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Sweet debate extra. Edwards goes after Obama, Clinton. Report 2.

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OUTSIDE MANCHESTER, N.H.—Tonight, at the second Democratic debate, John Edwards is pointing fingers and naming names.

It’s sometimes risky going after a rival during a debate. But it’s the only way to make distinctions. Former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) took on the two frontrunners at once in one of the more provocative exchanges over the recent Congressional vote to provide more funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. During this back-and-forth, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) threw his first punch.

Quick context, before I get to what happened.


OUTSIDE MANCHESTER, N.H.—Tonight, at the second Democratic debate, John Edwards is pointing fingers and naming names.

It’s sometimes risky going after a rival during a debate. But it’s the only way to make distinctions. Former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) took on the two frontrunners at once in one of the more provocative exchanges over the recent Congressional vote to provide more funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. During this back-and-forth, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) threw his first punch.

Quick context, before I get to what happened.

Last month, Obama and Clinton voted against the war funding legislation, which passed the House and Senate. In previous votes on war funding Obama and Clinton voted yes. (By the way, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) voted yes and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Ct.) voted no.)

Obama and Clinton knew this was a high-stakes vote and whatever they did they would have to defend in their presidential campaigns. President Bush had already vetoed a funding bill with timelines for withdrawal from Iraq and Democrats did not have the votes for an over-ride. What to do? The anti-war left—part of the Democratic base influential in primary politics cranked up a lot of pressure on them to vote no on the bill.

In the run-up to the vote, Obama and Clinton did not discuss or reveal what they would do. (The excuse was they wanted to read the legislation, a common stall tactic.).

Edwards seized on that point. They voted, but they did not lead.

Clinton and Obama, said Edwards, “did not say anything about how they were going to vote until they appeared on the floor of the Senate and voted. They were among the last people to vote. And I think that the importance of this is -- they cast the right vote, and I applaud them for that. But the importance of this is, they're asking to be president of the United States.

And there is a difference between making clear, speaking to your followers, speaking to the American people about what you believe needs to be done. And I think all of us have a responsibility to lead on these issues, not just on Iraq, but on health care, on energy, on
all the other issues.”

Attacked by name, Obama hit back at Edwards, who voted to authorize the war when he was in the Senate. “So you're about four and a half years late on leadership on this
issue,” Obama said.

Clinton did blame shifting. “This is George Bush's war. He is responsible for this war. He
started the war.”

Here’s the segment: (transcript from CNN.)

BLITZER: But, Senator Edwards, where, if at all, do you disagree with any
of your Democratic colleagues -- Democratic candidates -- on this
issue of the troops, the funding of the war, how to get out?


EDWARDS: Well, I think it's the difference between leading and
following.

I think Hillary's right. All of us do want to end this war. But
I have made very clear from the outset that the way to end the war is
for the Congress to use its constitutional authority to fund. They
should send a bill to the president with a timetable for withdrawal,
which they did.

The president vetoed. And then it came back. And then it was
the moment of truth.

And I said throughout the lead-up to this vote that I was against
a funding bill that did not have a timetable for withdrawal, that it
was critical for the Congress to stand firm. They were given a
mandate by the American people.

And others on this stage -- Chris Dodd spoke out very loudly and
clearly. But I want to finish this -- others did not. Others were
quiet. They went quietly to the floor of the Senate, cast the right
vote. But there is a difference between leadership and legislating.

BLITZER: You want to name names?

EDWARDS: No, I think it's obvious who I'm talking about.


BLITZER: It is to me, but it might not be to some of the viewers
out there.

EDWARDS: Senator Clinton and Senator Obama did not say anything
about how they were going to vote until they appeared on the floor of
the Senate and voted. They were among the last people to vote. And I
think that the importance of this is -- they cast the right vote, and
I applaud them for that. But the importance of this is, they're
asking to be president of the United States.

And there is a difference between making clear, speaking to your
followers, speaking to the American people about what you believe
needs to be done. And I think all of us have a responsibility to lead
on these issues, not just on Iraq, but on health care, on energy, on
all the other issues.

BLITZER: I'm going to give both of them a chance to respond to
you.

Senator Obama?

OBAMA: Well, look, the -- I think it is important to lead. And
I think John -- the fact is is that I opposed this war from the start.
So you're about four and a half years late on leadership on this
issue. And, you know, I think it's important not to play politics on
something that is as critical and as difficult as this.

Now, the fact of the matter is, Joe has a legitimate perspective.


