Hillary Outflanks Obama
And moves closer to the nomination.
12:30 AM, Jul 24, 2007 • By FRED BARNES
FOR HILLARY CLINTON, the presidency is not in the bag. Even winning the Democratic presidential nomination is considerably less than a sure thing. But of the 18 Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, Clinton is the most likely to be the next president. And she did nothing last night in the bizarre presidential debate in Charleston, South Carolina, to alter that.
Clinton managed to maintain at least the outward appearance of seriousness in a debate that included a taped question from someone dressed as a snowman, another from a sanctimonious Planned Parenthood official who asked if the candidates had talked to their kids about sex, and an especially silly one about whether the candidates would be willing to be paid the minimum wage as president. Most of them lied and said yes.
This was the first of six debates sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee. Based on this one, there's a long and tedious season of yakking ahead in the presidential race. With You Tube providing the questions and the candidates offering special one-minute commercials, the idea was to make last night's debate livelier and more fun. Often, though, it was merely unserious, excessively cute, and frivolous.
There was a key moment, however, and once again it pitted Clinton, the New York senator, against Barack Obama, her counterpart from Illinois. The question was whether they'd promise to meet in the first year of their presidency with the leaders of such enemy nations as Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, Iran, and Syria.
"I would," Obama said, foolishly showing his inexperience, and perhaps his naivete as well, in foreign affairs. After all, he said, President Reagan called the Soviet Union an "evil empire" and still talked to Soviet leaders. "I think it's a disgrace we haven't talked" to leaders of the five anti-American countries, Obama said.
Clinton benefited from getting to answer after Obama, and she made the most of it. She said, firmly and coolly, that she wouldn't promise to meet with them. Clinton said the new president had to be careful not to be exploited by hostile leaders for propaganda purposes and not to do anything "that would make the situation worse." Before any meeting, she'd have to know "what the way forward would be."
The verdict on whose answer was better, Obama's or Clinton's, came from John Edwards, the next candidate to speak. He echoed Clinton.
Fred Barnes is executive editor at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.