Live-Blogging the April 14, 2016 CNN Democratic Presidential Primary Debate in New York

10:51 pm: Senator Sanders answers the question of whether Secretary Clinton has greater credibility for the campaigning she has done in support of Democratic candidates very well.  First, he corrects the record: He has done a lot to support Democratic campaigns, it’s just less-visible than the kinds of campaign appearances Clinton has made on behalf of Democrats.  Finally, he shifts the conversation to the kind of Democratic Party he hopes to build, one in which organized moneyed interests won’t determine its candidates.

10:48 pm: Senator Sanders has said that President Obama should withdraw Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland because he hasn’t pledged to overturn Citizens United v Federal Elections Commission.  Judge Garland hasn’t made that commitment because he is a judge, and because he actually intends to be confirmed by a Republican Senate.

10:31 pm: One thing to consider about the debate over Israel: The Liberal Ironist prefers 2 States; the far-Right in both Israel and the Palestinian Territories does not, because they want the other nation to be driven-out of their land or suppressed.  Senator Sanders is willing to criticize Israel’s awful Prime Minister Binjamin Netanyahu; Secretary Clinton is not.  Secretary Clinton will view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the prism of a Realist; Senator Sanders will pressure Israeli governments to change policy.

Without pressure from a U.S. President on Israel, the Liberal Ironist sees no way that the hardships faced by the Palestinians will be lessened.  The debate over this subject goes to Sanders almost by default.

10:19 pm-10:31 pm: Hearing Senator Sanders call Israel’s counteroffensives against Palestinian militants disproportional in its harm to Palestinian civilian life and Secretary Clinton remind the audience that Arafat walked away from peace in 2000 (he did) and that Hamas responded to Sharon’s 2005 Gaza withdrawal with more violence against Israel (which they did) just goes to show that part of the reason this conflict is so intractable is that separate perspectives don’t even address each other’s points.

Secretary Clinton’s criticisms of Palestinian leadership were more-rigorous; they also didn’t say anything about the past 10 years.

10:17 pm: Listening to Secretary Clinton start-out the NATO question by affirming her commitment to NATO, agreeing with the idea of asking other NATO members to make a larger budgetary commitment to the military alliance, but ultimately warns against threatening to walk away from the alliance if European states don’t contribute a larger share of funding to its maintenance.  Every part of her answer suggested greater appreciation of NATO and more cognizance of the basic foreign policy issues pertinent to North Atlantic security.

In these days of Russian tin-horn revanchist expeditions, neither Democratic candidate suggests that NATO isn’t needed.  Good.

10:15 pm: Senator Sanders wants our European NATO allies to shoulder more of the military expenditures needed to maintain the military alliance.  Apparently he is unfamiliar with the “Prisoners’ Dilemma,” and why it’s so problematic to ask for higher costs on members of a cooperative venture.

9:39 pm-10:14 pm: Ugh, I’ll fill this in later.

9:38 pm: Secretary Clinton is on the attack again, criticizing Senator Sanders for voting for indemnification for gun manufacturers against lawsuits.  (Senator Sanders later gets another sensationalist question from a CNN moderator that asks him if he owes a bereft Newtown mother an apology for the shooting death of her child; he doesn’t directly address the question, which leads to a lot of booing.  It’s a dumb question, much dumber than Secretary Clinton criticizing Sanders’ vote to indemnify gun manufacturers against lawsuits.)

9:35 pm: Senator Sanders calls for a $15 an hour minimum wage.  I find it chilling that Sanders hasn’t in any way considered the possibility that committing to more than double the national minimum wage would eliminate so many jobs that it would reduce total income.  He seems to ride a tide of going further than the rest of the Democratic Party and getting credibility for standing alone and never have to think through some policy consequences…I daresay it’s a bit Cruzesque.

9:30 pm: Pandemonium.  Both candidates are shouting–but unlike a Republican Primary Debate this year, they are actually shouting about policy and philosophical differences and not simply belittling each other. Even at their worst, the Democratic debates are better.

9:15 pm: Secretary Clinton actually gets a question from a CNN moderator about why she hasn’t released the transcript of her paid speech to Goldman Sachs.  CNN continues to lead the media race to carry-on a solipsistic soliloquy about how people might feel about a candidate’s response to a question where no one has yet clarified exactly what the relevant issue is.

The Liberal Ironist continues to appreciate Senator Sanders’ Leftist curmudgeonism as a net positive in this primary, but along with the substantive scrutiny he has brought to the issue, Senator Sanders has brought conspiratorial insinuations that accepting campaign donations disqualifies a Democratic Presidential candidate.  (Every Democrat who might run for President except for Senator Sanders, who is not a Democrat, is not a real Democrat?)  This allows Senator Sanders to campaign on innuendo and allegation, rather than actually explain why he would be a better executive by reference to examples and fact.

9:10 pm: Senator Sanders gets a question about whether it can be demonstrated that campaign donations from the financial sector have ever influenced her vote on any bill before the U.S. Senate.  After a rambling response, Secretary Clinton responds, “Well, Senator Sanders didn’t provide any examples of campaign donations influencing my vote, because there aren’t any.”  Applause.

9:07 pm: Secretary Clinton really is a better debater than Senator Sanders.  She digs in in response to Wolf Blitzer’s question to Sanders about his angry claim that Secretary Clinton was “not qualified” to be President; she burnishes her record as the twice-elected junior Senator of New York–a point which goes over well–and says in response to Sanders’ previous put-down that “I’ve been called a lot of things, but never that.”  Clinton reminds the audience that President Obama trusted her judgment enough to appoint her Secretary of State!  She isn’t just a stronger debater on points, but she’s also a more-bellicose debater; she doubles-down on attacking Sander’s qualifications to be President!  She refers to Sanders’ rather embarrassing Daily News interview, in which he seemed to be thinking out loud without an abundance of rigor about questions on foreign policy and even on systemic risk issues involving the largest banks.

Sanders’ response is angry (which is understandable), but he attacks Clinton on her Iraq War vote again.  We know she voted for the Iraq War Resolution in 2002.  We also know that Senator Sanders doesn’t like super-PACs.  It’s impressive as a way of proving his accountability to the average voter that he has managed to fund his campaign through small donors, but Clinton fires back compellingly, noting that President Obama organized a super-PAC (Do not insult President Obama before this audience) and she says that “A President has to have the ‘judgment’ (read: knowledge) on Day 1!”

 9:06 pm: “Does  Secretary Clinton possess the experience and intelligence required to be President?  Of course she does.”  Thanks, Bernie, I guess we can go home now.

Live-Blogging the Univision Democratic Presidential Debate

10:54 pm: Secretary Clinton gives her usual closing message: She wants to empower Americans to pursue their own ambitions.  Senator Sanders gives his usual closing message: .1% of Americans now have as much wealth as the bottom 90% of Americans; as Americans have worked longer hours for lower wages over the past generation, 58% of post-recession wealth gains have gone to the wealthiest 1% of Americans.  He asks whether we can be OK with this.  His message of grim portents and (for lack of a better term) class conflict resonates with at least half of this young debate crowd; the generational divide persists, with the under-30 crowd seeming to swoon for the septugenarian Socialist from Vermont.

10:41 pm: A humorous video showing Bernie Sanders in an interview in 1985 (Sanders has the same mannerisms, voice, disheveled hair and frumpled clothing, but he has more hair and it’s darker.  This video looks like a joke video that he just filmed with a flat wig.)  Sanders says it’s understandable that the Cuban people didn’t rally to the cause of anti-Castro revolutionaries during the Bay of Pigs invasion, as Fidel Castro provided so much for the Cuban people.  This got some boos from some in the audience, but it seems clear to me that Sanders’ statement was taken out of context; Sanders asserts that he was simply speaking against our often-presumptuous resort to regime change in dealing with unfriendly governments.

Secretary Clinton sees another opening, and attacks Sanders on the grounds that he has incidentally defended the Castros, whom are dictators; big applause.  It seems much of the anti-Castro sentiment in South Florida remains, or at least it is well-represented at the audience at this debate.

10:32 pm: Senator Sanders is asked how he could pass new legislation to deal with global warming when most Republicans deny that global warming is human created, and they currentky control Congress.  Sanders repeats his wearisome call for a “political revolution.”  This call is wearisome because Senator Sanders would need to rally Democrats to win seats in predominantly-Republican Congressional Districts where people are not likely to be hungry for much higher tax rates for top income and capital gains margins.  This is not very plausible to me, as these parts of the country are not just waiting to fall into the Democratic column for a more-extreme Democratic messenger.

10:24 pm: Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton debate their usual terms on health care reform: Secretary Clinton wants to reform President Obama’s Affordable Care Act to add any regulatory changes and funding increases necessary to institute full insurance of the public; Senator Sanders renews his call for single-payer health insurance, affirming his support for the ACA under the circumstances but noting that millions of Americans still don’t have health care expense coverage and that many Americans still aren’t satisfied with their health care options.

