So far the best part of the pre-show festivities is the South Carolina State University band and drum line playing before the commercial breaks.
4:59 pm: They're all in their places with bright shiny faces.
5:02 pm: One thing I like about this debate already (from Associated Press):
The debate format barred opening or closing statements and limited the candidates' responses to one minute to ensure a lively pace ...
Hey! Bill Richardson was the first to be introduced.
5: 07 pm: So far nobody is actually answering Brian Williams' question whether they agree with Sen. Harry Reid that the war in Iraq has been lost. Joe Biden had a good retort though. "Look Brian, this isn't a game show."
5:10 pm: Nevada flashback! Hilary still won't apologize for her Iraq vote and Edwards still won't admit his statement about the subject wasn't a barb for her.
5:13 pm: Richardson says he wouldn't vote to fund the war. "This war has been a disaster," he said. He repeated his position that we should withdraw all troops by the end of the year and have the three major religious and ethnic groups sit down and negotiate.
5:18 pm: Former Sen. Gravel says "This war was lost the day that George Bush invaded." He says Congress should pass a law making it a felony to stay in Iraq.
Earlier Chris Dodd said this administration treats diplomacy as if it's a gift to our enemies and a sign of weakness.
Obama just said "We're 16 votes away from ending this war," referring to the number of votes needed to override the president's veto. Hillary agrees.
5:22 pm: Williams is asking candidates about embarrassing personal facts. Edwards just got asked about his $400 haircut. Why did he pay out of campaign funds? "That was a mistake," he said. As for the expensive haircut he says, "I remember where I come from."
5:27 pm: Richardson was asked about the fact he initially didn't call for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' resignation "because he's Hispanic." Richardson said he was just being honest about how he felt. "The American people want candor, they don't want blow-dried candidates who are perfect." He has since called for Gonzales' resignation.
5:31 pm: Gravel once again is the true "Straight Talk Express" He said that after appearing on stage with some of the other candidates he wonders "how the hell they got here." He added, "Some of these people scare me," saying talk about keeping all the options in Iraq open is code talk for using nuclear weapons. He singled out the top-tier candidates plus Biden, who he said has shown arrogance.
5:38 pm: Richardson sure isn't being called upon much. Only 2 questions so far.
5:40 pm: Richardson was asked about his model Supreme Court justice. "Justice Whizzer White," he answered "How about someone among the living?" Williams said to laughter from the audience. He answered Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
5:42 pm: In light of the Virginia Tech killings Richardson is asked about being the NRA's favorite candidate. "I'm a westerner. Second amendment rights are precious in the West. Most gun owners are law abiding." But he says the mental health system needs to be improved. And there should be instant background checks for buying guns.
5:44 pm: Candidates are asked who has ever had a gun in their house. Richardson raises his hand. So does Kucinich. KUCINICH HAS GUNS?
5:49 pm: Williams calls Richardson "the most strident about not raising taxes." Here's some talk we with which New Mexicans are familiar: "I'm a governor, I deal with these things every day." He promises "no new bureaucracy" for health care. At least he didn't say "Read my lips."
5:56 pm: Gravel says he's the senior statesman and he's beginning to feel like a potted plant standing up there.
The candidates were asked about the worst mistake they ever made. Kucinich said the worst mistake he ever made was as mayor as Cleveland he fired the police chief live on the 6 o'clock news. (Shades of Debbie Jaramillo!). Richardson said he's impatient tries to change drastically and is too aggressive. He said he made a mistake trying to ram the minimum wage bill through the Legislature last year.
6:00 pm: Richardson was asked what the first thing he would do as president: "The first day I would get us out of Iraq." The second day he said he'd work on global warming. "The fourth day, I'd take off," he said.
6:02 pm: One hour gone. Nobody's made any significant boo boos or hit any homers. But there's nearly a half hour to go.
6:04 pm: Gravel, asked about who our enemies are, says we don't have any enemies. "We spend more on defense than the rest of the world put together. Who are we afraid of? Who are you afraid of, Brian?"
6:06 pm: Asked about Russia, Richardson said he wants Russia to be more humane. "I would focus my presidency about dealing with the real threats to America. Terrorism, nuclear proliferation." He also said the U.S. should care more about Africa.
6:08 pm: Has Richardson smiled ONCE during this debate?
6:11 pm: Earlier this year Richardson was compared to The Soprano’s “Bobby Bacala” on Jay Leno's show. If he's Bobby, then Chris Dodd has to be Paulie Walnuts. (Of course Wonkette calls John McCain "Walnuts.")
6:14 pm: Obama says if U.S. cities were attacked the U.S. shouldn't act with bluster and should get the world behind us. Edwards gives a similar answer.
6:17 pm: Nobody on the stage would support Kucinich's resolution to impeach Vice President Cheney.
6:20 pm: Richardson asked about Cuba, but decides to answer what if US was attacked question. He'd respond with great force and get the world behind us. On Cuba, he said we should be planning for post-Castro Cuba and get Cuban-Americans involved in the process.
6:22 pm: Gravel: "We are mischaracterizing terrorism. terrorism has been with us since the beginning. We'll be as successful with the war on terrorism as we were on the war on drugs."
6: 24 pm: At this point, nobody's even playing like they're answering the question.
6:25 pm: Obama and Kucinich are arguing over whether Iran is a threat. Gravel chimes in that the U.S. is the biggest violator of the non-proliferation treaty. "Who the hell are we going to nuke?" Obama says he doesn't want to nuke anyone.
6:28 pm: Hillary is ambivalent about Wal-mart. It was great when it started out but now there are questions about its corporate responsibility.
6:30 pm: No parting words from our governor.
I've cleaned up some of my typos and fixed my "Brian Wilson" mistake as my friend Henry pointed out in the comment section.