OBAMA: It is not easy to vote for cutting off funding, because
the fact is there are troops on the ground. And I'll let Hillary
speak for herself, but the fact of the matter is that all of us
exercised our best judgment, just as we exercised our best judgment to
authorize or not authorize this war. And I think it's important for
us to be clear about that.

BLITZER: All right.

Senator Clinton?

CLINTON: And I think it's important particularly to point out:
This is George Bush's war. He is responsible for this war. He
started the war. He mismanaged the war. He escalated the war. And
he refuses to end the war.

And what we are trying to do, whether it's by speaking out from
the outside or working and casting votes that actually make a
difference from the inside, we are trying to end the war.

And each of us has made that very clear. We have different
approaches. I have a three-step plan to bring the troops how starting
now, put pressure on the Iraqi government to take responsibility and
cut off aid when they won't, and engage in intensive diplomacy,
regionally and internationally.


BLITZER: All right.

CLINTON: The differences among us are minor. The differences
between us and the Republicans are major. And I don't want anybody in
America to be confused.

BLITZER: Let me let Senator Edwards respond. Are the
differences minor between you and these Democratic candidates?

EDWARDS: There are differences between us. And I think
Democratic voters deserve to know the differences between us.

I think there is a difference between making very clear, when the
crucial moment comes, on Congress ending this war, what your position
is, and standing quiet. That's all I'm saying.

BLITZER: All right.

EDWARDS: They eventually voted the right way. I respect them
for voting the right way. But there are important differences between
us on this. And the voters are entitled to know that.

7 Comments

lynn, what is it with these stupid pundits. on cspan the overwhelming response was for obama. and yet the CNN pundits are all hillary. She could skip the debate and they would still say she is best.
So, tell me. do the Clintons own the stations or just the reporters.

Hilary is all about winning the game, she is ambitious. That's not a problem. The real danger is: she is always shifting the gear the way it fit - deception is her tectic. One need to read New York Times to know how she supported the bill recently. I can bet, she will never end the war, she is in denial and deception.

This was by far the most interesting debate so far, if only because the candidates actually engaged on the issues & looked at each other! No more ridiculous ground rules that forbid this! Hillary was, again, on top of her game, Edwards came across to me as too anxious to score points against Hillary & Obama, Richardson I found almost too substantive, if somewhat overwrought, but I still like him, Biden even made sense on some of the issues, as in quick pullout in Iraq (He is against), Dodd has something to offer but comes across as too much the pol & Washington insider (Which most of the others are too). Why place Kucinich & Gravel on the 2 extremes on stage? They have enough trouble making the other people in the room remember they are there! Fewer sound bytes, give all of them points on substance over style, except maybe Gravel. I like the guy, I remember him from Vietnam days, but what he is doing up there, really? Taking Al Sharpton's place as court jester?

John Edwards has nothing. He can't get his poll numbers to move. He is slipping in Iowa. He is lagging in the polls even in his home state. Yes, a desperate man will attack.

But I am tired of his "moral crusade" and implying that Hillary and Obama are followers and not leaders is utter crap.

I want to say "Go away John Edwards". Go away now.

I like Gravel and Kucinich; they added some spice to the debate. Without them it would have been strictly another love-fest. But when will one of these candidates challenge Obama on his "I was against the war from the beginning". When originally interviewed he was asked point blank, if you were in the Senate at the time the vote was taken, how would you have voted? Obama's reply: "I really don't know". (as a junior senator, we know exactly how he would have voted)

Ron Paul Supporters: Where's Giuliani? From www.gambling911.com

http://www.gambling911.com/Ron-Paul-Giuliani-060307.html

Carrie Stroup with Gambling911 has requested the folks at Sportsbook.com - presently offering political betting odds on the 2008 US Presidential election - to offer odds on Giuliani attending and debating Ron Paul at FreedomFest.

Breaking News at 9:34 AM on 6/4/2007

Dr. Paul accepts the invitation to debate Mr. Giuliani on the Iraq War & US Foreign Policy.
We are still waiting to hear from the Giuliani Campaign.

www.freedomfest.com/debate.htm Paul/Giuliani debate invitation

Obama is not a reckless fellow . I can trust him to make good strong careful decisions that will be good for America.Obama is the youngest of the candidates but he apears to be one of the most controlled in disposition. I think the New hampshire debate was totally his .

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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 June 3, 2007 8:00 PM.

Sweet debate extra: Blogging from the Democratic debate in New Hampshire. Report 1. was the previous entry in this blog.

Sweet debate special: Obama sees through GOP English-only moves. Report 3. is the next entry in this blog.

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