Ten Ethics Observations On The Democratic Candidates Debate


1. It was rigged, and rigged to boost Hillary. Anyone who believes that she just happened to end up dead center—you know, like Trump ended up dead center in the first GOP debate?—by luck of the draw will believe anything. There was Clinton, a lone woman surrounded by men, next to Sanders, the only man in the group that would make her appear young by comparison, with the two candidate, Sanders and O’Malley, who have refused to criticize her directly positioned as her wing men, and the one candidate, Jim Webb, most likely to draw blood as far away from Clinton as possible. (She never addressed him once during the debate.) I don’t know if the placement was the work of the DNC, which would be my guess, but it was blatant and unfair.

2. The debate didn’t actually start for almost a half hour after its scheduled time. Anderson Cooper was talking as fast as an auctioneer, and always trying to cut off candidates in their comments. That extra time would have helped. Speaking of delays and padding, why the Star Spangled Banner? This wasn’t a ball game.

3. Apparently CNN imported the audience from Bill Maher’s HBO show. The frenzied screaming, primarily for Clinton and Sanders and anytime anyone mentioned free stuff, bashed Republicans or gave tacit, coded approval of open borders, was juvenile and made the event feel like a partisan rally….

4. …which it was. If ever there was a candidate who needed to be challenged on substance and character, it is Hillary Clinton. She was barely contradicted, with her main rival, Sanders, defending her and backing her talking points as often as he challenged them.

[By the way, it’s been driving me nuts that I couldn’t figure out who Bernie Sanders reminds me of when he speaks. It came to me during the debate: he sounds almost exactly like Larry David’s George Steinbrenner impression on Seinfeld…

…but I digress. Sorry.]

5. Anderson Cooper also helped protect Clinton by pointedly stiffing Jim Webb, which Webb complained about repeatedly and justifiably. “You agreed to these rules, ” Cooper argued twice, but I doubt that having the debate slanted and being frozen out at Cooper’s whim were among the rules Webb agreed to. At least twice, Cooper gave the other four candidates a chance to speak on an issue and jumped to another question without bringing in Webb. The inherently unfair rule that Webb shouldn’t have agreed to was the one that barred candidates from responding unless their names were mentioned.  This was another pro-Hillary fix: since she’s the frontrunner, this guaranteed her the most opportunities to recite her talking points, and she knew she was safe to mention Bernie, and so he was a beneficiary as well. At one point, Webb said to Sanders, “Bernie, say my name so I can get into this.”  “I will, just a second, ” said Sanders. He didn’t though, and again Webb was frozen out.

An ethical moderator would have given Webb an opportunity anyway.

6. Cooper did ask Clinton about her e-mails, as he pretty much had to, especially after questions about his objectivity were raised before the debate. He did not reference the new report from AP that she had exposed State Department information to hacking, and didn’t let Webb weigh in, as he was the only one on the stage who wouldn’t hold his fire in deference to Clinton. Anyone who didn’t find her response to Cooper infuriating is thoroughly corrupted. She smirked her way through it—this is still all a joke to Clinton. She used canned talking points, including the one that became an Ethics Alarms rationalization, “It wasn’t the best choice.” No, it was an unethical, possibly illegal, irresponsible choice and one that she has lied about repeatedly, and is lying about still. Of all people, the blithering Lincoln Chafee made the key point that the issue wasn’t e-mail servers as much as it was credibility and ethics. Clinton barely acknowledged his existence.

7. Sanders’ grandstanding “The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!” was disgraceful. Yes, and the American people were tired about hearing how Bill Clinton sexually harassed an employee, cheated on his wife and led a conspiracy to cover it up. They were sick of hearing about Watergate, and Whitewater, and sick of hearing about how the debt is  out of control, and sick of hearing about illegal immigration. Of course, the patented strategy of the Clintons is to drag out their many scandals by lying, denying and stonewalling until everyone is sick of  them and so their unprincipled lackeys can start calling for everyone to “move on.” Sanders not only became an accessory to the Clinton cover-up of this scandal, but also proclaimed that elections should be about what ignorant, distracted, short attention span voter “want to hear” rather than what is really important.

