The Democratic candidates wasted no time attacking one another at the presidential debate at Drexel University last night.
The first attack was against Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and that seemed to be the pattern for most of the night. But Clinton kept most of her focus on getting President George W. Bush out of the White House and getting herself in.
Moderators Brian Williams and Tim Russert pitted the candidates against each other live on MSNBC.
Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., attempted to deflect his first question on whether or not he said Clinton was bad for the Democrats and acting like a Republican.
“First of all, I think some of this stuff gets over-hyped. In fact, I think this has been the most hyped fight since Rocky fought Apollo Creed, although the amazing thing is, I’m Rocky in this situation,” Obama said.
Obama went on to accuse Clinton of flip-flopping on issues of the war, torture and the North American Free Trade Agreement, but she wasn’t rattled. Clinton countered with comments on how she is the main topic of conversation for the Republicans at their debates, and that is because she is standing up against Bush and the Republicans.
Clinton kept most of her criticisms to Bush.
“Everybody agrees up here that President Bush has made a total mess out of the situation with Iran,” said Clinton, who also added that when she makes it to the White House, she will use diplomacy to deal with Iran.
Bush wasn’t the only Republican target of the night. Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., called Republican candidate and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani the most under qualified candidate to run since Bush.
“I mean, think about it. Rudy Giuliani – there’s only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun and a verb and 9/11. I mean, there’s nothing else,” Biden said.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson made his presence known to the front runners and the public. Richardson said that he has the most international experience out of all the candidates and has gone head-to-head around the world as a United Nations ambassador and as a hostage negotiator.
Richardson also sent a few zingers Clinton’s way when he said she wasn’t electable.
“The last senator that was elected president was 40 years ago. His name was John F. Kennedy. We elect governors as president. Seven out of the last eight have been either governors or ex-governors,” Richardson said.
Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., also said Clinton will not be able to reach the ultimate goal of getting a Democrat in the White House. He said it is critical to get the Republicans out of the White House in order to get America back on the right track.
“Whether it’s fair or not fair, the fact of the matter is that my colleague from New York -Sen. Clinton – there are 50 percent of the American public that say they’re not going to vote for her,” Dodd said.
U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, discussed his desire to push the insurance industry out of this race.
“Why shouldn’t Democrats stand for universal, single-payer, not-for-profit with 46 million Americans uninsured and 50 million Americans under-insured?” Kucinich said.
Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards addressed the issue of the war in Iraq and promised the public that if he became president, he would pull out all of the troops.
“I think that we need to end combat missions; we need to get combat troops out of Iraq. And I will do it in my first year in office: combat missions ended, combat troops out of Iraq, period,” Edwards said.
Clinton rebutted that combat troops would need to stay in Iraq, but all other troops would be pulled out. She said that combat troops are necessary for pursuing missions against al-Qaida.
“If we leave any troops in, like special operations, to go after al-Qaida in Iraq, I assume that we don’t want them just sitting around and watching them. We want them to engage them. That is a very limited mission. That is what I have said consistently. I stand for ending the war in Iraq, bringing our troops home,” Clinton said.
The debate took a strange turn when Williams brought up that in actress Shirley MacLaine’s new book she wrote that Kucinich saw a UFO over her home and connected with the object. Kucinich jokingly said that he did see a UFO and that he’s going to move his offices to Roswell, N.M.
“You have to keep in mind . . . that Jimmy Carter saw a UFO and also that more people in this country have seen UFOs than I think approve of George Bush’s presidency,” Kucinich said.
The candidates will meet up again at the next Democratic National Committee-sanctioned debate in Las Vegas Nov. 15.
LeAnne Matlach can be reached at email@example.com.