until comprehensive immigration reform can be passed?

CLINTON: I would consider that, except in egregious situations where it would be appropriate to take the actions you're referring to. But when we see what's been happening with literally babies being left with no one to take care of them, children coming home from school, no responsible adult left - that is not the America that I know . . .

TIM: I want you to go to your window . . .

BROWN: Senator Obama, is your position the same as Hillary Clinton's?

STEVE: Yes, but I'm more likable.

OBAMA: It is absolutely critical that we tone down the rhetoric when it comes to the immigration debate, because there has been an undertone that has been ugly.

STEVE: So on day one I would call Rush Limbaugh into my office and tell him to knock it off. Now, on day two . . .

KING: I want to stay on the issue, but move to a controversial item that was not held up when the immigration debate collapsed in Washington, and that is the border fence.

Senator, back in 2006 you voted for the construction of that fence. As you know, progress has been slow. As president of the United States, would you commit tonight that you will finish the fence and speed up the construction, or do you think it's time for a president of the United States to raise his or her hand and say, you know what, wait a minute, let's think about this again; do we really want to do this?

CLINTON: Well, I think both Senator Obama and I voted for that as part of the immigration debate.

And having been along the border for the last week or so - in fact, last night I was at the University of Texas at Brownsville, and this is how absurd this has become under the Bush administration because, you know, there is a smart way to protect our borders and there is a dumb way to protect our borders.

And what I learned last night, when I was there with Congressman Ortiz, is that the University of Texas at Brownsville would have part of its campus cut off.

This is the kind of absurdity that we're getting from this administration. I know it because I've been fighting with them about the northern border. Their imposition of passports and other kinds of burdens are separating people from families, interfering with business and commerce and movement of goods and people.

So what I've said is that I would say, wait a minute. We need to review this. There may be places where a physical barrier is appropriate. I think when both of us voted for this we were voting for the possibility that where it was appropriate and made sense it would be considered, but as with so much, the Bush administration has gone off the deep end, and they are unfortunately coming up with a plan that I think is counterproductive.

So I would have a review. I would listen to the people who live along the border, who understand what it is we need to be doing to protect our country.

STEVE: So, in other words, when I voted to authorize the building of the fence, I didn't think the Bush administration would handle it so badly . . .

OBAMA: Well, this is an area where Senator Clinton and I almost entirely agree.

STEVE: Except that I'm for change and she's the status quo. But aside from that . . .

*

RAMOS: Is there any downside to the United States becoming a bilingual nation?

STEVE: It depends on what the second language is.

CLINTON: I think it is important though that English remain our common, unifying language because that brings our country together in a way that we've seen generations of immigrants, coming to our shores, be able to be part of the American experience and pursue the American dream.

I have been adamantly against the efforts by some to make English the official language.

OBAMA: Well, I think it is important that everyone learns English and that we have that process of binding ourselves together as a country.

*

KING: Senator Clinton, are you saying that your opponent is all hat and no cattle?

STEVE: Or all cattle and no hat. That one always confuses me.

CLINTON: Senator Obama and I have a lot in common. But there are differences between us and there are differences between our records . . .

TIM: Or our iPods, for you younger voters .

CLINTON: . . . and our accomplishments. I have to confess I was somewhat amused the other night when on one of the TV shows, one of Senator Obama's supporters was asked to name one accomplishment of Senator Obama, and he couldn't.

OBAMA: You know, I think if you talk to those wounded warriors at Walter Reed who, prior to me getting to the Senate, were having to pay for their meals and have to pay for their phone calls to their family while they're recovering from amputations, I think they'd say that I've engaged not just in talk, but in action.

STEVE: Only if they don't read the papers.

*

OBAMA: Senator Clinton of late has said "let's get real." And the implication is, is that, you know, the people who have been voting for me or involved in my campaign are somehow delusional - (laughter) - and that - (chuckles) - that, you know, the - (laughter) -- you know, the 20 million people who have been paying attention to 19 debates, and the editorial boards all across the country at newspapers who have given me endorsements including every major newspaper here in the state of Texas - (cheers, applause) - you know, the thinking is that somehow they're being duped.

STEVE: Which is ridiculous. I mean, the American people have never been duped before, and it's not like you can snow the nation's editorial boards.

OBAMA: Well, I think they perceive reality of what's going on in Washington very clearly. And what they see is that if we don't bring the country together, stop the endless bickering, actually focus on solutions and reduce the special interests that have dominated Washington, then we will not get anything done.

STEVE: Just like I did in Springfield. Now, anyone want some juice?

OBAMA: Senator Clinton and I share a lot of policy positions. But if we can't inspire the American people to get involved in their government . . .

