The Debate Nobody Watched


There has been a strange divide between the two major parties this year. The Republicans have seen record numbers watch their primary debates, while the Democrats have tried their best to make sure no one witnesses theirs. Even Vox, the notorious apologists for the Democrats in general and the Clintons in particular, admits that scheduling a debate in Iowa on a Saturday night when Iowa football is on is sketchy. But it’s not the result of bad planning, it’s the result of a bad candidate, Hillary Clinton, and the party machine’s desire to protect her from scrutiny. And it is lost on no one that Clinton’s own party thinks the best way to help her win is to never let anyone see her.

This debate was on CBS, and moderated by John Dickerson, to general acclaim:

The debate began with opening statements. In hers, Clinton sought once more to assure the American people that she is not a robot:

The people remain skeptical:

Once the debates started, the questions naturally turned to the ISIS murders in Paris and the wider question of war on Islamic fundamentalist terror. Clinton tried to sound tough, tougher than President Obama, just as she did when she ran against him in 2008:

Bernie Sanders turned, as all old Bolshies do, to the past, highlighting the various misdeeds of the nation he seeks to lead:

Martin O’Malley said some things:

Generally, the output was underwhelming:

The candidates next turned to their tax plans, which no one believed:

They talked about reform of the financial industry, which let to the first interesting question of the night: is Hillary Clinton owned by Wall Street? Sanders says yes:

Clinton offered an unusual counterargument: 9/11?

O’Malley joined Sanders’s criticism, then touted his his own bona fides:

Sanders and O’Malley called for the forward-thinking innovation of re-enacting laws from 1933:

This was difficult for Clinton to agree with, since her husband had worked to repeal the act in question in 1999. Plus, you know, she’s owned by Wall Street:

In closing, the candidates reminded the viewer of their strengths.

Sanders called for more “free” stuff:

Clinton emphasized her age and her proximity to important things:

O’Malley said something, but even he wasn’t paying attention:

There was not much said here, and not many people watched it. The only real take-away was in the most ridiculous item of the night:

Fortunately, Democrats will have a chance to revisit the issue in their next two debates, to be held on the Saturday before Christmas and on a Sunday in January, opposite an NFL playoff game.

Blue on blue


Saturday Night Live’s send up of the Democratic debate wasn’t half bad. Larry David appearing as Bernie Sanders fulfilled the wishes more viewers than anything since Tina Fey played Sarah Palin.

But my favorite moment was Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton answering the question about her refusal to obey the law on classified information while Secretary of State: “I welcome this question because I rehearsed this one the longest.” 

Nailed it.

Vegas, the morning after


The story of the night at the Democrats’ Las Vegas Debate was that Hillary 6.0 was ClintonCo’s most bug-free release since 2009. She made no obvious errors, and her anger subroutine was almost as good as real live angry man Bernie Sanders. Her logic programming was still flawed, as shown in the discussion of whether she was progressive or moderate, but flawed logic may be a feature, not a bug, with the Democratic electorate. All in all, though, I think she calmed the Democratic Establishment’s nerves, and may have helped to stave off the Draft Biden movement. There will be more stumbles–Hillary is still a deeply flawed candidate–but this competent performance may stop the slide, for now.

Sanders’s performance was also strong. He came off at times as a crazy, partially deaf old man, and at one point he definitely wasn’t paying attention, but he, too, made no obvious errors. Sanders projected his weird vision of bourgeois socialism as effectively as his followers could have hoped, and recovered from his earlier struggles with black Democrats by showing that he had been adequately reeducated in the new dogma (which he likely believed all along, but lacked the adequate buzz words to convey).

As to the rest: O’Malley sleepwalked through most of the debate, but showed some flashes of fire at the end when discussing green energy, an issue no one cares about. Webb spent half his time complaining that he wasn’t given enough time, and the other half demonstrating that there’s no place for men like him in the Democratic party. I’d love to see him on stage at the next Republican debate. And Chafee. Even though he’s had months to prepare, his answers sounded like what you’d hear if you broke into his house in the middle of the night, woke him up, shined a flashlight in his eyes, and demanded he explain his PATRIOT Act vote. I don’t think he or Lessig have much of a shot, but I know who would’ve added more serious content to the debate.

On a lighter note, here are some of the best debate tweets of the night:


On guns:

Simpsons quote:

Dodging the question:







And my favorite, on legalizing marijuana:



There’s not much that can be said about tonight’s Democratic debate that hasn’t been said elsewhere. My thoughts, briefly, are that for the lesser-known candidates (Webb, O’Malley, and Chaffee) the debate represents their first chance to talk to the nationwide Democratic primary electorate. If they don’t make a splash, they will never get more than a few hardcore supporters to vote for them.

For Clinton, expectations are set pretty low. All she has to do is show she’s not robotic or unpleasant and avoid making any obvious mistakes. I don’t think she has it in her to be exciting, but she might manage to look interesting and competent. If she fails at that, we will hear a lot more about Biden in the coming days.

The biggest test, I think, is for Sanders. He’s amassed legions of hardcore fans, but he has to look like a serious alternative to Clinton if he’s ever to attract anyone besides the white socialists who currently support him. He’s unlikely to do anything to lose the support of those people, but coming off as a wild-eyed lunatic could foreclose his chance of winning over any of the party’s remaining moderates.

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