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Regrets flow freely at Democratic debate

January 15, 2008 |  9:54 pm

Cole_porter It's one of our favorite Cole Porter tunes (especially the 1934 version by the incomparable Ethel Waters): "Miss Otis Regrets." And the song ran through our head frequently during Tuesday night's Democratic presidential debate, as regret after regret was expressed by the three candidates on stage.

Barack Obama regretted -- "not only in hindsight, but going forward" -- that his campaign had been pushing the case that Hillary Clinton recently insulted Martin Luther King Jr.

Obama also rued his "You're likable enough, Hillary" comment the last time they squared off in a debate. The remark -- made Jan. 5 in New Hampshire, where he seemed to be riding high -- later was cited as one reason he lost the state's primary three days later to Clinton.

"My intention was to say, (to Clinton) 'I think you're plenty likable,' he said at Tuesday night's gathering in Las Vegas. "And it did not come out the way it was supposed to."

John Edwards was asked if, during his term in the U.S. Senate, he regretted ...

voting in 2001 for a bill that called for making it much tougher for middle-class folks to declare bankruptcy to relieve themselves of financial problems. Questioner Tim Russert noted that the measure was the precursor to legislation that cleared Congress in 2005 (after Edwards had left office).

"I absolutely do," the candidate replied. "I should not have voted for that" bill.

And even Clinton -- not a politician prone to give an inch -- admitted a mistake when Russert pressed her on supporting the 2001 bill.

"Sure I do," she responded when asked if she regretted that Senate vote.

Of course, she quickly reverted to form, adding: "But it never became law, as you know. It got tied up. It was a bill that had some things I agreed with and other things I didn't agree with, and I was happy that it never became law. I opposed the 2005 bill..."

Still, it was curiously refreshing to hear her and the others not try to reframe what they now see as mistakes.

-- Don Frederick

Photo: Cole Porter (Associated Press)

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