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Liveblogging the Democratic Debate

The Debate in Las Vegas

We’ve got no audio in the media room. … … It’s on now.

Campbell Brown asks if Clinton avoids questions. Talks about an opponent saying
it’s the “politics of parsing.” “This suit is asbetos tonight.
People know what I stand for and people know what I stand for. This is a big
election. It’s important to have a candidate that’s tested.

Wolf says Obama talks about Clinton “triangulating.” What do you
mean? OBama says Clinton is a “capable polititican,” but what the
Am. people are looking for is straight answers. It took Clinton two weeks to
get an answer on driver’s licenses, as well as Social Security. We need a different
kind of politics.

Clinton responds: I hear what he is saying, but he talks about taking strong positions, but when he had the chance he didn’t step up on Universal health care. His plan leaves people out. We can have different politics, but let’s not forget that the Republicans won’t vacate the White House easily.

Obama responds: The only difference between our health care plans is that Nevadans can’t afford health care.

Clinton responds: The most important thing is to level with the Am. people; he doesn’t insure everyone. He does not “mandate” what I do, says Clinton. There’s a big difference between us.

cross talk… ..

Obama responds: Hillary states she wants to mandate health care coverage, but she is not enforcing this mandate.

Wolf had to quiet someone in the audience.

Edwards: “No one on this stage is perfect.” Will we have a candidate that will restore trust. Clinton says she’ll end the war, but when the crucial vote came on Iran, she voted with Bush and Cheney. … ..

Clinton responds: “I respect all my colleagues on the stage. I don’t mind taking hits on my record, but when somebody starts throwing I hope it’s accurate and not right out of the Republican play book. In 2004 Edwards wasn’t for universal health care. For him to be throwing this mud isn’t good, because we need to be putting forth a positive agenda.

Biden: “Don’t make me speak!” The Am. people don’t give a darn about any of this going on up here. They’r worried about their kids, their jobs, or if someone in the National Guard is going to get killed. And I’m not criticizing any of the people who get to talk all the time on these things. Who can immediately step in and knows what they’re doing. … ..

John Roberts: Clinton has been charged with flip flopping, but Sen. Edwards you have changed your positions too. You were before Yucca mountain before you were against it. You were for the IRaq war before you were against. But saying two different things is different. … All of us will be fine, but will America be fine? 35 million went hungry; 37 live in poverty; 47 million don’t have health insurance. Who do you believe will take on this system, which is corrupt. There is nothing personal about this. … … When is our party going to show a little back bone and strength.

Wolf asked Dodd about what he said, that he doesn’t recognize John Edwards. Dodd talks about a shrillness of the debate. Americans wonder if anyone if paying attention to them. When the campaign is about who’s angrier, people turn off. If we waste time on the shrillness we lose.

“By the way, I’m Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico.” It seems John wants to start a class war. Barack wants to start a generational war. Senator Clinton, with due respect, says she wants to end the war, but it doesn’t sound like she does. I just want to give peace a chance. … Let’s be positive.

Wolf: Are you willing to commit the Democratic nominee? “Is that planted question?,” snipped Edwards. … … “Hell no, I wouldn’t support any of these guys,” closed Biden. Kucinich said only if they’ll stop the war.

Campbell Brown to Obama about giving benefits to illegal immigrants: They should be frustrated. Employers are exploiting these workers. What we have to do is create a comprehensive solution to the problem. We will have border security. Step two is to take on employers. They have to be held accountable. “Illegal aliens,” … should go to the back of the line. A nation of laws and immigrants.

Wolf: On the issue of driver’s licenses of illegal immigrants you support this? “When I was a state senator in Illinois “illegal aliens” needed to get trained… The problem we have is not driver’s licenses. They’re not here to go to the In and Out Burger. Let’s solve the problem. (He didn’t answer the question) “I’m note proposing that’s what we do.” If we keep getting distracted by the problem…

Wolf: This is a yes or not question, in response to Obama. “Do you support driver’s licenses for illegal immigration?” Wolf is trying to get a yes or no. … … Dodd: wrong thing to be doing. Obama: yes. I’m going to be fighting for comprehensive immigration reform. Clinton: No. (She said it emphatically, with no added comments.) … .. Richardson: yes. “I did it.” Biden: No. (He said it emphatically, with no added comments.)