10:12 pm: Senator Sanders clarifies that he hasn’t promised to provide everyone in America paid college tuition; he proposes to provide fully covered tuition at State universities to any student with basic qualifying grades to continue their education.

10:08 pm: Secretary Clinton notes that Florida “has more to lose than any other State” from global warming.  This depends somewhat on how you define “the most to lose”; the State with the lowest highest point actually isn’t Florida but Delaware.

10:00 pm: Secretary Clinton gets a question about Benghazi, to loud and sustained boos from the crowd who don’t want to hear the sensationalized “scandal” surrounding the terrorist attack on the US consulate there 1 more time.  Secretary Clinton addresses the fact that a family member of one of the 4 Americans killed in that attack alleges that she and the rest of the Obama Administration “lied” to her; she expresses sympathy for the woman’s loss but insists that she is wrong.  She notes that a captured Libyan militant connected to Ansar al-Sharia had claimed that the Benghazi attack was am organized terrorist attack, but that it was launched in response to a provocative anti-Islam video filmed in the United States, as had been initially claimed.

Senator Sanders refuses to engage the subject of whether Secretary Clinton lied or misled the public on the matter of the Benghazi attacks.  He does however remind those assembled that he opposes foreign military intervention, once again conflating the Iraq War with our involvement in the Libyan revolution which overthrew Colonel Moammar Gaddafi.  There is obviously a lot at stake in electing a President who sees the value of foreign intervention in cases where a lot of lives can be saved.  Senator Sanders doesn’t see the issue this way, but I don’t agree with his simplistic claim that Secretary Clinton, who has real foreign policy experience and credentials, is tainted by words of respect from Henry Kissinger.  Hillary Clinton has a long record of advocating foreign interventions to end the war crimes of others, including in Libya; these have saved hundreds of thousands of lives in sum, benefits which aren’t acknowledged by a risk-averse public.

9:54 pm: Secretary Clinton is asked about a common perception that she is untrustworthy.  She says she can stand on her record and advocacy of social justice and the material improvement of people’s lives, but she says something I find more-interesting: “I think you can see that I’m not a natural politician, like my husband or President Obama.”  I’m glad that I’ve finally heard Secretary Clinton say that her problem is one of connection with the voters as much as anything.

Senator Sanders says that Secretary Clinton has trust issues in part because of her top-dollar speeches to Goldman Sachs.  He says that “any speech that commands that kind of figure must be pretty good,” and “it should be released to the public.”  He says Secretary Clinton should be willing to disclose the text of her speaking engagements to to the public.

9:50 pm: Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton both promise that they will make a policy of reuniting resident families that are divided by members that have been separated by the deportation of members who are illegal immigrants.  This also represents an extraordinary change in Democratic Party campaign positioning, though it’s also true that back in 1980, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush both spoke in the Republican Presidential Primary Debate about doing something humane and compassionate for illegal immigrants already in the country, and that in 1986 President Reagan granted 3 million of them amnesty.

9:36 pm: Secretary Clinton is asked if she would continue President Obama’s record number of deportations if she became President.  She says that she would only deport violent criminals and terrorists but not just illegal immigrants as such.  (What a change the Democratic Party has undergone; deportation is overused, period, and we don’t have to have executive orders not to deport people as we pursue immigration reform.  I only feel apprehension about this position because I wouldn’t underestimate how long a Republican Congress could stall on immigration reform, and a Republican President would have more trouble with reversing an executive order than with resuming the enforcement of a policy.)

9:34 pm: In Univision’s poll of Hispanic likely voters, their top 3 issues of concern are

1.) Government ethics,

2.) Racial issues, and

3.) The economy.

9:16 pm-9:28 pm: Secretary Clinton is asked about immigration reform.  She affirms her support for legislative changes that would allow illegal immigrants in the United States to demonstrate that they are working, pay back taxes and apply for citizenship.  She notes that Senator Sanders opposed the 2007 immigration reform.  (She doesn’t mention that Senator Sanders did vote for the more widely-supported 2013 comprehensive immigration reform proposal.)

Clinton can be an unfair debater.  When Senator Sanders gets asked his version of the immigration reform question, the moderator actually herself clarifies that he had previously said he couldn’t support the 2007 immigration reform bill because it contained “near-slave-like provisions” for agricultural guest workers.  The Univision moderator then shares a clip from Lou Dobbs’ old program (uh-oh) on which Senator Sanders said in 2007 that illegal immigrants were depressing domestic wages!  He offers no nuanced provision for allowing guest workers to stay with better wage provisions.  He defends himself convincingly, saying that his reservations with the 2007 bill pertained entirely to the wage burdens normalized upon illegal immigrants working in agriculture through the old bill.

Clinton hits Sanders on this again, citing Senator Kennedy and La Raza as other supporters of the 2007 immigration reform.  Sanders repeats his previous defense, and notes that Secretary Clinton opposed the trend of unaccompanied minors entering the country on foot that gained prominence in 2014; Secretary Clinton said she wasn’t against giving the minors grants of asylum, but only against their dangerous solo treks across Central America.

9:12 pm: Secretary Clinton gets a question about her conduct of State Department emails through her private email account.  When asked if she may be indicted for the use of her private email account to conduct State Department business, she gruffly laughs the question off and says won’t dignify it with an answer.  Senator Sanders is asked the same question, and he says that there is a legitimate investigative process that should be left to pay itself out, and steers the conversation back to the collapsing middle class, implying that this issue is a sideshow.

I do appreciate Senator Sanders’ sense of fair play.

9:10 pm: Senator Sanders gives a similar appeal to what he ordinarily does in these debates and most campaign events: We have to uproot the entrenched corporate and financial power in government, and we need to address global climate change.

9:08 pm: Secretary Clinton has attuned her message to the Univision television audience: We need to inhibit the corporate offshoring of work and profits.  We need comprehensive immigration reform.

Live-Blogging the Flint, Michigan Democratic Presidential Primary Debate

The Democratic Presidential Primary has come together much more-quickly than the Republican Presidential Primary; Hillary Clinton’s nomination by her party is now almost a fait accompli.  But Bernie Sanders can still contribute much to the narrative of this Presidential Election, particularly in an old industrial city as troubled as Flint.

9:51 pm: Donald Trump has expressed an eagerness to run against Secretary Clinton, and has promised to talk-up her email non-scandal constantly.  Clinton quips that the only Presidential candidate who has gotten more votes than Donald Trump is her!  Hah!  She squarely contrasts herself from Trump, who she calls “bigoted.”  (That’s reasonable.)  She offers national healing as the theme of her campaign; I wish her luck with her message of rapprochement and greater mutual understanding between Americans in the face of the Republican noise machine.

Anderson Cooper notes that Trump has called Sanders a COMMUNIST!  How do you respond to the charge, sir?!  Sanders says that “That was one of the nice things that Donald Trump called me.”  Sanders notes that he fares better against Donald Trump in polling than Clinton does.  I wish him luck maintaining his good reputation in the face of the Republican noise machine.

9:44 pm: Senator Sanders repeats his popular and in many ways central campaign theme: He is almost unique in refusing to accept corporate and soft-money campaign contributions, the scope in modern politics of which attests to the access that major corporations and the rich pay to get.  Overturning Citizens United, either at the Supreme Court or by Amendment, is a major priority.  Secretary Clinton ought to say more about campaign finance reform in her own time and allay some people’s misgivings.

9:37 pm: Are you in favor of hydraulic fracturing as a means of extracting oil and gas?

Secretary Clinton: Yes, if wanted by the State and local communities in question, and subject to full environmental review and the best available geographical surveying, and with proper financial benefits from fracking going to the States and communities providing that resource.

Senator Sanders: No.

Are you sure?  A lot of Democratic Governors favor some fracking in n their States; are you saying they’re wrong?

Sanders: Yes.

A President Sanders really would be rough on the economy: Huge tax increases, very step spending increases, massive new tariffs on imports, new financial transactions taxes and far less domestic resource-extraction…Has anyone calculated the net burden all of this would impose on the economy?  It would be a big drag.

9:26 pm: Secretary Clinton gets the question first: What can be done to make public schools better-supported and more-accountable to their communities?  I don’t have much time to write on this one: The upshot is that Clinton was commendably wonky in response to this question by focusing on particular mechanisms for providing resources for public schools (also, she is hostile to Michigan’s Emergency Financial Managers), but she is reticent to engage the question of whether teacher’s unions protect bad teachers in practice.  She notes that teachers are not usually acknowledged for the important role they play in our society.

Senator Sanders resorts to his promise of free college!  Sometimes he is courageous in his advocacy, and sometimes it highlights when he is a little bit off of his policy depth.

