Q to Obama: Lots of people agree with HRC that she’s better prepared. Why are they wrong?
A: Lots of people disagree, and think we need new leadership. That’s why we’re having this contest.
Recites his resume. Bring people together who otherwise don’t see themselves as having anything in common, getting the special interests out of the way, ethics reform. The skills I have are ones the country leads right now.
Q to HRC: You’ve only been in the Senate a few more years than Obama. What in your experience as First Lady qualifies you to be President?
A: Recites her resume: Children’s Defense Fund, Legal Services Corporation, education reform in Arkansas. Great deal of influence in the White House. Failed on health care, turned to S-CHIP. Adoption out of foster care. More than 82 countries. Negotiating with Macedonia. Women’s rights as human rights in Beijing. Working across party lines. Making change in people’s lives. Access to health care for reserve and national guard members.
Q from some idiot viewer, re running against Romney: The country is a business. Neither of you has ever run a business? Why are you qualified to be President?
HRC: The government isn’t a business. We have a president who ran as CEO. Not so good.
Obama: Romney hasn’t been getting much of a return on his investment in the campaign. Based on results over the past year, I’d be happy to compare my management capacity with his.
Q to HRC: Ted K and Caroline endorsed Obama. What do you say to that? [[OK, that may be the dumbest question so far.]]
A: I have Kennedy’s on my side too, and I’d be ready on Day One. It’s about your lives: health care, college, interest rates, whether we’re going to be proud of our country.
Q to Obama: Weren’t the Nineties good?
Obama: Yes, the Clinton Administration did lots of good things. Looks especially good compared to the last eight years. Bringing in new voters. Beyond the nuts and bolts of getting legislation passed and managing the bureaucracy, we need to be able to call people to a higher purpose. Education, foreign policy. Who can work the levers of power more capably, who can rally the country? I’m bringing in new voters, and that could change the map.
Q to HRC from South Carolina: You have claimed that your presidency would bring change. I’m 38, and I’ve never had a chance to vote in a Presidential election when a Bush or a Clinton wasn’t on the ticket. What sort of change is that?
HRC: Everyone running for President is judged on his or her own merits. [Huh?] I don’t want to be advantaged or disadvantaged [implies: by having Clinton for a last name]. It took a Clinton to clean up after the first Bush, and I think it might take a Clinton to clean up after the second. [[[Wild applause.]]
[It seems to me that the one-on-one format is a huge advantage for Obama. If HRC’s claim is that she’s a grown-up and he isn’t, the fact that he’s holding his own is a score for him. And I think he’s doing at least that well. And the civility helps both of them against the Republicans.
Q to HRC: You both say you want out of Iraq, but Obama says he wants completely out after 16 months, but you won’t set an end date. Why shouldn’t people worry about that?
A: Begin in 60 days, a brigade or two a month, most out within a year. Needs planning. Pentagon isn’t planning. I’d start them planning right away. 100,000 American civilians there, plus the Iraqis who worked with us. We have to take care of them.
At the same time, we have to tell the Iraqi government that there is no more time.
Our positions are similar. Bush wants to leave 130,000 troops in. I’ll get out as soon as possible. I certainly hope we’ll be out in 16 months.
Obama: I think we need to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in. No permanent bases. McCain’s 100 years. Too much else on our plate: Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Latin America, Chinese economic competition worsened by the drag the war puts on our economy. The Iraqi parties need clarity about when we’re getting out. Clarity about missions. Difference about force structures to leave behind. Agree on the need to take care of those left behind. Mentions 4m Iraqi refugees. Strike force against terrorism. But not troops to resist Iranian influence (maybe that’s a different). If we wanted to resist Iranian influence, we shouldn’t have put this Iraqi government in. I’d be better v. McCain because I was against the war from the beginning. “I don’t want to just end the war, but I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place.”
[Neither mentions Bush’s intent to defy Congressional limits on making a SFOR Agreement.]
Q to Hillary: Wasn’t that a swipe at you? [[Two candidates agree that they’re having a good time, actually touch hands, rejecting the invitation to fight.]]
HRC: Need to get the region ready for our leaving. Obama joined my bill to prevent the President from setting up permanent bases without Congressional approval. McCain’s 100 years.
Q to HRC: Why did you vote against the Levin Amendment?
HRC: I voted for the UFOR in hopes of getting inspectors in. Great respect for Levin. But his amendment said that the US would subordinate the judgment of the United States to that of the Security Council. I joined Byrd to propose a one-year limit on authority I thought that was a bad precedent. I said at the time it wasn’t authority for a pre-emptive war, and he went ahead and waged one anyway. We need a voter with the gravitas to be Commander-in-Chief. I welcome the debate on whether withdrawal means unfitness to lead the troops.
Blitzer to Obama: Quotes Petraeus: there’s been progress, and leaving would sacrifice that.
Obama: I welcome the progress. But the notion that we’ve succeeded as a result of the recent reductions in violence means that we’ve set the bar so low it’s buried in the sand. We went from an intolerable level of violence and a dysfunctional government to a spike with horrendous levels of violence and a dysfunctional government back to merely intolerable levels of violence and a dysfunctional government. We’re better with a candidate who doesn’t just criticize execution, but who can say this was a conceptual error from the start.
Q to HRC: You say that if you had known then what you know now, you would not have cast that vote. Why not just say it was a mistake?
HRC: Coercive diplomacy. Huge amount of due diligence. [But not reading the NIE?] Understimated how crazy Bush was. If I’d been President, we never would have diverted our attention from Afghanistan. We need to seem both stronger and more competent than Republicans on national security. “George Bush sent people to war without body armor.” Force is a last resort, not a first resort.
Blitzer: So you were naive in trusting President Bush?
HRC: Good try, Wolf. Obama made a good speech, but once he got to the Senate we did the same thing because we confronted the same reality. Case for resolution was a credible case. WH said they’d use the resolution to put the inspectors in. SH was a megalomaniac; legitimate concerns about what he’d do. I made a reasoned judgment, but the person who got to execute the policy did not.
Obama: Name of the bill was Authorization to Use Military Force in Iraq. Everyone knew we were going to war. She claims “ready on Day One.” I think it’s important to be right on Day One. [He had that one ready.] It’s a dangerous world, and we can’t just send troops in without a clear rationale.
[Again, I’m hardly an unbiased judge, but I think Obama is outclassing HRC.]
Switching to a new post.