Couple Additional Debate Thoughts

I just wanted to add a couple of notes to the post-debate analysis David has up.

I thought one of the most interesting moments of the debate was when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama debated which management style was better for the president to have. Clinton argued that the president needs to be both the “head of state and the head of government.” A good “head of government” can “manage and run the bureaucracy” and avoid the mistakes of a Washington greenhorn. This obviously plays to her eight years of experience in the White House.

Clinton added that President Bush didn’t know how to manage things on a day to day level, and as a result we got rampant cronyism and problems like Katrina. Obama responded that Bush’s failures are greater than that:

[President Bush’s] are the kinds of failures that have to do with judgment. They have to do with vision, the capacity to inspire people. They don’t have to do with whether or not he was managing the bureaucracy properly.

That’s not to deny that there has to be strong management skills in the presidency. It is to say that what has been missing is the ability to bring people together, to mobilize the country, to move us in a better direction, and to be straight with the American people.

Obama’s argument was essentially this: knowing how to work the levers of power in Washington is an excellent skill, but it isn’t relevant to the president’s main purpose, which is to use his or her bully pulpit to inspire large swaths of Americans to come together and support major policy proposals.

It was an interesting debate, and both sides acquitted themselves well.

The other moment that caught my eye/ear was the moment Hillary Clinton seemed to say that she was against the 2001 bankruptcy bill after she was for it.

RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, you voted for the same 2001 bankruptcy bill that Senator Edwards just said he was wrong about. After you did that, the Consumer Federation of America said that your reversal on that bill, voting for it, was the death knell for the opponents of the bill. Do you regret that vote?

CLINTON: Sure I do, but it never became law, as you know. It got tied up. It was a bill that had some things I agreed with and other things I didn’t agree with, and I was happy that it never became law. I opposed the 2005 bill as well.

I don’t want to interpret that as another driver’s-licenses-for-illegals moment, but I’m having trouble parsing it any other way.


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.