8. It’s hard to pick the most unethical positions articulated during the evening. (Naturally, Bill Maher’s claque roared at all of them.) Was it the impression given by Sanders and Clinton that the jails are teeming with casual marijuana users who otherwise are as honest and harmless as Care Bears? The absurd suggestion that not imprisoning drug users would make a significant dent in the size of the prison population? Maybe it was Sanders announcing that pot should be legalized because the current law puts too many people in jail. (Why stop with that law, then? Hey, if we eliminate all laws, we can have the lowest incarceration rate in the world!)  Maybe it was Chafee’s simple-minded and irresponsible statement that we need to just end the wars. “We’ve got to stop these wars, ” he said, making no substantive suggestion of how one does that. It’s a wonder he didn’t sing “Give Peace A Chance.” That would have really given Bill’s audience something to cheer. I was personally annoyed by the multiple repetition, mostly by Sanders, of the current Democratic mantra that it is inherently wise for the United States to adopt policies that “every other nation” has, because, I guess, they know best.

So long to the First Amendment, I guess.

Sanders, whose proposals so far would cost into the trillions (only Jim Webb had the integrity to note that this was untenable), wants to expand Social Security and make college free. Why not? After all, the economy is doing so well, colleges are turning out geniuses like the ones cheering him, and money grows on trees. Anything Clinton says about the “1%” and making college affordable is so hypocritical it should provoke laughter. She charges colleges over a quarter million dollars for an hour long, canned speech. Why didn’t any of the candidates mention that? Perhaps her most irresponsible statement was endorsing the popular, ignorant sentiment that the Wall Street executives should have been thrown in jail, despite the lack of criminal statutes to violate. This is how Democrats think now, apparently—just put people who do things they don’t like in jail, like George Zimmerman and Darren Wilson. Just throw them in there, everybody knows they are guilty. Who needs laws?

9. Most ethical statement? Jim Webb’s reminder, in the midst of the Democratic lock-step march to ban guns, that citizens have a right to defend themselves:

“…we do need background checks. We need to keep the people who should not have guns away from them. But we have to respect the tradition in this country of people who want to defend themselves and their family from violence…There are people at high levels in this government who have bodyguards 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The average American does not have that, and deserves the right to be able to protect their family.”

Naturally, this prompted no screams of approval from the audience. [ Again I remind readers that Webb and I know each other, that he was in all my first year law school classes, that I directed his first wife in a show, and that he was a good friend of my first year room mate.  I would not call him a friend, especially since he ran right into me at a local Thai restaurant last year and had no idea who I was. ]

10. The most ethically-disqualifying statement, however, was Lincoln Chafee’s pathetic excuse for voting for a bill that favored Wall Street that he now claims was a mistake:

CHAFEE: The Glass-Steagall was my very first vote, I’d just arrived, my dad had died in office, I was appointed to the office, it was my very first vote.

COOPER: Are you saying you didn’t know what you were voting for?

CHAFEE: I’d just arrived at the Senate. I think we’d get some takeovers, and that was one. It was my very first vote, and it was 92-5. It was the…

COOPER: Well, with all due respect, Governor…what does that say about you that you’re casting a vote for something you weren’t really sure about?

CHAFEE: I think you’re being a little rough. I’d just arrived at the United States Senate. I’d been mayor of my city. My dad had died. I’d been appointed by the governor. It was the first vote and it was 90-5, because it was a conference report.

Cooper was right: if he didn’t understand what he was voting for, it was irresponsible to vote.

A final observation: it was interesting that Jim Webb repeatedly referenced his decorated military hero status, something he didn’t do at all when he was running for Senator here in Virginia. It makes sense, I guess, since Presidents are Commanders-in Chief, but it is off-putting. It is particularly off-putting, or perhaps creepy is better word, when a candidate is asked what enemies he has made that he is proud of, and he answers, as Webb did,

“I’d have to say the enemy soldier that threw the grenade that wounded me, but he’s not around right now to talk to.”

