Tuesday, August 07, 2007

AFL-CIO Post-Debate Analysis

Going into the debate tonight, the pundits wondered to what extent Edwards and Obama would continue their attacks on Hillary’s willingness to take campaign contributions from federal lobbyists. They didn’t have to wait long to get their answer. When Keith Olberman asked Edwards how he would improve America’s infrastructure, he managed to fit the specter of lobbyists into his answer. Later, in response to a question about NAFTA, Edwards said that the trade agreement is a striking example of the influence insiders have on policy in Washington. Naturally, skewering Washington lobbyists played pretty well in front of a union audience.

It looks as though Edwards is finding his niche as the “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore” candidate. He plays the role well, but the question is whether or not it’s too late. Albeit there is plenty of time left before the Iowa caucus; however, there is no denying that media elites have anointed Hillary and Obama as the queen and king of the 2008 primary. In spite of Edwards’ passion and substance, there is no indication that his new routine is doing any real damage to the frontrunners.

Timing is not the only questionable element of Edwards’ new about-face. The believability of his role as the “mad populist” is also iffy. This blog’s audience does not need to be reminded of how $400 haircuts and appearances on the covers of Esquire and Men’s Vogue have tarnished the candidate’s populist reputation.

Things heated up when Olberman asked Chris Dodd to comment on Obama’s proposal to take the war on terrorism to Northwest Pakistan. After Dodd criticized Obama’s judgment, Hillary commented that a commander-in-chief should not always talk publicly on matters of foreign policy. The crowd responded to Hillary’s remark with boos, and all the criticism woke up Obama who was a little flat for most of the debate. With his back to the wall, the senator from Illinois asked how his detractors had the temerity to question his foreign policy judgment after voting for the Iraq War Resolution in 2002. It’s a fair question.

With the exception of her boo-inspiring remarks, Hillary gave another solid and poised performance. Once again, she was in a somewhat hostile environment, but she still managed to stay on top of her game with thoughtful and quick responses. More importantly, though, she showed as much authenticity in this forum as she did at the YearlyKos convention. Nonetheless, in an election year that is all about replacing the deceptive Bush Administration, arguing that a president should not always share policy ideas with the American public is not pleasing to the ears of voters.

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