9:14 pm: Don Lemon is really putting Secretary Clinton through her paces!  He asks her about her use of the term “super-predators” in the 1990s; an activist heckled her at a private gathering for making what she called a racially-coded attack.  Clinton said that she had used the term in reference to drug smugglers and other organized criminals, and that it was a mistake.

The Liberal Ironist finds it ironic that as reliable and effective of a Democrat as Hillary Clinton has spent the better part of this Presidential Primary having to demonstrate that she isn’t secretly a Republican; isn’t it enough that she isn’t acting like a maniac right now?

In response to a question about what his racial blind spots may be, Senator Sanders notes his surprise that, in the mid-1990s, a Black Congressman couldn’t get a cab driver in n Washington, DC to stop to give him a ride.

Both of these candidates seem to recognize that their rules as President will be to try to better-serve the needs of people whose experiences are different from theirs; right now, the Republican Presidential candidates are mostly straining to make their voters identify with them personally, and often against other Americans.  The Democratic Party is trying to transcend tribal loyalties while the Republican Party seems to be trying to reinforce them.

9:08 pm: Senator Sanders is asked by a Black debate audience member about experiences he has had with other ethnic cultures in the United States.  He knocks this one out of the park.

Sanders speaks of his work to integrate University of Chicago student housing in the early 1960s, his arrest during a protest action while advocating for integration of Chicago public schools a year later, and his 1963 participation in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s March on Washington.

Sanders finally got that one out there: He matched with Dr. King.

Secretary Clinton notes that she was 14 years old at the time, but she is able to point to her interest in and awareness of Dr. King at that time; not bad for a kid growing up in a White neighborhood.

9:00 pm: Don Lemon asks Secretary Clinton a question about criminal justice reform: President Clinton’s 1994 crime bill was strongly supported by then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, which President Clinton has since said had regrettable policy impacts on minority communities: “Why should we count on you to get it right now?”

Secretary Clinton says that Senator Sanders voted for the bill as well, and that there was good and bad in the 1994 crime bill, and that the systemic racism in the criminal justice system is now much easier to document, and that it now needs to be comprehensively addressed in policy.

Senator Sanders particularly notes that the 1994 crime bill contained a mix of good and bad; he notes his support for the violence against women provisions and the assault weapons ban, as did Secretary Clinton.  Both have noted the omnibus and multifaceted nature of this crime bill; the issue is a wash.

8:50 pm: A Michigander in the audience asks an uncomfortable but serious question: There have been at least 42 mass shootings in the United States in the first 2 months and week of 2016; the man has a daughter who was shot and seriously wounded by a mass shooter in Michigan who had no known mental health issues and no criminal background.  He wants to hear what each candidate will do about gun violence that doesn’t just involve better mental health care and gun background checks.

Secretary Clinton is eager to discuss this, and she starts by mentioning background checks–close the gun show loophole, make background checks instant, maintain waiting periods.  She also calls for statutory change to allow lawsuits against gun manufacturers and gun dealers for their potentially enabling role in gun violence.

Senator Sanders notes that he has a lifetime D- rating from the NRA, but he argues that gun manufacturers should be indemnified against some forms of lawsuit because “what you are proposing is the end of gun manufacturing in America.”

Clinton sees an opportunity for a major attack on Sanders’ air of incorruptibility; she calls the combination of profits and indemnity for fun manufactures Sanders’ blind spot on the issue of corporate greed.

8:37 pm: Secretary Clinton speaks in favor of the U.S. Export-Import Bank as a way of promoting U.S. exports through a more-liberalized U.S. trade policy.

Moderator Anderson Cooper notes that the Export-Import Bank mostly gives loans to American small businesses; Senator Sanders notes that about 75% of the loans have been extended to major corporations!  Cooper notes that Sanders is right about this; Clinton responds that some U.S. corporations are a major strategic, economic, and yes, employment interest.  She notes that European states heavily subsidize Airbus and that our government should take action to make Boeing a competitive producer.

Sanders responds that these countries also spend money on universal health care; Clinton counters that the Affordable Care Act has insured 90% of Americans already, and provides the needed infrastructure for universal health care already and should be improved and expanded.

8:26 pm: Secretary Clinton attacks Senator Sanders for not supporting the bailout of Detroit; Sanders in response bitterly attacks Clinton for bailing-out Wall Street.  Sanders expresses outrage that working-class taxpayers have to bail-out the millionaires and billionaires of Wall Street and Detroit.  (Actually, it was mostly wealthy taxpayers who had to pay into those bailouts through Federal income tax, but point taken.)  Anyway, Sanders very deftly evades discussing his disengagement from President Obama’s successful bailout and restructuring of Detroit; even by shifting the focus to Wall Street, he doesn’t seem to win this one with the crowd.

8:24 pm: Sanders tries to put Flint’s troubles on Secretary Clinton, saying that past U.S. free trade agreements have been a disaster for the American middle class; that would mark a foreign policy sea-change and a major increase in the cost of consumer goods, but a zero-sum view of international trade is a keystone to Sanders’ campaign.

8:11 pm-8:18 pm: There is a long discussion about who is responsible for Flint’s exposure to lead-poisoned water.  The Flint City Council voted to obtain water from the Flint River rather than the safer supply from the City of Detroit, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality overlooked growing evidence of lead poisoning, the State Emergency Financial Manager for Flint appointed by Governor Snyder rejected a City Council resolution to get water from Detroit again, and the Federal EPA rejected outside calls to inspect Flint’s water supply.  Both candidates call for an investigation; the usually fiery Sanders says that he is not qualified to determine whether a criminal act has been committed, and says a full Federal investigation should make that determination.

Sanders is the ideological candidate in the Democratic Party: He does not call for a witch hunt or invoke a conspiracy theory, and no one in the audience boos him for not calling for heads to roll on little information.  This was an informative exchange about real accountability; that would make this a Democratic Primary Debate.

8:10 pm: Senator Sanders gets a question from Anderson Cooper about whether government can be trusted to clean Flint’s water since this represents a failure of public goods provision by government; he gets cheers from the debate audience for ironically suggesting that the corporations that poisoned the Flint River, shipped thousands of jobs out of the country, or wrecked the economy with risky speculation in the last decade could take responsibility for maintaining clean drinking water for Flint.  Government needs to have the resources and oversight to do its job, not be dismantled further; the layer approach has been tried and has been a disaster.

8:06 pm: There is a question about what the candidates will do to impose accountability and improve Flint’s water quality.  Clinton says that the State as lead environmental agency and financial receiver for cash-strapped Flint should pay much of the cost to repair Flint’s water infrastructure; Senator Sanders goes further and seems to “win” the v question for arguing that the Federal Government should proactively step in in the case of such a disaster.  I for one like the idea of the Federal Government imposing accountability on the State of Michigan for failing to do so, which seems to have been Clinton’s emphasis.

8:04 pm: …It was actually Secretary Clinton’s request that led to the hosting of this CNN debate in Flint.  Clinton came-out on this message first.  She starts her opening statement with “amen to that,” to everything that Sanders initially said.  Both candidates have called on Governor Snyder, a Republican, to resign; Michiganders seem to want Snyder to stay on to fix Flint’s severe water quality problems, though they do consider him accountable if not responsible.

8:02 pm: “What is happening in Flint is happening to a lesser extent throughout this county…”  In his opening statement, Senator Sanders juxtaposes the teeming population of American billionaires with tens of millions of struggling American families that used to be considered middle class.  A hollowing manufacturing sector, crumbling infrastructure, an ancien regime of the super-rich?  That sounds like a perfect setting for Sanders’ campaign message…

Live-Blogging the March 3, 2016 FOX News Republican Presidential Debate

Congratulations, Republican Party, you pretty-much get Donald Trump for a Presidential candidate.  Why am I even covering this?  Well, here it is…

10:52 pm: Senator Rubio will support Trump if he is the Republican nominee; the Republicans must beat the Socialist or the dishonorable criminal.

Senator Cruz will support Trump if he is the Republican nominee, because he promised he would, and just ask Texas where he won the Republican Presidential Primary because he is a man of his word, and by the grace of God he will keep his word when he is President!

Governor Kasich will support Trump if he is the Republican nominee (he says with slight discomfort), but he still thinks that he will be the Republican Presidential nominee.

Donald Trump will support any of the other 3 men onstage if they are the Republican Presidential nominee, though they should be grateful because he deserves all of the credit for bringing “millions and millions of people” into the Republican Party.

OK, that is where I leave you tonight.  If you’ve watched any of these near-continuous debates before now, you’ve heard the Republican candidates’ closing statements before.  The claim I want to leave you with is Donald Trump’s claim to have brought new people into a growing Republican Party.  Donald Trump is expanding the Republican Party with all of his…put-downs and swaggering promises: That is an empirical claim.  Shall we let November settle the issue?

