Hillary Clinton had one last chance to try to change the dynamics of the race before the Ohio and Texas primaries. Instead she showed why her campaign has failed in a mixed performance in Tuesday’s debate (transcript here). Gone are the days in which Clinton both led in the polls and dominated the debates. While Obama sometimes got lost in the group debates, he has learned to take charge of the one on one debates while Clinton often looked desperate. Clinton even resorted to playing the victim card as she complained about being asked questions before Obama, trying to compare the situation to a skit on Saturday Night Live in which the reporters fawned over Obama.
Just as in the actual campaign, Clinton often tried to shift the focus to trivialities instead of real issues. The moderators did not help in this matter as they began with some of the nonsense attacks which I’ve already discussed in recent posts. This was followed by a discussion on health care. Clinton argued for mandates based upon a fallacious analogy to Social Security. As Social Security is financed by taxes paid throughout one’s working life it is quite different from health insurance which has premiums billed during the same year of coverage. Obama throughly debunked Clinton’s argument by giving the example of Medicare Part B. Medicare Part B covers physician’s services and is paid out of premiums deducted from the beneficiary’s Social Security payments. Part B is voluntary but, as Obama pointed out, it is very rare for anyone to decline this program because it is such a good deal for them. Of course this is an older population which might better understand the need for health coverage. I’m sure there will be people in their 20′s and 30′s who will think they are healthy and don’t need health coverage. This would not leave us any worse off than we are now, while those who do desire coverage would be far better off under Obama’s health care plan.
When Clinton was confronted with the failure of her health care plan she resorted to her stock line of taking more credit for SCHIP than she deserves. She certainly deserves some credit for pushing the program, but not to the degree which she claims. As PolitiFact has written when she made such claims in an ad:
Much of the credit for SCHIP usually goes to Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., who shepherded the legislation through a Republican-controlled Congress. But the Clinton campaign says she used her influence behind the scenes to push for SCHIP, and there is evidence to support that.
Shortly after the legislation passed, the New York Times reported, “Participants in the campaign for the health bill both on and off Capitol Hill said the first lady had played a crucial behind-the-scenes role in lining up White House support.”
We don’t dispute that Clinton worked behind the scenes for SCHIP, but the TV ad gives her disproportionate credit for the entire program. We find that the ad overstates her role on this count and also on the broader issue of universal health care. And so we find the claim to be Half True.
Clinton’s contradictions on NAFTA were presented. Tim Russert thrives on the gottcha question and was well prepared to hit Clinton with all her contradictory statements in which she has alternately been for and against the treaty.
Hillary Clinton struck out yet again when questioned as to the validity of her promise to create five million new jobs over ten years. Russert reminded her that she pledged to create 200,000 new jobs in New York when running for the Senate in 2000. He noted that instead there’s been a net loss of 30,000 new jobs. Clinton now says she made the promise based upon the assumption that Al Gore would be president, but no such conditions were given when she made her initial pledge. This only has me wondering what excuses she will devise when she is unable to deliver on her current promises.
Obama again beat Clinton on foreign policy. Clinton unsuccessfully tried to downplay the importance of Obama’s opposition to the Iraq war, failing to realize that in any comparison to George Bush it is her and not Obama who comes out as the failure. Once again she tried to create a false equivalence between the all important decision to go to war and more recent votes to fund the war once it was already underway.
Clinton also hit Obama with what Josh Marshall described as a “litany from Hillary which is I think at best a series of half truths and distortions.” Obama did a good job of showing that Clinton was distorting his positions. Russert then resorted to a series of hypothetical situations on foreign policy which were not worthy of a debate. It was getting to be so absurd that I half expected him to next ask Clinton a question such as, “What would you do if Cylons attacked Earth?” Russert was probably the guy in a college dorm who tried to get lots of late night discussions going but wound up getting a swirlie.
Clinton got hit yet again regarding her unwillingness to release her income tax returns and her papers as First Lady. She brought up all the same bogus excuses such as those I discussed in this post as she tried to make it appear that the papers are being kept secret for reasons beyond her control.
Tim Russert hit a low point when discussing Louis Farrakhan. Josh Marshall wrote, “trying to read into the record some of the guy’s most toxic statement, it really takes Russert into a whole new level of awfulness. It was disgusting.” Obama once again denounced Farrakhan’s support. Clinton tried to create a false issue by arguing that Obama should have rejected as opposed to denouncing Farrakhan, and Obama quickly dispensed with this nonsense by saying, “If the word ‘reject’ Senator Clinton feels is stronger than the word ‘denounce,’ then I’m happy to concede the point, and I would reject and denounce.”
While Obama quickly dispensed with the Farrakhan issue, Hillary Clinton has been hindered by her vote for the Iraq war since 2002. She finally took a step further than in the past when she cited this vote as one vote she would take back.
In the end, Clinton had a number of missteps. She raised numerous insignificant arguments but, as with the rest of her campaign, failed to provide a good reason to support her.