Bloggers perform a postmortem on last night’s Democratic candidate debate. They also have trouble buying George Tenet’s self-exculpatory new book and bid do svidaniya to a great Soviet dissident and even greater musician.
Eight is enough: The eight Democratic presidential candidates had their first debate Thursday night in Orangeburg, S.C., hosted by MSNBC. Iraq was the central matter of the evening, but those bloggers who tuned in (a surprising few) found the rhetoric to be mostly uninspired and pro forma. The exceptions were long shots Mike Gravel, who wants continued American military presence in Iraq to be a felony, and Dennis Kucinch, who wants to impeach Dick Cheney.
Barry Rubinowitz at The Nattering Nabob discovered newfound respect for Mr. Kucinch after seeing the Mrs.: “Most Surprising Moment: Seeing Dennis Kucinich’s wife, Elizabeth. He got a tall, hot, redhead with a British accent. Not sure how he did it, but damn, he got the respect of a lot of men across America. If he can get that babe, maybe he can end the war and solve the health care problem.”
Front-runner Hillary Clinton got mixed reviws. Katharine Q. Seelye at the New York Times’ presidential election blog TheCaucus writes: “No major gaffes; no big surprises in the first debate. Mrs. Clinton, not surprisingly, seemed very prepared, the eager student determined to ace the test.” Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice, who provides a thorough roundup of other blog posts, thinks Obama “came across as one of the most thoughtful candidates, heavy on ideas and not into playing (or tolerating) political games during the debate. …Hillary Clinton underestimates him at her considerable peril.”
Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post’s The Fix highlights last night’s debate “moment”: “Asked by moderator Brian Williams whether he could ‘reassure voters in this country that you would have the discipline you would need on the world stage,’ [Joe] Biden responded simply: ‘Yes.’ The comment drew laughs throughout the room (and in the press filing center as well) and effectively silenced Biden critics who argue he is incapable of answering any question without a 10-minute speech.”
At The Cherry Orchard, a nonpartisan political blog, Levi Asher liked John Edwards: ”[T]he blow-dried southerner appears serious, unflappable and appropriately angry about the current state of things. Another candidate who made a good impression on me is New Mexico’s Bill Richardson, more for his earnest body language and focused message than anything else.”
Un-Tenet-able:Among the juicy disclosures in former CIA Director George Tenet’s new memoir At the Center of the Storm are the following: “There was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat,” and the notorious “slam dunk” remark, spoken by Tenet about Saddam’s WMD arsenal, was “taken out of context.”
Conservative Tom Roeser at On the Other Hand hasn’t yet read Tenet’s book but argues that, judging by its media hype and synopsis, “it is clear that it is a volume of self-justification. The fact remains that the CIA may not have misled a great number of policy-makers on the possession of weapons of mass destruction; the weapons may well have, as author and Jihad specialist Robert Spencer told me last night at dinner, that the arms were transferred quickly to Syria. Tenet feels keenly the lash of criticism but I think history will judge that given what he had to work with, George W. Bush did the right thing in invading Iraq.”
“If I understand Tenet’s claim correctly,” writes criminal law professor Dan Markel at PrawfsBlawg, “he thinks there’s a world of difference between a) the quality of the intelligence indicating the wisdom of military action and b) the need to better present the case for the wisdom of military action. Normally, I’d be inclined to agree with him if and only if the person making the assessment were a critical outsider to the conversation. But Tenet was the inside intelligence man and he doesn’t give much indication…that he felt at the time that the quality of the intelligence indicating the wisdom of military action was poor or misleading.”
At the Washington Monthly’s Political Animal, liberal Kevin Drum smells a revisionist rat: “Well….color me unconvinced. Given a couple of years to think it over, that’s probably the kind of story I’d come up with too, but I think I’d try to make it more believable. Frankly, the table-pounding declaration that something is a ‘slam dunk’ doesn’t really sound like the kind of thing you’d say if you were merely agreeing that your PowerPoint presentation could use some sprucing up, does it?”
Read more about Tenet’s revelations.
The wound and the bow: Mstislav Rostropovich, the celebrated Russian cellist and conductor, has died at 80. Rostropovich was a brave dissident who fought Soviet censorship and repression, giving safe haven to embattled novelist and historian Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and writing an incisive anti-statist open letter to Pravda during the “re-Stalinization” years of Brezhnev. For this, Rostropovich and his wife had their travel freedoms rescinded and the cellist found himself greeted with fewer and fewer concert venues.
Xanthippas at Three Wise Men remembers the cellist as “one of a number of truly great musicians to come out of the Soviet era, and to me it’s simply amazing that he and so many of his fellow musicians-such as Dmitri Shostakovitch and Sergei Prokofiev-were able to flourish even under the suffocating tyranny of a Soviet regime that viewed them merely as tools of propaganda against the West.”
Archer at Lawyerworldland explains Rostropovich’s inimitable technique: “He perched his cello on a metal pin, the way all cellists do, except his pin was so long the instrument was practically in his lap. In the softer passages, his playing could make you look around, spooked, the pencil-slender beam of sound seeming to come from out there someplace. It was possible to deny that Mstislav Rostropovich was from some other galaxy, one of the Overlords come to show us how it was done, but that unfortunately left you with the job of coming up with with some alternative explanation for it all, and you’d rather not try.”
Read more about the Rostropovich’s passing.