Bloggers on the last Democratic debate and William F. Buckley Jr.

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Feb. 27 2008 5:37 PM

End of the Beginning

Bloggers hash out what might have been the final Democratic debate and eulogize conservative legend William F. Buckley Jr.

End of the beginning: Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton met in Cleveland on Tuesday for the last Democratic debate before the all-important March 4 primaries. While the debate was not as heated as previous meetings, the atmosphere was still tense.

Noam Scheiber at the Stump, the campaign blog of the New Republic, notes that Clinton was unable to change the narrative of the race. He also argues that she didn't handle Chris Matthews' and Tim Russert's "gotcha" moments well: "[T]he whole rationale for Clinton is that she's uniquely ready to deal with whatever comes her way. She almost literally stated that tonight, but she didn't do a great job demonstrating it."

Time's Joe Klein declares Barack Obama the undisputed winner at Swampland: "He not only won by not losing, but he also won on points--and on demeanor, and on quickness, if not quite substance (although this was a fairly substantive debate on both sides). ... Obama just seemed in command throughout, never threatened, never flustered. Clinton didn't seem flustered either, but she didn't seem as big as Obama. We're nearing the end of this incredible race." Andrew Sullivan echoes the sentiment:"It was overwhelming before the final break. But decisive nonetheless. I can't see how she manages to rescue her campaign now. And his momentum will continue. It's over, right?"

Not everyone agrees. Jim Geraghty at the National Review's Campaign Spot saw the debate as a good night for Clinton: "Tonight, with her back against the wall, Hillary was more obviously passionate and driven than we've seen her in many debates. I think there's something to the reader comment of earlier - that the crying Hillary or robotic-cackling Hillary seem inauthentic and forced; but when we see her tearing into an opponent, nobody doubts that what we're seeing is the real her. It's tough, it's going for the jugular, it demonstrates that she's a fighter."  Todd Beeton at MyDD was also convinced by Hillary-as-fighter: "Of course while Clinton may have looked more confident and more presidential, several of her lines didn't really work, and Obama's taking the high road may have come off better ultimately. But she certainly appeared to be the very image of the fighter she says she is, not sure it helped her though."

Daniel Drezner is particularly disturbed by the candidates' denunciation of NAFTA: "One last thought -- my bet is that the press coverage will focus on the tonal contrasts between Clinton and Obama. It should focus on the fact that both candidates want to threaten withdrawing from a treaty as one of their first acts in office as a way to build up America's image abroad."

Stephen Green, of Vodkapundit, offered the cleverest metaphor we have heard in a long time to sum up his feelings about the debate. "If I had to summarize the debate with some clever sounding phrase, I'd call it the 'Chinese Food Debate.' An hour later, I remember there being a lot of stuff on the table, but all I feel is empty inside."

Read more about the Democratic debate.

End of an era: William F. Buckley Jr., the founder of the National Review, died Wednesday at 82. Bloggers remember the conservative leader

Ben Domenech at Redstate writes: "More than any writer, more than any thinker, more than any intellectual, William F. Buckley Jr. made the modern conservative movement what it is today. There will never be another like him.  … What I would give to hear whatever witty line he kept in his back pocket for greeting Saint Peter."

James Joyner at Outside the Beltway writes:"Buckley's intellectual leadership, judgment, and tone were cornerstones in building the modern conservative movement. His good sense in denouncing the John Birchers and distancing himself from the excesses of Pat Buchanan and others earned him respect on both sides of the aisle." John Podhoretz at Commentary's Contentions writes:"From the first to the last, however, he had an intellectually transcendent purpose from which he never deviated: The explication of, defense of, and advancement of, traditional mores and traditional beliefs, and a concomitant commitment to the notion that social experiments are very dangerous things indeed. He was, ever and always, a serious man in an increasingly unserious time."

Rick Moran, at Right Wing Nuthouse writes: "A great light in the firmament of American letters has been dimmed today. Buckley leaves a conservative movement in turmoil, a victim largely of its own success – a success for which he was largely responsible. We must make our own way now, climbing on the shoulders of greats like William Buckley to reach ever higher, bettering ourselves and the human condition while being inspired by the irrepressible and indomitable spirit who passed into legend today."

Rick Perstein at the progressive Blog for Our Future writes on his respect for Buckley's adversarial courtesy: "He was a good and decent man. He knew exactly what my politics were about—he knew I was an implacable ideological adversary—yet he offered his friendship to me nonetheless. He did the honor of respecting his ideological adversaries, without covering up the adversarial nature of the relationship in false bonhommie."

Not all memories of Buckley were so reverent. Gawker posted this scathing obituary: "Conservative author, essayist, columnist, pundit, smug asshole, gadabout, secret spook, and blue-blooded creep William F. Buckley is dead. Buckley, 82, suffered from diabetes and emphysema, though his cause of death is not yet known. And with him died respectable, intelligent, genteel-but-cut-throat New York Conservatism."

Read more memories of William F. Buckley Jr. The National Review Online, Web site of the magazine he founded, offers a slew of eulogies. Slate "Recycled" a diary Buckley wrote in 1998. Also check out his "Breakfast Table" dialogue with Michael Kinsley from 2001.

Alex Joseph is a Slate intern.

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