Bernie and Hillary dominate the first Democratic presidential debate.
Just got through 2.5 hours of the first Democratic debate in the run-up to the 2016 Presidential election, and it was Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton all the way. The lineup also included former senator and governor from RI Lincoln Chafee, former MD governor Martin O’Malley, and former VA senator Jim Webb. But really, it was all about Bernie and Hillary.
My pre-debate ranking of the candidates was:
1 – Bernie Sanders
2 – Hillary Clinton
3 – Jim Webb
5 – Martin O’Malley/Lincoln Chafee tied for last
Post-debate impression of how they performed:
1 – Bernie/Hillary tied for 1st
3 – Martin O’Malley
4 – Lincoln Chafee
5 – Jim Webb
Bernie, in my opinion, didn’t have any glaring bungles, but I’ll freely admit I’m biased. I think he could have stood his ground a bit more firmly on the gun issue; don’t be afraid to own that you voted against a bill that would hold gun manufacturers liable for how their legal product is used! He turned around a possible attack on his patriotism due to being a conscientious objector during the Vietnam war to resounding applause, and had the guts to call for a Revolution and admit to being (some kind of) a Socialist. What set him apart from the others was his non-apologetic, unrelenting attack on Wall Street, the billionaire class, and Citizens United. To paraphrase: Congress doesn’t regulate Wall Street, Wall Street regulates Congress. None of the other candidates—certainly not Hillary—can claim independence from Wall Street and corporate interests.
I thought Hillary, while frankly not being my cup of tea, handled herself well. She got support from the other candidates on the e-mail issue, but her obvious gloating over Kevin McCarthy’s faux pas ruined the moment. Her low point was when she suggested that her having a vagina somehow gave her an edge over the other contenders and was an argument for her candidacy in and of itself. Hillary, read my lips: I will NOT vote for you because you are a woman. Her strongest quality was that she had an air of confidence and competence about her, and she speaks effortlessly and with authority on most issues.
I had heard good things about Jim Webb, but he appeared like a mumbling blockhead. He spent too much energy being angry at Anderson Cooper for getting less time than the two main characters (justifiably so), but it didn’t play out well for him.
Martin O’Malley was relatively unknown to me, but he was able to capture my attention a couple of times in a good way without seeming too rehearsed.
Lincoln Chafee is an old fuddy-duddy and came across as such. Or, as Donald Trump would say, a total loser!
While I personally think Bernie Sanders is the candidate with the policies that best serve America, and seems competent enough, I’m afraid him being branded as an America-hating Commie by the Right will make him unelectable in fly-over country. The only person that can deny Hillary the Democratic nomination is, as I see it, Joe Biden, but first he has to join the race. I hope he does.
Final thoughts: I have to roll my eyes at how these debates are themed like reality TV shows and how we have to play/sing the national anthem every time anybody farts (at least there was no Jesus-peddling, though Hillary Clinton managed to sneak in “god-given” a couple of times). Still, it was a relief to watch mostly sane people have something that resembled an exchange of civilized arguments on topics that matter, quite different from the obnoxious clown pageant and bullying in the Republican debates.