I’m sure that there are loyalists who just love watching Clinton or Sanders no matter what they are doing and saying, just as I will watch even a lousy Danny Kaye movie just to see Danny Kaye. But wow, I’d really like to see the results of a post-mortem on the brain of anyone who said last night’s debacle was anything but excruciating and depressing. If I were a Democrat, I’d be on a three-day drunk after last night. I’m not, and I’m still considering it. This was easily the worst presidential candidates debate I’ve ever seen, read about or analyzed.
Why? Well, how many other debates had two candidates, their faces contorted in anger, shouting at each other (Bernie is always shouting, really) when they hardly disagree about anything of substance? How often is it so obvious that one candidate isn’t trying to win, and avoids every opening and opportunity to take down his opponent? As I have said before, if I had contributed to Sanders, I’d demand my money back. I thought losing the pathetic Martin O’Malley would be a plus, but it wasn’t. Focusing only on the irredeemably absurd Sanders and the unquestionably corrupt Clinton just made the question more vivid: after two and a half centuries as a major party, how could the Democratic Party have so little respect for the American public and so little devotion to its role in selection of the Presidency to leave us with this?
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, here are specific observations. The transcript is here.
1 More than any debate in 2016, this was performed as if only hard-left loyalists were watching, and the moderators behaved that way as well. Agenda items like the minimum wage and “equal pay for jobs” were tossed off as shorthand and givens, without any fear that anyone would say, “Hey, wait a minute..” Yesterday, for example, data was revealed showing that in six major cities that enacted large minimum wage hikes last year, employment has suffered—as predicted by anyone without “progressive” blinders on. That would have been a good question to raise, but nobody was there to raise it. Rachel Maddow? Right.
2. The debate was deja vu, and little else. How many times do we need to hear Sanders’ generalized rap about the economy being rigged, Wall Street being a den of thieves, and single-payer health care being obviously the way to go because “everybody does it”? How many times do we have to hear that Hillary is going to “improve [Obamacare]… build on it, get the costs down, get prescription drug costs down” without being given a clue how, and without anyone even asking the question? How is she going to do all this without having the country “plunge back into a contentious national debate that has very little chance of succeeding.” What does that mean, Hillary? Funny, I thought debate was how policies get made in a democracy. Please explain: what is your substitute for democracy? Don’t “progressives'” have a totalitarian ethics alarm any more?
3. Clinton’s responses to the Sanders accusation that she’s not progressive enough—the Democratic doppleganger of the annoying and equally silly Republican accusation that a candidate isn’t a “true conservative,” were something to behold:
- “I am a progressive who gets things done.” A bumper sticker slogan, and by the way, what things? Honestly, I can’t name any at all: she was a Senator, didn’t create any major legislation, and wasn’t a successful Secretary of State. What things does she get done? Again, Bernie won’t ask a real question….but then, he hasn’t accomplished anything either. Later, to prove her credentials in getting things done, Hillary talked, as she always does, about “fighting” for this or that, even going back to her days with the Children’s Defense fund and the DOA Hillarycare bill that crashed and burned in her husband’s first term. A 69-year-old candidate for President who actually “gets things done” wouldn’t have to dig this deep—and a candidate trying to defeat her wouldn’t hesitate to say so.
- She actually compared Sanders’ criticism of her progressive bona fides with not regarding a liberal Democratic Senator as progressive enough when that Senator, Paul Wellstone, has been dead since 2002, and Sanders has never mentioned him during the campaign at all! This was a straw man for the ages.
4. Having finished that pointless “debate,” they moved on to whether Hillary was the “establishment.” This sounded like a an acid-flashback from 1968, but never mind: here was Hillary’s rebuttal:
“Senator Sanders is the only person who I think would characterize me, a woman running to be the first woman president, as exemplifying the establishment.”
Sexist, insulting, tribal and dumb. Merely having two X chromosomes means that you are by definition not part of the existing power structure even when you have been part of that power structure for decades? This is just a dog-whistle to vagina-voters, who themselves are a disgrace to democracy, fairness and civic responsibility. What is it about Hillary Clinton’s career since hooking up with Bill that has shown her to be a power-seeker and broker distinguishable in conduct and motives from a man? Oh, that’s right: when her husband serially abused women as well as betraying their marriage, she sided with..him, against them.
5. Ethics alarm: “The reality is that we have one of lowest voter turnouts of any major country on earth because so many people have given up on the political process,” says Sanders. Sanders really does believe that when the United States is different from all those other less successful countries, it must be wrong. This “reality” just cynical poison that Sanders likes to say, even though it contradicts his own rhetoric. If Obama is such a great President, wasn’t he elected over Romney and McCain? Doesn’t Bernie think that makes a difference, and that the difference was votes? The GOP Congress he and Hillary are complaining about was elected when Democrats stayed home and Republicans came out in force, was it not? If the impression that their participation makes no difference is wrong, as it is, why does Sanders keep citing it as if he agrees? What does “so many people have given up on the political process” mean? Is he really attacking democracy itself?
