powered by FreeFind

Apple iTunes


CNN's Obama-Clinton Texas throwdown puts her one step closer to throwing in the towel

There's ample talk -- by TV pundits at least -- about how Hillary Clinton may have saved the day by humanizing herself in the final minute of Thursday night's CNN/Univision debate from Austin.

"That last statement of hers was the most effective she's had on television" since her teary-eyed moment in New Hampshire, analyst David Gergen said during CNN's rehash.

But he quickly noted the greatly improved debating skills of Barack Obama, who sometimes seemed to be in over his head during those early multi-Democrat encounters.

That's the key point. Obama's got the swagger now, and it has nothing to do with being arrogant. In their one hour, 45-minute faceoff Thursday, he exuded the confidence of a frontrunner who knows just what pace to set while his opponent slowly but surely falls farther behind him.

Pat Buchanan of all people seemed to nail it when he said on MSNBC, "I do get a sense of resignation on her part that this is coming to an end."

Clinton's closing answer, which drew her biggest ovation of the night, actually sent two messages to the electorate. Responding to a question about what had tested her the most in a time of crisis, Clinton recalled speaking at the opening of a new medical center in San Antonio for rehabilitation of American soldiers wounded in war.

She saw amputees trying to walk without help. Others were in wheelchairs or on gurneys. "And the speaker representing these wounded warriors had had most of his face disfigured by the results of fire from a roadside bomb."

"The hits I've taken in life are nothing compared to what goes on every single day in the lives of people across our country," she continued.

It's symbolic of what drew her to public service, Clinton said with what seemed to be genuine conviction. "And that's what motivates me in this campaign."

The audience applauded, but that wasn't the end of it. Clinton then figuratively bowed to Obama while also taking those first halting steps toward conceding to him.

"I am honored to be here with Barack Obama," she said. "I am absolutely honored. Whatever happens, we're going to be fine. You know, we have strong support from our families and our friends."

Those aren't fighting words. Nor were there many if any real fireworks during a debate in which most prognosticators said that Mrs. Clinton had to draw blood or watch it drain out of her campaign in the waning days before the make-or-break March 4th Texas and Ohio primaries.

The debate was without "any hard and fast rules," said moderator Campbell Brown, whose upcoming new show on CNN was plugged twice during commercial breaks. Brown and panelists John King of CNN and Jorge Ramos of Univision mostly let the candidates talk at length, which they're always happy to do.

This made for a very uneventful first-half, making it easy to envision CNN producers clamoring for more action during a commercial break. Sure enough, King opened the second round by noting that the tone of the candidates' stump speeches "is often quite different than the very polite, substantive discourse we've had tonight."

But Clinton for the most part wouldn't take the bait, beginning her answer with, "You know, Senator Obama and I have a lot in common."

Obama likewise praised Clinton's "fine record" before almost effortlessly moving in for the kill.

"Senator Clinton of late has said, 'Let's get real,' " he began. "The implication is that the people who've been voting for me or involved in my campaign are somehow delusional . . . that somehow they're being duped and eventually they're going to see the reality of things."

On the contrary, Obama said, his supporters realize that "if we don't bring the country together, stop the endless bickering . . . then we will not get anything done. That's the reason this campaign has done do well."

Clinton really doesn't have an answer for that -- not anymore at least. She later had a bad moment, even drawing some boos on the subject of Obama's alleged "plagiarizing" of words used in an earlier speech by Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, who's also a national co-chairman of his campaign.

"Lifting whole passages from someone else's speeches is not change you can believe in. It's change you can Xerox," Clinton said to no effect.

"Come on," said Obama, who might as well have been saying, "Oh, grow up."

It's his to lose now. And he ain't the one losin' it.