Obama and Clinton will show up for another "debate" tonight. I have five questions in anticipation of the Ohio Battle Royale. Here they are, along with my predictions about the answers...
1. Will Barack Obama find a way to stay "on message" or will we lose discipline and sink into the slime pit of petty attacks and smarmy reactions?
2. Will Hillary Clinton have the guts to say "shame on you" to Obama's face and to mock his hopeful message while he's only a few feet away, or is that just the kind of thing she does when he's not in the immediate vicinity?
3. Will Hillary Clinton find a way to explain why she's allowed to keep the mojo of White House experience based on her time as first lady while simultaneously disclaiming responsibility for the parts of Bill's legacy that don't play well in Ohio?
4. Will Barack Obama lazily continue to allow the "35 years of experience" and "ready on day one" bullshit to continue unabated or will he finally provide the obvious and substantive response to Clinton's most beloved meme?
5. Will we be forced to listen to bullshit about turban pictures, Muslim rumors, missteps on the part of low-level campaign staffers, foolish accusations about plagiarism, and assorted other superficialities or will Russert & Williams manage to conduct a meaningful discussion?
1. He'll basically stay on message but will find it impossible not to (errantly) sling a little slime here and there. Nobody's perfect.
2. No. She might come out with a toned down version of her recent attacks, but she lacks the courage to make those tougher pronouncements personally. Whether because of cowardice or strategy, she won't wag a finger of shame at Barack.
3. No. She wants to have her cake and eat it, too. If the matter is addressed, she'll duck, juke, deflect and change the subject. She needs that experience to maintain her current strategy and she needs to avoid the negatives associated with it. Her position is untenable under scrutiny, but she'll avoid scrutiny by whatever means necessary.
4. Obama will again fail to take the "experience" argument on in a meaningful way. He'll hope that the combination of people who don't give a shit and those who are able to figure it out for themselves will be enough to continue beating it without meaningfully engaging it. Sometimes, unfortunately, it seems as though Obama mistakenly thinks substantive argument and disagreement are at odds with his "higher purpose" message. It doesn't have to be that way.
5. Absolutely. This one is a lock. Russert is a tool and even the Giant Head of Brian Williams cannot contain Timmy's uselessness. Look for Russert, guided by his desire for moron-ready arguments about useless things, and utilizing his "gotcha" skill set, will find a way to drag down the quality of the discussion.
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