It’s been quite a bit of fun to watch some of the changes going on at MSNBC during the morning lineup ever since Washington Post editorial board member Jonathan Capehart has taken over occasional duties as the host of Way Too Early and as a regular panelist on Morning Joe. (You can listen to our Politinerds interview with Jonathan here.) We saw another of those instances yesterday when Capehart sat down with Joe, Mika and the crew to interview Democrat presidential candidate Martin O’Malley. One of the former Maryland Governor’s chief complaints that day was the fact that the DNC had “circled the wagons” around Hillary Clinton to essentially ensure her nomination, leaving the other, long shot candidates out in the cold. (A completely valid point which we’ve made here regularly, mostly due to the corrosive influence of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.)
O’Malley was unhappy with the number of debates, of course, but also seemed to feel that his record of accomplishments wasn’t really being presented to the public in a meaningful way when compared to the seeming coronation that Hillary has enjoyed. Even Sanders seems to get more virtual ink, but that’s a bit more forgivable considering the huge crowds he’s been drawing at rallies.
For his part, Capehart seemed to agree, leading to this exchange with the Governor. (Daily Caller)
Jonathan Capehart: But, governor, it’s not just policy positions. Of all the people on the stage in Las Vegas and in the next debate coming up, you’re the only one who has actually done things. You rattled off some of these, but marriage equality, you put some skin in the game. Gun control, you passed and signed legislation. You raised the minimum wage, and all these issues where the Democratic Party is, where the base is, you haven’t just talked about it, you’ve done it. So were why are you in third place and not first?
Martin O’Malley: Because last time, this time around we had had nine debates in the Democratic party and this time in an undemocratic effort to limit debates and circle the wagons around the front-runner, we were late in starting our debates. But we’re making up for that ground, because we had record viewership in the first debate. And I think you’re going to see record viewership in the second debate, because our country is looking for new leadership. We can’t be this dissatisfied about our national politics and an economy where most of us are working harder and getting ahead and think that a resort to old names or old ideologies are going to move us forward.
Perhaps the most disappointing part of O’Malley’s response (and a symptom of his lack of seasoning in national politics) was the fact that he almost entirely ignored the perfect opening which Capehart gave him there. At the very tail end of his answer he takes a sideways jab at Hillary Clinton for representing “old names or old ideologies” but he misses the gigantic softball that was pitched to him. And what was that?
I rarely get to say this when it comes to questions of political intrigue, but Jonathan Capehart was absolutely right. You may not agree with or approve of the things that O’Malley has done, (I certainly don’t) but he has actually done things. He led the charge on gay marriage, got it passed through the state legislature and signed it into law himself in 2012. He ushered in some of the most abusive, draconian gun laws in the nation at the time. (Which has worked out just fabulously if you look at the skyrocketing murder rate in Baltimore, eh?) O’Malley raised the minimum wage from $6.55 to $8.25 on his watch.
The unspoken (and perhaps unintentional) point of Capehart’s query was that Hillary Clinton has done precisely nothing in her entire political career on any of these issues. (Or on most any other issue for that matter.) She never authored and passed any legislation of any significance when she was in the Senate. As Secretary of State she didn’t establish any new treaties, though ground could have been made in bilateral cooperation with other nations on some of these issues. Even when it comes to simply showing support and stating her positions she has been on both sides of each and every one of those issues over the past decade alone. There’s even less to be said for Sanders in terms of being someone who “has actually done things.”
Whether he intended to or not, Capehart hit the nail on the head and offered O’Malley the chance of a lifetime. Hillary Clinton has done, in effect, nothing except flip-flop on her positions and take up space on the government payroll. O’Malley has been out there moving the ball down the field on the issues which the Democrat base is most hot and bothered over. Granted… he was moving the ball in entirely the wrong direction on most of them, but at least he was doing something. But he missed his moment in the sun yesterday when Jonathan Capehart handed him the key to the city by pointing out how completely empty Hillary Clinton’s record of “accomplishments” has been.
Maybe he’ll get a chance at the next debate. But I wouldn’t count on it.