Here's how it happened in the Democratic Presidential debate in Chicago on MSNBC earlier tonight, which I caught on rerun -
1. As I expected, I missed the kind of YouTube questions from the last Democratic debate. The questions in tonight's debate were ok - the best came from AFL-CIO union members - but the questions asked by moderator Keith Olbermann had no surprises. I'm flatly predicting we'll be seeing fewer and fewer of these "old time" debate formats as the campaigns progress.
2. But Hillary and Obama each had excellent moments:
a - Hillary said that, if you want a candidate who won't attack other Democrats, but will concentrate Democratic fire on the right wing, then- "I'm your girl!" A liberating master stroke! With that phrase, Hillary showed she's comfortable with her gender, not bound by stereotypes of the recent past (in which "girl" was unacceptable as a phrase to describe any woman), and ready to lead. It may take more than linguistics to win this election, but that moment was a galvanizing, linguistic triumph for Hillary Clinton, and may actually help liberate our culture from some of its "politically correct" shackles.
b - Barack Obama was also had one of his best moments when he held to his position about going into Pakistan if need be to fight terrorism and get bin Laden. It's all hypothetical, of course, but Obama demonstrated in that moment that he was not a Washington insider (like Dodd and Hillary) who would be bound by conventional wisdom.
3. Edwards said some good things about health care, but he's not yet catching fire, of having really decisive moments as did Hillary and Obama above, and time is running short. Fot different reasons, he seems to be in the same difficult position as McCain.
4. Mike Gravel refused to fill out the AFL-CI0 questionnaire, and was not invited. Technically, then, Gravel's absence was his responsibility. But I'm still not happy about it. I don't support Gravel, I find his comments often rambling and less than coherent, but his powerful anti-war position deserves a presence on any Democratic debate stage. More of an effort should have been made to get him up there.
Overall, both the Democratic and Republican debates have been informative and even stimulating, and I'm looking forward to more.