The first debate of the 2008 presidential campaign was an unimpressive affair.
Poor management of the event by MSNBC didn't help. Certainly, to try and be understanding, conducting a meaningful discussion with eight candidates, at least one of whom should not have even been up there, is not easy.
My guess would be that, simply as result of standing first in the lineup, and several aborted attempts by moderator Brian Williams to uniformly ask each candidate one quick question, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson got more air time than anyone else.
If I were any Republican candidate, I'd be feeling good about my prospects after watching this field of Democrats. The views of the group were almost monotone in their uniformity and lack of freshness, originality and boldness.
Among this underwhelming crew, I think Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton distinguished herself as the clear loser.
I say this because I think the senator from New York was the only candidate whose inconsistencies were particularly glaring.
Clinton's script on her vote supporting the invasion of Iraq has been that if she knew then what she claims she knows now, her vote would have been different. Nevertheless, she has not, like former Sen. John Edwards, expressed regret about that vote.
Yet, when Clinton was asked how she would follow up on new terrorist attacks on the United States, she said that she would attack the perpetrators (assuming that they could be clearly identified) but that she wouldn't be "starting up" with others.
But if not "starting up" with others is a matter of principle today with Clinton, then why won't she say she made a mistake on her vote to invade Iraq?
Perhaps more perplexing is Clinton's rationale about withdrawing now. According to her, we've given the Iraqis the opportunity to have freedom; now "it's up to them to choose."
But if she thinks it was a mistake to go into Iraq to begin with, it should be irrelevant to her that the Iraqi people are now in a position to choose. They are only now in this position as a result of the United States' having gone into Iraq, and then staying to oversee elections and the construction of a constitution.
Why doesn't Clinton simply advocate getting out as soon as possible, regardless of the circumstances? This would be the position consistent with opposing having gone in to begin with.
Aside from disingenuousness and inconsistency in Clinton's views on Iraq, I was appalled by her comments about Wal-Mart.
When asked by Williams if Wal-Mart is good or bad for the country, Clinton responded that it's a "mixed blessing."
Could anyone imagine Clinton having said that Wal-Mart was a mixed blessing when her husband was governor of Arkansas?