August 20th, 2007
09:10 AM ET
16 years ago

Democrats face off in debate

The candidates on stage in Des Moines

(CNN) - At a debate Sunday in the critical showdown state of Iowa, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama worked to counter suggestions that he is too inexperienced for the job, while Sen. Hillary Clinton fended off attacks from outgoing White House political adviser Karl Rove that voters perceive her too negatively.

"Is Barack Obama ready to be president, experienced enough to be president?" moderator George Stephanopoulos asked, presenting the first question of the debate hosted by ABC's "This Week" in Des Moines, Iowa - the first state in the nation to choose party nominees.

Clinton was asked about criticisms from outgoing White House political adviser Karl Rove that her negative ratings could hurt her in a general election.

The eight Democrats generally avoided outright attacks on each other, though they took the opportunity to note disagreements, particularly on issues of foreign policy.

The question about Obama triggered a renewed discussion of his vow, made during a previous debate, that he would meet with dictators - without preconditions - during his first year in office. Clinton and others have said that such a commitment would remove a critical bargaining chip in dealing with problematic foreign governments.

Clinton answered the question Sunday by discussing her own campaign goals and experience - though, when pressed, noted that she did have a "specific disagreement" with Obama on that front. "I think the next president will face some of the most difficult international dangerous threats and challenges that any president has faced in a very long time," she said.

The senator from New York added, "When you've got that big an agenda facing you, you should not telegraph to our adversaries that you're willing to meet with them without preconditions during the first year in office."

Sens. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and Joe Biden of Delaware also reiterated their disagreements with Obama on the issue.

But Obama said he doesn't see much difference between his position and theirs. "I think that there's been some political maneuvering taking place over the last couple of weeks," the senator from Illinois said.

Though he added that there is substantive difference between him and Clinton over meeting with adversaries, he added, "I think that strong countries and strong presidents meet and talk with our adversaries."

Clinton and Obama also disagreed over his previous remarks that nuclear weapons should be off the table in dealing with Pakistan, where U.S. intelligence officials say al Qaeda-linked militants are holed up in tribal regions. Clinton has said it is not appropriate to take any option off the table on such a matter.

Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina said Sunday that Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, "is not a wonderful leader, but he provides some stability in Pakistan. And there is a great risk, if he's overthrown, about a radical government taking over."

Musharraf is a key U.S. ally in the battle against al Qaeda.

When Clinton was asked about remarks from Rove, she attempted to cast her negative ratings in a positive light.

"But I find it interesting he's so obsessed with me. And I think the reason is because we know how to win," she said.

"The idea that you're going to escape the Republican attack machine and not have high negatives by the time they're through with you, I think, is just missing what's been going on in American politics for the last 20 years," Clinton added.

Noting the focus on Clinton and Obama, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said, "You know, I think that Sen. Obama does represent change. Sen. Clinton has experience. Change and experience: With me, you get both."

soundoff (86 Responses)
  1. Cable King Pittsburgh Pa

    How about a big yawn?

    Methinks the only folks following this debates (like myself) are the only ones following these debates!

    Rock oN

    August 20, 2007 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  2. John S. Chicago, Illinois


    Van, I agree with Lance; you said no one would, should. In fact, I think it would be a worthy note to point out that all of your posts, the ones in nearly every ticker comment section, are all Pro-Clinton. Ironic considering you are saying the same thing to Lance, whom actually posted a well thought out, intellgent post. Your posts have all lacked considerably in that area and are far more preachy and self righteous than any other poster I've read so far. You are blinded by your Clinton Homerism. Quit trying to prove to everyone that you are the smartest person here and that only your opinion matters, and only your opinion is right. Whatever with the reuters tag as well, that tells all that anyone needs to know about you and it comes to no surprise that every post of yours has the stench of self righteousness blasted all over it. You're boring me with rhetoric and I would politely request that you tone it down a notch before your pink hilary panties get twisted into a fury of anger by my devils's advocate ways. In short, just shut up please, CNN is already posting enough garbage on this website, and doesn't need you adding to it. Thanks!

    August 20, 2007 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  3. Jon, Sacramento ~ Ca

    I have a simple question...

    With President Bush's approval ratings so low, congressional ratings being low, the nation being unhappy with Iraq, THIS election is should be a slam-dunk for the democrats.

    WHY would democrats pick the one candidate with the highest negative ratings? (Hillary)

    You're BEGGING republicans to win!?

    August 20, 2007 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  4. James DiSalvatore

    I'm counting on the American people to get it right this time around and elect a REAL leader. Joe Biden has a command of every issue that faces our nation today AND solutions to deal with them. He's respected around the world and on both sides of the aisle. This is THE MOST important election in decades and we cannot fail as a people. Hillary, I believe, will divide our country. The Republicans will be ABSOLUTELY relentless with attacks on her. Ten times worse than what they did to her husband. NOTHING will get done if she were elected. America cannot afford a dogfight in congress for four years. There's too much at stake for our country and people around the world. I like Obama, but I'd like to see him as a VP to someone like Joe Biden to acquire the correct experience needed to be President of the United States. God Bless you Joe!!! Our country and this world needs you in these troubled times.

