Hillary took a disproportionate number of the hard questions tonight.
Wolf tendentiously asked if she were “naive” for trusting Bush on Iraq. The questioner from Politico probed why she didn’t favor the more restrictive Levin amendment, and how, if she couldn’t control Bill on the trail now, could she promise to control him in the White House?
There are some who might see this as unfair. But I think it’s fair a reflection of the fact that Hillary’s campaign is having to do more damage control. Hillary tonight had to walk back Bill’s South Carolina ugliness. And without Edwards as a me-too goofer on the war, the contrast between Obama’s judgment and hers was very much on the table.
Simply because he spent less time on the defensive, Obama had a chance to steer his answers where he wanted to go. Over and over again, that was to presenting the image of himself as the nominee just itching to go toe to toe with John McCain on Iraq, on health care, and on taxes.
His best moments were clearly on Iraq. And not simply in contrast to Clinton. Obama’s answer to the inevitable question of “How can you want to get out when the surge is working so well?” was the best I’ve heard a Democrat give. Intolerable violence, as a small step down from horrific violence, is not success. There was no Kerry-like wishy wash or fuzziness. If you want a Democrat to win in 2008, it was exactly the kind of backbone and certitude you need to see from whomever the nominee is.
Clinton was good on health care. But her seven-minute two-part filibuster on why she didn’t oppose the war from the start was trouble. And perhaps a troubling sign of what’s to come if she’s the party’s nominee.