A Laborious Democratic Debate

4:54pm I'm sitting here working on my first cocktail, and I'm glad it's a strong one. MSNBC is inflicting Tucker Carlson and Pat Buchanan on me, at the same time. And people complain about Fox News?

4:58pm (All times Mountain or so) One last pre-debate thought, directed to those fellow bloggers who are thinking about forming a union. You want better working conditions? Save up for an Eames chair and shut up.

5:00pm And here come the candidates. Notice, please, that the reds are red and the blues are blue. There will be no "pastel patriots" repeats from '88.

5:03pm Nobody told me Chris Matthews was going to be here. I think I need to renegotiate my PJ Media fee.

5:05pm At long last, the debate is starting. Here comes the substance!

5:07pm Keith Olberman - Union Man. Proud member of the BDS-CIO.

5:07.5pm I swear I didn't prep that last line in advance.

5:09pm It's somewhat ironic that this event is being held at Soldier Field. Given that the damn pre-show is making Super Bowl festivities seem short & sweet.

5:11pm I'm loving Chris Dodd's Irish green tie. That's never a fashion faux pas in Chicago, not even for presidential wanna-bes.

5:12pm On the other hand, calling for fresh drinking water in the same sentence that he worries about collapsing bridges might not have been the smartest juxtaposition.

5:14pm Hillary's dad was a Bear's fan. Hillary was always (cough) a Yankees fan. Now that's a family with some broad interests. Although I do respect her for tying infrastructure in with homeland security. Now - will she say "earmark reforms?"

5:16pm Obama says Iraq has fanned the flames of anti-American sentiment. There have been no attacks on us since the Iraq War. Maybe a little flame fanning is exactly what we need?

5:17pm This is the AFL-CIO debate. We're talking little other than infrastructure -- which involves a lot of union jobs, public and private. Coincidence?

5:18pm Joe Biden is awfully loud. I was hoping for a break from that tonight, what with no appearances from Mike Gravel or Ron Paul.

5:19pm John Edwards is giving his stump speech, I think. It's th abridged version, but it's still his stump speech. I think he's forgotten that he's not in Iowa for the first time in two years.

5:21pm Dennis Kucinich just came out in favor of publicly-owned sports franchises. If you thought the baseball union was too powerful today...

5:23pm Obama likes publicly-funded sports stadiums. I disagree, but I'd wager that government is better at pouring concrete than it would be at making smart off-season bullpen trades.

5:24pm Bill Richardson just came out in favor of earmark reform and ending corporate welfare. Even if he's just using catchphrases, at least he's using catchphrases I can get behind.

5:25pm Clinton is talking NAFTA, which is fine and all. But it occurs to me that Olbermann hasn't once let the candidates actually, you know, kind of debate one another. This isn't a softball debate -- it's whiffle ball. It's the t-ball debate. It's barely even a joint press appearance.

5:27pm Richardson just came out against free trade agreements. Forget all the nice things I said about him at 5:24pm.

5:28pm This is depressing. Olberman phrased the question to Obama, "scrap NAFTA or fix it?" For some, free trade just isn't an option.

5:29pm Biden doesn't much care for free trade, either. And to complain that freakin' CANADA isn't labor-friendly enough shows a lack of seriousness on the part of Olbermann and every single candidate on the stage tonight.

5:30pm Dodd and Edwards are competing over who loves labor the most. Dodd at least sounds like he's once seen the inside of a union shop.

5:31pm Kucinich says he'd flat-out cut and run from NAFTA.

5:32pm "I'm here because I think we need to change America." That's Clinton speaking. I'll leave any conclusions to the reader. Me, I just finished my first martini in one big gulp. I'll be back after a refill.

5:36pm Played with the baby for a minute while making a fresh cocktail. In all, I was gone four minutes. Did I miss the substance?

5:38pm Wow. Dodd just mentioned the Chinese military buildup. He sounds almost Trumanesque.

5:40pm Kucinich says his most favored nation is America. Maybe not any version of America you're familiar with, but it sure is a nice sentiment, no?

5:43pm I spending the commercial break appreciating my martini and looking at the fall sportscoat collection in a certain men's catalog. In other words, there hasn't been much to think about yet tonight. Although I might be a bit optimistic using the word "yet."

5:44pm If al Qaeda takes over Iraq after we leave, Gov. Richardson? I'll do something! Like get us off oil and dirty bombs!

5:45pm Obama says that unconditional surrender is the key to avoiding anti-American sentiment, which is the key to security. A friend recently called him "a well-meaning nincompoop," and right now I couldn't agree more.

5:46pm Clinton has "a three-point plan" for getting out of Iraq, but I think I already made a joke about that in the last debate. Maybe my editor can help me out here...

5:48pm The question is still, "what to do if al Qaeda takes over Iraq after we pull out?" And so far, each candidate has said, paraphrased, "Here's my plan for getting out of Iraq." Pardon me?

5:51pm We've moved on to a new question, but listening to Obama's answer, I'll be damned if I know what it was. If the Matthews Debate a while back was too frenetic, and the YouTube Debate went on 20 minutes too long, then this is the Ambien Debate -- don't try to operate any heavy machinery, and it's going to be eight hours before you can function again.

