[Re-published from 2008Central.net. We will update this post on Donklephant periodically, but for the latest check out the live blog at 2008Central.net]

2:00: And we’re here. First question about balancing the budget. Richardson shockingly talks about being a governor. Biden blames bad Republican priorities. Dodd talks about how everything is complicated and there needs to be jobs and no more war in Iraq. It’s a complicated answer and spends more time saying Richardson’s experience is meaningless than anything. The battle for fourth continues! Edwards says taking on greed in the federal government is the key to everything. Doesn’t really say how. Clinton talks about the success of the Clinton administration in this area, and that it cannot be done in a year, but economic growth requires fiscal discipline.

2:10: When are tax increases appropriate? Richardson talks about taxing the wealthiest more, and a constitutional amendment for balancing the budget with about 5 exceptions. More ending the war talk. Edwards continues the assault on corporations by blaming them for this system, and ending the tax breaks for people that take jobs overseas. Also talks about specific policies he’s proposed without saying if these changes would pay for everything. Clinton says she wants to restore taxes on corporations from the 90s.

2:14: Won’t it take time to cut military expenses from Iraq? Biden talks about making serious cuts in the Defense Department. Obama says he’s put forward where the money would come from for every proposal he made. Obama talks about a building in the Cayman Islands that houses 12,000 corporations. There’s no way to distinguish any of the top 3 candidates on anti-corporate rhetoric. It’s simply impossible. Richardson jumps on the Biden train and talks about MORE programs he would institute. Dodd talks about being pro-growth and the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit. Minimalistic response…

2:17: Richardson talks about China being a competitor and leadership being needed … and then about how much leverage China has by holding our debt. Dodd talks about how much China is adversarial in regards to trade and something needs to be done. Nothing about how he would change things aside from being ‘tough.’

2:20: Clinton is asked about entitlement programs. Talks about Medicare specifically being a problems with rising costs and Social Security in the long run. Touts her plan with reducing Social Security. Biden says lifting the cap on Social Security is an easy solution (everyone but her seems to say that). Biden gives the preventative and modernization schtick. It’s a good schtick, but never seems to go anywhere. Obama jumps on the prevention train, citing obesity rates from 1980 saving a trillion dollars. He then talks about changing politics in Washington. Richardson says universal health care is a right and then goes into the prevention train.

2:24: Open statement, from Obama. References King and the fierce urgency of now. Thematic, and concludes by asking everyone to caucus for him. Edwards goes next, talking about corporate power and corporate greed, and being willing to fight them, and its what he has done his entire life (it’s phrases like that that bring up the Fortress stuff). He finishes by accidentally saying America will be worse. Ummm….

2:26: Trades v. Terrorism: Biden says human rights standards should be added to trade agreements. Richardson channels Carter in saying Human rights is a fundamental tenet of Americna foreign policy. Says we should consider sanctioning China unless they hold open elections. Really?He keeps going by adding so many standards that none of those he mentions has an impact. Dodd talks about the Harken amendment in a blatant attempt to pander. Says it should be universal right, not ad hoc. Iraq, Chris? Edwards says human rights should be essential, but America gets dangerous toys and plant closures. I’d love to hear a word count on corporate for the day.

2:31: Clinton says NAFTA ought be changed, and that there are winners and losers from NAFTA, and she will ask for revisions and get labor and environmental standards. Doesn’t want to be a trade patsy. Obama pretty much agrees. He goes back to human rights and says that situations like Guantanamo undermine leverage on human rights. An issue of going back that really worked. Dodd jumps in with saying he proposed sanctions in the Senate for Darfur that passed unanimously.

2:32: Biden talks about how America is ready for action and cites a Catholic hymn. Richardson thanks Iowa humorously and then segues into how many Americans are dying in Iraq and bad VA treatment. Awkward segue there, but he seemed to somehow pull it off.

2:35: How would you turn energy costs of your plans into a benefit for the economy? Biden talks about some things that can be done, but sacrifice is necessary ultimately. Richardson is a governor and was energy secretary, if you did not know. Also, he talks about how it was a shame that the Senate killed the Energy Bill. Talks for a long time but doesn’t say much. Dodd continues pandering and dropping Iowan names, and then goes to the corporate carbon tax, and that Gore endorsed it. Finishes on a rhetorical flurry that would be impressive if he was a candidate who mattered. Clinton talks aabout a cap and trade system and new ways to get to objectives while cushioning costs, while enlisting people in a cause. Another rhetorical flurry, but aimed at avoiding specifics that would harm her in a general election. Obama says its a moral imperative for his daughters. Obama talks about wind turbines in Keokuk, which is also pandering but at least interesting. Talks about being bold enough to talk about efficiency in Detroit, which isn’t as bold as he made it seems. Edwards blames … corporate interests, don’t you know. Implies there’s no difference between carbon tax or a cap and trade system. Finishes with a moral responsibility claim. Clinton jumps in regarding the raise your hand on global warming thing from yesterday, saying ‘we all believe in it.’ This is what she did at earlier debates – showing leadership of the candidates, even if unprompted.