10:45 pm: Hey, North Korean strongman Kim Jong-un has said he wants his country’s nuclear weapons ready to launch at a moment’s notice.  Don’t worry, we’ll get back to what this debate is really about now.

10:38 pm: Trump is asked if he thinks there should be any restrictions on firearms access; he doesn’t support any.  (He won’t let any of the Republican Presidential candidates outflank him on the right on guns.)  He returns to a talking point he has made many times before, that the San Bernardino terrorists wouldn’t have been able to kill so many people if more of the employees of the targeted workplace had been armed.  More guns in the workplace!  We need to be safe!

It’s amazing how many workplaces in other countries are free of gun violence without armed employees in them…

10:36 pm: Senator Rubio is asked about Justice Antonin Scalia’s statement that the 2nd Amendment guarantees a personal right to ownership and bearing of firearms, but does not preclude a variety of regulations on the purchase and possession of firearms.  The Senator is asked what restrictions on gun purchases and ownership are tolerable.

The Senator’s answer?  “As few as possible.”  He insists that gun control just doesn’t work because criminals won’t follow the law.  He keeps repeating 25-year-old Republican talking points, but his considerable qualities of communication have gone off-message now.  But there’s always time to talk about unrestricted access to firearms.

10:30 pm: Senator Cruz attributes the decline of the City of Detroit to “DECADES of failed left-wing policies.”  A right-wing lawyer turned Tea Party Senator hopes to rise to the Presidency; unlike Governor Kasich, he can’t talk about what he has done, but he can promise to fight the vague attribution of decades of failed left-wing policies.  I wonder what happens when a man who is constantly feeding-off of confrontation actually finds himself in executive office, with no one else to attribute as a big heavy without having weakness imputed to him.

Oh, that’s right–Season 4 of House of Cards drops tomorrow!

10:26 pm: Governor Kasich speaks of his accomplishment in achieving an agreement with Cleveland municipal leaders to establish a nimbler managerial system for the city’s public schools.  It’s sad to see the effect Donald Trump’s presence in this primary cycle has had on me, yours truly, in drawing my own attention and time away from as decent and qualified of a Presidential candidate as John Kasich, whose administration of Ohio has been broadly popular.  This is one of the most-popular Governors in the United States, and he is the least-heard from on this stage.

10:22 pm: Senator Rubio applauds Governor Snyder for his…promise of accountability (I assume he means the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Flint Emergency Financial Manager at least) for the lead poisoning of Flint through its river-drawn tap water.  He accuses Democrats of making a partisan issue in holding Governor Snyder accountable for what happened in Flint.  There is no way Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality and Emergency Financial Manager for Flint don’t have some responsibility as the lead agencies that ignored the evidence of this mounting tragedy; Senator Rubio comes close to a pretty morally-bankrupt partisanship in circling the wagons on what happened in Flint.

10:02 pm-10:12 pm: Trump spends a good 10 minutes or so defending Trump University.  Some of the students at Trump University paid up to $36,000 to get real estate advice which, in Senator Rubio’s words, “You could pull off of Zillow.”  Donald Trump’s defense is weak-enough not to warrant repeating–Many of those in the suit spoke well of the course before they sued me; the suit has been ongoing for years because I am confident enough of winning the suit and I don’t want to encourage other lawsuits; even that you’ll have to wait and see when I win this lawsuit in a few years…All of these attacks on Donald Trump’s character–My, have there ever been a lot of those–seem to constitute a trial-by-fire for Trump supporters, like the basis for a common mythology and history of battles joined.

10:00 pm: Donald Trump is asked a potentially-embarrassing question by Megyn Kelly (no doubt his favorite moderator) about rhetorical about-faces he has made in the past…He is asked about accepting Syrian and Iraqi refugees, support for the Iraq War, and whether or not George W. Bush lied to get us into the Iraq War.  He parries this surprisingly well–He changed his mind on Syrian refugees when he heard that the United States would accept tens of thousands, Trump was receptive to the idea of the Iraq War but ultimately was unconvinced by the case for it, etc.  Even FOX is failing to build a case against Trump that will stick–this, a man who just routinely says what is convenient.

9:52 pm: Senator Cruz says that name-calling and cursing doesn’t make a leader, to significant applause.  There is a sizable anti-Trump contingent in this audience, and they are eager to see Trump held to account for blustery speech…and I wish this entry could say something about the substantive ideas that these candidates were espousing.

Oh, here’s something: Cruz wants to rebuild the military, “the way Ronald Reagan did.”  Senator Cruz is probably winning his running competition with Senator Rubio in giving odes to Ronald Reagan…Every Republican is talking about rebuilding the military; Barack Obama wants to increase military spending, but Republicans in the House of Representatives can’t agree to overall spending levels that will support more military spending.

9:50 pm: Asked if American military personnel would follow his orders to kill the families of terrorists–wives, children–which would be a war crime, Trump insists that “Oh, they’ll do it.  They’ll listen to me, believe me.”  He focuses on the brutality of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq; is that really an argument in favor of a tactic that would make us into an international malefactor and open our soldiers and Marines to war crimes prosecution?

9:42 pm-9:48 pm: There is a background bellow of yelling from Donald Trump supporters in the debate audience.  It has an undeniable belligerent tone to it, if you’re wondering.

9:40 pm: Donald Trump defends the H1-B visa program for tech workers, saying that there is a dearth of qualified workers for some positions in the technology sector.

Senator Cruz offers a pretty good counter, focusing on identified abuse of the H1-B visa in which some tech workers from abroad have been brought in from other countries for temporary employment, with existing American tech workers required to train their own replacements.  He also attacks Trump, for the 2nd time, for his use of H2-B visas to hire seasonal hospitality employees.

Trump responds that it’s very difficult to find enough seasonal hospitality employees in the Miami region; that has plausibility, and it would require particular knowledge of the regional economy to gainsay.

9:26 pm-9:31 pm: Senator Cruz attacks Trump twice in about 5 minutes for his campaign contributions to various Washington politicians.  He’s trying to make the case that Trump is corrupt (though Cruz avers that it’s understandable fora businessman to make campaign donations for favorable zoning resolutions–Does Cruz really want to argue that private campaign financing is “free speech”?), and he AGAIN returns to his talking point that Trump gave thousands to the Gang of Eight Senators who favored immigration reform.

Senator Cruz gets applause for saying that Trump represents the Washington establishment as a major campaign cash contributor.  He gets cheers for this, and it’s a fair rejoinder to Trump’s populist persona, but Rubio’s more-bitter and -personal attacks seem to get louder cheers…This audience may in fact be partly-packed by the establishment to make Senator Rubio into the party’s Saint George.  I anticipate that this won’t work.

9:15 pm-9:22 pm: Senator Rubio gets a “tough” (that is, unanswerable) question from Wallace: “How many jobs have you created?”  Senator Rubio starts off stuck with the awkward response, “Government doesn’t create jobs,” it can create favorable conditions for the private sector to create jobs, etc.  He’s paraphrasing what former Speaker Newt Gingrich said many times during the debates of the last Republican Presidential Primary cycle.

What we’re seeing here is the final reductio ad absurdum of the Republican Party’s encouraged contempt for government: “Oh, you’ve been in the Senate for the past 5 years?  What good could you be doing there?”

9:09 pm: Senator Cruz talks about his personal integrity as a consistent Conservative.  (He certainly is consistent on messaging!)  He promises to “repeal Obamacare.”  I don’t know what to say; he seems almost a separate show here, not the main affair.  Ted Cruz is the biggest challenger to Donald Trump right now, and he isn’t even part of the same conversation.

I never thought Senator Cruz would be a relative source of substance in this primary cycle, but that’s how far this party has fallen.

9:06 pm: Senator Rubio looks very tired onstage.  He looks haggard in his first appearance onstage.  He must not be able to believe how far off the rails his party’s Presidential Primaries have gone off the rails in just a few months.  Rubio defends his personal attacks on Trump on account of his personal vitriol against others for petty reasons.

In response, Trump does something remarkable: He acts like a secure man.  He doesn’t hit back; he takes back his previous attack of Senator Rubio as a lightweight.  He notes Rubio’s “small hands” jab against him, and he both shows the audience that he considers his hands large, and offers assurance that the other implied anatomy is also large.

There is a lot of laughter and applause from the audience.  This is all being said and applauded at a Presidential debate.  This kind of back-and-forth used to be widely-regarded as unacceptable in this venue.

9:04 pm: Trump has to defend his reticence to disavow the Ku Klux Klan: More booing from Trump supporters!  This is a remarkable change in the internal dynamic of the Republican Party; say what you will about George W. Bush, he was trying too facilitate greater diversity within the Republican Party.

