So now the first Democratic presidential debate has come and gone. It was certainly a relief to watch grownups at work for a change.
We saw informed people with actual governing experience talking about their very real differences on issues, rather than amateurs insulting one another, mouthing bumper-sticker slogans, and throwing red meat to the so-called “base.”
In fact, the most memorable moment of the evening was when Sen. Bernie Sanders explicitly passed up the opportunity to slam front-runner Hillary Clinton over the latest in the long series of phony scandals ginned up by the Republicans.
“Let me say something that may not be great politics,” Sanders said, “but I think the secretary is right, and that is that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!”
Sanders then proceeded to try to re-direct the egregiously shallow celebrity “journalist” Anderson Cooper back to what he called the “real problems facing America”: a collapsing middle class; 27 million Americans living in poverty; and job-killing trade policies. You know, like the ones Secretary Clinton was for before she was against.
Acting decently toward an opponent and trying to shame one of the cable news talking heads into focusing on real issues. Now do you see why I love this guy?
Sanders, unfortunately, exposed a couple of his own vulnerabilities. The left is going to go after him for being “soft” on gun control and voting against the Brady Bill. The right, and Hillary Clinton, are going to go after him for suggesting we should be more like Denmark, even though survey after survey, year after year, finds that the Danes are the happiest people on Earth. But hey, this is America. Who needs happiness?
As for the other candidates, none of them really moved the needle in their direction. Former Sen. Jim Webb stood there looking grumpy and alternating his “Democrats should vote for me because I’m most like the Republicans” theme with complaining that no one was paying him enough attention.
Look, I give Sen. Webb full marks for his service, both in the military and in government. I respect his dedication to veterans’ causes. He’s also a heck of a novelist. But his perpetual scowl and his pomposity make Bernie Sanders look downright jolly. He makes himself hard to like, and I’ve given up trying.
Former Rhode Island Gov. (and former Republican) Lincoln Chafee had a couple of real cringe-worthy moments.
One was when he confidently proclaimed himself a “block of granite,” which someone should tell him is not a real dynamic image. The other was when he blamed his vote in favor of repealing the tattered remnants that remained of the Glass-Steagall banking regulation bill (a move which contributed to the rise of banks that were “too big to fail”) by explaining he’d “just gotten to the Senate” where he’d been appointed after his father’s death.
That response was just a slow softball over the plate, practically begging for opponents to hit it out of the park: “So, not ready on Day One?” However, by the time he stumbled into that one, Chafee had made himself so inconsequential that no one cared to even try and swing at the pitch.
When Clinton was asked later if she wanted to respond to a Chafee attack on her “credibility,” she just smiled and said “no,” which was the worst burn she could have delivered.
As for Martin O’Malley — well, when by the end of the debate, I’m still asking “wait, which one is he again?” then his status as an also-ran is pretty much set in cement.
At the end, however, it was Hillary Clinton who was, as she put it, “still standing.” Actually, that should probably be her campaign slogan. After all, she has been since 1992 the target of one bogus, politically motivated investigation/ smear campaign after another.
Vince Foster’s death, Travelgate, Cattlegate, Chinagate, Filegate, Whitewater, BenghaziBenghaziBenghazi — the list goes on and on. Every single time, her opponents have rubbed their little hands together, cackling with glee and promising everyone that this time, Hillary Clinton’s going to jail, just you wait and see. And in the end, they come away with … nothing.
Every time, investigation has ended up with the investigators slinking away, muttering that they’ve found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing after spending years and millions of taxpayer dollars. As I pointed out last week, I’m a Sanders guy, but even I have to give Clinton points for her tenacity and resilience. She was the clear winner of Tuesday night’s debate, but it’s still early days yet.