The Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton Debate ( What Did We Really Learn?)

As time goes by, even the closest couples sometimes struggle to find new things to talk about. So it was no surprise that during their 20th and final debate, Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama struggled to say anything that supporters haven't already heard them say many, many times during their daily stump speeches and 19 other showdowns.

For the most part, they played nice — again — complimenting each other when they weren't attacking the other's nasty campaign tactics, arguing about who opposed the Iraq war first and chewing up 16 minutes parsing the sliver of difference between their healthcare plans.

Sitting just a foot away from each other during the 90-minute debate at Cleveland State University, the candidates were mostly cordial, but their body language indicated that, at this point, they're just plain irritated with each other. So, with Obama the resounding champion in recent primaries and make-or-break ones for Clinton coming next week, what did we learn from this final showdown?

"If anything, we learned that there isn't any serious difference between these two on major issues like healthcare," Roger Simon, chief political columnist for Politico.com, told MTV News on Wednesday (February 27). "Which is why they have to keep getting into this endless wrangle about how many people would [not be covered] under the other's plan. It's like two hamsters chasing each other around in a wheel."

Other things we learned:

Hillary Clinton doesn't like to go first ... but she'll do it anyway After the endless healthcare back-and-forth, co-moderator Brian Williams brought up what appeared to be Clinton's flip-flopping support for the North American Free Trade Agreement passed by her husband, former president Bill Clinton. "Well, could I just point out that, in the last several debates, I seem to get the first question all the time?," Clinton said. "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." The line brought one of the only audible "boos" of the night from the audience. Then, when the other moderator, Tim Russert, aimed a question at both of the candidates about the upcoming Russian election, Clinton happily jumped in first. "If you don't think she was the kid in school who always raised her hand first ..." Simon told MTV News on Wednesday.

Barack Obama gives as good as he gets, and says there's no whining in politics The night began with a tense exchange in which Clinton accused Obama of dirty tricks over a mailing she said he's distributed in Ohio that she said mischaracterized her healthcare plan and stance on NAFTA. Obama shot back with an assertion that, "I have endured over the course of this campaign repeatedly negative mailing from Senator Clinton in Iowa, in Nevada and other places suggesting that I want to leave 15 million people out [of my healthcare plan] ... Senator Clinton — [or] her campaign, at least — has constantly sent out negative attacks on us, e-mail, robo-calls, flyers, television ads, radio calls, and we haven't whined about it because I understand that's the nature of this campaigns."

The biggest difference between them on the issue they say is the most important one, healthcare, is ... well, we're still not sure Obama admitted that 95 percent of his and Clinton's healthcare plans are the same, so the bitter back-and-forth over how many people would be left behind in Obama's plan, or who many would be forced to pay for a plan under Clinton, was kind of pointless. As Simon noted, "maybe six people in the country can understand the differences in their plans anyway."

Obama rejects and denounces the support of controversial Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan Even after he called Farrakhan's past anti-Semitic comments "unacceptable and reprehensible" and said he did not solicit the support of his fellow Chicagoan, Russert asked Obama if he implicitly rejected Farrakhan's support, to which Obama responded, "Well, Tim, I can't say to somebody that he can't say that he thinks I'm a good guy." After Clinton called Obama to task for denouncing — but not rejecting — Farrakhan's support, Obama seemingly threw up his hands and said, "I have to say I don't see a difference between denouncing and rejecting. There's no formal offer of help from Minister Farrakhan that would involve me rejecting it. But if Senator Clinton feels the word 'reject' is stronger than the word 'denounce,' then I'm happy to concede the point, and I would reject and denounce."

Neither of them is willing to kick NAFTA to the curb on Day One, or commit to re-invade Iraq if things fall apart after our pull troops out When Russert asked Clinton and Obama to commit to pulling out of the North American Free Trade Agreement within six months of taking office, both said they would put Mexico and Canada on notice, but pledged to renegotiate the treaty, not scrap it. Both also were noncommittal about sending American troops back to Iraq if the situation deteriorates after U.S. troops pull out under their presidencies. "You know, Tim, you ask a lot of hypotheticals," Clinton responded. Obama's take was, "I think we should always cooperate with our allies and sovereign nations in making sure that we are rooting out terrorist organizations. But if they are planning attacks on Americans like what happened on 9/11, it will be my job as president to make sure that we are hunting them down."

Hillary's working on getting her tax returns out into the public domain, for real The Senator promised to get it done as soon as she can, but added, "I'm a little busy right now."

Obama's pledge to sidestep special-interest money by taking public financing in the general election: Eh, not so fast: When Russert asked Obama why he wouldn't pony up now that expected Republican nominee John McCain is "calling your bluff," Obama said, "if I am the nominee, then I will sit down with John McCain and make sure that we have a system that is fair for both sides. Because, Tim, as you know, there are all sorts of ways of getting around these loopholes."

Clinton doesn't know the correct pronunciation of the name of Russian President Vladimir Putin's hand-picked successor Guess what? Hardly anyone does ...

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1 Comments on "The Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton Debate ( What Did We Really Learn?)"

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