From NBC's Lauren Appelbaum
Earlier this morning, First Read briefly recapped last night's Univision debate, the first presidential debate ever broadcast in Spanish. Here are some additional thoughts...
On Iraq, all of the candidates called for a troop withdrawal -- with Kucinich being the first, and he received a large applause from the audience. Obama, who spoke next, said he (like Kucinich) as against the war from the beginning. Although Kucinich asked for some time to respond, the moderators did not oblige. In fact, the moderators did not allow any time for the candidates to engage one another and debate. Instead, each candidate had time to simply answer his or her question and move on.
Richardson restated that his plan differs from those of Clinton, Obama, and Edwards -- since he says no residual troops should be left in Iraq following a withdrawal. "I would bring them all home, everyone of them," the New Mexico governor said. "There is a fundamental difference that I raised in the last debate with Senator Obama, Senator Clinton, Senator Edwards. Under their plans, under their Web sites, they leave either 25- or 50-, or 75-thousand troops behind. I would bring them all home within a period of time of six to eight months because our troops have become targets."
Clinton responded called for a withdrawal after stating that Petraeus' report will not bring about a political solution to Iraq. "I believe we should start bringing our troops home," she said to applause. "We need to quit refereeing their civil war and bring our troops home as soon as possible."
Edwards called the Petraeus report a "sales job from the White House," and said since he believes there is no political progress, the troops should be brought home.
Gravel and Dodd had the opportunity to respond to a question on capturing Osama Bin Laden. After saying "terrorism is not a war" and "our war on terrorism makes no sense," Gravel called for American organizations to work with international ones such as Interpol and prosecute terrorists as criminals. Dodd said he would focus on rebuilding "coalitions necessary to deal with terrorism."
Some of the candidates were asked about the role of the Spanish language in America. Kucinich called for Spanish to be a second national language. Dodd, a fluent Spanish speaker, took a different approach, saying Americans need to learn more languages and not expect other people around the world to know English. He called Americans' lack of foreign language skills "a source of collective embarrassment" and touted his fluency in Spanish.
Richardson, the only Latino in the field, did not directly address the issue. "Latinos are the heart of the American mainstream," he said. "I am very proud to be the first Latino Democratic candidate to run for president. I think any way this country can promote diversity is important. Latinos care about all issues, including health care and the war in Iraq. We are mainstream."
But Richardson did show his displeasure in being forced to speak English. "I've always supported Univision all my career, but I'm disappointed today for the 43 million Latinos in country for them not to hear one of their own speak Spanish is unfortunate," he said. "In other words, Univision has promoted English-only in this debate."
A large percentage of the questions were devoted to immigration. All of the candidates promised to work on comprehensive immigration reform within their first year of their presidency. Clinton, Obama, and Dodd -- who all voted for the fence on the border with Mexico -- were asked why there is no discussion about a border fence with Canada. Slightly caught off guard, they answered indirectly and instead touted their work toward comprehensive immigration reform, calling for more border security, employer verification systems, and a pathway to citizenship.
"I do favor more security on the border," Clinton said, "and in some cases a physical border because that has to be part of securing our borders." Dodd said that instead of focusing on a wall, it is important to understand why people immigrate and to help the Mexican government provide for their own citizens so they do not have to come to American for employment.
Richardson, an opponent of any wall, repeated a line that audiences often receive well. "If you're going to build a 12 foot wall, you know what's going to happen? A lot of 13-foot ladders."
All of the Democratic candidates except Biden attended. Biden, who recently returned from a trip to Iraq, said he needed the time to prepare for a Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the Petraeus report tomorrow.
Richardson and Dodd, as the two fluent Spanish speakers of the group, had an opportunity to benefit from the debate. Dodd's campaign was the first one out with a press release, stating he displayed a "depth of understanding and experience." Less than ten minutes later, the Richardson campaign sent out a release declaring Richardson the winner. They were the only two candidates to send out press releases -- unlike after other debates, when all of the campaigns often send out multiple releases touting their successes.
Clinton and Obama each received nine questions while Edwards, Dodd, and Richardson got eight. Gravel and Kucinich were each asked seven questions.