5:52pm Clinton just said that Congress needs to "force" Bush to get us out of Iraq. Where's she been the last five years? The US Senate, maybe?

5:54pm Obama: "We have to refocus on Pakistan! I've been drinking like Steve Green! The clock doesn't apply to me!" Worst part? The crowd went wild.

5:56pm Again, Clinton is talking sense on the whole Invade Pakistan issue. She got booed for her efforts. There's a good chance that the crowd is worse than either Olbermann or the candidates. In other words, don't pick on me for drinking my way through this.

5:57pm Another commercial break means another chance to look at those lovely houndstooth sportscoats.

6:00pm We're back from the break, and now taking questions from the audience.

6:02pm I used to think that the "town hall" style debates were the worst. But then I saw an hour of the Keith Olbermann debate. Now, we get to watch the two styles collide. It's like last call at a biker bar, folks -- it's ugly time.

6:04pm Every time Kucinich gestures with his right hand, it's impossible not to notice how ill-fitting his shirt is. Congressmen get paid some pretty big bucks - big enough, at least, to spring for a 14.5-32 Van Heusen, yes?

6:05pm Richardson would unlock veterans from having to take VA health service. That's an idea whose time has come.

6:07pm Having lived through the Cold War funding debates of the '80s, it's laughable to here old-time Democrats like Dodd shout that our soldiers "deserve the best."

6:09pm Edwards is going on his stump speech so long that he had to tell Olbermann to leave him alone.

6:11pm Sometimes I like Hillary. But then she tries to show her concern by shouting. Bill needs to tell her to cut that out -- it'd be worth 100,000 votes, easy, in November '08.

6:13pm Obama just convinced me that he's running for vice president. There's no other reason for him to have used the phrase "comprehensive immigration reform." No other smart, experienced reason, that is.

6:16pm Joe Biden will make nurses appear. I swear he just promised that. Truth be told, we're not in the middle of a nursing shortage -- we're maybe in the first 25 years of a centuries-long nursing shortage. And Biden can't change that. Nobody can.

6:17pm "Medicare for all!" "Not for profit!" First, make hospitals like the DMV. Second, strangle the supply of doctors and nurses. If there's a third step, Kucinich was too smart to mention it, and I'm too scared to think of it.

6:17.5pm I also might be too drunk.

6:19pm Time for another cocktail. Past time, really. Someone will let me know if I miss the substance, yes?

6:22pm So my editor, who I'll leave unnamed to protect the not-quite-innocent, said, "This one is brutal." I took a first sip of my third martini and typed back at him, "We're past simple brutality and well into sadism." Also, another commercial break for more catalog shopping. There's your substance.

6:25pm We're back from the break, with what Olbermann promises is the last 15 minutes. Oh, please, let him be accurate. And I don't mean fake-but-accurate.

6:27pm Richardson says he won't pick Dick Cheney for his Veep. I think it's fair to say that, at this point, Satan wouldn't give Cheney the nod.

6:28pm It's the Lightning Round, which moves faster than my ability to type. Yet it's somehow slower than my ability to care.

6:29pm Edwards says, "Lawyers are better than lobbyists!" Yes, and ebola will kill you faster than AIDS. Small comfort, I suppose.

6:31pm Biden just came out in favor of some small measure of bipartisanship. Good for him, too. Although Bush's version -- keeping Bill Tenent around to screw up the CIA -- was certainly lacking a certain something.

6:33pm Kucinich is claiming a leadership role in Congress. Which is kind of like saying that snouty-faced guy in the Star Wars cantina scene held a leading role in Episode IV.

6:29pm Edwards says, "Lawyers are better than lobbyists!" Yes, and ebola will kill you faster than AIDS. Small comfort, I suppose.

6:33pm Kucinich is claiming a leadership role in Congress. Which is kind of like saying that snouty-faced guy in the Star Wars cantina scene held a leading role in Episode IV.

6:34pm Obama won't answer a hypothetical baseball question, but he's willing to invade the heck out of Pakistan yesterday.

6:34pm Obama won't answer a hypothetical baseball question, but he's willing to invade the heck out of Pakistan yesterday. This guy is so not ready for primetime, that I'm ready to vote for Clinton in the primary -- and to switch my registration to Democrat just to do so.

6:37pm Biden just claimed that it's Bush's fault that the campaign season started so early this time around. Look, you can blame Bush for a lot. And I certainly do. But is there nothing the Democrats won't blame him for?

6:38pm Clinton is shouting again, and so I've decided not to change my registration for the primary.

6:40pm John Edwards has more money than, approximately, everybody, combined. And yet he's calling for publicly-financed elections. Instead of "pretty boy" or "big fat fake" I proposed we label him "tightwad."

6:42pm "A worker's White House!" Kucinich might be able to afford better shirts if he left Congress and started writing for the People's Weekly.

6:43pm "This concludes our coverage." Finally, Olbermann speaks sense. I'll try to post a wrap later, over at Vodkapundit.com. But first I'm going to need some dinner, and a fourth very large drink.