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Latest Democratic Debate Provides No Fireworks -- And Maybe That's Okay
April 17, 2008  | By David Bianculli
 
Last night's ABC debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the first such verbal duel in almost two months, left them with lots of ground to make up -- seven weeks of "he said, she said" reiterations. But after all the shots were fired, by the candidates and by moderators Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous, no one fell. And maybe that's okay.

democratic-debate-live-apr-.jpgBoth Democratic presidential hopefuls came armed, and left nothing in their chambers. Whenever a personal issue or controversy was raised, Clinton was at the ready to pile on with additional facts or allegations, and Obama was just as ready to offer his own additional observations and information. But the overall tone, for such an important debate, was cordial. Coldly cordial, sometimes humorously so, but cordial nonetheless.

Stephanopolous, straining to ask several "gotcha" questions, at one point got a gentle scolding from Obama, who said his question was an example of the diversionary, unnecessary political game-playing he was hoping to avoid. In so many words, what Obama was saying, and the tone in which he said it, was a familiar Ronald Reagan refrain: "There you go again."

Gibson, though, was classy and on point all the way. The more you see him in action (and this includes his time in the saddle during Good Morning America, reacting professionally and astutely to the initial events of 9/11), the easier it is to believe that ABC's first-place standing in the news ratings is no fluke.

The debate's highlight came right out of the gate, when Gibson repeated Mario Cuomo's recent suggestion that the two candidates fight it out to the last primary and beyond, but pledge now that whichever of the wins, the other becomes the vice presidential running mate. Gibson asked them if they'd make that pledge right there and then -- and the long silence in the hall led to laughter, then to awkward talk of that being "premature." On that issue, at least, both candidates agreed completely.

 
 
 
 
 
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