The high-stakes Democratic debate in Los Angeles Thursday night turned out to be pretty tame overall, with both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton turning their sights on the Republicans and agreeing to disagree on policy differences.
Both did well.
But this was Obamaâ€™s best debate, and I think he benefited most. He looked and sounded presidential and seemed in command not just of the vision thing but of policy details.
On Iraq, it wasnâ€™t even close. He routed Clinton. He emphasized his judgment and the fact that he had been against the war from the beginning, turning her â€œready on day oneâ€ theme against her by arguing that â€œit is important to be right on day one.â€ He lucidly explained the set of criteria he would use to determine whether to take the country to war.
She was left to waffle and rationalize and meander on for 10 minutes, trying to explain her vote authorizing the war and why she wasnâ€™t naive for believing President Bush wouldnâ€™t invade. She sounded like a typical politician. And she still canâ€™t admit the vote was wrong!
The war is an issue that still matters to Democrats. And Obama was able to draw a clear distinction between the candidates.