Kevin Drum and Robert Tagorda did it in real time. WaPo has a (currently partial) transcript.

I watched a little of it and listened to a little more but the format makes these things almost unwatchable for me. Too many candidates, too many questioners, not enough time to actually answer the questions.

The only things that really stuck out to me were:

  • Joe Lieberman didn’t seem to really want to be there. He has to know he’s done, can’t understand why, but can’t quit just yet.
  • Dennis Kucinich shouldn’t be there but really wants to be. I’m not actually sure where Dennis should be.
  • Al Sharpton is simultaneously clever and not particularly bright. An unusual combination. He clearly got one of those “word a day” calendars as a kid but just learned the words without memorizing the definitions. His quip

    I wanted to say to Governor Dean, don’t be hard on yourself about hooting and hollering. If I had spent the money you did and got 18 percent, I’d still be in Iowa hooting and hollering.

    was pretty funny–even Dean seemed to enjoy it.

  • With vastly lowered expectations, Howard Dean came across as almost human. Perhaps they tweaked his emotion chip. His attempts at self-effacement over the Yeeeeeeeeeeeyaaaaaaah from the other night were only mildly successful, but his best chance.
  • John Kerry likes to to talk about Vietnam. I give him a lot of credit for serving, with distinction, in an unpopular war when, as a rich kid, he could have gotten out of it. But, damn it man, that was over thirty years ago.
  • Something’s not quite right about Wesley Clark. Aside from the fact that his name is “Wesley.” He can’t help that. Although he could insist that people call him “Wes.”
  • I like John Edwards. I don’t think he’s experienced enough to be president, don’t think he’s a hottie, and certainly don’t have a growing male crush* on him. But he does come across as bright, earnest, and pleasant.

    *Hat tip to Dan Drezner.

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    James Joyner
    About James Joyner
    James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


    1. Rosemary Esmay says:

      But he does come across as bright, earnest, and pleasant.

      Earnest and pleasant I totally agree. But bright? That’s now a bit questionable. When a lawyer doesn’t have a clear grasp on the DOMA and his excuse is he wasn’t in Congress when it passed – that doesn’t fly. I know plenty of people that aren’t lawyers and never served in Congress and can explain the DOMA.

    2. James Joyner says:

      Rosemary–I actually missed that one; the first I heard of it was the Jeff Jacoby column I posted a couple minutes ago. My guess–not having heard it–was that he was ducking the question rather than actually didn’t know.

    3. Jared says:

      I don’t know; his answer seemed extremely flawed. He kept criticizing what it would do “if it passed” (paraphrase), causing Brit Hume, in a follow-up question, to seemingly slow down and carefully enunciate the “which passed in…” part, and yet, even after that, he talked about what he thought it would have done if it passed.

      Does the senator not know that the DOMA is law? And that, as Hume pointed out, it does precisely the opposite of what he claims it would do “if it passed”?

      I agree with Rosemary; Edwards was hopelessly uninformed on this and several other points during the debate.

    4. James Joyner says:

      Interesting; I’ll take a look at the transcript. He might have confused it with the Defense of Marriage AMENDMENT, which is being bandied about?

    5. Beldar says:

      Aside from the fact that his name is “Wesley.” He can’t help that.

      The name “Wesley” fits him just right. Smarmy, priggish, condescending, insufferable.

    6. Bloggerhead says:

      Hmmm. Edwards is hopelessly uniformed and not experienced enough to be president. Now which sitting president does this remind one of? My impression of my state’s senior senator is that he’s plenty quick on the uptake, and he certainly recognizes that Saddam did, in fact, let the inspectors back in prior to invasion (for just one of many examples). It’s good to see the fear of God in some people, though.

    7. Martha says:

      The debates only proved one thing. The Democratic party is decrepid and dead. In Arizona, after the primary, watch registered democrats change thier voter registration to Independent and Green if Dean does not win the primary.

    8. James Joyner says:


      Four years in the Senate is not much experience. Granted, six years as governor with no previous political career is less than I’d prefer, but governing a large state is much better preparation for heading the federal executive branch than being a legislative backbencher.

      I think he’s a bright guy who could learn on the job if he were elected. Given the current international environment, I’d prefer someone to be able to step right in, but that’s unusual. Mainly, I think his policies, especially his foreign policy, are less desirable than a second Bush term.

      And, honestly, I see nothing wrong with his uniform.

    9. carsick says:

      Why should Clark insist people call him “Wes” when they currently call him “General”?

    10. James Joyner says:

      But it’s always “General Wesley…” That sort of cancels one another out.

    11. Bloggerhead says:

      Oops. You got me, JJ. I meant “uninformed,” of course. I should have just pasted the two quotes that inspired my post. Blogging on the sly, with a nosy assistant, will do that. Too, the second sentence should probably read–instead of “sitting president”–“shit-eating president,” for that famous smirk so on display the other night.

      Snark aside, what is it precisely about Edwards foreign policy that makes you prefer Bush’s? It seems to me that an Edwards 2000 victory would have resulted–and I’m assuming that no-one, even a Democrat less obsessed with missile defense and being the anti-Clinton, could have prevented 9/11–in an Afghanistan much more under control, an Iraq crawling with inspectors and being pressured to change, and an America with better port and nuclear security, and still respected worldwide, not resented. Imagine Osama caught or killed, Saddam well contained, and our military not dangerously over-extended. Seems a pretty damn desirable foreign policy outcome, if you ask me.

    12. James Joyner says:


      Sounds like we’re operating in fantasyland here. Edwards voted for the Iraq War, although now he says he was opposed to it. But, assuming he would have kept us out of Iraq, it’s unclear how we’d be better off. We’ve got Saddam under lock and key and have all the time to inspect that we want now.

      Our military isn’t overextended. We mopped up the Iraq operation in 21 days. Stability ops are indeed manpower intensive, but that’s mainly an issue of force structure not end strength.

      And, assuming Osama is even still alive, it’s unclear what Edwards would have done that would have resulted in his capture that isn’t being done now.