Mrs. Clinton was attacked for not offering specific plans on what she might do with Social Security. She was challenged for voting to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a foreign terrorist organization. She was assailed at one moment as being disingenuous, the next as a symbol of tired Washington establishment and the next for being unelectable.
At one point, she appeared to say she supported an attempt by Gov. Eliot Spitzer of New York to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, a plan he abandoned in the face of fierce opposition. A moment later she backed off, leading her opponents to denounce her again for obfuscating.
John Edwards and not Barack Obama led the way:
But for all the attention Mr. Obama drew to himself coming into the debate, he was frequently overshadowed by former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, who — speaking more intensely — repeatedly challenged Mrs. Clinton’s credentials and credibility, and frequently seemed to make the case against Mrs. Clinton that Mr. Obama had promised to make.
“Senator Clinton says that she believes she can be the candidate for change, but she defends a broken system that’s corrupt in Washington, D.C.,” Mr. Edwards said.
He added, “I think the American people, given this historic moment in our country’s history, deserve a president of the United States that they know will tell them the truth, and won’t say one thing one time and something different at a different time.”
And there was also this:
Mr. Edwards offered a similar line of attack. “I mean, another perspective on why the Republicans keep talking about Senator Clinton is, Senator, she — they may actually want to run against you, and that’s the reason they keep bringing you up,” he said, adding, “I think that if people want the status quo — Senator Clinton’s your candidate."
But Clinton had moments of her own undoing, as witnessed by this:
In an exchange with Mr. Russert, arguably her third toughest opponent on the stage, Mrs. Clinton repeatedly declined to say whether she would push the National Archives to release correspondence from Mrs. Clinton to Mr. Clinton in the White House when he was president. Mr. Russert held up a copy of a letter from Mr. Clinton asking the Archives not to release any of those documents until 2012.
“Well, that’s not my decision to make,” she said. “And I don’t believe that any president or first lady has. But certainly we’ll move as quickly as our circumstances and the processes of the National Archives permits.”
Mr. Obama raised his hand, asking for a response. “We have just gone through one of the most secretive administrations in our history, and not releasing, I think, these records at the same time, Hillary, as you’re making the claim that this is the basis for your experience, I think, is a problem,” he said.
"Not her decision to make". How thoroughly disingenuous. An excerpt from Christopher Hayes' article about Rudy Giuliani identifies the former mayor as the candidate most likely to advance the secrecy of the presidency down the trail Bush and Cheney have blazed. Mrs. Clinton now grades out as the salutatorian in that contest.
Back-runner Bill Richardson, in the most obvious display of pandering for the vice-presidential slot ever witnessed, tried to defend Hillary:
“You know what I’m hearing here, I’m hearing this holier-than-thou attitude toward Senator Clinton,” he said. “It’s bothering me because it’s pretty close to personal attacks that we don’t need.”
As Chris Matthews noted in the post-debate spinning, in his forty years of covering elections, never has he observed a candidate at the back of the pack take up for the person at the front. That's simply not a strategy for victory ... if you're running for the presidential nomination.
And Senator Clinton is going to have some 'splainin' to do about that illegal immigrant/driver's license thingie. That could actually be the pivot upon which the worm turns for her. We'll see how things play out in the days ahead.
Finally, which line did you like best; Joe Biden's:
There's only three things (Giuliani) mentions in a sentence, "a noun, a verb, and 9/11."
Or Dennis Kucinich's:
"I believe more people have seen UFOs than approve of Bush's presidency."
A good time was had by all -- with the exception of Hillary Clinton and her supporters, that is.
Update: Meant to insert the Dodd Talk Clock...