Posted Feb. 1, 2008 – Well, one thing was evident during the Democratic debate Thursday night: The two frontrunners agreed it was time to start running against the Republicans.
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No one could ignore the historic significance of what they were witnessing – realizing that for the first time there could be a woman or an African American in the White House. With hordes of photographers in the orchestra pit of Los Angeles ’ Kodak Theatre, it was apparent that even the candidates themselves were overwhelmed with the possibility.
The tone of the debate began with “team Democrat” blasting the Bush administration and the two Republican frontrunners. But by the second half, both Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) had taken their corners and come out fighting.
They were polite, persuasive and persistent as they pressed their points about such topics as universal health care, the war in Iraq , and immigration – the issues that generated the most sparks in the debate.
Stressing her belief that health care must cover everyone, Clinton said, "It is a moral responsibility and a right for our country."
Obama, whose plan does not “mandate” participation, said that “what [people] are struggling with is they can't afford the health care, and so I emphasize reducing costs. My belief is that if we make it affordable, if we provide subsidies to those who can't afford it, they will buy it."
On the issues of immigration, Obama, who polls show is the least attractive candidate among Latino voters as the candidates prepare to vie in California, rejected the notion that undocumented immigrants were taking jobs from Black folks. “The problems that workers are experiencing generally are not primarily caused by immigration,” he said, reminding the audience that he had spent many years organizing Blacks and Latinos on the streets of Chicago , and that unfair trade policies and the transference of jobs overseas had a much stronger impact on African-American job loss.
But the war in Iraq kept both candidates on the ropes the longest. Questions from panelists, the moderator and online participants challenged Clinton ’s vote in the Senate for the use of force and Obama foreign-policy experience. Clinton emphasized that she was the better candidate, because she is the one who has the experience. “It is imperative that we have a president, starting on Day One, who can begin to solve our problems, tackle these challenges and seize the opportunities that I think await," Clinton said.
But Obama, reflecting on her mistake of giving President Bush the authorization to go to war with Iraq , fired back. "Senator Clinton, I think, fairly has claimed that she's got the experience on Day One," Obama retorted. "And part of the argument that I'm making in this campaign is that it is important to be right on Day One."
This was the first debate without former Sen. John Edwards,(D-N.C.), but he was there in spirit, as both candidates wrestled for his supporters, making sure to mention his name when their policies agreed with his.
But reeling in Edwards’ posse may prove difficult, since many of those are likely Democrats who already made up their minds – for whatever reason – that neither of the remaining candidates suited their fancy. The final question of the debate wasn’t answered by either candidate: Would you consider your opponent as a running mate?
After watching last night's Democratic debate, which candidate do you believe is better prepared to be commander-in-chief and to improve the lives of Black folks? Click "Discuss Now" to post your comment.