She did well, it seems to me. There were times when her robo-lecture act began to wear down my ear-drums, but, in general, Senator Clinton bestrode the debate as an authoritative figure. In fact, I've never witnessed a U.S. political debate in which a woman clearly dominated as she did tonight. She was hawkish, and I was frankly surprised to hear her state baldly that "we are safer than we were," referring to the Bush administration's counter-terrorism policies. (Truth be told, I don't really know the answer to that question, but I suspect we are much less safe than we were, say, two years ago. Fueling Jihad with an incompetent, half-assed occupation of a Muslim country is the worst of all worlds for national security.) She also deftly began to criticize the Iraqis for the chaos that the Bush occupation spawned. Well: up to a point. We had a six-month window of opportunity to leverage the removal of Saddam to reboot Iraq but we blew it. And that scarred little girl whose photograph I posted earlier today is not to blame for anything.
Yes, there were the usual knee-jerk responses. Of course, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was a mistake, Senator. It doubled the rate of gay discharges from the military. It has denied us critical skills in a dangerous war. But Clinton cannot concede anything critical about someone she called at one point "my dear husband." Yes, I gagged on that one. What a total phony. But an effective, shameless one.
Obama? Not out-classed at all by Clinton. But he has to find a way to break through her armature. He didn't tonight. He gathered steam toward the end, I thought, and was very effective on the middle class squeeze. It was also good to hear a Democrat speak of fiscal rectitude as a "progressive" value. Yeah, why should big government liberals actually want to waste all the money they're going to spend on us for our own good? An obvious point, but one not made often enough. Obama has the ability to pitch liberalism to conservatives and independents. That's a skill the Democrats would probably be wise not to throw away.
Still: she wins this one. It kills me to admit it. But there you are. And as it sinks in, a dreadful specter emerges. Think June 2008. Think Romney vs Clinton. Plastic vs Perma-Freeze. It could happen.
(Photo: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty.)