Democrats Debate: Johnston, Iowa, 2PM ET

Bump and Update: Live-Updates on Democrats debate here:

Last question: What do you carry away from Iowa? All give moving, personal statements. Richardson is funny. This was a nice ending touch, they all seemed so human and humble. (The only one who lacked emotion in his response was Obama, but maybe that's not his thing, I don't mean it as a criticism, just an observation.) This was the best, most real part of the debate. If you get to watch a recap, just watch the last two minutes.

There were no bombshells, no fights, no digs at each other. In fact, they supported each other. Hillary changed her message a bit, moving from her experience to how hard she will work as President. While she focused on change, I don't think this began today. She just usually blends her experience in with change and didn't do that much today. Obama doesn't own the change theme in my opinion. Edwards has used it from the beginning too. Obama's original themes were hope and optimism -- themes Chris Dodd emphasized today. Biden's theme today was action. Signing off now, typos will be fixed later.


What is your New Year's resolution? Clinton: On a personal level: Spending time with my family, exercise. Run the best campaign she can and go into white house with support of American people behind her. Edwards: No child will go to bed hungry. No family will go to emergency room and beg for health care. Dodd: Regain moral authority in world, optimism. Spend time with family. And wish that Iowans caucus correctly on Jan. 3. Richardson: Lose weight, same as every year. End the dysfunctional relationship between Congress and the President. End torture. Stay positive. Biden: Remember where you came from. Obama: Be a better father and husband. Remember this is not about me. Not get distorted by fears of losing. My participation needs to have an impact on others besides me.


Question about how they'd use signing statements. Hillary criticizes Bush's use of them. Let's quit with perversion of constitution and rule of law. Edwards: Critcizes Bush, says he will go back to how they were used in the past. Will ensure our three branches are co-equal. The oval office doesn't belong to one person. It belongs to the American people.


Next set of question on character and leadership. Asks Hillary about problems with her health care plan while first lady. She says she's learned from the mistakes and will ensure transparency and openness in her administration.

Biden: Confronted with his past poor statements on race. He looks hurt. Explains his statement about Indians and his point was they are building families. Echoes Obama's statement about disadvantages minorities start out with. No one in Delaware has criticized his record on civil rights. His credentials on civil rights are as good as anyone's. The others say "Hear, hear" praising him. Obama says Biden is on the right side of the issues and fighting every day for a better America.

Dodd: Asked about his father's misconduct and how much he is motivated by restoring his family's name. (What an insulting dumb question.)

Richardson asked about mistakes while he was energy secretary and Wen Ho Lee. But he won't apologize for trying to protect our nuclear secrets. We all have gaps and mistakes. Talks about his successes while in that position. He'll stand behind his record.

Obama: You rely on so many Clinton advisors, how will you break from the past? And what about your lack of foreign policy experience. I want to gather talent from everywhere. Goes to the war in Iraq. I want to change the mindset that got us into it. He wants to restore our respect in the world. Doesn't answer the question.


Question: What can you accomplish in your first year as President? Obama: End the war in Iraq. Reverse Bush Justice Dept. policies that hurt civil rights. Biden: End war in Iraq. End Bush policy of torture. Take on interest groups. Get every child health insurance. Education. Richardson: End the war. Universal health care. Energy revolution. Reduce dependence on foreign oil. I'll follow the Constitution, bring back habeas, no torture, rejoin Geneva Conventions, no spying on our own citizens.

Dodd: Change the discourse. Edward: End the war, close Guantanamo, health care. End corporate power and corporate greed.

Clinton: End war, bring all of our troops home. Cowboy diplomacy is over. Review executive orders and rescind those that violate the Constitution.

Now on education: Back later. Most boring debate of them all so far.


Clinton free statement: I'm impressed by people I meet in Iowa. They want change. We all have our ideas on how to effect change. I will end the war in Iraq and get affordable health care for everyone and make sure every child can live up to their potential. "Stand up for me and I'll stand up for you" when I'm in the White House.

Dodd free statement: Thanks Iowans. Confidence and optimism. He's worked to bring Democrats and Repbulicans together. Touts his prior record.


45 minutes and it's all on the economy. They are now on crop subsidy: I'll be back when they get to issues I care more about. On crop subsidy: Obama for once has specifics and a plan. He's not very fluid though, he halts during his speaking, it's disconcerting and makes it difficult to follow what he's saying.


Section on pollution and energy plans. Hillary our was very passionate. They all talk about the future of the planet and a new patriotism and responsibility.

Free statement by Biden: It's not about change but action. I'll start by ending the war in Iraq.

Richardson free statement: Thanks people of Iowa for putting the candidates through this process. He wants to focus on ending the war in Iraq.


Human rights violations: How should we alter trade policies with these countries? Richardson has a thorough answer. Dodd: We should talk about it. If you want to do business here, you need to address it. Edwards: Corporate powers need to be reigned in (again.)


Question to Clinton: Should NAFTA be scrapped or changed? Answer: Changed. I will review every trade agreement and ask for revisions to help our workers. We need to make it clear to rest of world we don't want to be trade patsy of the world. Obama: NAFTA needs to be amended. Our agreements with Mexico and Canada need to be enforceable. Agrees with other candidates on human rights. It's harder to do it with Guantanamo and suspending habeas corpus. We are not being true to our values. We have to restore the traditions that made this country great.

Obama gets a "free statement": Change. No specifics. Edwards next: Corporate power and greed must be taken on.


