Presidential debates are usually tedious affairs with more blather than discussion, and more spin than substance. Although the confines of debate in American politics is extremely narrow (are you really pro America, or just pro America?), tonights confrontation between Hillary Clinton and the rest of the Democratic contenders was a little different, and quite interesting to watch. I am reticent to say who 'won' the debate, as by most analysts standards, the candidate with the best sound bytes and poise are declared victorious. But it would be fair to say that Clinton took quite a beating.
Clinton has been well schooled by her handlers. She never directly responds to a challenge, and shows about as much emotion as Schwarzenegger did in 'Terminator'. The aim of course, is to appear regal, and above the fray. But the other Democratic candidates fired some pointed criticisms of the New York Senator, and highlighted some of her many inconsistencies.
Obama scolded Clinton for changing her positions on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), torture policies and the Iraq war. Leadership, he said, does not mean "changing positions whenever it's politically convenient."
"Now, that may be politically savvy, but I don’t think that it offers the clear contrast that we need,” he continued. "I think what we need right now is honestly with the American people about where we would take the country."
In reference to Clinton's vote in the Senate to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organisation, Edwards was equally as scathing. When Clinton claimed she has directly confronted the Bush Administration, Edwards fired back:
"So the way to do that is to vote yes on a resolution that looks like it was written literally by the neocons?"
“Senator Clinton says that she believes she can be the candidate for change, but she defends a broken system that’s corrupt in Washington, D.C.,” Edwards continued. “She says she will end the war, but she continues to say she’ll keep combat troops in Iraq and continue combat missions in Iraq. To me, that’s not ending the war; that’s the continuation of the war.”
The best line of the night came from Obama, who responded to Clinton's assertion that Republicans were obsessed with because 'they obviously think that I am communicating effectively about what I will do as president'.
“Part of the reason that Republicans, I think, are obsessed with you, Hillary, is because that’s a fight they’re very comfortable having,” Obama countered. “It is the fight that we’ve been through since the ’90s. And part of the job of the next president is to break the gridlock and to get Democrats and independents and Republicans to start working together to solve these big problems.”
Clinton barely responded to the attacks, saving her criticisms for the Bush Administration.
"We've got to turn the page on George Bush and Dick Cheney", she said. "In fact, we have to throw the whole book away. This has been a disastrous period in American history, and we hope it will be aberration."
Although this misdirection tactic is no doubt what her strategists have told her to do, her robotic answers and scripted mini speeches expose what is really going on behind the scenes.
Clinton is basically a shiny face of the corporate wing of the Democratic Party. Beneath the populist rhetoric is a person committed to maintaining the status quo, and catering to all the lobbyists that are funding her campaign. Despite the revisionist history, her husbands record is appalling; Social injustice and poverty, all increased under Bill Clinton, while corporate influence and crony capitalism increased. There is absolutely no evidence that Hillary will be any different. She runs with the same crowd, employs the same people, and defends the same policies.
Virtually the other candidates have ties to corporate lobbyists and pressure groups, but none are quite as established as Clinton. Obama and Edwards at least present a breath of fresh air into the broken politics of Washington. If Clinton wins, it means Americans will have been subjected to over 25 years of rule by two families. It will be conclusive proof that the United States is not a democracy, but a bought system of powerful interest groups.
Clinton may be the most polished of the Democrats, but she represents all that is wrong with them. The Republicans will have a field day with her should she be elected, and the country will be plunged into more years of inane bickering. The funny thing is, she will most likely do their bidding in office, but without any benefit to her party. It's a lose lose situation, and she needs to be stopped as quickly as possible.