Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Democratic Debate - A few Thoughts...

 The Democratic candidates for President finally had their first debate last night in Las Vegas, Nevada. Frontrunner Hillary Clinton, Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders, Jim Webb, Martin O'Malley and Lincoln Chafee rounded out the debate field.

Generally speaking, it was quite different than what we've seen from the Republicans this cycle. No insults, no put-downs or other nonsense. For just short of two and one-half hours, there was civil discourse about a variety of issues. Adults speaking like adults. Few instances of one candidate interrupting another. No one was chastised.

It was a yawner...

Full disclosure, I'll likely wind up voting for one of these people from last evening to be our next President. Unless and until the GOP puts forth a candidate that isn't some genuflecting, pandering, intellectually dishonest caricature of the politician he/she thinks they really are, I won't...I can't vote Republican anytime soon. For most of my early voting life, I voted Republican. Like others have said I didn't leave the Republican Party, they left me somewhere during the George W. Bush Administration. The Dwight Eisenhower's, the Richard Nixon's and yes the Ronald Reagan's of yesteryear would find no home in today's raucous and ridiculous Republican Party. And, neither can I.

Back to last night's debate...

A few thoughts on each of the participants...

Hillary Clinton - The media seems to be convinced that HRC had a fantastic evening putting forth a Presidential air while demonstrating a clear superiority in the debate environment. I agree, she was the smoothest and best prepared voice on the stage last night. Bernie Sanders shunned any serious debate prep, while O'Malley, Webb and Chafee tried to make their cases but mostly failed. Clinton's best moment when she took the GOP to task for their hypocritical stance on "big government."

"When people say that, it's always the Republicans or their sympathizers who say you can't have paid leave, you can't provide health care," she said. "They don't mind having big government to interfere with a woman's right to choose and to try to take down Planned Parenthood. They're fine with big government when it comes to that. I'm sick of it! You know, we can do these things.

I thought her worst moment was her response to CNN Host Anderson Cooper's question "which enemy you've made during your political career are you most proud of?" Clinton  responded, "Well, in addition to the NRA, the health insurance companies, the drug companies, the Iranians; probably the Republicans."

Tuck that away in your memory banks friends, I think we will see that in an ad during the general...

Bernie Sanders - A great number of people likely saw and listened to Bernie Sanders for the first time last night. They heard vintage Sanders railing against big banks, corporations, climate change, etc. In some ways Sanders is the opposite of HRC.  While the first question to Clinton regarded her "flip-flops" on various positions "Will you say anything to get elected?"  no one seems to question Bernie's sincerity or authenticness. Truth is, he's been beating the drum on most of these issues for decades and for that he deserves respect. True to his word, he had nothing harsh to say toward anyone, even after Clinton said he wasn't tough enough on guns. In the end, both she and Sanders want basically the same things out of gun reform. Better/faster background checks, close the gun show loophole, fund mental health, etc...

For better or worse, his biggest moment of the night was when he interjected a question about HRC's emails with this...

“I think the secretary of state is right, the American people are sick and tired about hearing about your damn emails,” Sanders said to hoots and cheers from the audience, after CNN moderator Anderson Cooper pushed Clinton on the ongoing scandal.
He concluded by saying: “Enough of the emails – let’s talk about the real issues facing the American people.”
If we can consider that last night was bernie Sanders making a first impression on the American people, he did pretty well. While his genuiness came across effectively last night, I think the typical general election voter isn't actually prepared to pull the lever for a Socialist. Sanders is a Democratic Socialist, but I think most people only read/hear "socialist." For that and many other reasons (finances, ground game, etc...) he is limited to being a charming diversion during this campaign. 

Jim Webb - Webb was the candidate I was most interested in watching last night. A decorated Vietnam vet, former Secretary of the Navy and former Senator from Virgina. He is also a well-regarded author. Webb had several smart things to say about guns, cyber security, etc. but seemed less impressive when it came to criminal justice (Black Lives Matter), and the Iran Nuclear deal (it's upsetting the region's balance of power.) He's certainly entitled to his opinions, but he seemed to me to be more of a professorial moderate conservative than a Democrat. He's clearly an interesting guy but his complaining about not getting enough time combined with the above responses place him somewhere other than a serious position for the Democratic nomination. 

Martin O'Malley - Two things stood out for me as I watched the former Governor of Maryland. The first was his response to Coopers "enemies" question when he simply said "The National Rifle Association" and then his closing statement where he drew a distinction between the Democratic debate and the prior Republican ones. 

"On this stage you didn't hear anyone denigrate women, you didn't hear anyone make racist comments about new immigrants, you didn't hear anyone speak ill of anyone because of their religious belief," O'Malley said. "What you heard was an honest debate of what will move us forward, to lead to a clean electric grid by 2050, and employ more of our people, rebuild our cities and towns, educate our children at higher and better levels, and include more people in the economic and social life in our country."

The problem in all of that is that ALL the Democrats on stage last evening are no fans of the NRA. He put it succinctly, but for that to be a high moment reveals how the rest of his night went. His closing statement was good, but not nearly enough. Had the rest of his night gone well, it would've been a terrific close, but in the end-he needed to demonstrate how he differs from Clinton and Sanders NOT how all of them differ from the GOP clown car. 

Lincoln Chafee - Mr. Chafee's night can be summed up in two short videos...

This one on his vote on Glass Steagall:

And this one about Clinton's email scandal/US reputation around the world:

The perpetual grin on his face made him appear clownish and I doubt anyone feels that his performance last evening improved his very, very small chances in the race for the Democratic nomination. He should suspend his campaign yesterday.

The next Democratic debate will take place in Des Moines, Iowa on Saturday, November 14th, 2015.

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