Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Bickersons Turn Into a Ticket

From the moment Barack Obama held out Hillary Clinton's chair as they sat down to debate to the near-hug as he patted her shoulder when they stood up, the Democratic candidates put their party back on the road to the White House tonight.

Gone was last week's Palmetto rancor to be replaced by enough Hollywood feel-good to make Wolf Blitzer's final question about their forming a Dream Ticket plausible. In turning away from attacking each other to aim their fire at George Bush and John McCain, both Clinton and Obama showed voters their best selves.

The former First Lady softened her wonkiness with what came across as genuine caring, while Obama leavened his earnestness with cocky jokes like the one about Mitt Romney's shortcomings as a CEO who was not getting a good return on his campaign money.

If there was a fault line between them, it came toward the end as they discussed the 2002 Senate resolution to let Bush invade Iraq. Clinton, for some reason, continues to dodge admitting her mistake in voting for it, leaving an opening for Obama to score the point that a President needs not only experience but good judgment from Day One.

They started out by sharing satisfaction in the fact that the election of either of them would change American history, and they ended by going off toward Super Tuesday with a civility that bodes well for that future.

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