—- break —

Campbell Brown to Biden on Pakistan: I do not think we should maintain the same level of aid, correcting Campbell Brown’s question. Biden talked to him before Bush. He *must* take off his uniform, or we will take away his F16 and P3s. Move from a Musharraf policy to a Pakistan policy. You have to move from military aid to economic aid to the people, and quit going through the military. Sorry I answered the question; I know I’m not supposed to.

Wolf to Richardson because he wants to cut off aid: What happened with our Pakistan policy is that we got our principles wrong. What I would do is condition the assistance to Musharraf. 60% of the $10 billion is military, and we need to condition it on the constitution, allowing Bhutto to run, and have him go after terrorism. If he has a fair election, moderate forces can win. … The Pakistani people can have a democracy. Human rights is more important than U.S. national security. (Did he really say that? Answer: yes. )

Edwards: We have some basic goals. The extremists must be under control. Elections. Nuclear weapons need to be under control. Pakistan is an example that our ad hoc policy towards nukes will not work. American needs to lead a long-term effort to rid the world of nukes.

Obama: Is human rights more important than U.S. national security? Obama said they are complimentary.

Dodd: National security is more important. (FINALLY.) The security of the country is number one. Be careful what you wish for. If we had free elections we wouldn’t get what we want.

Clinton: The first job of a president is to protect and defend the United States. We are now in a bind partly because of the failed policies of Bush. It is not in our or your interests to stay in power or stay alive. Clinton asked Bush to send a high level envoy, they didn’t, but they are now. You have to stay on top of these things.

Kucinich:hello! hello!
—lost connection— I’ll get the transcript about NAFTA and add it later —-

Obama: Nuclear connection has to be part of our whole plan. Superior nuclear technology. Wolf just asked: Where do you send the waste? Obama said he rejects the notion we can meet our energy challenges, implying that we can do something about nuclear waste.

Richardson: The future is renewal, not coal or nuclear. We need to find a way to safely dispose of nuclear. We should be giving the industry advantages until we find a way to do something about it. We need an energy revolution.

Campbell Brown on Wellesley speech on being prepared for “all boys club”, what’s going on here? I’m not exploiting anything, said Clinton. I’m not playing the gender card, but the winning card. They’re not attacking me because I’m a woman, but because I’m ahead. As Harry Truman said, If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen. I can stand the heat and I like being in the kitchen. I am thrilled to be the first woman president. Campbell: What did you mean at Wellesdly? Clinton: “Campbell.” There has been some impediments for women. I am proud to aim for the highest, hardest glass ceiling. I’m not running because I’m a woman, but because I’m the best person. Fathers bring daughters, older women want to live long enough to see a woman in the White House.

Edwards: All candidates need to be held to the same standards. There are differences. This isn’t personal. Clinton defends the system — BOOS HERE — Voters have those choices. There are differences. Everyone of us should be held to the same standards.

Mother and son who has served 3 tours in Iraq – STANDING OVATION: The veteran said, if we continue on this path we’ll be in Iran. Our troops need to come home now. Mother asks about the “unnecessary war” that might happen in Iran. What are you going to do about this?

Biden: Do not ratchet up winds of war. Serious mistake to vote for Kyl-Lieberman legislation. Oil prices spiked, and it made Muslims feel this is about them alone. If Bush takes us to war in Iran he should be impeached.

Wolf: You were the only one on the stage to vote for it, Sen. Clinton. Clinton said there is not worry that Kyl-Lieberman will lead us to war. There is no legal authority to go to war. We must have aggressive diplomacy with Iran. What I would do is immediately negotiate with Iran, and I wouldn’t ask them to give up their nuclear ambitions, but immediately get to the table. Bring China, Russia and the neighbors in the region to help. The Iranian Rev. Guards have imported technology and I believe they are a terrorist group.

Edwards: We must stop Bush-Cheney and the neocons at every stage. They wanted the IRG declared a terrorist group. Then Bush declared them a terorist group, and we’ve seen this movie. We need to stop this president.

Obama: This vote wasn’t just a vote on the IRG being a terrorist org., it also gave Bush an excuse to perpetuate his policy in IRaq. We’ve got to change the mind set that got us into this war. I will meet with our friends and our enemies, which Clinton and I disagree on.

Wolf: YOu weren’t there.

Obama: Yes and it was a mistake. That’s what happens when you run for president.

