The Democratic presidential candidates gathered for yet another debate on Tuesday night. Although Barak Obama and John Edwards for nearly two hours seemed unable to lay a glove on their front running opponent Hillary Clinton there were moments when the masked dropped, her voice rose, and the look of unpreparedness flashed momentarily in her eyes. She had no response to the moderator’s recitation of the jibe from Rudy Giuliani that she lacked executive experience. She seemed pained when pressed as to whether she agreed with Rep.Charlie Rangel’s tax plan. (She finally insisted that she did not support the 4% tax surcharge.) She strained as she declined again to be pinned down on social security reform specifics.
And — if your stomach was strong enough to last through it, in the last few minutes the real debate emerged as Hillary got tripped up — even cornered — by Sen. Chris Dodd on the subject of drivers licenses for illegal aliens. Pressed and pressed again she seemed unable to get her answer straight, although in the end she lamely seemed just fine with Gov. Spitzer’s three tiered plan to give licenses to illegals. At this point Edwards and Obama awakened and pointed out their opponent’s flip floppery.
Aside from the flash of excitement at the debate’s end, most viewers were probably lulled into a state of comfort by the language and soothing words flowing from the contenders who made great efforts to appear reasoned and moderate on foreign policy, entitlements, and taxes. But if you understand “Democratic-Speak” — the not so secret language of the Democratic primary — a different picture emerges. So as a service to our readers HUMAN EVENTS offer this translation of some key portions of the debate last night.
Hillary said she believed in “vigorous diplomacy” with Iran and grudgingly agreed to pledge not to allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons on her watch. She declared: “I’m against a rush to war. I’m also not in favor of doing nothing.” Translation: She will cease raising any credible threat of military action, rely on our European allies to join in sanctions and decry George Bush for not having solved this problem before leaving office.
Bill Richardson rode to Hillary’s rescue during one bout of heated questioning, declaring it improper to question her honesty and advising his rivals to “stay positive.” Translation:
Even he has seen the writing on the wall and is now auditioning for a VP or cabinet slot. A promising resume, a tax cutting record and an “A” rating from the NRA had made him the favorite Democrat for many conservatives but he once again failed to rise from the second tier.
Joe Biden on Pakistan and Iran: “This is complicated stuff.” Translation: Hillary may sound better than I do but she has not a clue how to manage foreign policy and no idea how to deal with international thugs. While he later derided Giuliani in very personal terms (contending that he only speaks: “noun, verb, 9-11”) and labeled him unqualified, his taunt about lack of experience did nothing to ease doubts about Hillary or Obama’s lack of qualifications.
Obama on the attention paid to Hillary by Republicans: “It’s a fight they feel comfortable fighting.” Translation: His only hope is the electability card and the hope that Democrats, especially on a night when Hillary’s voice was a tad too high and her glare a bit too strong might wonder if she really can appeal to Independents and even Democrats weary of another installment of the Clinton Years.
Hillary on her plans for the economy: She will “take $10B from a lot of these companies” and “give insurance companies an ultimatum”, not to mention insisting on a “fair and progressive tax system.” Translation: No more market capitalism, “third way” and triangulation for her. She is in the business of redistributing the wealth and re-regulating the American economy to fit her vision of a model society.
So what to make of this latest, perhaps most tedious debate? None of Hillary’s opponents seemed quite up to the task, and none seemed as confident or as well prepared as she. Yet her skin is very thin, and she isn’t used to being contradicted at all, far less publicly.
On substance: she seems to have grand ambitions to spend money and raise taxes, no stomach for tough enforcement of immigration laws (it is no small feat to get to the Left of Dodd on this topic), and an ill defined approach for dealing with international threats. On style: she can be rattled, reverts to obvious evasion when cornered and loses her newly acquired soothing voice when under pressure. So if none of her Democratic opponents can take advantage of that, perhaps one of the GOP challengers will be able to next year.