We get it: you killed him.

Watch your back, Anderson


Source: Washington Post (Debate Transcript)

54 thoughts on “Ten Ethics Observations On The Democratic Candidates Debate

  1. Bravo, Jack, but one more thing I’d like you to hit: any thoughts on the other candidates’ answer to that last question you reference, that the enemies they were proudest of making were the Republicans?

      • There was one instance of bipartisanship, where there was broad agreement between the Democratic and Republican hopefuls.

        They both attacked Republican candidates – the Democrats attacked all, the Republicans all but one – themselves.

        Part of the trend to demonization and partyism, of course.

        Yup. A trend which I hope will reverse, but I fear will only accelerate. The DNC has always been shrill and hyperbolic. Factions of the GOP now even more so.

        No, Republicans aren’t RepubliKKKans. They are not Fascists. Few are Theocrats, most GOP voters pretty reasonable.

        But neither is Obama a muslim plant, the worst POTUS ever, deliberately trying to destroy America and invade Texas.

        Most corrupt DOJ ever – maybe. Nixon was pretty bad, and Meece & Co worse. Which sewer is the most foetid? Does it matter, compared to the fact that it’s supposed to be clean water?

  2. On your first point, I think both prior debates placed the candidates according to their ranking in the polls (roughly). So, Clinton’s placement in the middle did not strike me as unusual.

    Your second point: the Star-Spangled Banner struck me as odd. I did not recall the Republicans doing that. Maybe we needed reminding that the Dems are patriotic.

    On your fourth point, I said Frank Costanza and everyone else was saying Larry David. What can I say? I never got into Curb Your Enthusiasm.

    On your seventh point, I would correct Bernie, I am not sick and tired of hearing about her e-mails. It would have been one thing if she had an unsecured server but produced every e-mail. That is a security breach. Then, I can take her at her word that she was stupid. The fact that the e-mails are missing makes it a cover-up. And, I want them to get to the bottom of it.


    • I’m sick and tired of hearing about Hillary’s Emails. I hope everyone is. In a sane world, she would have been punted by her party early on and we wouldn’t be talking about her or them. But this is the same Hillary that remained in the fight against Obama long after the point where she was mathematically unable to get the democratic nomination, perhaps in the hopes that Obama had a heart attack or something. She’s a fighter, sure, but she just doesn’t know when to quit, and that by nature will make these controversies live so much longer than their shelf life.

      • I’m sick and tired of hearing about how much more illegal activity they found each week. She, her lawyer, Mills, Abedin, and the others should have been arrested and charged with felonies long ago.

        Hillary Clinton had an unsecured Windows e-mail server (with unsecured remote access activated) installed in her house by a State Department employee as soon or before she became Secretary of State. She lied about it (she claimed she only did it later), only admitted to ONE of the e-mail addresses she used on the machine for State Dept e-mails. The employee who set it up refuses to answer questions about it, citing the Fifth Amendment. We have no e-mails from the other address(es) she used for State Department business.

        She refused to turn over said e-mails, despite the fact that they are official State Department documents and are required to be retained but the US government. She turned them over to her attorney and the government installed a safe in his office to house them because of the classified nature of the documents.

        The FBI had to stop analyzing the e-mails early on because the documents were above the security clearance of the FBI agents. These included NSA spy satellite photos and other materials classified Top Secret and Sensitive Compartmented Information. This led to problems even going through the information.

        The State Department reported that the safe that stored in Clinton’s lawyer’s office was insufficient for the level of classified material found on the hard drive. That information is required to be stored in a known as a SCIF, or sensitive compartmented information facility. As such, this information exceeded the clearance level of the attorney she gave the drive to. Therefore, she gave classified information to someone who was not cleared to have access to it and her attorney was in possession of classified material he was not cleared to possess.

        She had low-end small and medium business providers care for the data after she left office. So, she kept possession of classified documents after leaving office and gave access to it to a host of uncleared personnel (including a ‘cloud computing’ company run out of the owner’s basement).

