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Setting the Standard

The Weekly Standard has rolled out its new CampaignStandard blog edited by Matthew Continetti. With Fred Barnes leading off, with Richard Starr coming out from behind his editorial desk to pinch hit, with the pseudonymous “well-known campaign consultant” Richelieu batting third, with Bill Kristol batting cleanup, the lineup looks a little like the punditocratic equivalent of the 1927 Yankees to me. Here’s Bill Kristol summing up last night’s Democratic debate in a midnight post:

Last night, for the first time this election cycle, I watched a Democratic presidential debate. It was appalling. But it was also, in a way, encouraging. Before last night, I thought it was 50-50 that the Republican nominee would win in November 2008.
Now I think it’s 2 to 1. And if the Democrat is anyone but Hillary, it’s 4 to 1.
Here, judging from the debate, is what the 2008 Democratic nominee is likely to be for. Abroad: ensuring defeat in Iraq and permitting a nuclear Iran. At home: more illegal immigration, higher taxes, more government control of health care, and more aggressive prosecution of the war on smoking than of the war on terror. And this is only a bit of an exaggeration. Going into last night, I had no great expectations of the Democratic field. But the level of routine irresponsibility demonstrated throughout the debate was jaw-dropping. Bush may remain unpopular, and the Republican “brand” unattractive. But I believe the toughness of Giuliani, the sobriety of Thompson, the gravitas of McCain–any of these would be very difficult for the Democratic nominee to overcome.
Hillary Clinton is the only possible president among the Democrats. She did occasionally (though only occasionally) try to interject elements of seriousness into the evening. To someone like me, she’s the only plausible nomineee. But that makes me wonder whether she’s likely to be the nominee.
She’s out of sync with her party….

I disagree with Bill in the sense that I think Ms. Hillary is right in sync with her party, but she believes the current state of the Democratic race gives her the freedom to don the camouflage she will wear in the general campaign. Richelieu captures this point, as well as the weirdness of Ms. Hillary’s game last night:

Hillary kept her hawk’s eye on the general election by speaking a lot and saying as little as possible. She was adroit, practiced, and tremendously uncompelling. Never has a debate line been thrown away with less sincerity than Hillary saying that in the past she has made mistakes. She doesn’t believe one word of that. Hillary’s most truthful moment was obvious: Her steel-eyed “He’s not standing here right now” retort to moderator Russert’s crafty old (Bill) Clinton quote on the torture question. Hillary’s waited a lifetime to say that and has never meant any words any more than those….

You’ll want to catch up with the good stuff already posted on the CampaignStandard and bookmark it for a daily stop.
PAUL adds: I agree with the tenor of Kristol’s comments, though not the odds he quotes. Some have noted that all three of the leading Democratic contenders failed to promise that all U.S. troops would be out of Iraq by 2013. I wouldn’t read much into that. Clearly, no one with even a remote expectation of becoming president could pledge that we’d have no soldiers in Iraq (or any other major country) on a given date.
Edwards said he’d end combat missions and keep up to 5,000 troops on hand to protect humanitarian and reconstruction workers, etc. Clinton and Obama refused to rule out counter-terrorism missions against al Qaeda, a bow perhaps to the success we’ve had in Anbar province, but also a prudent attempt to avoid charges of being soft on al Qaeda and terrorism generally. Of course, neither Clinton nor Obama explained how, once we stop playing a role in providing security for Iraqis, we can expect to obtain the intelligence and cooperation needed for meaningful counter-terrorist measures.
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