It was one-on-one for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. There was no knockout and the tone was civil. Barack gave his typical thoughtful performance. Hillary gave her usual talking points/memorized/all-things-to-all-people presentation. Unfortunately, this automaton will win the nomination. Whether she can beat McCain is another question. The American people once again have no choice from among the two parties in November. There is an alternative choice.
Here are some excerpts. Read the entire Transcript:
MR. MCMANUS: A question about the issue of Iraq. Senator Clinton, you've both called for a gradual withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq, but Senator Obama says he wants all combat troops out within 16 months of his Inauguration, and you haven't offered a specific end date. Why shouldn't voters worry that your position could turn into an open-ended commitment?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, because, Doyle, I have been very clear in saying that I will begin to withdraw troops in 60 days. I believe that it will take me one to two brigades a month, depending upon how many troops we have there, and that nearly all of them should be out within a year.
It is imperative, though, that we actually plan and execute this right. And you may remember last spring I got into quite a back-and- forth with the Pentagon because I was concerned they were not planning for withdrawal, because that was contrary to their strategy or their stated position. And I began to press them to let us know, and they were very resistant and gave only cursory information to us.
So I've said that I will ask the Joint Chiefs and the secretary of Defense and my security advisers the very first day I'm president to begin to draw up such a plan so that we can withdraw.
But I just want to be very clear with people that it's not only bringing our young men and women and our equipment out -- which is dangerous; they've got to go down those same roads where they have been subjected to bombing and so much loss of life and injury. We have to think about what we're going to do with the more than 100,000 American civilians who are there, working for the embassy, working for businesses, working for charities.
And I also believe we've got to figure out what to do with the Iraqis who sided with us. You know, a lot of the drivers and translators saved so many of our young men and women's lives, and I don't think we can walk out on them without having some plan as to how to take care of those who are targeted.
At the same time, we've got to tell the Iraqi government there is no -- there is no more time. They're out of time. They've got to make the tough decisions they have avoided making. They've got to take responsibility for their own country. (Applause.)
And, you know, I think both Barack and I have tried in these debates, and sometimes been pushed by some of our opponents, to be as responsible as we can be, because we know that this president, based on what he said in the State of the Union, intends to leave at least 130,000, if not more, troops in Iraq as he exits. It's the most irresponsible abdication of what should be a presidential commitment to end what he started.
So we will inherit it. And therefore, I will do everything I can to get as many of our troops out as quickly as possible, taking into account all of these contingencies that we're going to have to contend with once we're in charge and once we can get into the Pentagon to figure out what's really there and what's going on.
Barack on Iraq:
MR. BLITZER: Senator -- look, I want you to respond, Senator, but also in the context of what we've heard from General David Petraeus, that there has been some progress made lately, the number of U.S. casualties has gone down, there has been some stability in parts of Iraq where there was turmoil before, and that any quick -- overly quick -- withdrawal could undermine all of that, and all of that progress would be for naught. What do you say when you'll hear that argument?
SEN. OBAMA: I welcome the progress. This notion that Democrats don't want to see progress in Iraq is ridiculous. I have to hug mothers in rope lines during town hall meetings as they weep over their fallen sons and daughters.
I want to get our troops home safely, and I want us as a country to have this mission completed honorably. But the notion that somehow we have succeeded as a consequence of the recent reductions in violence means that we have set the bar so low it's buried in the sand at this point. (Cheers, applause.)
We -- and I said this before -- we went from intolerable levels of violence and a dysfunctional government to spikes and horrific levels of violence and a dysfunctional government, and now two years later we're back to intolerable levels of violence and a dysfunctional government. And in the meantime, we have spent billions of dollars, lost thousands of lives; thousands more have been maimed and injured as a consequence and are going to have difficulty putting their lives back together again.
So, understand that this has undermined our security. In the meantime, Afghanistan has slid into more chaos than existed before we went into Iraq.
I am happy to have that argument. I also think it is going to be important, though, for the Democrats -- you know, Senator Clinton mentioned the issue of gravitas and judgment. I think it is much easier for us to have the argument when we have a nominee who says, "I always thought this was a bad idea, this was a bad strategy."
(Applause.) It was not just a problem of execution -- it was not just a problem of execution.
I mean, they screwed up the execution of it in all sorts of ways. And I think even Senator McCain has acknowledged that.
The question is, can we make an argument that this was a conceptually flawed mission from the start, and that we need better judgment when we decide to send our young men and women into war, that we are making absolutely certain that it is because there is a imminent threat, that American interests are going to be protected, that we have a plan to succeed and to exit, that we are going to train our troops properly and equip them properly and put them on proper rotations and treat them properly when they come home?
And that is an argument that I think we are going to have a easier time making if they can't turn around and say, but hold on a second; you supported this. And that's part of the reason why I think that I would be the strongest nominee on this argument of national security. (Cheers, applause.)