To me what was most interesting about the debate was that Sen. Hillary Clinton was so directly making her argument to superdelegates.
More so than to voters, quite often.
Call it the Samsonite argument.
"I’ve been in this arena for a long time. I have a lot of baggage, and everybody has rummaged through it for years," she said. Therefore, she argued, "I will be able to withstand whatever the Republican sends our way."
But it wasn’t enough for her to say that — Clinton pointed out all of Sen. Barack Obama’s relatively unrummaged-through luggage. Including some misrepresentations of that baggage.
Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos brought up a number of issues that Obama’s opponents have been making hay over — and Clinton consistently added and elaborated about them.
Polls indicate that 72% of Democrats believe Obama has successfully distanced himself from Rev. Jeremiah Wright, but Clinton is apparently not among them.
"It is something that I think deserves further exploration," she said of the controversy. "For Pastor Wright to have given his first sermon after 9/11 and to have blamed the United States for the attack, which happened in my city of New York, would have been intolerable for me. ….. And I think that it wasn’t only the specific remarks, but some of the relationships with Reverend Farrakhan, with giving the church bulletin over to the leader of Hamas to put a message in. You know, these are problems, and they raise questions in people’s minds. And so this is a legitimate area, as everything is when we run for office, for people to be exploring and trying to find answers."
(For the record, "giving the church bulletin over to the leader of Hamas" is a reference to the church bulletin running an oped by the deputy of the political bureau of Hamas that had appeared in the Los Angeles Times.)
After Stephanopoulos asked Obama about his relationship with William Ayres, a former member of the Weather Underground with whom he is, according to his campaign, "friendly," Obama said "this kind of game, in which anybody who I know, regardless of how flimsy the relationship is, is somehow — somehow their ideas could be attributed to me — I think the American people are smarter than that. They’re not going to suggest somehow that that is reflective of my views, because it obviously isn’t."
Clinton immediately jumped in to point out that it wasn’t just that Obama and Ayres were friendly, but that "Senator Obama served on a board with Mr. Ayers for a period of time, the Woods Foundation, which was a paid directorship position."
She then made quite a leap, tying a quote of Ayres that appeared in the New York Times Arts section on 9/11 with 9/11.
"If I’m not mistaken, that relationship with Mr. Ayers on this board continued after 9/11 and after his reported comments, which were deeply hurtful to people in New York, and I would hope to every American, because they were published on 9/11 and he said that he was just sorry they hadn’t done more. And what they did was set bombs and in some instances people died."
Obama said that "by Senator Clinton’s own vetting standards, I don’t think she would make it, since President Clinton pardoned or commuted the sentences of two members of the Weather Underground, which I think is a slightly more significant act than me serving on a board with somebody."
His general reaction was to reject this kind of politics.
"I recall when back in 1992, when she made a statement about how, what do you expect, should I be at home baking cookies?" he said. "And people attacked her for being elitist and this and that. And I remember watching that on TV and saying, well, that’s not who she is; that’s not what she believes; that’s not what she meant. And I’m sure that that’s how she felt as well. But the problem is that that’s the kind of politics that we’ve been accustomed to. And I think Senator Clinton learned the wrong lesson from it, because she’s adopting the same tactics."
And, the Obama campaign says, this is why Clinton’s disapproval ratings are so high.