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During every pre-debate punditathon, the talking heads all morph into Don King. Presidential debates aren’t debates—they’re fights. It’s an old criticism, sure. But one thing I noticed is that Chris Matthews and Co. clamor for a Where’s the beef-you’re-no-Jack-Kennedy-moment. They all remember these zingers as having a huge impact. They had a wow factor that stands out. I can see why. I mean who the hell remembers what Walter Mondale had to say on poverty or healthcare?
At last night’s debate in Austin, Texas, Hillary Clinton tried to pop off her own where’s-the-beef style classic. During a tussle over Barack Obama‘s alleged plagiarism, she complained—according to a Post story—”I think that if your candidacy is going to be about words, then they should be your own words. That’s, I think, a very simple proposition. And, you know, lifting whole passages from someone else’s speeches is not change you can believe in, it’s change you can Xerox.” Zing!
But I don’t think these kinds of slams work anymore. The debate audience booed Clinton. The line felt canned. I think audiences are more savvy, more politically aware than to give these kinds of barbs any merit. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Obama is just teflon. Maybe Clinton just can’t fire off a putdown without coming off as mean spirited. Maybe the line would have worked if it actually drove home a real criticism of Obama. No matter how hard the Clinton campaign tries, voters just don’t think Obama is a fake.
You can watch the exchange and judge for yourself:
Funniest point made by a youtube commentor: Clinton showed her age by name dropping Xerox.