Richardson (the birthday boy got the question): (Woman asked about pay for troops being so much less than private contractors.) I would get all the contractors out and our troops too. Fully guarantee funding at the VA. Mental health is the biggest challenge. This has to change.

On racial profiling… A man talks about civil liberties being taken away.

Edwards: The Patriot Act needs to be dramatically changed. The racial profiling you’re talking about needs to be changed. Stop the illegal spying. Closing Gitmo. No more secret prisons. No more rendition. No torture will be tolerated.

Kucinich: Wolf said he was the only one to vote against the Patriot Act. “That’s because I read it,” said Kucinich.

Biden: Facts matter. There is nothing in the Patriot Act that allows profiling. I voted against funding Gitmo, but the two leading candidates voted to fund it.

Hispanic stands up and talks about Lou Dobbs falsely talking about terrorism coming from our southern borders: Richardson talks about Congress having an approval of 11%. Dick Cheney and HMOs have a higher approval. He was the first governor to declare a state of emergency. We need to quit demonizing immigrants. The fence won’t work. Secure border. Double border patrol. Detection equipment. Employers should be punished. “Mexico, give jobs to your people.” Stop handing out maps and the easiest way to cross. A path to legalization, learning English, paying back taxes.

Dodd: He’s answering in flawless Spanish. Then to English. To be safe we do not have to give up rights.

Obama: Social Security again from Obama, talking about closing a gap. Medicare is a bigger problem.

Wolf to Clinton on SS, you’ve been criticized: I’m for getting back to fiscal responsibility. When Bush came in he inherited a surplus. We have long-term challenges with SS, we have a crisis with Medicare. Without fiscal responsibilities we won’t solve anything. I won’t fix SS on the backs of middle class and seniors. If we lift the cap it’s a huge tax increase.

Obama: This is the kind of thing I’d expect from Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney. This is the top 6% and that’s not the middle class.

— lots of noise from the audience after Obama’s comment about Rudy & Mitt –

Clinton: It is absolutely the case that people would find this burdensome. I represent firefighters.. .. People want me to be specific, and when Obama was on one of the Sunday shows he said he wanted to put together a bi-partisan commission. That’s what we should do …

CNN break… to judges

Litmus on judges on choice:

Biden: I’ve taken on justices who have shown to be ideologues. I’ve presided over more nominees than anyone. We have enough ideologues and professors. I want a dog catcher. I talked to Bill Clinton about it. I want someone who has lived life. The next appointment would be a woman. We don’t have enough women on the bench. Right to privacy is the issue, as the Constitution says. If the nominee understands it they would understand the question.

Clinton: They’d have to share by view about privacy, and they go hand in hand. It would be absolutely critical. The answer is yes. Sen. Biden deserves a lot of plaudits. The great tragedies of Bush is that he doesn’t understand how our government works.

Obama: I would not appoint anyone who doesn’t understand the right to privacy. It’s their conception of the court. If we could find people who understand

Biden: I would insist the right to privacy and that Roe v. Wade is settled law. Federal judges need to have courage and strength.

… and with that I’m done liveblogging… … So is the debate.

— — FINITO — —

I’ll be liveblogging the debate once it starts. We’re thirty minutes away.

Here’s some things to watch for tonight:

1. It’s long past time John Edwards took on Barack Obama. He needs to make sure he’s not on one note all night, attacking Clinton.

2. Obama will likely be asked (by someone) about his support for Spitzer’s illegal immigrants driver’s license plan. Edwards should get this question too.

3. Clinton needs to be concise, energetic and on the offensive. She needs to take a risk tonight. Expectations are high. She’ll be asked about moving against driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants. She doesn’t need to pander to Nevadans because she’s blowing her opponents away in the state. She’ll be talking to voters beyond. Something to keep in mind is that right now Rudy is ahead by one point over Clinton in Nevada.

The other candidates will be playing to the wider CNN audience, because they’ve got no chance in the state.

Nevada issues include Yucca mountain and energy should be part of the debate as well, but also land use and water issues. Big military state.

This is Campbell Brown’s CNN debut.

Oh, and news flash to Lou Dobbs, Nevada is one of the worst states on business policing employees, particularly the construction industry. Many Nevada businesses aren’t interested in having legal workers as much as they are cheap workers. No one is listening to Lou here.

UPDATE: Chris Dodd’s team is at it again.

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