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