[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]

5:51: The debate starts at 8 pm tonight on CNN. It’s been a yin/yang sort of day, with the candidates making nice over Martin Luther King while Obama calls Bill Clinton a liar, more or less. Lucky us, we have master of the subtle Wolf Blitzer to guide us through the minefield. Also, note that Clinton might be pressed on reports that she’s not going to be back in South Carolina after tonight until Friday.

5:59: One other thing; thankfully, we’re Kucinich-free tonight as well. He’s not a viable contender at this point, so spare me the whining.

7:40: Back. To commenters, the debate is streaming on cnn.com. Right now Howard Dean is addressing the audience. Presumably, he’s not scheming to steal their delegates. (But he also is not addressing a silly emerging controversy that is completely his fault.)

7:42: Rules of the debate. Apparently the Secret Service did not allow any cell phones or pagers into the building. CNN is also excited to show America the candidates walking onto the stage, citing transparency. Hey, they’re CNN, they do dumb crap like show candidates walking instead of debating or talking policy. The first half of the debate is a podium debate with rules, and the second half is candidates seated with ‘no rules’! CNN is sadly excited about having no rules (if they are so excited, why not do the whole debate in that format?).

7:46: CNN cannot find Wolf. I’m serious. With any luck, he’s lost and we’ll get a real moderator.

7:47: CNN presses for applause on 40 members of Congress showing up. Well, they’re not busy doing anything else, there’s no excuse to not be there.

7:48: The CNN Washington Bureau Chief says his Blackberry is going off, and a disembodied voice demands that he get applause; he’s run out of things to talk about, and a member of the audience demands he start telling jokes.

7:50: They found Blitzer. Damnit.

7:52: Blitzer says it is fun, and his fourth debate. He introduces himself. Apparently he “did not make it up for the first Gulf War” and it is his real name. This is absurd.

7:54: This is a two and a half hour debate? What the hell? I’m betting 65% of it is pointless. Blitzer says it’s not easy, and he’s right; picking out inane topics to fill so much time is a tough job. Blitzer is concerned and has a guy ‘fix him’ to ‘make sure he looks good.’ He asks the audienceif they have any questions, and they demand to know where he was; he laughs it off, which is emblematic of the whole program.

7:57: Joe Johns and Suzanne Malvaeux are there. Blitzer says he always saw Malvaeux covering ‘some ugly story in Washington’ every night. Good to know his true opinions of Washington, apparently.

7:59: Disembodied British voice congratulates me on watching the process, whatever that means. I feel like I’m watching dirty laundry, if that makes any sense.

8:00: If there are no rules in the second half, can Dennis Kucinich wander up on stage? CNN is really pushing no rules, but at the same time, half of the debate has the same rules they’re criticizing.

Alright, we’re actually starting, apparently.

8:01: It’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, Wolf tells me. He announces the candidates are not on stage, but the press pool is. Thanks, Wolfman. Edwards is introduced first, Obama second (to slightly louder cheers than Edwards, whom he gives a half hug to), and Clinton (to regular cheers). She loudly welcomes Barack, John, and Wolf by name. No half hug for Hillary.

8:03: Clyburn in the house, as Malveaux says people want substance. Well, no shit sherlock. But we’re watching people takes pictures of people hugging.

[Continued at 2008Central.net]

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