About Me

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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The SC Democratic Debate

Ended about an hour and a half ago.

My thoughts:

While I always wish that Obama was better in debates (he's never quite as smooth or on point as Edwards and Clinton in a debate setting) I think he showed some backbone. He does look green at times, out there, and Edwards had a good showing.

What bothers me is this... why should he have to defend himself against this sort of mudslinging from the Clintons? Is this their version of tough love? To say: "Hey, if you can't take it, good luck in November?"

What drives me insane about Hillary Clinton (and Bill Clinton in this moment) is that if they wanted to go out and have a 'policy and experience' versus' unity and inspiration' debate, they could probably swing tons of voters. The Clintons are more than capable of winning the election. Instead, they continuously drive the rhetoric south, trying to bloody Obama in order to beat him, as opposed to simply running a campaign on the merits and letting Democrats decide who they'd prefer.

That would be too risky for career politicians, I'm sure. I know it's almost naive to say...but wouldn't it be nice if Clinton didn't imply that Obama is weak on SEX OFFENDERS? Or muddy the idea of a vote of "present" in the Illinois State Legislature? Or practically call him a Reaganite? It's ironic for the Clinton's to be even going after someone who speaks as a centrist, as they're the poster children for governing to the center. (DOMA anyone?)

The fact of the matter is... I actually agree with Edwards and Clinton on the health care mandate issue. I actually think Clinton is gangbusters on that issue. (I think, of course, that without more Democrats in the House and Senate, nothing is going to get passed either way, and an Obama Presidency is the best way to get more Democrats elected to Congress.) Regardless, there's a whole lot of debate that can happen about Nuclear Energy, Global Warming, Health Care, Tax Policy, Economic Stimulus, Partisanship and the War in Iraq.

So when Clinton and Clinton go on the attack, they do the entire process a disservice. They force Obama to defend himself. If he doesn't, he's considered weak and the press will execute him. If he does (which he did) then Edwards gets to look like the hero of the day, rising above the bickering. Make no mistake: it all starts with Hillary and Bill Clinton misrepresenting Obama to the voters.

The question, in the end, will the voters validate these tactics by rewarding them? Or will it backfire and make Clinton get (as she did tonight) boos from the voters for being too brutal?

Time will tell. I hope, in the end, citizens are enabled by the candidates and the media to vote with confidence in a positive vision; as opposed to vote against a candidate that's been effectively smeared.

For the record (quoted from the New York Times:)

Obama on Reagan:

“Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that, you know, Richard Nixon did not, and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. He tapped into what people were already feeling, which is, we want clarity, we want optimism, we want, you know, a return to that sense of dynamism and, you know, entrepreneurship that had been missing.”

Hillary Clinton on Reagan:

“When he had those big tax cuts and they went too far, he oversaw the largest tax increase. He could call the Soviet Union the Evil Empire and then negotiate arms-control agreements. He played the balance and the music beautifully.”


Mac said...

Her merits as a potential President notwithstanding (and I think they could be many), I can't get over what an interesting, nuanced, grownup primary the Democrats could be having if Hilary Clinton wasn't one of the candidates. Having read through the debate transcripts (and you never know what you're losing in terms of tone, to be sure), I feel like she's single-handedly wrecked a great opportunity for the Dems to position themselves in contrast to the GOP as the Party of Learned Adults Who Don't Behave Like Feral Children.

I know, only liberal pedants like me even care about things like that. Even posting this makes me feel ninety years old.

john said...


I'm with you on the porch of the Old Liberals Home, don't worry, brother you're not alone.

Anonymous said...

I was talking about this with a friend (and fellow Obama supporter) last night. The problem is that the Clintons are always in attack-dog mode. They enjoy it. She wasn't lying a few weeks ago when she smirked "Now the fun part begins" about going on the attack with Obama.

Some of it comes, I'm sure, from facing so many bullshit attacks from the right during "their time" in office. (His administration is de facto her administration, since she's counting being First Lady in those much-vaunted "35 years of experience" -- too bad we can't actually see her records, but I'm gonna assume she gets the blame for the Defense of Marriage Act, Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the 1996 "Personal Responsibility" -- talk about GOP talking points! -- "welfare reform" bill that threw poor kids off Medicaid, etc. I mean, Bill's Work Is Her Work, right? Can't have it both ways, sugar.)

