The "he said/she said" debate was a historic first face-off between the first viable African-American and the first viable female candidate for president. But forget the history for a moment. Ask yourself: When was the last time you tuned into a political event and had no idea what would happen? Would Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama snub or snog, brawl or be genteel, rumble or punt?
Then the CNN Democratic debate started, and I realized I had to be insane to think that either senator might mix it up. This is politics, after all. Of course, the candidates decided to leave the serious sniping to staff and surrogates.
On the issues, little separates the Democratic duo, and where the line exists, Clinton tends to be in the center. Both want universal health care and differ over whether to mandate it. Clinton is right to argue that there are people in America who can afford health care but won't buy it.
"I don't see those folks," Obama argued. Sorry, he's just wrong.
Obama is likely to turn off many voters by dismissing complaints about illegal immigration as "scapegoating."
Then again, Clinton's argument that giving illegal immigrants driver's licenses would be "putting them, frankly, at risk" was hardly downright silly.
But when it comes to Iraq, Clinton does not make sense. When she argued that no one could have guessed "how obsessed" President Bush was about Iraq back when she voted on the resolution to authorize the use of force in that country, Clinton handed Obama a great line. After all the time Clinton has spent saying America needs a president ready to take on America's problems from day one, Obama answered, "It is important to be right from day one."
As Clinton tries to run from her Iraq vote, to act as if no one knew the Iraq War resolution would result in a war, she asks America to believe that she was misled. And still Americans should trust her? Clinton's hit on Bush for leaving office with 130,000 troops in Iraq makes it clear that there is a real danger that Clinton, if elected, might cut and run from Iraq.
Before the debate Thursday morning, I asked John McCain what he expected to see when Obama and Clinton went head to head for the first time. McCain predicted the fireworks would make his dust-up with Mitt Romney seem "like a Sunday school picnic compared to what's going on between those two. I didn't accuse him of being a slumlord."
McCain was referring to Hillary Clinton's remark during the previous debate when she hit Obama for lawyering for big-donor Antoin "Tony" Rezko and "his slum landlord business in inner-city Chicago." Rezko has pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud, attempted extortion and money laundering. At the same debate, Obama hit Clinton for lawyering for Wal-Mart.
McCain paused, then added of Romney, "Although I think he might be a slumlord." Turns out that the Democratic debate was a Sunday school picnic. If you want to hear the real fireworks, you'll have to wait for Bill.