I woke up this morning to pundits talking about the debate last night as if it had been a boxing match. As a friend posted on Facebook that is not what he saw. Me either. What he and I saw were two smart, articulate people who both want to be President. Yes, they each had good moments and not so good ones, but if you are a Democrat you can be proud that you have a choice between two people who can talk about issues without mudslinging and with no name calling. As my husband pointed out, either of then could stand up to questioning during British Prime Minister Question Time without embarrassment. Can the Republicans say the same?
Politico published a list of the “11 most important moments”. I think it is good list and tells us more than the stories with headlines like “Clinton and Sanders get ugly.” No, they didn’t. Passionate, yes. And don’t you want some passion from people seeking your vote?
Politico’s first moment
“A very artful smear”
In one of her most energetic salvos of the campaign, Clinton ripped Sanders for “attacks” and “insinuation” suggesting that anyone who takes campaign contributions has been “bought.”
“If you’ve got something to say, say it directly, but you will not find that I ever changed a view or a vote because of any donation I ever received, and I have stood up and I have represented my constituents to the best of my ability,” she said, calling on Sanders to “end a very artful smear that you and your campaign have been carrying out.”
An incredulous Sanders, shaking his head attempted to respond, but Clinton continued talking over him.
I’m waiting for someone to find an instance where Hillary changed. If there is one, it will come from the press not from a negative Sanders super pac ad because he doesn’t have one.
One thing I like about Bernie is that he learns. He doesn’t have to change his views very often (gun control was not discussed last night), but he is learning how to broaden his appeal.
Sanders makes pitch to African Americans on Flint
Sanders and Clinton largely agreed that urgent and overwhelming action must be taken to fix the crisis of contaminated water in Flint, Mich. But Sanders harnessed the issue to hone his pitch to African Americans, who have largely overlooked his candidacy and favored Clinton, despite his repeated overtures.
Sanders said he wondered whether, if Flint were “a white suburban community, what kind of response there would have been.”
“Flint, Michigan is a poor community, it is disproportionately African American and minority and what has happened there is absolutely unacceptable,” he said.
Bernie is moving past his Black Lives Matter moment and past his long history of working for civil rights and learning to articulate contemporaneous connections is a more natural matter. The upcoming debate in Flint should be interesting as Bernie is much tougher on Michigan state officials and the EPA than Clinton.
The last Politico moment I am going to cite is the discussion of the death penalty.
Debating the death penalty
It was a genuine distinction. Clinton outlined her support for the death penalty, arguing that it should be allowed in extremely rare circumstances but only if a state meets “the highest standards of evidentiary proof.” She cited the Oklahoma City bombing as an example of a crime heinous enough to warrant the death penalty.
Sanders argued that the death penalty had often been applied to innocent people, and despite “barbaric acts out there” he doesn’t believe in the death penalty. “In a world of so much violence, I just don’t believe that government itself should be part of the killing,” He said. “So when somebody commits any of these terrible crimes that we’ve seen, you lock ’em up and you toss away the key.”
My takeaways: Hillary needs to figure out how to respond to the questions about Goldman Sachs and other contributions from financial issues. Bernie needs to work on foreign policy since he was not Secretary of State but his answer to the question from Chuck Todd as to which of these countries is the biggest threat: Russia, North Korea, or Iran was surprising and his rational well thought out. Sanders picked North Korea because an isolated dictator has a nuclear weapon.
I’m voting for Bernie when Vermont has its primary on March 1 because I think someone needs to talk about the future in a big way and because I admire that he is running his campaign as a model of how one can run without big money in the age of Citizens United. Plus he’s from Vermont. But Democrats can be proud of their candidates regardless of which they support. The New York Times quoted Mia Farrow “Now if they could just split the gig — Bernie would cover domestic, Hillary on foreign policy.” I think a lot of people could agree with her.
Photograph: Todd Heisler/The New York Times