9:02 pm: Chris Wallace asks Trump about Governor Romney’s put-down of Trump’s business record, personal statements and disposition.  Booing from the audience.  The Trump constituency is intensely-committed; they don’t want to hear critical scrutiny of their candidate, they are just not interested.

9:01 pm: FOX News learned their lesson from an earlier ABC debate: The candidates are already onstage!  You can’t have a logistical nightmare with the walk to the podium if no one has to move to get into position…

Live-Blogging the February 24, 2016 CNN Republican Primary Debate

How can this be happening?  No, the Liberal Ironist isn’t despondent, but he isn’t satisfied with so many Americans being this scared–sorry, sorry, angry–that they should support an obvious charlatan and racemonger like Donald Trump for the Republican Presidential nomination.  Republicans have until next Tuesday, maybe, or until the ides of March to correct this blight against their supposed coolness of judgment.

10:53 pm: Donald Trump says that politicians cannot be trust, and that as he has no political experience, he can be trusted, and that he will get all the things he’s promised done.  He’s really refined his BS message for his millions of credulous Republican supporters.  I’m glad this one is over; the angry recriminations were fun, though.

10:52 pm: Senator Rubio says that the circus needs to end and that at this point in the primary cycle, Republicans need to get serious.  Even the Liberal Ironist can’t possibly argue with that.

10:51 pm: Senator Cruz repeats his message of being a consistent Conservative, which dovetails nicely with his attack on Senator Rubio for not being consistent, and his attack on Trump for not being Conservative.  The only thing that Cruz has truly been consistent in is in crossing his arms while other Senators are actually legislating, and alienating people.

10:50 pm: Governor Kasich asserts that he hopes he has demonstrated that he has foreign policy experience based on what he has said tonight; the truth is that only Senator Rubio really exhibited much foreign policy knowledge or judgment tonight.

10:49 pm: Dr. Carson argues that he will set a good example as President.  Does he mean he would set a good example as a President, or as a talented neurosurgeon?  Dr. Carson has set a good example as a Presidential candidate, provided that one’s actual statements and promises on the campaign trail (a 10% flat income tax because it’s the mandated Biblical tithing rate, Doctor?) are not a factor in the appraisal.

10:42 pm: Senator Rubio gives a reasonable answer when asked about Apple’s refusal to grant the FBI access to an iPhone used by 1 of the 2 San Bernardino shooters by making a code change that would break encryption; he notes that this could be done as a 1-off without the relevant code ever leaving Apple’s posession.  Senator Cruz works in a snide comment suggesting that Senator Rubio has not consistently held this position, but additionally notes that a conventional search warrant would cover Apple’s responsibility to grant the FBI access to this iPhone.

10:34pm–10:35 pm: Chaos.  Uproar.  Donald Trump and Ted Cruz get into a long fight in which the 2 of them personally bait each other.  They both struggle to maintain their composure; they both lose it; the debate grinds to a halt.

10:27 pm: Senator Rubio came dangerously close to expressing approval of President Obama’s Libyan intervention, but he made sure that he used the “lead from behind” gaffe and to insist that he would have intervened in Libya better…and harder…and faster!

10:26 pm: Donald Trump said that he wished that murderous Libyan strongman Colonel Moammar Gaddafi were still in charge of Libya…I wonder if Trump ever reminisces about the time Gaddafi stayed over at his Westchester County estate before his weird UN General Assembly speech about a decade ago, when he tried to pitch a huge tent on Trump’s lawn.

10:22 pm: Dr. Carson has said that he isn’t concerned about disclosure of his own tax returns because he “is an honest person–but the IRS is not honest, and it should be abolished.”  Thunderous applause.  Millions of Americans who live paycheck to paycheck, or worse, give enthusiastic approbation to a party whose candidates propose taxing consumption that they need to pay for.

10:17 pm: I think Governor Kasich has said we might need to assassinate the Dear Leader of North Korea.  That’s a bit discordant with his usually calm and sane (and civil!) message.

 10:14 pm: Senator Rubio says that Donald Trump is actually anti-Israel.  He notes that the Palestinian leadership “has walked away from reasonable Israeli offers of peace many times.”  That was true…10 years ago; that is not at all true today, as the Likud Government of Benjamin Netanyahu continues to appropriate land currently occupied by Palestinians (who had voted for the conciliator Mahmoud Abbas) for religious settlers.

Most of Senator Rubio’s thinking seems to be 10-30 years trite; he’s lucky he speaks so well.

10:13 pm: Senator Cruz says that Donald Trump isn’t sufficiently certifiably pro-Israel.

10:10 pm: Donald Trump gets another gift question from Wolf Blitzer–who is doing a terrible job as a moderator, by the way–and he says that “President Obama has treated Israel terribly.”  I don’t know about that; our UN Ambassador has still vetoed UN Security Council resolutions condemning Israel and prevented the recognition of Palestine as an independent state even as Israel under a Likud coalition continues to remove Palestinians from more land in the West Bank.

10:00 pm–10:02 pm: Both Senator Rubio and Senator Cruz underscore that Donald Trump is under an IRS audit!  Duh…

9:56 pm: Donald Trump says that his finances shouldn’t be so suspicious to people because he’s subject to an audit by the IRS every year.  That suggests that the IRS thinks his tax return is particularly suspicious every year.

When Governor Romney was called to release his tax return in 2012 and he resisted, I wondered if he was concerned that people would see him taking advantage of unjust tax provisions that constantly favor the rich, trust managers and major investors; when Donald Trump is under IRS audit I simply suspect that he is trying to elude the Feds the way Al Capone was.

9:37 pm–9:46 pm: There is a good exchange between several of the Republican Presidential candidates on this stage…and little really comes of it.  Senator Rubio points out that his legislative contribution eliminated the Federally-funded risk pools for insurers through the Affordable Care Act, which is true; Donald Trump proposes allowing Americans to purchase insurance across State lines, and Dr. Carson proposes the creation of special savings accounts to save up money for their health care costs…and there you have it, folks, the only 2 ideas Republicans have for health care reform.

Oh, that’s right, and Donald Trump promises to keep the popular reforms from the ACA without the individual mandate to buy health insurance that pays for those reforms–that is, he does what he always does, which is promise everything to the largest identifiable audience without discussing particulars.

9:39 pm: Senator Rubio has accused Donald Trump of repeating himself.  (Haaa ha ha.)  Donald Trump’s repetitions truly are his Achilles heel; without repetition of the simplest points and the vaguest promises (like how America doesn’t win and that he’s going to bring all those jobs back from Mexico and China), there’s nothing to maintain the attention of the millions of scared–sorry, angry–voters who have rallied to his cause of putting the 7 Genies back in the bottle.

9:23 pm–9:29 pm: We have an occasionally funny series of exchanges involving Donald Trump and whether he would appoint a Conservative Justice to the Supreme Court.  The recent passing of Justice Antonin Scalia at age 79 created a big question overhanging the Presidential election: Will Liberals or Conservatives dominate the Supreme Court?

Donald Trump gets a little zinger off by noting that Senator Cruz sang praises for Chief Justice John Roberts…who upheld the President’s health care reform twice!  Senator Cruz avers that he wouldn’t have appointed Chief Justice Roberts himself.  Cruz then tries his own little smear of Donald: “I’m not going to ‘cut a deal’ in the defense of the Constitution.”  Senator Cruz expresses worry that a President Trump will cut a deal with Senate Democrats to appoint a Supreme Court Justice who will abandon the 2nd Amendment.

9:21 pm: Donald Trump faces a challenge from the moderator from Univision: Donald Trump has claimed that he would be a winning candidate with Hispanics…While it’s true that he polled well among Hispanic Republicans in the Nevada Caucus, a new poll co-sponsored by Telemundo found that Trump’s polling with Hispanics is abyssal!  Doesn’t that mean that Trump won’t be a viable candidate?  Trump responds curtly that he doesn’t believe anything that comes from Telemundo.  (This debate is being carried in Spanish on Univision, Donald, but go for the laughs, I guess…)

Trump then surprisingly pulls back and restrains himself; he’s starting to think like a primary front-runner who isn’t sure if he’s burning his bridges with larger audiences.  (It’s too late for that, Donald.)

9:14 pm: Senator Rubio notes that there are 2 Hispanics and 1 Black Presidential candidates among 5 Republicans onstage; “The Republican Party is the party of diversity, not the Democrats!”  Thaaat’s a bit silly; I think the party of diversity moniker has to go to the party that actually has a diverse electorate, not 5 men who want to be President.

9:03-9:08 pm: Senator Rubio takes an opening; Donald Trump is asked to respond to former Mexican President Vicente Fox saying, “I am not going to build that ***king wall!  He has the money, he can build it.”  Trump says that “the wall just got 10 feet taller” to the cheers and jeers of the rubes in the audience.  Trump then decries the language which President Fox (I think understandably) used to describe Trump’s Great Wall of America.