Moreover, he cannot say “the reality is” when that’s not why U.S. voting percentage is low. If everyone has given up, why are millions watching the debates in both parties months and months before the election? There are nothing but theories about the falling voter participation rate, and here’s mine, not “reality,” but opinion. Apathy is fueled by complacency: voting goes up when people are really convinced things are terrible in an absolute sense. The United States is generally well-off compared to every other country in the world. Things haven’t been objectively terrible since The Great Depression. Democracy, moreover, is hard: people who don’t vote largely don’t know enough to vote, and therefore, good.
Nascent totalitarians like Sanders want the ignorant to be more involved, because socialism has always been salable to the mob, the gullible and the self-interested.
6. Clinton angrily attacked Sanders over his frequent allegations of hypocrisy against her for accepting huge speaking fees and contributions from Wall Street and big business. She called this accusation an“artful smear” and said,
“Enough is enough. If you’ve got something to say, say it directly. You will not find that I ever changed a view or a vote because of any donation that I ever received.”
The theory: When caught red-handed, shout and get indignant. “You will not find that I ever changed a view or a vote because of any donation that I ever received,” is ridiculous on its face: prove that, Hillary. When Goldman Sachs pays a politician and putative Presidential candidate over $600,000 to give speeches, it is a fair and obvious assumption that they want more than words in return. If a candidate doesn’t want people to make that assumption, then she asks for an honorarium.
In a real debate, someone—Sanders, a moderator—would have pointed this out.
7. Chuck Todd to Clinton: “So there are three big lifts that you’ve talked about: immigration, gun reform, climate change. What do you do first? Because you know the first one is the one you have the best shot at getting done.”
In what parallel universe does the mainstream news media dwell? These are the “bid lifts” facing the country? What about “immigration?” Yesterday we learned that Obama has instructed U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents to release illegal immigrants and no longer order them to appear at deportation hearings. Is that not enough? Is eliminating border controls entirely the top priority? What about “guns?” Murders are down, and still falling. So why are “guns” among the three big deals Todd assigns to Clinton and the Democrats? Climate change? 90% of the public doesn’t see that as a priority at all, and no wonder, since deadline after deadline for doomsday keeps passing, nobody is sure what, if anything, can be done to stop climate change, and the measures being endorsed, like killing the Keystone Pipeline to show our “commitment to addressing climate change” even though building it or not building it won’t effect the climate a scintilla are speculative, hopeful or theoretical at best. Those are the big three? No, those are more clueless progressive applause lines that reflect news media biases. Any President who made those three areas his or her top priority would be irresponsible. The fact that nobody present last night pointed that out shows now much of a bubble these debates occupy.
To her credit, Clinton refused to accept Todd’s delineation of the “big lifts.”
8. When Clinton was asked, unfairly, as it is a “when did you stop beating your wife” question, if she’s “100% confident that nothing is going to come” of the FBI investigation into her email practices, Hillary answers,
“I’m 100% confident! This is a security review that was requested. It is being carried out. It will be resolved. But I have to add if there’s going to be a security review about me, there’s going to have to be security reviews about a lot of other people, including Republican office holders, because we’ve got this absurd situation of retroactive classifications.Honest to goodness, this is — this just beggars the imagination. So I have absolutely no concerns about it, but we’ve got to get to the bottom of what’s really going on here, and I hope that will happen.”
The only people who won’t see this as the dishonest spin it is are the Clinton Corrupted. Most inexcusable is yet another playing of the “They did it too!” card. Nobody else handling classified information used a private server. No Republicans who were involved in national security issues are running for President. The issue isn’t retroactive classifications—this is a War Room generated deceit to muddy the waters. There was not a single communication to or from the Secretary of State for four years that contained information she recognized as unfit for prying foreign eyes. That is literally what she is saying and has been saying. Bernie? Chuck? Rachel? Never mind.
If she’s really 100% confident, then the fix is in. Nobody can be that confident when the FBI is investigating and serious issues and laws are involved.
9. When Todd asks Sanders if he still feels the same way about Clinton’s emails as he did when he said: “The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!” Sanders says: “I’m feeling exactly how I felt at the first debate. There’s a process underway — I will not politicize it.” He doesn’t want to win. It is not politicizing to examine a scandal that calls into question the judgment, competence, loyalty and honesty of a candidate for the United States. We already know enough to make many judgments about Hillary from the e-mail debacle, and so does Sanders. He’s either a fool, or he isn’t trying to win. Or both.
10. Maddow hugged Hillary after the debate. This is the equivalent of a Supreme Court Justice hugging the one of the attorneys after oral argument. This is unethical, unprofessional and smoking gun evidence of bias. So many journalists don’t even think pretending to be fair and conflicted is important any more.
11. I didn’t pick up on the telling exchange when Hillary was asked if she would release the transcripts of her corporate speeches, and she ducked the question. Fortunately, others were more alert…