Credit CNN with trying to shake things up in an otherwise dull, exasperating and too-long campaign season with its YouTube Democratic presidential "debate" Monday night. There was a good deal of silliness, like Sen. Chris Dodd claiming he has white hair because he's a hardworking senator (what does that make senators with dark hair, dyed hair or no hair?).
There were also poignant moments, like the woman who suffers from breast cancer wanting to know more about preventive medicine.
As before, this was not a real debate. This was a boring version of "American Idol," or worse, a political rip-off of "The Price is Right" (How much do you think each candidate is worth? Come on down!)
Sen. Hillary Clinton gave the most responsible answer to a question about meeting with dictators like Fidel Castro and Kim Jong-Il (Barack Obama said he would meet with them and other dictators because, "The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them is ridiculous."). Sen. Clinton said, "I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes," which is a major reason why U.S. presidents don't meet with dictators. It was the correct answer, but even this was a flip from the opposite position she took in April when she said she would talk with those enemies.
The candidates predictably expressed a desire to retreat from Iraq, some faster than others, but none predicted what would follow, or how as president he or she would fight those who wish to kill more of us should al-Qaida take over and use Iraq as a terrorist base.
The problem with televised cattle calls is that the moderator and audience take at face value what politicians tell them. It is as if they are expressing themselves for the first time on every subject and Democrats are rarely asked about contradictory positions they've taken and whether it was conviction, or focus groups, that "converted" them. Republicans are always asked such questions.
Here is one of my follow-up questions: Sen. Clinton, you have repeatedly opposed setting a deadline for withdrawing troops from Iraq, saying as recently as 2005, "I don't think we should be setting a deadline. Š That just gives a green light to the insurgents and the terrorists, that if they wait us out they can basically have the country. It's not in our interests, given the sacrifices we've made." Do you now believe the insurgents and terrorists would not take over the country and use it as a base to come after us here?
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