Anyway, Rubio says that if Trump were to build the wall, it would be built with illegal immigrant labor to save money.

Then he notes that Trump clothing is manufactured in Mexico.

Then he refers to Donald Trump’s multiple declarations of bankruptcy.

Then he says that “Donald Trump inherited $210 million dollars.  If Donald Trump didn’t inherit $210 million dollars, do you know where he’d be?  He’d be selling brushes.”

There are screams of excitement and cheers from the crowd for all of this.  For what it’s worth, all of those artillery shots landed.

8:59 pm: Dr. Carson says that illegal immigrants should apply for citizenship by a normal lawful process.  I agree, and that would be the path to citizenship that former President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama and Senator Rubio have all called for in the past.  It’s interesting to see 2 Republican Presidential candidates in a row knowingly or unknowingly express approbation for something similar to the President’s and Senator Rubio’s comprehensive immigration reform, just not in name.

8:58 pm: Governor Kasich acknowledges that George Bush Sr. is in the audience, and that he had tried to implement a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.  He reminisces that “That was a time when things worked in Washington,” which apparently means that a path to citizenship was a good idea because government worked in the early 1990s while it isn’t a good idea now due to government dysfunction.  I guess a generation of Republican Congress really has been terrible for Federal administration.

8:52 pm-8:57 pm: We have a go-around for several minutes; Donald Trump faces a 2-front war with Senator Rubio literally to his left and Senator Cruz literally to his right, both laying into him for his indictment for hiring illegal immigrants to work on his construction projects.  These hits don’t seem to land!  Trump actually defends the use of illegal immigrants for labor in South Florida, saying that other workers wouldn’t be willing to work in the heat.

8:48 pm: Donald Trump gives a slightly more wishy-washy version of his call for all illegal immigrants in the United States to be deported, saying “the good ones” can be let back in to the country.  Univision is broadcasting this debate in Spanish; Trump is trying to go gently on this one.

Senator Cruz talks of the victimization of Americans and legal immigrants who lose their jobs or face depressed wages due to illegal immigrants.  He cites an Arizona example; Donald Trump thanks Cruz for doing this, noting that he has the endorsement of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a favorite of the anti-immigrant strain of social Conservatives.

8:45 pm: Ted Cruz has said that even Texas Democrats have given him basic credit for “doing exactly what (he) said (he) would do.”  He promises to do the same as President.  That’s not possible, because all he has done is posture himself as Saint George to President Obama’s dragon.  This sense of struggle against a gargantuan enemy has cost his party a lot more than it has cost Barack Obama, and it has revealed more of a sense of showmanship than constancy in Ted Cruz.

8:44 pm: Marco Rubio calls for Republicans not becoming the party of fear; that’s an obvious initial swipe at Donald Trump, but he’s going to have to do better than that to establish a sense of command over the party’s dialogue tonight.

8:42 pm: Ben Carson: “If you had described, years ago, the America of today to another person, they would have stared at you in disbelief…”  Yes, a Black President, gay people getting married, a foreign policy not dominated by Manichean sloganeering and slogans, health care for all Americans!  Carson calls for comity between Republicans.  That’s a nice (and sensible) sentiment for them, but I think there’s no way to prevent the brawling mob from overtaking a Presidential primary that has gone so far off the rails.

8:42 pm: CNN has finally returned from a gratuitous commercial break.

8:35 pm: All Republican candidates have assembled onstage when called; this debate is off to a relatively good start by recent standards.




Live-Blogging the Post-New Hampshire 2016 Democratic Presidential Primary Debate

Can Senator Sanders expand his northern New England Progressive appeal to upcoming Democratic Presidential Caucuses and Primaries in the South and West?  My question is why, if we are to believe that is the case, Sanders wasn’t able to win the Iowa Democratic Caucus, which is heavily over-represented by public employees and university students, outright.

10:51 pm: Senator Sanders closes by noting the many enemies of principle he has made in his Presidential campaign–Wall Street, monied interests, the media establishment–and says that a President cannot take on those enemies without inspiring a political movement.  Under these political circumstances, I think that is sufficient to say that the President cannot take-on all of those enemies, particularly not with Republicans controlling the House of Representatives!

Secretary Clinton ends much as she began the debate, with her message focusing not on the heavy in American politics or on the need to build a political movement in order to achieve policy goals, but on empowering individuals.  It’s a New Democrat message, but with a broadened consciousness in a Democratic Party that’s changed.  In any case, the terms of debate of the Center-Left and the Left are clearly demarcated in this primary.

10:42 pm: As the debate closes, another question from an undecided viewer: Name 2 historical figures who would influence your views on foreign policy.  Senator Sanders launches into a glowing tribute to Franklin Delano Roosevelt: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  He smartly contrasts Roosevelt with Donald Trump and his obvious recourse to xenophobia against Hispanic immigrants and Syrian refugees.

Secretary Clinton affirms the choice of Franklin Roosevelt and adds Nelson Mandela for his innovative leadership of the African National Congress movement and the spirit of reconciliation he brought to South African politics.  She then attacks Senator Sanders for ostensibly calling President Obama a disappointment.  She gets a lot of applause for defending President Obama…and I have to say, she is aggressively angling for minority Democratic voters.

Senator Sanders calls this a low blow, and says that he has always been a willing advocate for President Obama.  He laughs-off the suggestion that specific disagreements with the President in a democratic society are not both a right and legitimate.  He says he was taken out of context, that he had said that the next President must commit to bringing more Americans into the political process.  He says “Only one of us has run against Barack Obama, and it wasn’t me.”

10:38 pm: An interesting retread of something said at last week’s Democratic Debate, and of an exchange between then-Senator Clinton and then-Senator Obama over whether the President of the United States should speak to governments that we consider an enemy, in the interest of diplomatic breakthroughs.  Senator Obama had said that he would, Senator Clinton seemed to want to say the same thing but averred that Senator Obama had essentially would offer concessions to our enemies in agreeing to highest-level meetings with their leaders, calling it “propaganda points” for dictators.  That moment, back in June 2007, convinced me of Senator Obama’s seriousness and his courage, and made me into an Obama supporter.  It’s interesting that it keeps coming up again now.  Senator Sanders expresses agreement with then-Senator Obama and contrasts himself from Secretary Clinton.  Secretary Clinton affirms the contrast, which perhaps gains some plausibility with the diplomatic breakthroughs of President Obama’s 2nd term.

10:33 pm: Secretary Clinton fields a question about the possibility of a multilateral, Russian-brokered cease-fire in Syria.  She answers the question with great animation and speaks with clear knowledge of the issues at stake, the parties that have to be appeased and potential risks of failure to implement or enforce an agreement to end that war.  I’m not going to go into the details of what she says, because I find our failure to intervene in Syria before that country was shattered by religion-inspired genocide and state-sponsored mass-killing the greatest failure of the Obama Administration.  Russia is a shameful apologist for the Assad Regime and simply cannot be trusted.  I don’t fault Secretary Clinton for her interest in the possibility that I could be wrong, however, because that’s the kind of animated interest and seriousness of understanding that great diplomatic breakthroughs require.

I’ll just be shocked to see Russia contribute to any peace in Syria other than the Assad Regime’s total destruction of its opponents, or really to any peace there at all.

10:28 pm: Ah, Bernie Sanders the Socialist: He scolds Secretary Clinton for taking-on Henry Kissinger as a foreign policy advisor.  He notes the Nixon Administration’s ultraviolent (and horribly-failed) air war against the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.  He says, “I’m proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend, that Kissinger is not someone I would ever listen to.”

Secretary Clinton comes back with a zinger that she used a week ago, and sounds more serious the more you think about it: Senator Sanders to this day does not identify a foreign policy advisor.

10:17 pm: A question about foreign policy: Secretary Clinton says that US air power needs to be used in conjunction with local forces–Arab and Kurdish fighters to fight the Islamic State.  Nearly everyone who isn’t a dishonest blowhard–that is to say, Donald Trump or Ted Cruz–says the same thing; the question is always the quality and the reliability of the local forces with which US airstrikes would be concurrent.  The Iraqi Army has finally become somewhat-serious about fighting the Islamic State, and Kurdish forces in both Iraq and Syria have as well; the Free Syrian Army and the various factions fighting under its umbrella have been reduced to tatters.  As a result, under this strategy the Islamic State is in decline in Iraq but may be strengthening due to inattention in war-destroyed Syria.