        She or her aides copied classified material from the classified government network and put it into the unclassified network, stripping the classification information and sending it to her personal server unencrypted over the internet.

        All this was done using unencrypted e-mail sent over the internet. This is similar to sending the information using postcards. Any number of packet-sniffers could have intercepted these e-mails and any government aware this was going on would certainly have installed packet-sniffers to intercept and send copies of any and all e-mails coming from or going to her addresses.

        So yes, I am sick and tired of hearing about this. I am sick of our President trying to excuse this, of our State Media Outlets trying to cover it up, and people claiming that all this was allowed and nothing illegal happened. All the information above is fact. It happened. This is not up for debate. There is no way you can say that no laws were broken without being an idiot or dishonest. The FBI broke laws just trying to deal with these e-mails because they were lied to about the nature of the content. I am tired of Hillary Clinton stating that she and her incredibly highly paid staff (another scandal) just don’t understand this technology stuff and this classified information stuff, but she is the person we need to have in the White House.

        This doesn’t go into the dozens of lies, distortions, foot dragging, and actions to impede the investigation. So yes, I am tired of hearing about this. This isn’t a political scandal, this is a whole bunch of criminal acts.

  3. I’m convinced Bernie Sanders was given the line he delivered on the emails by the Clinton camp. The president’s covering for her and the staffer talking to the NYT over the weekend were also done as a lead up to the “debate.”

    “he sounds almost exactly like Larry David’s George Steinbrenner impression on Seinfeld” Line of the week nominee.

    • And by the way, I don’t remember George Steinbrenner sounding like that. It’s a terrible Steinbrenner impersonation, but a great Bernie Sanders impersonation. So David’s got that going for him.

      • He sounded NOTHING like that, but it was still funny. Dana Carvey sounded nothing like George H.W. Bush, either….and Chevy Chases’s famous Gerald Ford was a complete fantasy…he didn’t look like, act like or talk like Ford.

          • Oh my God. Now that’s obscure. But really funny. I’ve got to look that up on youtube. And whatever happened to Janet Reno? Did she go back to Dade County or to Harvard?

          • Yes it is always fun to make fun of women for not being meeting unreasonable standards of femininity. Must remind everyone that a woman who’s not pretty and petite is scorn worthy.

  4. “current law puts too many people in jail.”

    Talking point: Get those Democrat voters out of jail and put the Rethuglicans in. That’s what’s wrong with this country. We put the wrong people in jail.

  5. “Asked what she would do for African-Americans in the U.S. that President Obama could not, Clinton said, ‘I think that President Obama has been a great moral leader on these issues.’ ”

    Bedrock Conservative Tavis Smiley on the Administration of the “Great Moral Leader’s” impact on Blacks: “Black People Will Have Lost Ground in Every Single Economic Indicator.”

    “And has laid out an agenda that has been obstructed by the Republicans at every turn.”

    Please refer to above Smiley quote.

    “What we need to be doing is not only reforming criminal justice… we need to tackle mass incarceration.”

    It may have slipped her mind what happened to the incarceration rate for Blacks on her husband’s watch.

    “In the Reagan-Bush years, the rate grew from 1,156 prisoners per 100,000 black men to about 2,800 per 100,000. In the Clinton years, the rate grew to 3,620 prisoners per every 100,000 black men.”

    Other than that…

  6. Now when do we get to watch the Larry King third party debates?

    I’m eager to hear the Green Party and the Justice Party duke it out…maybe even let the New Whig party in. It’s always worth watching an annoyed Libertarian standing on the dais with the others.

    • Annoyed libertarians are always fun. They always sound so reasonable right up to the moment when they utter something that 90% of the population thinks is nuts.

      Spot the libertarian talking point that only libertarians agree with is probably a popular drinking game in political circles.

  7. #1 Her placement was not luck of the draw, nor was it claimed to be. In the lead up to the debate it was openly stated on CNN that she was awarded the center based on having the highest poll numbers.

    I expect the DNC made that part of the rules when they awarded CNN the debate some months ago.

