Today's Blogs

Attack of the Seven Dwarves

Bloggers dissect the latest Democratic debate, marvel over a leaked transcript of President Bush’s prewar conversation with the Spanish prime minister, and discuss Bill O’Reilly’s dinner in Harlem.

Attack of the Seven Dwarves: The eight Democratic presidential hopefuls duked it out Wednesday at yet another debate. With Hillary Clinton way up in just about every poll, the seven other candidates finally tried going on the offensive. How’d everyone do?

At the National Review’s water-cooler blog, the Corner, Amy Holmes says Clinton “flashed … two of her major weaknesses that she has, up to now, kept under wraps: her tendency to be shrill; and her tendency to be smug.” Conservative Paul Mirengoff from Power Line analyzes Clinton’s answers and finds her evasive. “This is the Clinton debate strategy in a nutshell – give non-answers or cagey answers when necessary and use her new-found sense of humor and/or attacks on President Bush in the hope that people won’t notice,” he writes. “It should get her through the primaries and it may get back to the White House.”

But at Campaign Matters,The Nation’s John Nichols calls Barack Obama’s performance “listless” and argues that the front-runner came out unscathed: “When all was said and done, Clinton made it through another debate without tripping on her own, and without being tripped up by a challenger. By any reasonable measure, her lead is likely to remain secure for so long as neither Obama nor Edwards chooses to run as a genuine anti-war candidate.”

At Talking Points Memo’s Election Central, Greg Sargent notes that Clinton “declared her opposition to legalized torture even in extreme ‘ticking bomb’ situations, asserting that she believes we need to adhere to an anti-torture policy under all circumstances.” He concludes that “she’s solid on the issue.”

Noam Scheiber, writing for the New Republic’s Plank, thinks John Edwards was last night’s real winner: “[Edwards] came out of the gate taking issue with what he described as Clinton’s willingness to leave combat troops in Iraq for the indefinite future. And, in perhaps his best moment of the debate, he warned that Clinton’s vote on a Joe Lieberman-sponsored Senate resolution targeting Iran’s Revolutionary Guard represented a serious lapse in judgment.” Joe Sudbay from the lefty America Blog also highlights Edwards’ performance: “John Edwards went after Hillary Clinton hard for supporting Lieberman’s Iraq resolution. Very hard. Equated her vote for that resolution with her vote for the Iraq war.”

Pointing out that the candiates wouldn’t commit to withdrawing from Iraq, conservative Ed Morrissey from Captain’s Quarters sees Gen. Petraeus’ influence: “Leading Democrats realize now that running as the party of defeat when we continue to gain ground may sound good in the primaries, but will be disastrous in the general election.” Responding to Morrissey, James Joyner from Outside the Beltway maintains Petraeus’ testimony is not at issue. Primary voters are very anti-war, he says, but “there’s a vast difference in running for president and running for Congress. Those with a plausible chance of being elected Commander in Chief have much less luxury to be glib and reactionary in their foreign policy pronouncements. …”

Read more about last night’s debate.

Revealing conversation: El Pais, a major Spanish newspaper, has published a transcript of a private conversation between Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and President Bush. During the February 2003 discussion, Bush said that “if there was a United Nations Security Council resolution or not … [w]e have to get rid of Saddam.” Bloggers dig in.

David Swanson at the impeachment-focused After Downing Street calls the transcript yet another smoking gun. Anti-war blogger Juan Cole agrees: “The transcript shows that Bush consciously intended to go to war without a United Nations Security Council resolution. The United Nations Charter, to which the United States is a treaty signatory (so that it has the force of American law), forbids any nation to launch an aggressive war on another country. … The transcript shows Bush actively plotting to sidestep the UNSC if he could not, gangster-like, threaten its members into compliance.”

“Bush had nothing but disregard and disgust for foreign leaders that opposed the invasion,” says Jonathan Stein of Mother JonesMoJo Blog. “… Bush does not come off as a man who seeks war as a ‘last resort,’ as he said publicly so many times before the invasion.” According to Scott Horton from Harper’s No Comment, the transcript shows the “president full of swagger” but “is not quite as damning as the Downing Street papers.”

The transcript also reveals that Saddam may have been willing to go into exile “with $1 billion and information on weapons of mass destruction,” leading Brian Faughnan from Worldwide Standard to resurrect the WMD threat debate: “[I]f the dominant narrative is correct–that Iraq posed no WMD threat–then why did Saddam stake his life on concealing information about the program? …The only logical reason for making this a condition of his agreement to exile was that he believed the program was more advanced than it really was, or that he intended to augment it. In either case, it further bolsters the case that Saddam remained a threat to the region (at least), and that it was wise to depose him.”

Read more about the El Pais transcript debacle.

Look Who’s Coming to Dinner: Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly is fighting claims that he had his own “Imus moment” when, after dining with Al Sharpton at Sylvia’s, a famous soul-food restaurant in Harlem, he announced on his radio show that “there wasn’t any kind of craziness at all” and “couldn’t get over” that it was just “like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb.” Liberal watchdog site Media Matters had a field day, but O’Reilly says to listen to the whole show.

“Bill O’Reilly is no racist,” says Bryan from conservative Hot Air. “What he said wasn’t racist, and Media Matters and CNN and CBS know that. They’re all collectively dishonestly smearing Bill O’Reilly because they think there’s a shot at taking him down. There isn’t.” Radio Equalizer Brian Maloney defends O’Reilly in a link-heavy roundup of the fracas, and offers his advice.

After listening to the radio show, Ed Brayton of Dispatches from the Culture Wars emphasizes O’Reilly’s naivete: “Congratulations, Bill. It took you half a century to figure out that Flava Flav does not represent the behavior of all black people. Next week perhaps you’ll learn that every Jewish person doesn’t act like Jackie Mason and every white person doesn’t act like Larry the Cable Guy.”

Read more about O’Reilly’s comments.