Wednesday, October 14, 2015

After The Debate

Well, the first debate is over. So what did I think?
Between the two front-runners, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, I thought Sanders was the clear winner.  He was forceful and passionate in his defense of his record, except maybe on gun control, and he made no apologies for his hard-left positions.  He may have helped Hillary Clinton by saying that no one cares about her e-mail controversy, but he helped himself as well by demanding that the debates focus on serious issues.  As for Hillary, the best thing I can say about her is that she didn't stink.  She was polished and poised, but you could tell that, as Rod Stewart once put it, her ad-libbed lines were well-rehearsed.  She postured a great deal on her progressive stances (some of which were apparently adopted twenty minutes before the debate started) and sought to downplay her centrist leanings, and she didn't do anything to convince me that her relationship to her husband doesn't give her unfair advantages.  When she said that she hoped people wouldn't vote for her because of her (married) surname, she sounded ironic.  As for her sex being the biggest thing to differentiate herself from Obama . . . Hillary, just stop it.  We know you're a woman.  That was hardly a good answer.  In fact, it was trivial and smug.  The best I can say about Hillary is that she proved she can answer questions when they're not not asked by pseudo-journalists like Lena Dunham conducting an "interview."    
Okay, now to my candidate . . ..  Aside from saying he regretted Bashar al-Assad's invasion of Syria when he meant Vladimir Putin, Martin O'Malley gave a good, solid performance overall.  He showed himself knowledgeable on issues and policy and he pressed hard on the issues that he cared about the most, as when he defended Maryland's strict gun control laws in going after Sanders' position on firearms and when he forcefully called for the reinstatement of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act regulating big banks in opposition to Hillary Clinton's insistence that we don't need that law anymore.  And he made it clear that he didn't care about Hillary's e-mail controversy by continuing to stress the importance of the debates to put the spotlight on real issues, even ironically thanking Democratic Party leader Debbie Waaserman Schultz for the opportunity to have debates.  (Debbie Downer still won't allow more than six.)  But overall, he didn't have a breakout moment; he scored some good punches without delivering any knockouts. At best, Marty took good advantage of the opportunity to introduce himself to the American people and many of them, I am led to understand, liked what they saw; at worst, he didn't change the dynamic of the campaign and didn't become an overnight sensation.  But he did give himself a platform on which to build his stature going forward. And he gave the most eloquent closing statement of all of them.
As for the other guys, well, Jim Webb made some relevant points on national security, but he was stiff overall.  But not as stiff as Lincoln Chaffee, who was so lackluster and bland that people wondered what he was doing there.  When he was on Bill Maher's show, Chafee made comments that incited groans from fellow guest Alex Wagner and from Maher himself; this time he couldn't even get people to care enough to groan.  One good thing has come out of Webb's and Chafee's debate performances; they did so poorly that they might have to bow out before the next debate, which gives O'Malley a better shot at Clinton and Sanders.
So, it's not over yet.  O'Malley got off to a respectable start and can look forward to improving his standing going forward.  Joe Biden may still enter the campaign. Clinton still has to answer questions about Benghazi, even if no on cares about the e-mails.  Not to mention future candidates' "forums" that aren't supposed to be debates, including on scheduled for November 6 on Rachel Maddow's MSNBC show.  More is to come.               

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