by Taylor Marsh
Liveblogging the debate from Las Vegas, one thing was clear from the start. Hillary Clinton wasn't going to take any crap. She came out with the energy and intent to prove to her opponents that she wants the job of president and she's going to fight for it. Fight she did and she came dressed for it.
"This pantsuit is asbestos tonight." - Hillary Clinton
The first part of the debate contained the money moments. When Clinton was attacked this time she retaliated with a direct hit on Edwards that threw him back on his heels.
From the CNN transcript:
CLINTON: Well, Wolf, I've just been personally attacked again, and I...
BLITZER: Senator Clinton, I'll let you respond because there was a direct charge made against you.
CLINTON: Thank you.
BLITZER: Then we're going to bring in everybody. Everyone's going to get time tonight; don't worry, we got a lot of time.
And the most important issue is she says she will bring change to Washington, while she continues to defend a system that does not work, that is broken, that is rigged and is corrupt; corrupted against the interest of most Americans and corrupted...
BLITZER: All right...
EDWARDS: ... and corrupted for a very small, very powerful, very well-financed group.
(PROTESTOR SHOUTS OFF-MIKE)
CLINTON: Well, you know, I respect all of my colleagues on this stage.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Clinton!
CLINTON: And, you know, we're Democrats and we're trying to nominate the very best person we can to win.
And I don't mind taking hits on my record on issues, but when somebody starts throwing mud, at least we can hope that it's both accurate and right out of the Republican playbook.
Because what I believe is important is that we put forth what we stand for. I have been active for 35 years. The American people know where I stand.
You know, Senator Edwards raised health care again -- when Senator Edwards ran in 2004, he wasn't for universal health care. I'm glad he is now.
CLINTON: But for him to be throwing this mud and making these charges I think really detracts from what we're trying to do here tonight. We need to put forth a positive agenda for America.
During the exchange, Edwards was roundly booed. He was also unprepared for Clinton's offensive, or was surprised that she got in his face. Either way, Edwards obviously knew he had finally gone too far and at least twice during the debate said "this isn't personal."
Obama tried to come at Clinton, but she countered with specifics as quickly and wouldn't let up. When he had a horrible time answering the driver's license question, dodging it, which he knew the minute he answered was trouble, he had given such a completely convoluted answer he couldn't get out of it. Clinton was emphatic on the subject this time, answering a simple no, which made Obama's meandering look even worse. In the spin room, David Axelrod said Obama was one of three who had the same answer as two weeks ago. That hardly matters when you can't give it clearly and your main opponent does. Axelrod was asked if Obama is comfortable debating, and he said "He looked comfortable to me." He also believed Obama answered the immigration question just fine. Earth to Axelrod. But Obama's answer on human rights and U.S. national security was nothing short of stunning.
Biden was sharp tonight, very sharp, too. He's been the most direct in the debates, but also correcting people when they get the facts wrong. Like on the Patriot Act, when he stated emphatically that nothing in the legislation okays profiling. Biden on foreign policy is as good as it gets. Describing our challenges in Pakistan, as well as Iraq, this man has the depth and it shows. He was in the Spin Room himself afterwards and was not letting up.
But it was Joe Trippi who got the Mighty Spin award of the evening. Listening to him give an interview in the Spin Room he said that Clinton attacking Edwards "is a good sign. Two weeks ago she ignored us." They don't call it spin for nothing. He continued on saying Clinton didn't wake up this morning and decide to attack John Edwards. She doesn't do anything that isn't calculated.
Well, whatever her calculation was it worked tonight. Clinton was gracious, on point, on the offensive, direct and fearless, even charming as she attacked. She took her opponents out and there's no doubt they knew it.