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January 31, 2008

Rock Stars at the Kodak


HOLLYWOOD – The Kodak Theater, home of the Oscars, was packed to the gills with stars tonight. But for once, the likes of Steven Spielberg, Rob Reiner, Stevie Wonder, Fran Drescher and Brad Whitford showed up to worship someone else. Two someone elses. The debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the final showdown before next Tuesday’s 22 primaries, had the aura of a rock concert. People cheered, they whooped, they booed and, at the end, they leaped to their feet. What a change from the Republican debate the night before, which had double the candidates, a fraction of the audience and none of the giddy atmospherics. Both Clinton and Obama were on their game, and seemed flush with the excitement of the historic nature of the night, held in the very heart of liberal Hollywood. For once, Hillary Clinton seemed to find warm, engaging notes to strike, and even reached for inspiration. She responded to one question about being the nation’s CEO, “The U.S. government is much more than a business. It is a trust. It’s not out to make a profit….” Obama found an early moment to place one of his deeper thoughts: “I don’t think the choice is about black and white or gender or religion. The stakes are, are we looking to the past, or going forward? Is it about the past, or about the future?” Still, the bottom line was that there seemed precious little substance to divide the candidates; both gave the impression of utter competence and basic decency, and the crowd gave them love, love, love. After the debate, Clinton and Obama stood at the edge of the stage, signing one autograph after another.  And the candidates? They actually hugged.