Gephardt slaps Dean. Dean flattens Gephardt.
I can't watch the debate right now as I am at work, but I am reading the running commentary over at the Dean blog. I understand that Gephardt starting going after Dean by comparing him to New Gingrich. This was Howard's response as transcribed by one of the commentators on the blog:
HD: "That is flat-out false and I am ashamed that you would compare me to Newt Gingrich. Nobody here deserves to be compared with NG."...We need to remember that the enemy here is George Bush, not each other."
This reminds me of the 2000 South Carolina debate between McCain and Bush. McCain had just come out with an ad comparing Bush to Clinton. Bush raked McCain over the coals for even daring to suggest that he was anything like that Ol-Debil-Clinton. I knew at that moment that Bush had the nomination sewed up.
Could this be a similar moment for Dean?
Update: The Washington Post has a running transcript of the debate up. Here's the exchange between Gephardt and Dean:
WILLIAMS: [...] A question for Governor Dean: What is your position on raising the retirement age?
DEAN: We shouldn't do it.
You know, Dick Gephardt, earlier in his career considered means testing Social Security and Medicare both, something that I have never considered. I considered raising the Social Security age possibly to 70, possibly to 68.
DEAN: I've rejected that. I think Dick has since rejected means testing Social Security.
What we're trying to do as Democrats is save Social Security and Medicare both. And I think we've succeeded in doing that. In fact, many of the things that I suggested in 1995, which Dick Gephardt has attacked me for, were actually incorporated into the Clinton plan to save Medicare and Social Security, and has resulted in the savings of over $200 billion.
So my view is, we do not need to raise the retirement age above 67. We do not need to means test Social Security or Medicare.
If we need to do anything, we may need to raise the cap on earnings in order to make Social Security solvent.
But Social Security is solvent today, and it will remain solvent if we can turn this economy around, and that's what we're all trying to do here.
WILLIAMS: Congressman Gephardt, we would be remiss.
GEPHARDT: Howard and I just have a basic disagreement. He said in, I think, 1993 that Medicare was the worst federal program ever. He said that it was the worst thing that ever happened.
He also supported, at our darkest hour--when I was leading the fight against Newt Gingrich and the Contract With America, he was shutting the government down--Howard, you were agreeing with the very plan that Newt Gingrich wanted to pass, which was a $270 billion cut in Medicare.
Now, you've been saying for many months that you're the head of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. I think you're just winging it.
This is not the view of Democrats, in my view.
This program has been under attack from the Republicans since the beginning. And we need a candidate against George Bush that can take the fight to him on it, not someone who agreed with the Gingrich Republicans.
WILLIAMS: Governor Dean?
DEAN: That is flat-out false, and I'm ashamed that you would compare me with Newt Gingrich. Nobody up here deserves to be compared to Newt Gingrich.
First of all, I did say that Medicare was a dreadful program because it's administered dreadfully.
I've done more for health insurance, Dick Gephardt, frankly, than you ever have, because I've delivered it to a lot of seniors and a lot of young people. And I'll stake my record on health insurance against anybody up here.
Of course, we're not going to get rid of Medicare, and you are wrong to insinuate so, but we're going to run it properly because we're going to have somebody that actually is taking care of patients running Medicare and Medicaid in the FDA so we can get the things that we need to get to patients.
To insinuate that I would get rid of Medicare is wrong, it's not helpful, and we need to remember that the enemy here is George Bush, not each other.