    • Well, that’s rigged! It’s like giving the winner of the last race a head start. On TV, on any stage,the middle is where you get seen more. When directing choruses in professional shows, I would rotate my actors throughout because they were all good. Staging amateurs, where some chorus members were much better than others, I would keep the best ones in the center throughout the show.

  8. I would love to contribute substantively on this discussion, but I think it’s an automatic non-starter to discuss a Democrat “Debate” in a Democrat Party run forum coordinated by Democrats, moderated by Democrat operatives and projected by Democrat controlled media…

    Is there any reason to assume any aspect of this was not a mockery of our republic or was at all ethical?


  9. I was personally annoyed by the multiple repetition, mostly by Sanders, of the current Democratic mantra that it is inherently wise for the United States to adopt policies that “every other nation” has, because, I guess, they know best.

    Other nations also give their police much, much greater leeway to conducting searches and seizures.

    Perhaps her most irresponsible statement was endorsing the popular, ignorant sentiment that the Wall Street executives should have been thrown in jail, despite the lack of criminal statutes to violate. This is how Democrats think now, apparently—just put people who do things they don’t like in jail, like George Zimmerman and Darren Wilson. Just throw them in there, everybody knows they are guilty. Who needs laws?

    Well, Madoff did end up in jail.

    But did anyone point out the dichotomy between this and the belief that too many Americans are being incarcerated?

    But we have to respect the tradition in this country of people who want to defend themselves and their family from violence…There are people at high levels in this government who have bodyguards 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The average American does not have that, and deserves the right to be able to protect their family.

    I wonder if Bernie Sanders suggested a Secret Service security detail for every American.

        • I think a good argument could be made that a RICO case could have taken them out. In the mortgage-backed securities fraud, the loan officers lied on the applications, the higher ups turned a blind eye or approved, the rating agencies intentionally gave them investment-grade ratings despite being sub-prime mortgages, and no one was sure if it is even legal to bundle mortgages like that (especially from different states). Despite the fact that the companies were pushing these investment instruments to retirement accounts, the banks themselves were betting against their OWN investments by short selling. This resulted in the largest trading loss in history ($9 billion) by Morgan Stanley when a trader took the money they made short-selling their own mortgage-backed securities (which they knew were junk) and unknowingly bought someone else’s mortgage-backed securities because the banks were releasing so little information about the investments were selling that no one could tell what anything was. The number of people implicated in the fraud would probably go into double digit percentages at all the investment companies on Wall Street.


          • Let us model our justice system on Continental Europe!


            Last month, the Council of Europe, a legal and human rights international body wholly separate from the European Union, issued a report revealing that in 2011 European prisons were nearing full capacity, with 99.5 inmates per 100 places, a 1 percent jump from the prior year.

            Not surprisingly, overcrowded prisons, in tandem with the extraordinary number of inmates in pre-trial detentions, is exerting psychological pressure on many inmates — leading to a spate of suicides.

  10. Jack, you are a brave man. You write what future Democrat Party candidates and elected “leaders” of that party will stop at nothing to censor.

  11. I’m a day late to the party as my wife, who hates politics, didn’t have to work last night. I watched it tonight. I was so impressed with Mr. Jim Webb. It’s sad because he was clearly and convincingly the most competent individual to be President of the United States, but he was probably the worst politician. Therefore, he won’t get the nomination, even though it would clearly be very good for our country if he did. Bernie means well, but he seems to have missed a few major points in economics 101. Hilary is the worst, which would be okay if we could be guaranteed a competent republican candidate, but if Hilary’s awfulness paves the way to Trump’s awfulness, I got to admit, that does seem to be a worst case scenario for our country. I recognize that a moral paragon-like a saint or a pope-probably wouldn’t be the best president, but I do wish there was a way to make a greater minimum bar of ethics values for our candidates. Trump v. Clinton. If it happens, the only thing I can say is that it’s a small mercy that the founding fathers don’t have to see it.

  12. My favorite reported Hillary quote from the debate:
    “I have been as transparent as I know to be.”
    Sadly, probably true, and the most honest statement she made.

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