Brian Williams jumps into it with a question that lasts about a minute.
Obama says the idea that he’s going to come out and be tougher is overhyped. “It feels like tonight the most hyped fight since Rocky Balboa fought Apollo Creed. The amazing thing is I’m Rocky in this situation.” Eh. Canned. Very moderate laughter.
Obama says Hillary has changed her positions on torture and the war in Iraq. He says her shifts “may be politically savvy but don’t offer the kind of change we need.”
Hillary swats it away: “I don’t think the Republicans have gotten the message that I’m voting like them, if you watched their debate last week.”
First exchange goes to her. He clearly isn’t comfortable in the attacking role.
Edwards has a much smoother line of attack, asking, “Who do you trust? …She voted to give George W. Bush the first step to war on Iran…”
Hillary says she stands by her record, and goes to her “invisible people” stuff. One of these things that drives me batty is the way these Democratic debates turn into two-minute recitations of their stump speech themes; there’s little or no reaction to each other. She completely dodges anything Edwards said, moving into, “I will not balance the budget on the backs of the elderly and working American families. Let’s take the tax cuts away from the wealthy!”
Russert and Williams are ignoring everybody outside the big three, ten minutes in.
Hillary says there is “a rush to war” but says Iran is a threat. Says the choice is not between war and doing nothing, but “vigorous diplomacy.” Cites North Korea and Libya as examples where it can work. Cites Dick Durbin voting with her, which effectively shuts down Obama on this.
It’s Hillary’s stage, everybody else is just standing on it.
Dodd: “What you didn’t learn by 2002, you should have learned by now.”