Clinton-Obama Debate: More Heat Than Light

Did anything of note transpire in Wednesday's debate between the Democratic presidential candidates? Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama met in Pennsylvania, ahead of an important April 22 primary contest.

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

In the past year, the Democratic presidential candidates have debated about two dozen times.

NPR's senior analyst Daniel Schorr is getting a little tired to all that debating.

DANIEL SCHORR: The Clinton-Obama debate last night was their 21st and possibly their last, which may be for the best since these encounters have generated more heat than light, centered more on personality than policy. Senator Obama seem to be trying to follow a frontrunner strategy of civility to his rival. Senator Clinton, on the other hand, seem to be pursuing an underdog strategy of picking on her opponent whenever she could.

And so, Senator Obama had to explain once again his views about bitterness in small-town America. Clinton had said, I can see why people would be taken aback and offended by the remarks.

Responding to a rather mindless question about whether the candidate's opponents in the primaries could beat John McCain in the general election. Obama and Clinton both said yes, but both said they would be better prepared.

The general tenor of the questioning was indicated by a question to Obama about why he doesn't wear an American flag pin on his lapel. I have, perhaps mercifully, forgotten the answer. Obama also had the fear of the question about his association with the 1960's-era Weather Underground radical Bill Ayers. In an interview published in the New York Times on September 11, 2001, Ayers said I don't regret setting bombs. And Senator Clinton said, his words were deeply insensitive. The New York Times, points out today that the interview was conducted before the 9/11 attacks.

Oh yes, there were also questions about big-ticket issues - both candidates said they would bring troops home from Iraq, neither would raise taxes on middleclass Americans, both would defend Israel from Iranian attack - who'll still give Senator Clinton a somewhat narrow a lean in the Pennsylvania primary next Tuesday. These debates, whose value has been questionable, may or may not go on.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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NORRIS: This is NPR, National Public Radio.

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