I watched the Democratic debate last night, and after a week or so of discussion about an apparantly planted question for Hillary at a town hall meeting, I got the distinct feeling that this whole CNN debate was staged.
Biden knew that he was going to get to answer a question about Pakistan and Iran. Since Biden answered those questions, he had to include mentions that he talked to Bhuto and Mushariff personally before Bush did and that he told Bush in the White House that if Bush went to war with Iran, Biden would urge impeachment. Joe Biden needs to retire from the senate and be an envoy, host a late night talk show, or simply be the host of the most killer DC party every year. But not president. He had some good points, but do we really need a habitual name-dropper as president?
Obama knew a question about Social Security and Medicare was going to him. He did the right thing and dropped the word crisis on Social Security (since as Matt Stoller and others amptly point out, there is no crisis). Obama seems to be strattling the line between reality--which I think is actual policy would be aimed at--and appeasing the beltway media to show that he is "serious" about the "crisis" and Hillary is not.
Hillary knew there was going to be a "gender card" question. She really knocked it out of the park.
Richardson knew he was going to get a question on immigration and driver's licenses. He also did a great job by saying three words, "I've done it."
There were several times during the debate that I felt deja vu with the question and then knowing who would get first or second crack at the question.
Now maybe it is because there was so little substance covered in this and other debates. Or because I have been following this race much closer than even a primary goer in an early state. But newsflash, so have the candidates and their staffs.
The whole thing seemed to be Kabuki theater, designed to elicit a story line--this time, it was "mean Edwards (and Obama) attack Hillary, but she bounces back." We had a preordained gaffe or two (Richardson saying human rights is more important than security and Obama appearing to waffle on driver's licenses) a couple of preordained winning lines--Obama saying Wolf Blitzer was a pessimist and he was hopeful, Hillary saying know they are attacking me not because I am a woman but because I am ahead, etc.
In the end, who watches these things other than the junkies like me or those who already support their candidate? Do you really think that one debate will determine the votes of even those undecided Nevadans who were sitting up front? I doubt it.
Last week, I was excited that the race seemed (even if it was completely artifically) to be getting closer. Which ever candidate wins Iowa will likely win the Democratic nomination (unless somehow Richardson wins Iowa). But if Huckabee wins Iowa, that's all you will hear about and even if Clinton gets third place in Iowa, she might be able to come back thanks to Huckabee.
I had fun watching it last night, but let's get real, every single player in the debate seemed to know (for the most part) what was going to happen before it happened. And as a result, nothing really happened.