Senator Sanders again notes his opposition from the outset to George W. Bush’s Iraq War; the contrast, that Clinton opposed  it,  is almost known implicitly at this point.  He notes that a good was done when the Obama Administration used air power in conjunction with local Libyan forces to depose the murderous Gaddafi Regime in 2011.  He then notes the factionalization and disorder that has predominated in Libya ever since.  He expresses frustration with over 60 years of US-led regime change.  I’m really tired of hearing politicians offer their position on regime change as such.  We saved a lot of lives in Libya.

Sanders mentions our CIA-led overthrow of the democratically-elected Mossadegh government in Iran in 1953.  That’s interesting; you don’t often expect to hear about a major Cold War act of subversion during a Presidential debate.

10:15 pm: We come back to a question from the audience: “Are there any areas of government you’d like to reduce?”  Senator Sanders seems happy to clarify the record on this question: “I am in the United States Senate, and anyone who doesn’t believe there is a lot of inefficiency and waste in the bureaucracy of the United States Government would be very mistaken.”  Secretary Clinton says much the same, again offering some elaboration.

10:05 pm: Senator Sanders notes that Wall Street, the pharmaceutical companies and the major oil companies all spend millions of dollars on US elections, reminding the audience of the Financial Crash, the fact that our prescription drugs are more-expensive than any other country’s, and that no Republican currently running for President has admitted agreement with the scientific consensus that global warming is happening and that it is being caused by our industrial activity.  He notes that this is no coincidence, but the result of a corrupt campaign finance system.

Secretary Clinton defends the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, saying as she has said in response to these charges by Sanders that the tools to break-up the 6 large banks already exist, if that’s necessary.  I wonder if she can be goaded into taking a position on that during the election…But I’ve noticed that Secretary Clinton has managed to identify her agreement in sentiment with and her presence in President Obama’s first term almost constantly.  I have to admit, I can feel it working even on me.  An effective counter to an insurgent candidate who is ostensibly more-authentic is to be able to say: “I have my heart in the right place, too–and I was there when big decisions were made.”

10:01 pm: Secretary Clinton gets asked about the super-PAC set-up to support her candidacy which is heavily financed by George Soros and Donald Sussman.  Secretary Clinton notes that the super-PAC does not coordinate with her campaign–I suspect everyone rolls their eyes when a Democrat says that, having already had many occasions to roll their eyes when a Republican says it.  She says that she has received many small donations from ordinary Americans as has Senator Sanders, and that this contrasts both of their campaigns from the Republicans’.  Clinton benefits from minimizing their differences; Sanders benefits from maximizing them, which of course makes him look like more of a factional candidate.  Sanders notes that Clinton took $15 million in donations from Wall Street and immediately reminds the audience that the average size of a donation to his campaign has been $27.  Ouch!

9:57 pm: Secretary Clinton responds to Senator Sanders’ promise to expand Social Security spending by saying that she also wants to expand Social Security spending…just not as much…and she seems happy to discuss how she will pay for it.  She proposes taxation of passive income by the wealthy (there are several forms of passive income enjoyed by many of the rich in this country) and providing stability in Social Security checks for poorer seniors whose spouse has recently died.

Senator Sanders counters by repeating his initial charge that taxes need to be raised on the richest 1% in order to expand Social Security benefits, not just for seniors but also for veterans.  Secretary Clinton primarily differs from Senator Sanders in her proposal in making the details of her proposal clear.

9:50 pm: Senator Sanders has to respond to Secretary Clinton’s charge that he voted against immigration reform in 2007.  He notes that he was an early voice voting in favor of extending refugee status to children fleeing violence in Central America–which was rampant–and claims (inaccurately) that Secretary Clinton didn’t support that measure.  He says he opposed the 2007 immigration reform because the Southern Poverty Law Center and major Hispanic advocacy groups opposed the immigration reform of 2007 because the guest worker program provisions were too burdensome to the guest workers themselves.

Secretary Clinton noted Senator Ted Kennedy’s sponsorship of the 2007 immigration reform bill–Name-dropping Senator Kennedy, good counter!–and has an excellent response to Sanders’ charge that she didn’t favor admittance of refugee children from Central America.  She notes that she favored allowing refugee status to children making that voyage, but that she strongly favored formal US advisement against parents sending their children on that trip across inland Central America because it was incredibly dangerous.

9:48 pm: Senator Sanders is asked about immigration reform.  He speaks with real passion about talking to illegal immigrant–many of them young–who cried, panicked with fear that they or their family will be deported.  He notes his support for the immigration reform that passed the U.S. Senate, applauds President Obama for passing executive orders to make end-runs around the House when it declined to act on the issue.

Secretary Clinton notes that she was a sponsor of the DREAM Act before her appointment by President Obama; she notes that she voted for immigration reform in 2007, when Senator Sanders voted against it.  HAH!

9:45 pm: “The wages that a high school graduate can now earn, are significantly lower than they used to be–White or Black–due to a series of disastrous trade policies.”  It’s worth nothing that trade liberalization has led well over a billion people out of poverty in a generation.  The Millenium Challenge Development goals for raising the status of living for the poorest people worldwide were achieved and then some–because of trade liberalization.  Free trade brings resources and goods into the country that are competitively-sources and cheaper to buy.  Does Senator Sanders miss the late-1970s?

9:38 pm: Secretary of State Clinton notes that progress has come about on at least addressing the complexity of racial issues due to new technologies of documentation and social media that allow for the sharing of experiences–and the dissemination of racial animus by others.  “It’s all out in the open now, nobody can deny it,” she says.  Clinton says that access to education is important.

Senator Sanders notes that the Financial Crash destroyed a lot of minority household’s finances–which is definitely true, and completely wipes-out any legacy of racial rapproachment that George W. Bush aimed to have–and he promises that race relations will be better under a Sanders Administration in part because of proactive job-creation by the Federal Government.

Hello, what’s the backup plan for contending with problems of unequal treatment of minorities when dealing with a REPUBLICAN HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES that won’t sign-on for these job-creation programs and won’t even do much to address race relations in general?

 9:32 pm: Actually the first undecided voters’ question was quite good: She noted that 13% of Black men in Wisconsin, her home State, are incarcerated, which is more than twice the national rate and alarmingly high in any event.  Senator Sanders notes that young Black men are 4 times more-likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than young White men.  (Well, we know why marijuana has been illegal for decades, I suppose.)  Sanders also notes that Black Americans are more-likely to be stopped by police and face stiffer sentences for the same crimes.  He calls for reform of the criminal justice system.  He needs to add detail.

Secretary Clinton knocks this one out of the park.  She refers to the local shooting of an unarmed black man–Dontre Hamilton–by a police officer, and notes that local reforms such as on-the-street policing have to be part of the solution.  She also brings in the whole host of other issues of racial disparity and bias that both feed and exacerbate the poor treatment of Black Americans by many local police.

Senator Sanders expands his answer in response to Secretary Clinton’s studied and thorough answer.

9:32 pm: Facebook questions from undecided voters…Oh boy…

9:26 pm: Secretary Clinton is asked about former Secretary of State Madeline Albright’s comment of a week ago that “There is a special place reserved in Hell for women who don’t help other women.”  Boos from young people in the rear of the audience…Secretary Clinton smartly sidesteps that confrontational comment, insisting that she wants to advance the causes of men and women where they need to be addressed.  Clinton notes that she and the 2 moderators onstage are women, making it the first time a Presidential Debate stage has ever been majority-female.

Senator Sanders accounts for his long record of advocacy on women’s issues, and when pressed to say more, insists that he thinks that “with my background,”–He doesn’t explicitly refer to his Jewish religion–“and with my views,”–he is a Socialist and not nominally a member of either major American political party–“I think that my election as President would be pretty historic, too.”

9:24 pm: Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders basically tag-team the Republican Right, the Secretary identifying Governor Scott Walker (of Wisconsin, where tonight’s debate is being held) as an irresponsible and unaccountable voice on education issues, and Senator Sanders relating the hardship of today’s young people to the cause for Progressive reformers to advocate for a State-funded education (which was once quite affordable) 100 years ago.

9:21 pm: Senator Sanders says that he will pay  for Medicare for all, debt-free college education and new infrastructure spending by closing corporate tax loopholes and ending capital gains offshoring.  He says that, as Wall Street was once bailed-out by all taxpayers, now they should have to pay a speculation tax to fund these public amenities.  I wonder where economists fall on the idea of taxing economic activity as a vice…

9:16 pm: Secretary Clinton staunchly defends President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which I appreciate.  She says she’s proud of it, and notes that we have 90% health care coverage nationwide through the Act.  She calls for making changes to the law to deal with insurance issues and to make health care coverage fully-universal.  She criticizes Senator Sanders for not covering the details of what “Medicare for all” health care coverage would actually look like in substance for Americans who would no longer have a conventional form of health care coverage.  She also says, once again, that Senator Sanders has never made the numbers work in tendering a budget for this proposed increase in mandatory spending.

