Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Winners and losers in tonight's Democratic debate

When CNN held its Republican debate a few weeks ago, the questions to all of the candidates were about Donald Trump.

Following CNN's rules, once the candidate answered, Trump had to be given time to respond and that made the entire debate about Trump, leaving no time to address the issues that people were concerned about.

If CNN had its way, tonight's Democratic candidate debate would have followed the same plan. Anderson Cooper did his level best to get the candidates to attack one another.  Not only did it not work, but the effort led to what was probably the best line in the entire debate.

When Cooper tried to get the candidates to talk about Hillary Clinton's e-mail problems, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said, "The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damned e-mails."

And he is so right.

It's not that the e-mail issue is not a serious one, but as Sanders pointed out in an interview right after the debate, the process is in place to find out about those e-mails. Tonight was a night to address issues and it did not make one bit of difference what Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley, Lincoln Chafee, or James Webb thought about Clinton's e-mail difficulties.

The Democrats also benefited from having only five candidates on stage, though they probably would have been better either having one less (Chafee was woefully out of his depth) or one more (Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig has more support than Chafee and a major issue in the Citizens United ruling and the influence of big money that needs to be examined more thoroughly in light of what has happened to our political system over the past few years.

Winners and losers from tonight's debate:


Hillary Clinton- She was thoroughly prepared and did what she needed to do. However, she seems to be taking the same approach that she did in 2008, though, which is to protect her lead. Tonight's debate shows that she might not have to worry about being overtaken by a Barack Obama this time, even if Joe Biden enters the race. On the other hand, Bernie Sanders may well play the Obama role this time.

Bernie Sanders- Sanders had to show that he wasn't a nut. He did that and more. So much more that he may well cut into Clinton's lead in national polls, or erase it altogether. Sanders' passion came through and he has a clear message based on the differences between America's haves and have nots and the growing gap between them. Whether Sanders is able to build on his progressive base is a matter yet to be determined. His candidacy reminds me a lot of Eugene McCarthy's anti-war campaign of 1968. No one thought McCarthy would get anywhere, but he came so close to upsetting LBJ in the New Hampshire primary that the president announced on March 31, 1968, that he would not seek re-election. McCarthy eventually lost to Vice President Hubert Humphrey at the convention. A wild card in that race was the much-criticized (especially by the McCarthy campaign) decision by Bobby Kennedy to jump into the race after LBJ bowed out. Will Joe Biden or someone else play the Kennedy role and climb into the race?  After Kennedy was assassinated in June 1968, many have said that he was on his way to winning the Democratic nomination. I have always thought that Humphrey would have won anyway, the same way it looks like Hillary Clinton will win, barring further scandals. However, Democrats should remember that it was the Republican, Richard Nixon, who won the election.

Martin O'Malley- It is hard to believe he is going to get anywhere, but the former Maryland governor came across as intelligent, having a keen grasp of the issues and having a record of accomplishment. In other words, he doesn't have a chance. If a Democrat wins next November, he is almost guaranteed of getting a Cabinet post.


Lincoln Chafee- Needless to say, we will not have another Lincoln in the White House. According to Chafee, he is a block of granite who has not changed his views in 30 years despite skipping from being a Republican to an Independent to a Democrat. He also blamed a poor vote in the Senate on the fact that his father had just died and then repeated the statement to make sure we understood. Plus, his major qualification, he says, is that he has never had a scandal. From the looks of him, he could use one.

James Webb- I was disappointed in Webb, who has a more conservative outlook on many issues than his fellow candidates and has a solid background of accomplishment. Tonight, he was auditioning for the lead role in How the Grouch Stole Christmas. While he had a legitimate complaint about the amount of time being given to Sanders and Clinton, he came across as a whiner.

CNN- For the reasons stated above.

Education- Doesn't anyone consider this to be a major issue? The privatization of education during the Obama Administration is a threat to this country. I would like to know whether the candidates are going to offer us more of the same or if we can expect improvement in the next administration.

Hillary Clinton- While the pundits do not seem to be mentioning her comments, she said a couple of things tonight that may come back to haunt her. About her decision to oppose the Keystone Pipeline, Clinton said, "I never took a position on the Keystone until I took a position on the Keystone. Hmmm! Okay. Or how about this one, about her e-mail problems?  "I'm as transparent as I know to be."

That doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

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