In theory all the Democratic presidential candidates were invited to a debate at Drake University which was nationally televised as a special edition of ABC’s “This Week” program. However, just because all the Democrats were invited didn’t mean that they would all get a chance to talk.

Moderator George Stephanopoulos’s bias towards candidates who are leading in the polls, or part of the party establishment revealed itself again. Stephanopoulos spent most of the first third of the debate either talking to, or asking the other candidates questions about Clinton and Obama. Biden, Dodd, and Richardson were the lucky ones, because at least they got to speak. Kucinich and Gravel were almost completely frozen out.

When Kucinich was finally asked a question about the Clinton, Edwards, Obama debate over lobbyists he said, “George, this debate is insufficient, because you’re really not including all the candidates here… … and polarize — you’re trying to polarize people out of the race.” This is exactly what he was doing. Kucinich then talked about his healthcare plan. “Now, let me talk about an issue that concerns the people of Iowa, and that is health care. The Iowa AF of L-CIO, two days ago endorsed H.R. 676, a not-for-profit health care system, a bill that I’m the coauthor of.”

“And Senator Edwards said that, you know, we’re talking about challenging the insurance companies. Well, actually, every other health care plan represented by everyone else here on stage keeps the private insurers in charge. I’m the only one up here who challenges this system of premiums, co-pays and deductibles. So let’s give the American people a real choice, not a conditioned choice, based on polls, but a choice that’s based on their practical aspirations for health care for their families, for a not- for-profit system. We have to break the hold, which the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies have on health care,” Kucinich said.

There were a couple of interesting Clinton moments in this debate. When asked about her negative ratings, Hillary Clinton blamed it on the Republicans. Clinton said, “Well, I don’t think Karl Rove’s going to endorse me. That becomes more and more obvious. But I find it interesting he’s so obsessed with me. And I think the reason is because we know how to win. I mean, you know, I have been fighting against these people for longer than anybody else up here. I’ve taken them on and we’ve beaten them. And you know, 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.”

Yep, it’s the Republicans fault despite the fact that they haven’t even campaigned against her yet. Clinton is as delusional about her negative numbers as George W. Bush is. The fact is that if she is the nominee, her numbers will get even worse, not better. She is also now against lobbyists.  After praising them a couple of weeks ago, Clinton is now against lobbyists and called for public funding of elections.

“Well, George, I believe we have to change Washington. I’ve stood up against the special interests, I’ve taken them on. I took them on, on health care. I took them on and voted against a lot of their special interest legislation, like class action reform, which is just really another way of lining the pockets of big business.  I’ve taken them on on so many different fronts. But there is this artificial distinction that people are trying to make. Don’t take money from lobbyists, but take money from the people who employ and hire lobbyists and give them their marching orders. Those are the people that are really going to be pushing back,” she said.

The other interesting shift with Clinton is that she is now basically calling herself a fair trader. “People ask me, am I a free trader or a fair trader? I want to be a smart, pro-American trader. And that means we look for ways to maximize the impact of what we’re trying to export and quit being taken advantage of by other countries.”

She also came close to apologizing for her vote for the Iraq war. “You know, when the president of the United States says, as he said publicly, and then as people around him said privately over and over again, “We’re going to use this authority to get inspectors back in, “We’re going to go to the United Nations,” you know, at some point, you do have to make that evaluation… I would never have diverted our attention to Iraq, and I never would have pursued this war. I think that has been a terrible mistake for our country.”

This debate was a complete waste of time. The candidates talked about Iraq, merit pay for teachers, Obama’s inexperience, the power of prayer, their biggest mistake, and farm subsidies. The candidates were often repeating things that they said in previous debates, and no new ground was covered here.

 Stephanopoulos turned this into the Clinton, Obama, and Edwards show which is what I think the DNC wanted. Stephanopoulos worked for Bill Clinton and is a front running establishment Democrat, so it is no surprise that a debate on his program would tilt the way it did. If a debate is going to be held it should cover some different issues, and allow all the candidates to speak. This debate did neither.

Full Transcript of the Democrats on “This Week” 

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at 

Jason can also be heard every Sunday at 7:00 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at

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