Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Clinton, Obama hold last debate before Dem. PA primary on ABC

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama held the last debate tonight (April 16) before the Pennsylvania primary, in the National Constitution Center, near Independence Hall and near the federal court building where the COPA trial was held in October 2006, in Philadelphia (about one mile east of the Liberty Bill at center city, and about two miles from the 30th Street station). I visited the Center during my visit to the COPA trial.

Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous hosted, and posed many of the questions, but some came from viewers with videos, echoing CNN’s “YouTube” debates last year. Bloggers could ask questions through Live Blog at

Obama admitted that his comments about middle class people going toward their wedge issues was “mangled up” and he continued to insist that he did not know about his pastor’s offensive if "existential" comments (about 9/11 victims) in time (it was a year for him to find out). Obama did say that people tend to turn to religion and their beliefs in traditional values and concerns over “wedge issues” during tough times. Obama said that special interests rule the country and that ordinary people are not “listened to,” although the Internet seems to be changing this. Some people have said ABC newscasters used the pastor issue to entrap Obama and divert the debate from the real issues, as if they favored Hillary. (After all, George Stephanopolous had worked for president Bill Clinton, especially during the time when Bill was trying to lift the military gay ban and Hillary was trying to restructure health care; and he is generally viewed as supportive of the Clintons and their policy initiatives.)

Obama was thrown on the defensive in a question about an associate of his with some historical connection to the Weather Underground (actually a 2003 film), which (around 1970) had actually done minor damage at the Pentagon and to an FBI building, events largely forgotten now.

Hillary promised that she would not raise taxes on those making less than $200000 a year, but that she would roll back the Bush tax cuts on high earners to what taxes were during the Clinton years.

Hillary did say that the middle class needs more help with long term care insurance “to make it possible for them to take care of parents and grandparents that they are trying to support.” She indicated that specific information on eldercare as on her website, but I don’t see it there yet. Perhaps it will be added very soon. At a different point in the debate (responding to Obama’s situation) she said “you can’t choose your family but you can choose your pastor.”

Hillary promised never to lower social security benefits for existing retirees, but hinted that she thought that Obama just might.

Hillary indicated that she wanted to restore the complete Clinton assault weapons ban. She was asked about DC’s gun law (before the Supreme Court) and reminded that she had a home in DC. She indicated that localities should be able to make reasonable laws regarding weapons. Obama indicated that he viewed the 2nd Amendment as conferring an individual right to bear arms in self-defense (to the surprise of some on MSNBC later).

At one point, Obama said “pain trickles up,” perhaps a reference to Ross Perot’s 1992 saying “trickle down didn’t trickle.”

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