The Clintons have now become nearly Nixonian in their paranoia and desire for payback, which, more than any niggling differences in policy between her and Obama, is what really gives me pause (in addition to the pro-war and pro-Patriot Act votes, which I see as shameless sops to the right -- how did HRC NOT know that Dubya was full of shit, c'mon? She's not that stupid. But she is that venal.)

Unfortunately, I worry that Obama is falling into their bait-trap. Really, the only way to handle bullies like the tag-team Clintons is to laugh at them. It's what they fear most. But that is also tricky. I mean, if there is a way for Obama to offhandedly point out that Bill is the only former president ever to be disbarred for lying under oath, that would probably help. Maybe when they go off on Tony Rezko, ask "How's your old buddy Marc Rich doing these days?"

Or point out that President Clinton has never attacked George W. Bush with the same gusto with which he goes after Obama. Of course, since he's BFF with Old Man Bush, that could be awkward.

I must say, the ways in which putative progressives continue to twist Obama's record (his liberal voting percentage outstrips Clinton's) and try to make pro-war, pro-corporate, former Wal-Mart cheerleader Hillary as the true progressive is frustrating as hell. He's one of the good guys, yet somehow he's being turned into a GOP stalking-horse.

Fun fact: Clinton won Illinois in 1992 in part because of the grassroots voter registration efforts of . . . Barack Obama! http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/January-1993/Vote-of-Confidence/

If this is how they treat their friends -- yeesh.

Obama was, in fact, on to something with his Reagan comments. It's not that he thinks Reagan was RIGHT (though Hillary the Hypocrite has also praised Ronnie in the past). But there were obviously reasons beyond policy that made Reagan so popular that he won by landslide margins, and a lot of that had to do with how he packaged the message. The Dems have been running on "vote for us because we're not quite as bad as the other guys" for over 20 years now. It's time to change the tune, and I think Obama can do that in ways that Hillary can't. She's too invested in payback and continuing her power base.


Anonymous said...

Sorry, here's the URL to the Chicago Mag article about Obama and the voter registration drives again:



Freeman said...

I'll add a link to this New Yorker article that makes Kerry's points strongly (but in a rather fair way) about how the Clinton's seemingly thrive on enemies and opposition.


Anonymous said...

Great New Yorker piece, thanks. One more thought and then I'll stop for now, I promise!

Can we PLEASE stop promoting this "GOP ATTACK MACHINE!" as if it's some unbeatable supernatural force? C'mon, Bush only won in 2000 because of dirty electoral and vote suppression tricks (and probably won in 2004 with the help of more of the same). They are NOT smart guys. (Who was it who called them "Mayberry Machiavellis" -- which is, frankly, an insult to the good people of that mythic town?)

So the Dems, over and over, fall into the "electability" mode that gives us such inspiring charismatic figures as John Kerry and Michael Dukakis, and that keeps potentially great candidates like Gore on a short leash, lest he fail to fully triangulate and focus-group his way through the election season.

Again, the Reagan lesson Obama is pointing out is that Reagan DIDN'T do that. I vehemently opposed Reagan's policies (as did Obama -- read his books), yet Reagan managed to disarm his opponents with that "there you go again!" thing, no matter how much mud they were throwing at him. He didn't get mad. He chuckled and moved on.

In Obama, I see a chance to marry that kind of sangfroid with a man who truly is smart, principled, and able to listen to others.

Again -- you stop bullies by laughing at them and pointing out how pathetic they are. I really liked how Obama handled the "are you too liberal?" question in the NH debate. "We've already seen that movie." Indeed. And it's a bad horror film with the lamest, least believable CGI monsters in the world in it. Voters didn't narrowly vote for Bush over Kerry because of the Swift Boat ads. They voted for Bush because at least he seemed inspired and committed (to all the wrong things, I'll grant you, but at least it was there), instead of trying steadfastly to carve out some uncomfortable neither-fish-nor-fowl persona.

In other words: voters see the Democrats, time after time, nominating people that no one in the party seems all that jazzed about. And then we wonder why they don't get jazzed about them.

So yeah, if we could just defuse this "oh, however will Obama stand up to those GOP meanies" trope, that would be great. Or, you know, we could ask the GOP to pick our candidate for us -- "Who will you attack the least? How can we please you best?" That would work, I'm sure.