Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt. – Abraham Lincoln
Governor Richardson, I’ve got a message for you from President Lincoln: “Too late.”
All the Democrats in Sunday night’s New Hampshire debate had one thing in common: The more they talked, the worse they sounded. And the poster boy for this trend was indisputably Bill Richardson.
Who’s been spreading the idea that Richardson is the “break out” candidate in this race? He was lousy in the last debate and worse in this one. Richardson’s rambling, ill-informed musings were so jaw-droppingly awful, the voters of New Mexico may be tempted to impeach their governor out of sheer embarrassment.
Gov. Richardson may be the first presidential candidate in history to talk himself out of the vice presidency.
From a performance standpoint, the indisputable winner was Sen. Joe Biden. But even he ended up talking away his own victory.
Biden’s success came largely from his common sense and his passion. His spirited efforts to explain the basic workings of American government to the nutroots in his own party (ably represented by Dennis Kucinich) were refreshing, inspiring, even. Biden is solidly critical of the war in Iraq and President Bush, but he also understands that sending soldiers to fight and not paying for the war is an unconscionable mistake that the American people won’t support. He was angry that his fellow Democrats abandoned the troops, and it showed.
But Biden didn’t know when to turn it off. He seemed pretty steamed about everything else, too. Darfur, “don’t ask, don’t tell,” immigration — at one point he even used the phrase “speaking truth to power.” You go, Joe!
One got the sense that, if Wolf Blitzer asked him for the time, Biden would have shouted, “Time to wrap up this damned debate, Wolf! C’mon, let’s tell some truth here. Everyone in America is watching the Yankees-Red Sox game, fer cryin’ out loud!”
It didn’t help that some of the “truth” Biden was speaking closely resembled nonsense. Saying it was time to end our support for regime change in Iran — long the world’s number one terror sponsor — Biden defended this position by claiming the Iranian economy is so weak they’ll be importing crude oil by 2014. Perhaps he meant gasoline, but regardless, he also dismissed Iran’s nuclear threat by promising that if Iran “stuck a [nuclear] missile on a pad, I’d take it out.”
And if the Iranians stick the nuke on a truck and give the keys to Hezbollah, Sen. Biden…?
And yet, if we may speak a little political truth to power here, the most important fact about Biden’s candidacy is that he’s not going to be the nominee and everyone knows it.
In part, he’s a victim of the quality of the field (Clinton, Obama, Edwards), but it’s also true that, like the last Democrat with “Joe-Mentum,” Sen. Biden’s tough-minded foreign policy represents a minority view inside the Democratic party.
As a candidate, Joe Biden is no more relevant than Dennis Kucinich. In fact, it is likely the case that Kucinich’s lunatic “No War For Oil” ravings have more support among Democratic primary voters than Joe Biden.
In other words, a key constituency among Democratic primary voters in 2008 will be insane people.
The more the first-tier candidates talked last night, the more it became apparent they were struggling to reach out to the crazies without becoming crazy themselves. Clinton, Obama and Edwards had no answer to the Kucinich challenge (“If the war is really immoral, how can you continue to fund it?), so they blathered nonsense about who was really against the war first.
Barack Obama seemed utterly lost at times, blaming Osama bin Laden’s escape from Tora Bora (December, 2001) on the fact that we were distracted by war with Iraq (March, 2003).
By the way, where is this engaging, inspiring Barack Obama we keep hearing about? He has yet to show up for any of the debates. Conservatives have long insisted that politics isn’t such a tough job, that a lack of “inside the Beltway” experience is a benefit, not a problem, but Sen. Obama may be proving that theory wrong.
He’s clearly a smart guy, but even straightforward questions seem to catch him flat-footed. An audience member asked the rather simple question “Why can’t veterans use the hospital of their choice?” In other words, why are they stuck in the VA system?
Great question, the kind that the average NRO reader could handle on an off day. But Sen. Obama was stumped. He stammered and stumbled and then eventually suggested it might have something to do with prescription drugs — as though the drugs veterans use aren’t available at CVS.
Last night, Sen. Obama proved yet again that the idea of his candidacy is a lot more appealing than listening to the real thing.
Sen. Clinton was her usual, professional self: prepared, pleasant, generous. She knows her greatest challenge is her image, and she took every opportunity to appear friendly and collegial. Using Gov. Richardson’s performance negotiating away North Korea’s nuclear program was, perhaps, generous to a fault given the facts on the ground. But it served her purpose.
In the end, frontrunner Hillary won last night because a) she didn’t lose; and b) nobody else made any meaningful progress.
She was also helped by the fact that, according to numbers provided by the Chris Dodd campaign, she spoke 1:34 less than Barack Obama.