Judging by the overnight responses, plenty of you subjected yourselves to the Democrats’ big debate party. For those who didn’t, I may want to talk to you about trading jobs. Still, it looks like most of us survived the debacle so we may as well hit some of the low points.
As I predicted last night, the foreign policy aspect of the debate was trouble for all three of the Democrat hopefuls. One ABC analyst described it as follows:
Neither O’Malley nor Sanders threw Clinton off her stride. But she and her rivals struggled with how best to frame America’s role in the world, in the wake of fresh terrorist attacks and coming off of seven years under President Obama.
Saying that Clinton (as well as her two hopeless opponents) “struggled” with how to frame America’s place in the war on terror is selling the reality short by a country mile. Everyone was all on board with praying for Paris and they certainly agreed that ISIS is comprised of some quite unreasonable fellows, but beyond that the entire field seemed paralyzed at the thought of even suggesting that we might need to do something about it. First of all, as noted in this roundup of key moments from Yahoo News, not one of the three Democratic presidential candidates would use the term “radical Islam” when asked to describe our enemies. In fact, they were one-upping each other in their fervent denial that the word “Islam” should even be associated with terrorism. Clinton in particular had a tough time dancing around that one.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says, “I don’t think we are at war with Islam. … I think we’re at war with jihadists.”
She adds that “it’s not particularly helpful” to use language that alienates many Muslims, and she notes that Republican President George W. Bush made a similar point after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Not that I’m trying to get the woman elected or anything, but could I offer to help out the Clinton campaign with a simple trip to Merriam-Webster? (Emphasis added for the slow on the uptake)
noun ji·had·ist \ji-ˈhä-dist, chiefly British -ˈha-\
Definition of JIHADIST
: a Muslim who advocates or participates in a jihad
Hope that helps Madam Secretary.
I asked last night whether or not the moderators would bring up the uncomfortable fact that at least some of the Paris attackers were smuggled into the county with the Syrian “refugees” and, to the credit of CBS, they actually did. The response from the candidates? All three of them were willing to ignore that and say that we should still be taking them in here at home.
To the great relief of Clinton and company, the debate eventually moved on from foreign affairs and they dug into the domestic subjects where the Democrats are more comfortable. Still, there were a couple of efforts by the moderators to toss some spice into the stew, such as when John Dickerson brought up Hillary’s ongoing email scandal once again. This turned out to be yet another defining moment for Bernie Sanders, but not in a good way. Sanders keeps repeating the talking point that he wants to create a “political revolution” but if that revolution involves a fight he’s not much of a warrior. When put in a face to face confrontation with anyone he turns and runs, just like he did when a couple of girls from Black Lives Matter took his microphone at a rally. He previously said during one interview that the FBI investigation “had merit” but when the subject of Hillary’s emails was served up to him like a big ole’ softball he stepped out of the batter’s box yet again.
Sanders says, “That’s just media stuff. I was sick and tired of Hillary Clinton’s email. I am still sick and tired of Hillary Clinton’s email.”
Sanders did have one good moment on the subject of guns, believe it or not. Clinton started in on her usual anti-gun patter and Bernie called her out for “taking three sides on the issue” and even made reference to her acting like Annie Oakley in the 2008 campaign. [EDIT: I was clearly getting tired by that point. I’ve been corrected and notified that O’Malley came up with the “three sides” line. Sorry about that.]
The most bizarre part of the entire evening, however, had to be when Sanders challenged Clinton about all the Wall Street money she’s taken. She launched into an answer which invoked 9/11 and how proud she was to help them rebuild after the attacks.
“I represented New York, and I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked. Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is.”
“I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild,” said Clinton, who represented New York from 2001 to 2009. “That was good for New York. It was good for the economy, and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists who had attacked our country.”
At that point I was just staring at the television screen speechless. I was sort of hoping that Dickerson’s next question would be whether or not Hillary was smelling burnt hair at the moment because it sounded as if she’d had a stroke. I clearly wasn’t the only one, either. The bizarre, rambling 9/11 answer led to jaws dropping all over Twitter (you can see a list from the RNC here) including the Daily Beast:
“Clinton Is Having As Bad A Night As She Could Be Expected To Have, With ISIS Not America’s Fight And 9/11 Is Why I Took Wall Street $$” (Twitter.com, 11/14/15)
Clinton is having as bad a night as she could be expected to have, with ISIS not America's fight and 9/11 is why I took Wall Street $$
— Tim Mak (@timkmak) November 15, 2015
There’s plenty more at the links for you to digest should you care to, but those were some of the most notable moments. There were never any of the insulting, direct attacks on any of the three candidates which you see in a GOP debate, but they were at least challenged on their policy positions a few times. If there was a “winner” in all of this it was probably still Clinton because the jaw dropping gaffes I mentioned above are only “gaffes” if you’re not a member of the Democrats’ base. The primary voters she was trying to reach probably ate all of those answers up, with the exception of Clinton admitting to take all of that Wall Street cash. All Hillary had to do was not shoot herself in the foot with her base to come out of the evening on top and she essentially managed that. Mark Halperin basically gave everyone a score of B or B+ and I suppose if I was a Democrat that would sound about right.
Over at the RNC headquarters, however, Reince Priebus took a more dim view of the show.
“In what should have been a walk in the park for Hillary Clinton, tonight’s debate reinforced that she is inconsistent on issues, weak on terrorism and beholden to special interests.
“After running to the right of President Obama in 2008, tonight Clinton continued to shift to the left on issue after issue to keep up with a seventy-four year old socialist from Vermont.
“In the shadow of yesterday’s attacks in Paris, Clinton refused to call out ‘Islamic extremism’ or President Obama’s failing ISIS strategy. And in a new low, Hillary Clinton shamefully hid behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks in a bizarre attempt to deflect attention from her ties to her wealthy donors.
In the end, I’d still call this debate two hours of my life that I won’t get back, but I suppose the DNC felt obligated to host the party just to keep it from looking too obvious in terms of shoving Hillary Clinton down their voters’ collective throats. Clinton didn’t open the door enough for either Sanders or O’Malley to suddenly pose a real threat to her. Unless she actually gets arrested between now and next June she seems to be the person we’ll be facing off against in November.