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9:04 PM

Debate Team 

Hillary Cruises Through Preseason Warm-up

The Hillarocity just wasn't as Hillacious as one have might hoped in last night's Senate debate. Practicing for a White House run by debating former Yonkers mayor John Spencer should be like warming up for March Madness with a game against Old Mother Hubbard's Academy for the Blind. And Hillary pretty much took it that way. Treating the event as a casual forum for reintroducing the brand, she only got heated when she condescended to correct Soldier Johnny's myriad factual errors, kept answers on Iraq and North Korea unquotably muddy, and avoided hot buttons like abortion and gay marriage (unless the line "New Yorkers took a chance on me" was intended to evoke ABBA).

"Dancing Queen" would have been a more apt reference. Searching for the right rhetorical vein — commanding but folksy, human but not all-too-human, red but purple but blue, truth-saying but poll-hugging — Hillary shimmies around until someone (ideally a donor) cries uncle. Appearing authentic in the canned contexts that shape American politics, sealing the utterly fake ties that bind, just isn't her thing.

Despite a debate style that suggests he learned rhetoric watching Peter Boyle's hippie-hunting nutjob in Joe, Spencer managed the one fun line of the night. When Hillary, in calling for Rumsfeld's ouster, noted that Lincoln changed generals during the Civil War, Spencer fired back: "Abraham Lincoln changed generals … you're not president yet, Mrs. Clinton."

Thank you, John Spencer. You may not have been able to recall your own wall-moat-snakes immigration position (despite its appearance on a campaign Website you claimed not to have looked at for six months) or articulate an economic-stimulus package beyond tax cuts, cutting taxes, tax-cutting and … er, um, lemme check my notes here … yes, decreasing the rate of taxation, but you decreased the rate of boredom for a fleeting second.