Give Clinton an "A" for Trying, But...

Washington Matters

Give Clinton an "A" for Trying, But...

Hillary Clinton went into last night's debate knowing she had to force Barack Obama to stumble, but try as she did, she couldn't quite rattle him. She did come close to catching him on one question, but as Phil Rizzuto used to say, "close only counts in horseshoes."


Obama seemed to be caught off guard when NBC's Tim Russert asked him if he would reject the support of Louis Farrakhan, who on Sunday came out on behalf of Obama. It's an important question, given the relatively large Jewish population in Ohio and the questions that have been raised about Obama's willingness to talk with Hamas and his lack of a long record on support for Israel. Ralph Nader added to the issue's prominence last weekend when he accused Obama of having pro-Palestinian views.


After spending an hour Sunday on the hot seat with Jewish leaders, Obama gave a well crafted answer to Russert, hitting home with Jewish leaders by recalling the civil rights alliance between blacks and Jews and how it had frayed over time and how he wanted to repair it.  He denounced Farrakhan for his anti-Semitism but stopped short of taking Russert's suggestion that he reject Farrakhan's support.


Hillary picked up on that and noted how she had rejected support in New York from others responsible for anti-Semitic comments and suggested Obama needed to do the same. "There's a difference between denouncing and rejecting," she said.


But Obama immediately turned the tables, saying he didn't understand the semantic hairsplitting and adding, "I would reject and denounce." And that left Clinton with nothing to do but smile tightly, having gained nothing. And that about summed up the night.