"And The Gladiators Enter The Arena"

by digby

Before we leave the tedious subject of last night's debate behind, I did want to highlight what was the single most embarrassing exchange of the night:

BLITZER: While they continue the photo-op over here, I want to bring in some of our reporters and analysts to give us a sense of what we can expect tonight.

We have the best political team watching all of this unfold.

Gloria Borger, what are you going to be looking for as we get ready? This debate is about to begin.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we know that tonight is going to be a really tough night for Hillary Clinton.

Barack Obama and John Edwards are going to challenge her, not only on her position on immigration, but on all kinds of issues. They have to break through, one of them, as the alternative to Hillary Clinton here tonight.

We are also going to be watching to see how she handles their attacks. Wolf, I think she has to engage tonight. She can't just float above it all. She has to take them on as well. And I expect her to do it.

BLITZER: John King, what are you looking for?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think Gloria is dead on. The pressure is most of all on Senator Clinton, who has to reassert her command of this race, after a tough few weeks.

But, also, Wolf, there are significant policy disagreements. The Democrats agree for the most part on the big issues. But there are some significant policy disagreements on immigration, and also on what would the role of U.S. troops be in Iraq. All of the Democrats say they would get out as soon as possible.

But they do have disagreements about whether the troops remaining during that pullout would say, block Iranian influence. That's a disagreement between Obama and Clinton. As we get closer and closer to Iowa, the voters are tuned in, paying much more close attention to the details. And there's a great opportunity for them tonight.

BLITZER: Campbell Brown and John Roberts are going to be joining me in the questioning during this first hour of this debate. Campbell, give us a sense of what you're looking at.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I think, to just follow up a little bit on what Gloria said, it will be interesting to watch Senator Clinton. And, obviously, she's under a lot of pressure tonight, given her performance at the last debate.

But what I think will be more interesting is whether she decides, as some have suggested she should, to go after her opponents, not only to aggressively defend herself, but to really get in there and mix it up with Barack Obama and John Edwards, who have been most aggressive in going after her. Or will she do what she has tended to do in the previous debates, which is sort of take the high road , to try to stay focused on the issues, and to continue to sort of portray herself as the inevitable candidate to be?

BLITZER: And, John, a quick thought from you, John Roberts.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR Well, it will be interesting to watch how John Edwards and Barack Obama comport themselves tonight.

They know that there's a crack in Hillary Clinton's suit of armor. Can they get inside there and wedge it open just a little bit more? It's natural for John Edwards to go in and try to do that. Barack Obama, he's got a different personality, tends to shy away from direct conflict like that. We will see how strong he can be tonight.

BLITZER: Our Emmy Award-winning best political team on television, they're standing by. We will have complete analysis, all that coming up.

Have you ever heard anything this vapid in your lives? It's like Howard Cosell on valium.

If you didn't know better you would have thought it was a Saturday Night Live sketch. And to make it even more ludicrous, they were speaking in hushed tones, as if they didn't want to "disturb the play" like at a golfing tournament.

John King is the only one out of all of them who said anything substantive at all, and that was after making the obligatory, "I think Gloria is dead on, Hillary has to reassert command, blah,blah,blah," like a trained seal. But at least he thinks the actual issues of disagreement among some of the candidates are worth mentioning.

Sadly, I think it's pretty clear that the reason for that is that he's the only who knows anything about them. The others are just repeating what they've been hearing at the Village pundit circle jerk society meetings for the past two weeks and have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. (And somebody needs to talk to John Roberts about his metaphors.)

Update: No sorry, this wasn't the most embarrassing moment of the night, after all. Apparently CNN forced that college student to ask that stupid diamonds or pearls question. That's really rich, considering they have been mercilessly pimping the Hillary question controversy even going so far as to call it "plant-gate."