The 2008 Democratic presidential candidates met in Manchester, NH on Sunday night for their second debate. This debate started off with a bang as the issue of Iraq was the first to be discussed. John Edwards took both Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) to task for their recent votes against funding the war in Iraq. “They went quietly to the floor of the Senate, cast the right vote — but there is a difference between leadership and legislators,” Edwards said.

When asked By Wolf Blitzer to name names Edwards replied, “Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama did not say anything about how they were going to vote until they appeared on the floor of the Senate and voted.” Obama quickly replied, “The fact is that I opposed this war from the start. So you’re about 4 1/2 years late on leadership on this issue. And, you know, I think it’s important not to play politics on something that is as critical and as difficult as this. It is not easy to vote for cutting off funding, because the fact is, there are troops on the ground.”

Sen. Chris Dodd, who drew praise from Edwards for announcing early that he would not support the funding bill, said that his vote was, “the right thing to do.” He also said that it was time for the country to move beyond this war, and “pursue and push this issue of having a date-certain tied to funding.” Hillary Clinton got off to a bad start when she ripped off Rudy Giuliani by playing the 9/11 card after she was asked whether or not she agreed with John Edwards that the war on terror was nothing more than a “bumper sticker slogan.” Clinton said, “I have seen firsthand the terrible damage that can be inflicted on our country by a small band of terrorists who are intent upon foisting their way of life and using suicide bombers and suicidal people to carry out their agenda, and I believe we are safer than we were.”

The Democrats also talked about immigration, but that discussion turned into a debate about whether or not English should be the official language of the United States. Only Sen. Mike Gravel thought that it should be. Gravel said, “We speak English. That doesn’t mean we can’t encourage other languages. I speak French and English. People speak Spanish and English. But the official language of the United States of America is English.”

The two hour debate covered a wide range of subjects including the war in Iraq, veterans’ health care, universal health care, immigration, Iran, energy policy, Darfur, mandatory military service, balancing the budget, gas prices, what role Bill Clinton would play in a Democratic administration, and gays in the military. On the subject of the don’t ask don’t tell policy, Biden said, “This is ridiculous and by the way we’ve got a war on our hands we’re trying to end and in the meantime we’re breaking the military,” Biden said. “9,000 of these people have been kicked out. This is not a rational policy.”

Unlike their Republican counterparts, the Democrats refused to take part in any 24esque scenarios. As far as their debate coverage goes, CNN took a few lessons from the Fox News GOP debate, but not necessarily the good ones. CNN did try to slant the talk time in this debate towards Obama, Clinton, and Edwards. Obama got 16 minute. Clinton was given 14:26. Edwards go 11:42, and Bill Richardson got 10:48 of talk time.

It should be noted that most of Richardson’s talk time came from ignoring the time limits again, which leads me to Wolf Blitzer. Blitzer once again demonstrated why he should not be allowed to moderate an elementary school bake off, much less a presidential debate. One of the reasons why this debate ran behind schedule was that Wolfie B was terrible at enforcing the time limits. Much like the Fox debate, CNN tried to stir up conflict between candidates, and yes, we know that MSNBC used show of hands questions. They did it because they were running late; CNN did it to be cute. I would rather hear candidates talk about the issues, over watching them raise their hands.

Also their set change took almost triple the amount of time they said it would, thus, deprived candidates of talk time. Here is an idea. Why not have the chairs on stage already behind the candidates, so that you have to remove the podiums for the town hall portion of the debate? Note to both Fox and CNN there are not supposed to be intermissions or commercials during debates. If you need to put either into your coverage, then the debate is too long. Overall, this was a much better performance from the Democrats as a group. They looked more relaxed and less rehearsed than last time, but some candidates were better than others. In my mind the winners were Edwards, Clinton, Biden, and Gravel. Losers included Obama, Richardson, Kucinich, and Dodd.

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 afternoon at 1:30 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at
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