TIM: Then maybe they're not as dumb as we think.

OBAMA: . . . and if we can't inspire them to go beyond the racial divisions and the religious divisions and the regional divisions, that have plagued our politics for so long, then we will continue to see the kind of gridlock and non-performance in Washington that is resulting in families suffering in very real ways.

BROWN: I think one of the points that John King was alluding to in talking about some of Senator Clinton's comments is there has been a lot of attention lately on some of your speeches, that they're very similar to some of the speeches by your friend and supporter, Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts. And Senator Clinton's campaign has made a big issue of this. To be blunt, they've accused you of plagiarism.

OBAMA: Well, look, first of all, it's not a lot of speeches. There are two lines in speeches that I've been giving over the last couple of weeks.

STEVE: Not. True.

OBAMA: And - you know, but - but - but this is where we start getting into silly season in politics, and I think people start getting discouraged about it. They don't want - what they want is, how are we going to create good jobs at good wages?

STEVE: Hey, that's a Mike Dukakis line!

BROWN: Senator Clinton, is it the silly season?

CLINTON: Well, I think that if your candidacy is going to be about words, then they should be your own words. And you know, lifting whole passages from someone else's speeches is not change you can believe in; it's change you can Xerox.

STEVE: Every young person in the audience just said, What's a Xerox?

OBAMA: Oh, but that - that's not what happened there -

CLINTON: No, but - you know, but Barack, it is, because if - you know, if you look at the YouTube of these videos, it does raise questions.

Now, there is no doubt that you are a passionate, eloquent speaker, and I applaud you for that. But when you look at what we face in this country, we do need to unite the country, but we have to unite it for a purpose around very specific goals. It is not enough to say, "Let's come together." We know we're going to have to work hard to overcome the opposition of those who do not want the changes to get to universal health care.

You know, when I proposed a universal health care plan, as did Senator Edwards, we took a big risk, because we know it's politically controversial to say we're going to cover everyone.

And you chose not to do that. You chose to put forth a health care plant that will leave out at least 15 million people. That's a big difference.

When I said we should put a moratorium on home foreclosures, basically your response was, well, that wouldn't work, and you know, in the last week even President Bush said we have to do something like that.

I just believe that we've got to look hard at the difficult challenges we face, especially after George Bush leaves the White House. The world will breathe a sigh of relief once he is gone. (Applause.) We all know that. But then we've got to do the hard work of not just bringing the country together, but overcoming a lot of the entrenched opposition to the very ideas that both of us believe in and for some of us have been fighting for a very long time.

You know, when I took on universal health care back in '93 and '94, it was against a firestorm of special interest opposition . . .

TIM: And yet, I was able to overcome that firestorm and - run for the Senate six years later."

CLINTON: I was more than happy to do that because I believe passionately in getting quality affordable health care to every American. I don't want to leave anybody out. I see the results of leaving people out. I am tired of health insurance companies deciding who will live or die in America.

That has to end.

OBAMA: We both want universal health care. When I released my plan, a few months later, we were in a debate, and Senator Clinton said, we all want universal health care. And of course, I was down 20 points in the polls at the time, and so my plan was pretty good. It's not as good now, but my plan hasn't changed. The politics have changed a little bit.

STEVE: On both sides.

OBAMA: I admire the fact that Senator Clinton tried to bring about health care reform back in 1993. She deserves credit for that. But I think she did it in the wrong way because it wasn't just the fact that the insurance companies and the drug companies were battling her - and no doubt they were - it was also that Senator Clinton and the administration went behind closed doors, excluded the participation even of Democratic members of Congress who had slightly different ideas than the ones that Senator Clinton had put forward.

STEVE: Not true.

*

RAMOS: Senator Clinton, yesterday you said - and I'm quoting - "one of us is ready to be commander in chief." Are you saying that Senator Obama is not ready and not qualified to be commander in chief?

CLINTON: Well, I believe that I am ready, and I am prepared. And I will leave that to voters to decide.

STEVE: When I authorized myself to say that, I didn't know I would implement it so badly.

CLINTON: But I want to get back to health care . . .

STEVE: . . . so I don't have to answer the question . . .

CLINTON: . . . because I didn't get a chance to respond because this is a significant difference. You know, Senator Obama has said it's a philosophical difference. I think it's a substantive difference. He has a mandate for parents to be sure to insure their children. I agree with that. I just know that if we don't go and require everyone to have health insurance, the health insurance industry will still game the system, every one of us with insurance will pay the hidden tax of approximately $900 a year - to make up for the lack of insurance.

