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.


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