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Clinton wonders about the debate process

February 26, 2008 |  7:07 pm

On national television Tuesday night, Hillary Clinton seemed to wonder if she's being picked on -- by debate questioners.

And, in an offbeat moment sure to be replayed, she went on to refer to a skit on "Saturday Night Live" that (no doubt to the show's supreme delight) her campaign aides have previously sought to spotlight.

Clinton squared off with Barack Obama in Ohio and the two Democratic presidential contenders quickly engaged in a lengthy debate on their healthcare plans (16 minutes, according to moderator Brian Williams). Neither gave an inch -- each insisting their respective plans were superior and that a panoply of experts agreed. Presumably, it now will be up to voters in Ohio and Texas to vet this dispute in their closely watched primaries next Tuesday.

Clinton was asked to comment first on the issue, given that she harshly accused Obama over the weekend of unfairly representing her healthcare plan.

Turning to their next major dispute of late -- the North American Free Trade Agreement -- Clinton again was asked to comment first, given that during the early 1990s she seemed to stand foursquare behind her husband, President Bill Clinton, as he pushed the controversial pact through Congress.

Before focusing on the topic, she said she found it "curious" ...

that, according to her, at the "last several debates" she seemed to be targeted for the first question.

We can't recall if she's right about that. But we're pretty sure the matter will have been thoroughly vetted by morning. It also will be interesting to see if Clinton will be seen as standing up for herself or acting a bit petulant.

It all might have been mainly a ruse to work in that reference to the SNL spoof that showed Obama being fawned over by media types. Here was the entire Clinton remark, when the NAFTA query was kicked her way:

"Well, could I just point out that, in the last several debates, I seem to get the first question all the time. And I don't mind. You know, I'll be happy to field them, but I do find it curious. And if anybody saw 'Saturday Night Live,' you know, maybe we should ask Barack if he's comfortable and needs another pillow."

It was a jarring transition and, judged by an absence of crowd response, landed with a thud.

--Don Frederick

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