Question about China: Richardson: Be stronger with them on human rights and trade. But it's an important relationship for us. Dodd: It's an adversarial relationship. Slave labor, intellectual property theft. Agrees it's an important relationship for us. Very passionate and good response.

Question: How do we change entitlements for the future. Clinton: It's a big problem for Medicare and longer problem for social security. We need to give Medicare right to negotiate for lower drugs and reign in the HMOs. We need to bring costs down. Social Security: convene a bi-partisan commission on changes that are necessary.

Biden: Problem with medicare is not new benefits, but cost. Agrees with Hillary. We need to modernize the system. Obama: Prevention. Fight obesity. We have to change how business is done in Washington. Fight the drug companies. Richardson: Universal health care is a right for every American. Prevention is going to be the key. No junk food in schools. More research on autism and stem cell research.


Next question is on tax policy. When are tax increases appropriate. Richardson and Edwards' answers are similar to the first question on balancing the budget. Richardson and Edwards

Clinton: Want to restore the tax rates we had in the 90's. Keep the middle class tax cuts. Restore old tax rates on corporations.


Next question: How will you pay for your other programs since war in Iraq expense will be going on for some time. Biden: Take money out of military budget. Obama: Talks about a building in the Cayman Islands, we need to close loopholes. Tax relief plan for those making under $75k a year.


First question: Financial situation facing our country. What is the priority of your Administration to balance the budget? Obama first: Attacks George Bush (good move). Invest in education and infrastructure and end the war in Iraq. End special interests, tax breaks and loopholes.

Richardson: I've done it as Governor. Balance budget, line item veto for President, constitutional amendment to balance budget, pay as you go policies in budget, we should view balancing the budget as opportunity for economic growth.

Biden: It's about priorities. Eliminating war and tax cuts and cutting funds from military programs, we can save $350 billion and use it for health care, education and the environment. Also attacks Republicans.

Dodd: Pay as you go budgets. Lots of statistics. We need an economy that drives growth and creates jobs.

Edwards: Create and protect American jobs. Strengthen middle class. End corporate power and greed.

Clinton: Fiscal responsibility is important to me. I will institute the same approaches. Cutting out private contractors end tax breaks.


It's an afternoon debate today for the Democrats in Johnston, Iowa, beginning at 2pm ET. You can watch it on C-Span 3, streaming here. CNN will also air it live.

Dennis Kucinich has been dropped because his Iowa field director works out of a home office which doesn't meet the requirements.(seriously.)

I'm going to be watching and probably live-blogging since I'm hoping the issue of sentencing reform, mandatory minimums and crack-powder cocaine penalties will come up. With the news about Clinton advisor Michael Sheehan saying Republicans will bash Obama for his past drug use (a comment he apologized for and the Clinton campaign said was not authorized by them)I don't see how they can avoid it.

Here's a summary of the pending reform bills in Congress. If it comes up, Joe Biden will stress his bill equalizing the crack-powder penalties. But that's only half of his bill, the other half funds a ratcheting up of the war on drugs. The good bill is the Charlie Rangel-Dennis Kucinich one that equalizes penalties with no add-ons.

Joe Biden is bad on crime issues. The Kennedy-Hatch-Feinstein-Specter bill is also bad and doesn't go far enough in reductions.

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    Ditto (none / 0) (#1)
    by Jgarza on Thu Dec 13, 2007 at 11:43:42 AM EST
    I'm hoping the issue of sentencing reform, mandatory minimums and crack-powder cocaine penalties will come up. With the news about Clinton advisor Michael Sheehan saying Republicans will bash Obama for his past drug use (a comment he apologized for and the Clinton campaign said was not authorized by them)I don't see how they can avoid it.

    But it seemed like with the repugs they were hell bent on not letting anyone actually debate.

    Kucinich dropped.... (none / 0) (#2)
    by kdog on Thu Dec 13, 2007 at 12:10:39 PM EST
    on a technicality?  Typical....anything to silence the only candidate talking sense.

    SNOOOORE (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jgarza on Thu Dec 13, 2007 at 01:36:37 PM EST
    this debate is boring

    wow (none / 0) (#4)
    by Jgarza on Thu Dec 13, 2007 at 01:50:09 PM EST
    Hilary attacked both Obama and Edwards in her speech, that was a bad move.  Way to get those negatives up!

    I didn't hear any attacks (none / 0) (#5)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Dec 13, 2007 at 01:53:08 PM EST
    by Hillary on the others.

    straw man (none / 0) (#6)
    by Jgarza on Thu Dec 13, 2007 at 01:55:43 PM EST
    (paraphrase) some in this race think you can hope for change others think you can just demand it.  i know you have to work for change. Doesn't exactly give you warm fuzzy feelings.

    she called him (none / 0) (#7)
    by Jgarza on Thu Dec 13, 2007 at 01:56:56 PM EST
    "President Barack"
    did you hear that?

    she learned she (none / 0) (#8)
    by Jgarza on Thu Dec 13, 2007 at 02:07:19 PM EST
    needs a great communications operation?

    so health care failing didn't teach her she needs to be more honest and open, it taught her she needs a better propaganda machine?

    My guy was on the right side of the one memorable (none / 0) (#9)
    by Geekesque on Thu Dec 13, 2007 at 04:23:32 PM EST
    moment, so I can't complain.

    What a tedious affair otherwise.