Senator Sanders is a little miffed in his response.  He notes that we spend far more per capita than the other developed countries that pay for health care coverage for all of their citizens.  He doesn’t address the fact that the Affordable Care Act already makes health care coverage for all citizens possible, provided that the individual States embrace the expansion of Medicaid.  He either has to negotiate  what he wants to do with the individual States or propose full Federal funding of an entitlement that every American will qualify for.

9:11 pm: Senator Sanders prefaces his call for Medicare for all with a depiction of our generational economic trend as “a massive transfer of wealth from everyone else to the richest 1%.”  He talks about an essentially free college education and a $1 trillion investment in capital construction for infrastruction.  Moderator Judy Woodruff repeats her initial question: How big would you make government, Senator Sanders?

Sanders repeats that he would rather talk about how much he wants to expand government…well, in terms of the benefits he’s promising.

Secretary Clinton is happy to answer the question, citing a study and estimate that projects that Senator Sanders wants to increase Federal spending by about 40% (or about $1.47 trillion).

9:08 pm: Secretary Clinton speaks more-briefly.  She talks of doing more to pursue income parity between men and women–Fascinating! she’s also making this debate a protracted battlefield for constituency votes, right out the gate! how to use the next 2 hours most-efficiently?–and says that she wants to help each man and woman in America meet their potential.  That’s not the same kind of message about equality as Sanders made; you might not that it’s more-positive, but another way of put it is that it emphasizes the idea of the latent strength of the individual striver, rather than their deprivation.  It’s a non-trivially more-Conservative touch than Sanders is inclined to use.

9:06 pm:  Opening statements: “We have a campaign finance system that is corrupt…that allows corporations and billionaires to give yuge sums of money to candidates…”  Senator Sanders notes that most of the gains in wealth in our long recovery from the 2008 Financial Crash have gone to the richest 1%, former and current beneficiaries of our country’s huge and risk-prone–and bailed-out–financial sector.  Sanders repeats and earlier statement he made about the absurd juxtaposition of so many young (minority) men facing incarceration for non-violent offenses while none of the bankers or investment managers who facilitated the 2008 Crash saw jail time…He is homing-in on the minority vote, which is something he desperately needs to do.

9:03 pm: OK, so far, so good…Unlike the Saturday-night logistical nightmare that cast a pall over the start of the ABC Republican debate, all 2 of the Democrats currently running for President made it onstage to their podiums when called.

Live-Blogging the Last Pre-Iowa Republican Presidential Primary Debate

Hey, where’s Donald Trump?

It’s prime time, folks.  It’s just too late for establishment Republicans to kid themselves about the fact that either reality TV star Donald Trump or universally un-collegial Texas Senator Ted Cruz is likely at this rate to be their party’s Presidential nominee.  Your well-intentioned narrator will watch…Hoo boy.

…Well, I didn’t stop watching the debate early, but in the last 20 minutes I didn’t hear anything that prompted me to write.  I don’t like to repeat myself, especially when I’m just reacting to the strange things some people are saying.

10:38 pm: Governor Christie has invoked Benghazi and the Republicans’ pointless and interminable investigations again, this time trying to make news out of a Democratic Debate answer from Secretary Clinton. This guy could actually make me stop watching this debate.

10:26 pm: Governor Kasich gives an encouraging speech about the importance of caring for those in need; he mentions not only the poor (whom are at least subjects of serious political debate), but also the mentally-ill.  Kasich isn’t joking-around about the Compassionate Conservatism, and it probably explains a lot about why he’s one of the most-popular Governors in the country…Back to Ohio he goes, as he doesn’t really have a gimmick to allow him to stand-out in this cacophony of a Republican field.

10:20 pm: It’s satisfying to see Chris Wallace ask Governor Christie about the George Washington Bridge onramp closures that were political retaliation ostentibly directed by his aides and appointees.  Christie’s defense is that he was proved not to be involved by 3 separate commissions (that’s nonsense; he was “proved” to not have been involved by the private commission he curiously chose to convene).  He says that, when his own appointees were revealed to have been responsible for the bridge access closure, he fired them.

So, Christie’s defense is basically the same as Nixon’s: For once, I’m satisfied with this surly jerk’s answer to a debate question.

10:12 pm: Christie just shat on being a Washington politician. Woow.  That’s so courageous of him.

I would like to point-out that almost every President elected since Nixon has been from outside Washington. Jimmy Carter, almost universally reviled among Republicans, was a Washington outsider.  George W. Bush was elected from the Texas Governor’s office.  Better to be a “Washington outsider”?

Christie is so full of it…Sorry, I just wanted to establish that.

10:08 pm: (Numerous Republican Presidential hopefuls, some of which have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the Republican Presidential nomination, challenge each other’s Republicaness for having once supporting immigration reform that would allow illegal immigrants to remain in the United States.  It’s funny, in a melancholic way.)
10:01 pm: Marco Rubio: “Jeb, that was the book you wrote when you supported a path to citizenship.”

Jeb!: “So did you!”

Ah-hah hah…Classic, and true.

10:00 pm: “I know a few things about this issue; I wrote a book on it: Immigration Wars.”  You can get it on Amazon for $2.99.  It’s not a best seller…”  Jeb! probably should have avoided joking that his book on immigration wasn’t a best-seller, as he is not a best-seller.

9:43 pm: Oh boy, a question from a Black YouTube video star about our capacity to monitor law-enforcement.  He’s from St. Louis; Ferguson looms in his thinking.

Senator Paul has an excellent response, focusing on several aspects of the unequal treatment of Black Americans in our criminal justice system.  He has been a smart Senator, focusing on building both personal and legislative relationship-building, and a smart Presidential campaigner, getting his message out tactically, on an issue basis.

That said, the Libertarian message is dying, if anything, and Senator Paul is realistically a non-factor in the Presidential race.

9:33 pm: Senator Rubio manages to speak conversationally while sounding professional. That’s not easy to do, especially not in a debate.

It’s too bad he’s sort of channeling his inner Chris Christie.  We expect Republican Presidential candidates to emphasize that we should be on more of a war footing, but that doesn’t mean they have to say it with such obvious tones of exasperation, almost as if they’re hysterical.  A friend of mine noted that Rubio seems close to losing his composure as he insists that we aren’t prepared to face the strategic threat posed by ISIS; he has a point.

Governor Christie explicitly claims that the Islamist couple behind the San Bernardino shootings weren’t stopped by a report from their suspicious neighbors because President Obama and Secretary Clinton don’t support our law enforcement.  I’ve had it with this man; he is revolting and I just want him to shamble off of the debate stage and go away.

9:17 pm: Ted Cruz made an alarming-sounding comparison, pointing out that our military’s force strength is much less than it was during the Persian Gulf War.  A more-serious analysis would acknowledge that the Persian Gulf War was fought on a late-Cold War budget, and that we no longer face superpower competition.

Ted Cruz also put-out a pretty big fib when he said that President Carter gutted the military and President Reagan restored it to strength.  We were already in the midst of a planned military buildup under President Carter following a post-Vietnam drawdown under President Nixon; President Reagan simply expanded and accelerated that buildup.

9:14 pm: Senator Paul and Senator Cruz just cautiously avoided criticizing each other while both affirming their skepticism of the NSA’s existing surveillance powers.  Senator Cruz notes that he wants to forge a stronger electoral alliance between the Christian Right and Libertarians.  He has just paraphrased his electoral strategy, which is to…hope that the far right somehow constitutes as silent majority.

9:09 pm: It’s infuriating for Chris Christie to suggest that President Obama and Secretary Clinton haven’t been held to account, and that he has as Governor of New Jersey has.  Christie convened his own investigation of the politicized closing of the George Washington Bridge, which then cleared him.  And there’s no way to say that there has been a full accounting of the measures Christie has taken to momentarily balance New Jersey’s budget and to shore the finances of its cities.  THAT kind of scrutiny should be enough to sink his campaign.  The President and his past Secretary of State, it’s fair to say, have been subject to a lot of scrutiny that wasn’t of their own choosing.

9:04 pm: “I just want to say that I am a maniac…and everyone on this stage is stupid…and Dr. Carson, you are a terrible surgeon.  Now that the Donald Trump portion of the debate is out of the way…”  That’s good for an early extended laugh; I think it’s actually a little risky for these guys to attack Donald Trump while he’s absent from this debate, lest they look passive-aggressive.  But Cruz has made a joke out of it, trivializing Trump as the carnival barker.

It’s also worth noting that Ted Cruz is a particularly belligerent candidate himself.

9:03 pm: Senator Cruz starts by saying that he will remember Iowa when he is elected President: Iowa won’t be flyover country; it will be fly-to country.”  Wow, he is so full of it…There are shades of Francis Underwood in such a hokey and inevitably-insincere promise.