On October 13, 2015, five Democratic candidate had a debate over their party’s presidential nomination. Hillary Clinton and only four candidates meant more time for answers, and CNN also helpfully decided to not spend half the time asking them to react to stuff Donald Trump said, or trivial questions like which woman should be on the $10 bill or what they’d like their Secret Service code-name to be. CNN telegraphed in advance they didn’t want to make the Democratic debate as big a brawl as they had with the Republicans. So how did each candidate do?
HILLARY CLINTON – Before this debate, people were demanding more debates. Democrats wanted more. Everyone but Hillary and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz wanted more. Now? I think we’re good. Hillary commanded center stage and looked like the best person of the five to take on whoever the Republicans nominate next year. If she wasn’t the heavy front-runner, she could have been sunk by some of her questionble statements, but overall, she cemented her position.
When Anderson Cooper asked her if she’d say anything to get elected, she said she’s been very consistent, and you could fill the cognative dissonance in the room shift gears. Her excuses for not supporting TPP or Keystone were weak. She said she represented Wall Street but then tried to argue that right before the stock-market crash, she went to Wall Street and said “Stop it!” so, you know, she deserves credit. When she says she’s been as transparent as she can possibly be, that’s Clinton-speak for “no transparency.” She’ll do whatever she wants to do, and if you ask her no questions, she’ll tell you no lies. When she pointed out that O’Malley endorsed her in 2008 and he was a friend, her look suggested that O’Malley had better not go fishing with Al Neri anytime soon.
She smartly attached herself to Pres. Obama on most issues, allowing for some differences, but her main opponent wasn’t on the stage. She had to perform in a way that would keep Joe Biden from entering the race, and she’s that much closer on that front to hanging her own “Mission Accomplished” banner.
Other than ultimate power and the history of being the first woman president, I don’t know why she wants to be president. Maybe that’s enough.
BERNIE SANDERS – Unlike Hillary, you know exactly how he feels about which issues and he wears his heart on his sleeve. I can see people getting excited about his answers and promises, but they were proposals that will never, ever get through a Republican congress. (Which is ironic when you consider he was the only one who said it’d take compromise to pass comprehensive gun-control legislation.)
He was there to be the nutty socialist so Hillary could be the reasonable progressive. At one point, Cooper asked him to jump into the Syrian debate, and he answered like someone who hadn’t been listening and bluffed his way through an answer. Why he rescued Hillary with her server scandal is beyond me. When asked how he would be more effective than Obama in working with Republicans, he said he’d make them an offer they couldn’t refuse. He essentially said if the GOP disagrees with him, voters will remove them. (One word: “gerrymandering.”)
MARTIN O’MALLEY – His record as mayor of Baltimore is not very defensible. He tried to score points by going after Sanders on guns, citing his “F” from the NRA to Bernie’s “D-.” He kept plugging clean electric grid by 2050, which is great, but it’s 2050. It’s easy to set goals for 2050 when you’ll be long gone. His stat about 70% of Americans are earning the same or less than they were 12 years ago was false.
JAMES WEBB – Undercut himself by constanting whining about how little time he was getting, but I did laugh at his “Bernie, say my name so I can get into this.” He also made it clear he’s too moderate/conservative for the Democratic Party. (Republicans will trade you Donald Trump for Webb, straight up.) He saved the night from being a complete whitewash by having a Vietnamese wife. He sounded like the best non-phony common-sense leader to me. So yeah, no chance.
LINCOLN CHAFEE – Kept emphasizing that he was honorable and courageous and ethical. I had a visceral reaction to him the more he spoke, like how dare he be on national TV and pretend he has a chance at the nomination (I feel that way about 5-6 of the Republicans still in the race.) His defense of voting to repeal Glass-Steagall (“I’d just arrived; my dad died in office…”) may have been the singular most pathetic moment of the night.
OVERALL – If there was a refrain from this debate, it was “Make the wealthy pay for it!” The narrative from this debate is that it was more civil than the Republicans. Well, sure. Any debate without Trump is going to be more civil, and the candidates did get into it. Debaters seemed to score the most points when they shot down reason and compromise and just demanded action. Republicans do the same thing. Every applause line Ted Cruz gets is a variant of “Republicans just need to fight harder.”
I thought Anderson Cooper did a good job with his questions. I think once the Republicans can get Trump to drop out, Anderson would be a good moderator for a future debate.
Some of the quick questions:
“What is the greatest national security threat facing the United States?”
CLINTON: The spread of nuclear weapons
SANDERS: Climate change
O’MALLEY: Nuclear Iran, ISIL, climate change
CHAFEE: Chaos in the Middle East that started with the Iraq War
WEBB: Long-term threat, China. Day-to-day threat, Cyber warfare. Military threat, the Middle East.
“Name the one way your administration would not be an Obama third term.”
CLINTON: I’d be the first woman president.
SANDERS: Political revolution.
O’MALLEY: Put Glass-Steagall back into place.
CHAFEE: End the wars.
WEBB: The use of executive authority. I’d work with Congress.
“Which enemy are you most proud of?”
CLINTON: The NRA, health insurance and drug companies, Iranians… Probably the Republicans.
SANDERS: Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry.
O’MALLEY: The NRA.
CHAFEE: The coal lobby.
WEBB: The enemy soldier who threw a grenade at me. He’s not around right now to talk to.
Full transcript is here.