2:44: How would you have voted on the farm bill? Dodd says he would definitely vote to preserve Iowa. Shocking. Obama says he would cap subsidies for agri-business to help the family farm. Far more nuanced than Dodd, but the pander-thon continues. Says he would have voted against the farming bill. Biden drops the Culver name as well and says he doesn’t see farmers in Iowa, as there’s no family farmers left, really. Finishes by citing Tom Harken. Clinton says she follows Harken on the farm issue, and apparently has New York family farmers traveling Iowa today to help Iowan family farmers. Says family farmers are almost an ‘endangered species.’

2:48: Clinton is touched by Iowan stories. Says you don’t get change by demanding it or hoping for it, you get it by working hard for it, and asks people to caucus for her. Echoes of John Kerry working the front lines there. Dodd talks about a sense of competence and achievement and working in the Peace Corps. “We ask for your vote.” I’m not a fan of the royal we.

2:50: How do we improve schools? Edwards says get them young, universal Pre-K. Wants a national teaching university like the naval academy, and big changes in No Child Left Behind. And wraps up with … two Americas! Somewhere, Mitt Romney is throwing something at a TV. Richardson realizes how many ‘top priorities’ he has and say it would be one of the top priorities. He wants more science and math; Also wants to reform the high school curriculum ‘with local control.’ I don’t understand that whatsoever. And finishes with teachers getting paid more and an appeal to art. Follow up with a question about New Mexico; Richardson talks about how bad education was and how high teachers are now paid. Watch the footwork as he dodges the issue!

2:54: Obama jumps on the above lines of thought, and then moves on to asking parents to do more to help education. Dodd says education is the key to everything, and the accident of birth. And he agrees that it’s important to start with parents, and leadership that talks about it everyday. Clinton talks about a long history of work and ‘knows’ that the president has a bully pulpit (which plenty others already mentioned, but she’s framing it as in she knows what the White House is about). Dull answer, interesting framing. Edwards chides the moderator for asking him the qusetion twice, and talks about paying for college at community college or a state university. The moderator chides him back saying he raised his hand. Biden talks about his wife teaching today.

3:00: Your first year, what can you do: Obama talks about starting to end the war and initating diplomacy. Second, undermining every executive order by Bush. Then health care. Biden says he will order the Biden plan in Iraq, and making other health care and education reforms. Richardson will end the war, pass universal health care, energy reforms, and that he will follow the Constitution. He goes on and on, and the moderator, Biden, and Dodd all crack lines about it.

3:04: Personal ethical question. Will Clinton be as secretive as her health care plan was criticized as being? When asked about gaffes, Biden talks about Indians building families though “7/11s, Duncan Donuts, etc.” it’s about building families and similar to Italians owning restaurants and that he talks bluntly. Everyone on stage agrees that Biden has bona fides on civil rights, Obama in particular. How can Edwards accomplish goals with calling groups in Washingotn corrupt? Easy question for him, it’s straight from his stump speech. Talks about an epic battle in front of us. Nowhere near as elephant in the room as the first two questions. It’s important to win … but doesn’t talk about how he would fight. Just that he would fight. How much is Dodd motivated by the memory of his father being censured by the Senate for misusing campaign funds? Dodd says that his father was well intentioned and he wants to continue that tradition. Richardson is asked about the troubles when he was Energy Secretary with Wen Ho Lee. Richardson says it was about nuclear secrets and Lee being incarcerated and that he’s glad the other gaffes were not raised (seriously). He doesn’t want to apologize for protecting nuclear secrets. Obama is asked about relying on Clinton foreign policy advisers as Clinton cackles (hey, I have an awkward laugh too, let’s call a spade a spade); Obama shoots back he is looking forward to Hillary advising him as well. Obama says there’s plenty of people from Clinton, Carter, and the Bush I years that know what they are talking about.

3:15: Would you use signing statements? Clinton says she would use them like they were used before W, telling a funny anecdote about Bush making a signing statement to practically veto a bill she passed on FEMA. Edwards agrees wit hthat and says that all branches of government should be co-equal … (he does not mention taking away health care).

3:17: New Years Resolutions: Clinton talks about family, exercise, and campaigning that Democrats can be proud of. Edwards says that children are going hungry, without health insurance, and people are losing jobs. Far more powerful appeal than Clinton’s. Dodd talks about optimism, hope, and moral authority, and juxtaposes Guantanamo with Nuremberg; finishes with a caucusing joke. Richardson says his resolution every year is to lose weight. Says that Congress and the President should end the dysfunctional relationship, but that he should stay positive. Ummm, 1+1 does nto equal 3, Bill. Biden says that he tries to remember where he came from, and remember when things were bad so you can appreciate the good times. Obama talks about being a better family man and remind himself that it is not about him and he cannot be afraid of losing.

3:22: Lessons from Iowa: the logical conclusion of Pander-rama. Clinton thanks everyone, and that she has eaten her way across Iowa and will remember them when President. Back to inevitability! Edwards talks about Iowans driven by the gut. Dodd talks about Iowa. Richardson talks about how he has studied the Iowa history, and how they like underdogs. Biden says Iowa deserves to be first. Obama talks about core decency. He’s deliberately avoiding the inevitability rhetoric.

That’s it. Briefly: Pander, pander, pander, plus Clinton is back to the early strategy….

[Continued at 2008Central.net…]

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