Sweet column: Biden, Dodd, Richardson show stuff at Dem debate. Obama on defensive.

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ORANGEBURG, S.C. -- If you've been on Mars for a while and did not know the names of the Democratic White House frontrunners, you could have thought after the first presidential debate Thursday they were Sen. Joe Biden, Gov. Bill Richardson and Sen. Chris Dodd.

The 90-minute nationally televised debate on the campus of South Carolina State University -- the first of the 2008 season -- was dominated by criticism of President Bush and the Iraq war in a session smartly moderated by NBC anchor Brian Williams.

On the level playing field of the debate stage, the frontrunners -- Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, with former Sen. John Edwards behind them -- did not come out of the debate looking or sounding obviously more "presidential" than their second-tier rivals.

In that sense, they were upstaged by Biden, Richardson and Dodd, who showcased their years of experience.

The South Carolina primary, tentatively scheduled for Jan. 29, is seen as crucial in determining the eventual Democratic nominee and Edwards made a gaffe in the Bible Belt state. He was stumped when Williams asked him to name "your moral leader."

Seconds ticked by until Edwards came up with "My Lord," his wife and his father.

Obama neglected to mention Israel as a close ally without prompting. And when asked what he would do if two U.S. cities were under attack, Obama said, "Review how we operate." Clinton said "retaliate."

Clinton, however, probably made an unnecessary reference to "Bill" in trying to bolster her credentials to keep guns out of the hands of the criminal and mentally stable following a question about the Virginia Tech massacre.

The debate served to make one distinction: Obama, Clinton, Biden and Dodd flew to South Carolina hours after voting for an Iraq war funding bill calling for troops to start pulling out of Iraq Oct. 1.

Richardson, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, running a long-shot bid as an anti-war crusader, and the little known former Sen. Mike Gravel said they would not have voted to put more war money in the pipeline, arguing there is cash to bring soldiers home now.

Williams asked Obama about a report in the Sun-Times regarding his questionable relationship with a donor -- and whether that was contrary to Obama's claim he stands for a new kind of politics.

"We have thousands of donors," Obama said, adding that he "denounced" the donor, then switching the subject noted he passed a campaign finance bill while a state senator.

The line of the night belonged to Biden. Known for verbosity, he was asked if he had the discipline to serve on the "world stage."

"Yes," Biden replied and left it at that.


richardson did horrible!! his answers always went over the time limit and he got angry every time brian williams said they had to move on. they wanted a one word answer to one question and he blew that one. they wanted a one sentence answer to another question. he blew that one.

Nice article. As a Canadian I find it rather strange that the majority of the US media has done little but focus on the so-called rock star candidates. Style over subtance? What a shame.

I work for a social polling website called Buzzdash, and they're taking a live vote right now on who won the debate. It shows the results real-time, so it'll be interesting to watch how it changes all day. And you should vote too!


"richardson did horrible!! his answers always went over the time limit..."

I'll say! Not to mention he saw no problem delaying his call for the resignation of Alberto Gonzeles simply because he and Gonzales share a common ethnicity. As if to say he would have called for the resignation of an "Anglo" much sooner. Governor, are we now wrong to assume that under your presidency Mexicans and Mexican-Americans will enjoy preferential treatment vis a vis the rest of us?


Thank you, Governor, for your candor, but otherwise no thanks....

Last night was the kids debate. The Republican debate will be the adults debate.

A vote for Obama is a vote for what Al Sharpton stands for and is all about. Think about it!


It would be nice if you reported what Obama actually said instead of buying into the Clinton spin.

Obama: Well, the first thing we'd have to do is make sure that we've got an effective emergency response, something that this administration failed to do when we had a hurricane in New Orleans.

And I think that we have to review how we operate in the event of not only a natural disaster, but also a terrorist attack.

The second thing is to make sure that we've got good intelligence, a., to find out that we don't have other threats and attacks potentially out there, and b., to find out, do we have any intelligence on who might have carried it out so that we can take potentially some action to dismantle that network.

But what we can't do is then alienate the world community based on faulty intelligence, based on bluster and bombast. Instead, the next thing we would have to do, in addition to talking to the American people, is making sure that we are talking to the international community.

Because as already been stated, we're not going to defeat terrorists on our own. We've got to strengthen our intelligence relationships with them, and they've got to feel a stake in our security by recognizing that we have mutual security interests at stake.

Using my Credit Card here's what I got when I went to Contribute/Donate $0.10(ten cents) to each Democratic Candidates campaign on their websites, which is twice the amount I give my church each Sunday. www.joebiden.com wants a minimum of $5.00(ouch); hillaryclinton.com wants a min. of $5.00(wham); chirsdodds.com wants a min. of $10.00(nuts); barackobama.com wants a min. $5.00(really); johnedwards.com and gravel2008.us and kucinich.us and richardsonforpresident.com will accept $1.00 minimums. I got over my personal budget goals and gave to the candidates that at least let me contribute at the $1.00 level. Now when I go see about contributing to the Republican candidates someday wouldn't that be confusing if they allow me to contribute at the $0.10(ten cent) level?

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Lynn Sweet

<Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on April 27, 2007 8:34 AM.

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