And you know, in one of our earlier debates John Edwards made a great point. It would be as though Social Security were voluntary; Medicare, one of the great accomplishments of President Johnson, was voluntary. I do not believe that is going to work.

So it's not just a philosophical difference. You look at what will work and what will not work. If you do not have a plan that starts out attempting to achieve universal health care, you will be nibbled to death, and we will be back here, with more and more people uninsured and rising costs.

OBAMA: Now, Massachusetts has a mandate right now. They have exempted 20 percent of the uninsured because they've concluded that that 20 percent can't afford it.

STEVE: Exactly! And the problem is . . . what?

OBAMA: In some cases, there are people who are paying fines and still can't afford it, so now they're worse off than they were.

STEVE: Name those cases!

OBAMA: They don't have health insurance and they're paying a fine. And in order for you to force people to get health insurance, you've got to have a very harsh, stiff penalty. And Senator Clinton has said that we will go after their wages.

Now, this is a substantive difference. But understand that both of us seek to get universal health care. I have a substantive difference with Senator Clinton on how to get there, okay.

CLINTON: You know, Senator Obama's plan has a mandate on parents and a fine if parents do not insure their children. Because he recognizes that unless we have some kind of restriction, we will not get there. He's also said that if people show up at the hospital sick without health insurance, well, maybe at that point, you can fine them.

We would not have a social compact with Social Security and Medicare if everyone did not have to participate. I want a universal health care plan.

*

KING: Both of you have been harshly critical of the Bush administration for its secrecy, what you consider overuse of secrecy and executive power.

Tonight, Senator Obama, you've talked about more transparency. You also at one point criticized earmarks.

And yet, a recent report came out that identified you - lower on the list in terms how much money senators seek and sneak into the budget for these pork barrel spending projects, but it still said you were responsible for $91 million in earmarks.

And you have refused to say where the money went, what it's for. Why?

OBAMA: No, that's not true. We've actually disclosed, John, all our earmarks.

STEVE: Not true. And they just let him get away with it again.

*

RAMOS: As we can see, this has been an extremely close nomination battle that will come down to superdelegates. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the highest-ranking Democrat in government, said recently - and I'm quoting -- "It would be a problem" - and this is a question for you, Senator Clinton - "It would be a problem for the party if the verdict would be something different than the public has decided." Do you agree?

CLINTON: Well, you know, these are the rules that are followed, and I - you know, I think that it'll sort itself out. I'm not worried about that. We will have a nominee, and we will a unified Democratic Party, and we will go on to victory in November.

STEVE: And maybe then I'll give you a straight answer.

OBAMA: Well, I think it is important, given how hard Senator Clinton and I have been working, that these primaries and caucuses count for something. And so my belief is that - that the will of the voters, expressed in this long election process, is what ultimately determine who our next nominee is going to be.

STEVE: So I'm going to give back the delegates I earned in caucuses that did not reflect the will of the people. For example, in Nevada my opponent won the popular vote, but I won more delegates. That's just not right. That's not the America I know.

BROWN: You've both spent a lot of time talking about leadership, about who's ready and who has the right judgment to lead if elected president. And a leader's judgment is - is most tested at times of crisis. And I'm wondering if both of you will describe what was a moment - what was the moment that tested you the most, that moment of crisis?

OBAMA: Well, you know, I - I wouldn't point to a single moment, and what I look at is the trajectory of my life, because I was raised by a single mom. My father left when I was two, and I was raised by my mother and my grandparents. And there were rocky periods during my youth when I made mistakes and was off course. And what was most important in my life was learning to take responsibility for my own - my own actions - learning to take responsibility for not only my own actions, but how I can bring people together to actually have an impact on the world.

CLINTON: Well, I think everybody here knows I have lived through some crises and some challenging - (laughter) - moments in my life, and - (interrupted by cheers, applause).

And I am grateful for the support and the prayers of countless Americans. But people often ask me, how do you do it, you know, how do you keep going, and I just have to shake my head in wonderment because with all of the challenges that I've had, they are nothing compared to what I see happening in the lives of Americans every single day.

*

BEACHWOOD ANALYSIS
Most pundits gave Hillary the win on points, but said she failed to deliver the knockout punch she needed. Obama was wrong on the facts again, but nobody seems to care. Both candidates seemed tired. The moderators had good questions, but let both candidates get away with recycling their stump speeches for long stretches to avoid answering what was asked of them. Follow-up and preparation was dreadful. Everyone's mind was probably on John McCain.

Catch up with the entire series!



Permalink

Posted on February 22, 2008


MUSIC - Britney's IUD.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - Locked Out And Loaded.

BOOKS - Foxconned.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Don't Let Your Pet OD.


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