The Austin Debate: Clinton’s Attack Unveils Her Vulnerability

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton: The Austin (TX) Presidential Debate

Senator Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton met at the University of Texas in Austin (TX) last night for a 90-minute debate, the 19th in their periodic series of debates and forums that has ranged from highly civilized to highly personal and hotly confrontational encounters. The first half of this first Austin debate was a relatively civil meeting. The two candidates agreed that high-tech surveillance measures are preferable to construction of a fence to curtail illegal immigration, disagreed on the proper response to a change in government in Cuba subsequent to Fidel Castro’s resignation and sparred frequently about health care, a central issue of the campaign.

The Austin Presidential Campaign Debate

Clinton had gone into last night’s debate knowing that she needed to somehow change the course of the campaign. She appeared to wait patiently like a fox for an opening to try to deprecate Obama, who was sitting just inches away from her on the stage. As the second half of the debate began, Clinton said, “I think you can tell from the first 45 minutes Senator Obama and I have a lot in common.” Hardly pausing to take a breath, she went on to say that, on the other hand, there were differences. In a moment that Clinton had clearly planned ahead, she raised the issue of Obama’s use in his campaign speeches of words first uttered by his friend, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.

If your candidacy is going to be about words then they should be your own words,” she said. “Lifting whole passages from someone else’s speeches is not change you can believe in, it’s change you can Xerox.” Her charge had a perhaps unexpected response, drawing jeers and boos at her from the debate audience. When Obama dismissed the charge out of hand, he turned the catcalls to applause by replying that, “What we shouldn’t be spending time doing is tearing each other down. We should be spending time lifting the country up.”

Clinton Charges: Obama Copies His Words

That exchange marked an unusually combative moment in an otherwise generally respectful meeting. By the end of the debate, Clinton offered a comment of unprompted praise about Obama, saying that, “No matter what happens in this contest, I am honored to be here with Barack Obama.” A remarkable moment of Clinton vulnerability. She has revealed the paradoxical dilemma which confronts her: she still thinks that she can win the nomination, but at the same time she also knows that more likely than not, she won’t.

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Faith in Texas: A Gratitude for Obama

Barack Obama Campaigning in Houston, Texas

Huge crowds have continued to show up to attend Barack Obama’s campaign appearances all across Texas. On Tuesday, he spoke to a crowd of more than 16,000 people at a Houston rally. In Dallas yesterday, 17,000 excited Obama supporters thronged into the city’s Reunion Arena, eagerly cheering Obama’s speech, clearly fired up about his themes of hope, change and unity. They were reported to have been uplifted and exhilarated by his call to finally take America beyond the debilitating war in Iraq, as well as to overcome the old guard’s established divisions based upon culture, religion and race.

Obama has been conducting his strong campaign from from the ground-up, rather than by the old guard’s usual top-down campaign operations. He has campaign sites distributed all over the state, including many in quite remote, often overlooked locations. They are attracting voters who are African-American, white and Hispanic, people of all ages and walks of life. Deanie Mills writes in today’s Huffington Post, “If Obama wins the Texas Two-Step, it will be not only because he knew how to dance, but because he didn’t just go out on the floor with the prom queen. He reached out his hand to all those people standing around in the shadows, listening to the music, and wondering how it would feel to be a part of it all.”

Tonight, Senator Obama will participate in a televised debate with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Austin, Texas.

Faith in Texas: A Gratitude for Obama

Music: Josh Groban/Don’t Give Up, You Are Loved

Barack Obama: Change We Can Believe In

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