    August 20, 2007 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  5. Blaise MA

    And now, folks, here we are at the political wax museum where the 2008 Democratic presidential contenders are depicted as they looked that year. Yes, they do look life-life, don't they? Actually, more life-like than the real persons seem to be. Note all the men are wearing dark suits and red orblue neckties. The Stepford politicians historians called them. And the woman, Hillary Clinton was her name, often had that "What the blazes did I get myself into?" look about her. Why did they all lose? No one believed anything they said. Thanks for dropping by.

    August 20, 2007 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  6. Independent Voter, TN

    To all of the pundits out there:

    The nice thing about posting on these sites is that we all get a chance to express ourselves. Our interest in politics has an audience of kindred spirits (even though we may disagree with each other).

    The important thing to keep in mind is that none of us (except for operatives disguising themselves as "one of us") are really in a position to say with any degree of accuracy that one candidate is better than another.

    Different voters are looking for different things from their candidates, so when you read somthing like "Hillary will be our next president" or "Obama is our only hope," keep in mind that while that opinion may count for something, it doesn't mean it's right just because someone says it loudly and with conviction. It's nothing rooted in's just an emotional response.

    We are over a year away from the election and there will be lots of ebb and flow. It's important to keep your eyes and ears open, but more importantly, to keep your minds open.

    And here's something to consider...when I read posts that tout one candidate by tearing down another, the negativity of the person doing the posting actually drives me away from the candidate they're trying to support.

    But enough is my opinion on the subject at hand:

    Based on my dealings and conversations with everyday people, I believe that Hillary and Obama are both probably unelectable, although for very different reasons. On the Democratic side, I personally have the most respect for Joe Biden and Bill Richardson. Richardson has not done particularly well in these debates, but prior to his being a candidate, he always was a great interview, so I don't think the debates have been kind to him. I don't care for Edwards' populist message of "two Americas" and believe its negative tone will not resonate with mainstream voters.

    So at this point, if I were to pull the lever for a Democrat, it would be Biden. But, that being said, I will continue to monitor developments over the coming months and would not rule out someone else overtaking him to get my vote.

    I look forward to hearing more from people on this site...I'm hopeful that the discourse will be better in the coming months.

    August 20, 2007 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  7. Maria, Houston

    Did anyone watch Bill Moyer's report about marketing of the Iraq war and the role of journalists in manipulating the public? It is still going on... Mr. Obama won the debate, but headlines and CNN are not reflecting it. Clintons are well aware that comparison with Bush/Cheney makes anyone look like Einstein or Mother Theresa, that's why Hillary keeps refering to the current administration instead of her fellow candidates.But many Democrats were holding noses at the end of Clintons eight years in the White House. They were inspiration for WAG THE DOG and TRUE COLORS...yes, they are very experienced politicians and no doubt there is lot of behind the scenes political maneuvering going on right now : to discredit and belitle Senator Obama who is the strongest competitor...except it is not working, because we,the voters also became more experienced... fool me once, you'll never fool me again ๐Ÿ™‚

    August 20, 2007 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  8. Tiana, New York, NY

    I first heard about this article on my Global Grind News Page. I decided to check out the source for more info. Throughout the debate Obama had to keep his cool while countering suggestions that heโ€™s too inexperienced for the position. That was the first freaking debate question. Obama was by far the most impressive. He stood strong, while everyone, even the moderator, tried to break him.

    August 21, 2007 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  9. Jimmy, Cherokee Oklahoma

    Obama's Senate voting record is exactly the same as Senator Clinton,s except for one missed vote and Obama voted FOR one of Bushs war Generals showing support to Bush while Senator Clinton voted against. If Obama has been an elected official longer than Clinto then what is he talking about old vioces in Washington. His is older then Clintons. The man speaks the tongue of no experience. It isn't his resume but the inexperience that comes out his mouth. Clinton 2008. The Republicans will never allow a minority into Washingto.s White house. If Obama is the Nominee. Alot of Dems will vote elsewhere. Maybe Nunn, or Bloomberg. I for one will not support the inexperience.

    August 21, 2007 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  10. Alan, Butte, Montana

    Go Kucinich!!! Glad you are leading the ABC poll, we need a President for the People not for the Presidents gang...

    August 21, 2007 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  11. John, CA

    George S. worked in the Clinton White House but i'm sure he was not biased in any way...He only owes everything he is to the Clintons's can we get some real journalism up in here.

    August 22, 2007 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
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