(Placeholder because nothing's happened yet.)
Let the uncomfortable moments begin!
8:09 PM ... Stage nicely set with two ponderous introductory remarks.
8:19 PM ... We get underway with some initial jousting over the hot-button issue of whether to negotiate with foreign dictators with small unnamed conditions or more extensive unnamed preconditions.
8:23 PM ... TPM Reader SH asks: "Why do they keep making the candidates sit during these debates?" Good question. I think experience shows it makes for a less confrontational debate, for better or worse.
8:27 PM ... I'm now coming out for a new federal law mandating that I get to see what the candidates are writing down on those little notepads. You too. We both can see.
8:40 PM ... The undeniable reality is that these two candidates do agree on most issues. And the disagreements tend to be ones of emphasis. But to the extent that Obama can keep saying, Yep, Sen. Clinton and I pretty much agree on this one too, let me add a few points -- that's a big win for him because she's the one that needs to shake up the race and find some differences to pivot against.
8:46 PM ... I note that we've gone forty-five minutes with well-spoken and broad-minded discussions of the issues from each candidate. The absence of Russert, Matthews and similar jollymakers is painfully evident.
8:51 PM ... Hillary gets the 'put up or shut up' question.
8:52 PM ... Hillary gives a pretty thoughtful, frank and fairminded response. Gets off a barb at the end. But still a pretty sensible answer.
8:54 PM ... Obama comes back with a response to which pretty much all the same adjectives apply. But more spark.
8:57 PM ... Obama gets the 'plagiarism' question. Does pretty well with it. I must confess, this whole 'plagiarism' debate is almost offensive in its militant silliness.
9:00 PM ... Alright, let the nastiness begin.
9:06 PM ... Okay, nastiness interlude didn't last long. Back to health care. Barack's answer was, I think, a good illustration of the bind Hillary's in at the moment. He keeps drawing back from fights and lays out policy differences which he says reasonable can disagree on, etc. Kind of like a boxer who won't let an opponent get in close or a football team ahead late in the game who won't call anything but safe ground plays that run the clock and give little opportunity to force a turnover.
9:11 PM ... Hillary yanks it back to the health care debate. But it's hard for me to see that Hillary doesn't have the better part of the policy question. If the young and healthy don't have to buy in, there's not enough money for the ailing and old to be covered -- or for the vast middle who are healthy but might suddenly not be. I don't see a way around that. And that's the rub to this whole debate. Not just this debate right now within the Democratic party, but the whole question of health care.
9:16 PM ... I don't see how Sen. Clinton can say she's been representing the United States for 15 years. I know this is a dicey topic. But she wasn't president from 1993-2001. What am i missing? Here's the quote: "For more than 15 years, Iâve been honored to represent our country in more than 80 countries, to negotiate on matters such as opening borders for refugees during the war in Kosovo, to stand up for womenâs rights as human rights around the world."
9:35 PM ... This earmark issue, as it's become framed, is really silly. Earmarks are a matter of the congress stipulating some spending priorities rather than the executive. The issue is almost, not all, but almost all one of transparency. There is nothing inherently wrong with earmarks, though in practice they've caused a lot of problems and have been a playground for the corrupt. And on McCain, put me down as highly suspicious on his claims about earmarks. But that's a topic for another night.
9:46 PM ... That was an interesting final moment to end on for Hillary. Candy Crowley is on CNN now saying how it was a good connect moment for HIllary, which I suspect it may have been. But we all do remember that those words were borrowed from Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign, right?