Going over last night's debate in my head one more time, I can't help help but focus on Tim Russert's oddly confrontational and, as I said last night, rather inane moderating style. From his repeated, failed attempts to trip up Hillary with references to her husband's administration, to his harping on John Edwards about his hair and expensive house, to his wrong-headed question about bible verses, to his obvious personal obsession with making Social Security "solvent," I came away from this debate feeling like very little policy was addressed.

The conversation on residual troops in Iraq was important, as was the interlude about Iran. But overall, this was a debate more about style than substance. Hillary proved again that her charisma and delivery shine in the debate format, while Barack Obama can hardly muster 10 percent of the energy for a debate that he puts on display at events such as the SEIU candidates' forum. Edwards won some points for being the most aggressive front-runner toward Clinton on foreign policy, but he didn't deal well with Russert's haranguing about the hair. I wish Edwards had simply replied, "Of course I regret that expensive haircut. I would never have gotten it if I thought it would have distracted people so much from the really important issues we're debating tonight: ending the war in Iraq, providing universal health care, and restoring America's place in the world."

--Dana Goldstein

You may also like