The presidential primaries are now deeply and hotly underway and getting hotter all the time. Finally the gloves are off and the candidates are doing what candidates do best - getting down and dirty. Consider this exchange at the recent Democrat debate between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Hussein Obama. (And, oh yes, John Edwards was there, too.) Wolf Blitzer hosted. The sound effects and description of action in parenthesis are mine.
Hillary brought up a statement Obama made about Ronald Reagan and his ideas, which prompted the following:
(ROUND ONE )
OBAMA: Now, let's talk about Ronald Reagan. What you just repeated here today is ...
CLINTON: Barack ...
OBAMA: Wait. No. Hillary, you just spoke. (Jab! Jab!)
CLINTON: I did not say anything about Ronald Reagan. (Duck and weave!)
OBAMA: You just spoke for two minutes. (Jab! Jab!)
CLINTON: You said two things. (Swing…miss!)
OBAMA: You just ...
CLINTON: You talked about admiring Ronald Reagan and you talked about the ideas ... (Right hook!)
OBAMA: Hillary, I'm sorry. You just ...
MODERATOR: Senator ...
CLINTON: I didn't talk about Reagan. ( Parry. Right hook!)
OBAMA: Hillary, we just had the tape. You just said that I complimented the Republican ideas. That is not true. (Left hook!)
What I said - and I will provide you with a quote - what I said was is that Ronald Reagan was a transformative political figure because he was able to get Democrats to vote against their economic interests to form a majority to push through their agenda, an agenda that I objected to. (Dance, dance. Jab! Left hook!)
Because while I was working on those streets watching those folks see their jobs shift overseas, you were a corporate lawyer sitting on the board at Wal-Mart.
(WHAM! ROUNDHOUSE KNOCK-DOWN!)
I was fighting these fights. I was fighting these fights. So - but I want to be clear.
So I want to be clear. What I said had nothing to do with their policies. I spent a lifetime fighting a lifetime against Ronald Reagan's policies. (Right hook!) But what I did say is that we have to be thinking in the same transformative way about our Democratic agenda.
We've got to appeal to independents and Republicans in order to build a working majority to move an agenda forward. That is what I said. Now, you can dispute that, but let me finish. Hillary, you went on for two minutes. (Jab! Jab!) Let me finish.
The irony of this is that you provided much more fulsome praise of Ronald Reagan in a book by Tom Brokaw that's being published right now, as did - as did Bill Clinton in the past. So these are the kinds of political games that we are accustomed to. (Combination - left jab, left jab, straight right, WHAM!)
CLINTON: Now, wait a minute. (Infighting)
Wolf, wait a minute. Wait a minute. Just a minute.
MODERATOR: Senator Edwards, let them wrap up. Then I'm going to come to you. Yes?
CLINTON: I just want - I just to clarify - I want to clarify the record. Wait a minute.
EDWARDS: There's a third person in this debate.
MODERATOR: Wait a minute, Senator Edwards. Hold on. There has been a specific charge leveled against Hillary Clinton, so she can respond. Then I'll bring in Senator Edwards.
(ROUND TWO )
CLINTON: I just want to be sure ...
OBAMA: Go ahead and address what you said about ...
MODERATOR: We have got a long time to. You'll have a good opportunity.
CLINTON: We're just getting warmed up. (Jab! Jab! Jab!) Now, I just - I just want to be clear about this. In an editorial board with the Reno newspaper, you said two different things, because I have read the transcript. You talked about Ronald Reagan being a transformative political leader. (Right Hook!) I did not mention his name. (Jab)
OBAMA: Your husband did. (Parry - Jab!)
CLINTON: Well, I'm here. He's not. (Jab! Jab!) And ...
OBAMA: OK. Well, I can't tell who I'm running against sometimes. (Combination - left jab, right hook!)
CLINTON: Well, you know, I think we both have very passionate and committed spouses who stand up for us. And I'm proud of that. But you also talked about the Republicans having ideas over the last 10 to 15 years.
OBAMA: I didn't say they were good ones. (Jab)
CLINTON: Well, you can read the context of it. (Jab)
OBAMA: Well, I didn't say they were good ones. (Jab)
CLINTON: Well, it certainly ... (Jab)
OBAMA: All right, Wolf.
CLINTON: It certainly came across in the way that it was presented, as though the Republicans had been standing up against the conventional wisdom with their ideas. I'm just reacting to the fact, yes, they did have ideas, and they were bad ideas.
OBAMA: I agree. (Clinch!)
CLINTON: Bad for America, and I was fighting against those ideas when you were practicing law and representing your contributor, Rezko, in his slum landlord business in inner city Chicago. (Jab, jab, WHAM! Roundhouse!)
OBAMA: No, no, no. (On the ropes!)
(SAVED BY THE BELL)
End of round two. Fighters take their corners. Sponge down.
To be continued ……