Edwards admits he should not have voted for a 2001 "bankruptcy reform" bill. Clinton agrees but, unlike, Edwards points out the bill never became law -- softening the blow of Russert's question quoting a top consumer group describing Clinton's vote as the "death knell" for pro-consumer bankruptcy reform. Clinton tries to push the debate to Nevada, saying blacks and latinos here are stressed by the mortgage meltdown. Obama rises above both by being the only one to say he opposed the 2001 bankruptcy bill in concept and voted against the 2005 bill while in the Senate. Obama said both were pushed "by the credit card companies" and his opposition grew out of skepticism of their motives and general unease with special interest power in D.C.
On mortgage crisis, Clinton deftly and confidently describes the components of her economic stimulus plan. She comes close as I can ever recall to reaching the heights of intellectual synergy her husband often achieved by combining policy specifics with real-world examples the average person can comprehend. This was by far Clinton's best moment in the debate and, I imagine, swayed the minds of some undecided voters and probably came as reassuring music to the ears of slightly wavering Clinton supporters hungry to be reminded of why they were drawn to her in the first place.
On the ask-your-opponent segment, Clinton makes a transparent attempt to erase any distance between her and Obama on Iraq by asking him to embrace her legislation to challenge President Bush on Iraq benchmarks, troop deployments and permanent bases.
Obama agrees immediately, but underscores his long-standing opposition to the Iraq war, defying Clinton's desire to minimize the distance between the two. On troop withdrawals, Clinton leans more aggressively toward withdrawing U.S. troops within a year, offering the caveat she always does that she will move "carefully and responsibly" but can move almost all out within a year. Edwards says he's the only one to eliminate combat missions and eliminate any prospect of permanent military bases, calling the differences between himself and Obama and Clinton important and telling. Edwards said combat forces and military bases "continue the occupation" in Iraq. Obama says it's important to keep the option of combat forces on the table to deal with potential Al Qaeda uprisings, but concedes Edwards point that a strike team might also be stationed in Kuwait to handle such operations. Since this issue has been so thoroughly vetted and appears to be falling behind the economy in the minds of most Democratic voters, this exchange will probably not move many votes.
Mike Emanuel currently serves as chief congressional correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He joined FNC in 1997 as a Los Angeles-based correspondent.