The decision of Debbie Wasserman Schultz to limit Democratic debates to give an advantage to Hillary Clinton continues to create controversy:
Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, a vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said she was disinvited from the first Democratic presidential primary debate in Nevada after she appeared on television and called for more face-offs.
Ms. Gabbard confirmed on Sunday that her chief of staff received a message last Tuesday from the chief of staff to Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the national committee, about her attendance at the debate. A day earlier, Ms. Gabbard had appeared on MSNBC and said there should be an increase beyond the current six sanctioned debates.
The Sanders campaign responded by offering to have Gabbard come to the debates as their guest:
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), the Democratic National Committee vice chair who said she was disinvited to the first Democratic debate, might wind up attending the Tuesday night event as a guest of the Bernie Sanders campaign.
Sanders’s campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, said Monday on CNN’s “New Day” that Gabbard could use a ticket from the Vermont senator’s campaign…
“If she needs a ticket, have her give me a call,” Weaver said, adding, “I think we have a couple; we can give her one.”Weaver’s comments came after Gabbard said she was disinvited to the debate in Las Vegas after calling for more Democratic debates.
“It’s very dangerous when we have people in positions of leadership who use their power to try to quiet those who disagree with them,” Gabbard told The New York Times…
Sanders’s campaign has joined calls for more opportunities to debate, while former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has accused party officials of limiting the schedule to help front-runner Hillary Clinton.
“We would love to have debates: The more debates, the better,” Weaver said Monday on CNN. “It’s healthy for the Democratic Party to have more debates.”
Although they have decided against the kind of formal dress rehearsals favoured by Clinton and other presidential debate participants, Sanders aides have been working hard on how to counter Clinton’s recent shift to the left on a number of issues that would once have been easy targets.
The most dramatic of these came less than a week before the debate, when Clinton announced an about-turn on free trade and adopted much of the same opposition to Barack Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) deal that has made Sanders popular among progressive Democrats and trade unions.
But aides insist he will not “impugn terrible motives” for such changes, preferring to welcome a convert and merely point out that the policy reversal would have been more useful while Congress was still voting on authorising the trade negotiations.
“Bernie is not going to become a hitman,” said Devine, who helped run the presidential campaigns of Al Gore and John Kerry and has been leading the Sanders debate prep alongside campaign manager Jeff Weaver.
“He is not going to go out there and start attacking. It’s against everything he believes in and stands for when it comes to campaign politics,” added Devine.
“Having said that, he will point out the differences, whether it’s past policies like the decision to invade Iraq or present differences, like their plans for college [fees].”
Sanders rehearsed a similar argument about Clinton’s late opposition to the Keystone oil pipeline extension during his latest television interviews on Sunday.
“From day one, I opposed the Keystone pipeline because I believe that if you’re serious about climate change, you don’t encourage the excavation and transportation of very dirty oil,” he told NBC’s Meet the Press.
“People will have to contrast my consistency and my willingness to stand up to Wall Street and corporations, big corporations, with the secretary,” he said.
But advisers said such unwillingness to play hardball does not mean the Vermont senator will not defend himself if he is attacked for being too extreme or leftwing, as has happened in his previous election campaigns.
Bill Curry, a former White House counselor to President Bill Clinton, looked ahead to the debate, including Sanders’ strengths and Clinton’s weaknesses:
As Trump points out, debates are free advertising. Democrats could use some. The contrast with the Republicans might have helped. Trump’s made them so rabid Democrats could have scored points just by being polite. Debates could have helped Clinton by reminding voters there’s more to her than the email scandal. And they’d have gotten her outdoors. If she had her druthers, she’d never leave her comfort zone. It’s one reason Bernie Sanders could cut her lead from 60 to 16 points. By limiting debate Schultz is enabling Clinton, not helping her.
All of which raises the stakes Tuesday night. What Bernie Sanders has done is all the more remarkable for his having done it without benefit of a primetime debate and despite a virtual media blackout imposed by a know-it-all press. In 2008 Obama drew crowds half the size Sanders pulls and got written up like the Beatles at Shea Stadium. The press believes only in polls and money. In September 2007 Clinton led the young, charismatic Obama by 14 points after debating him every other week for six months. She still led by 8 in national polls the night he ran her over in Iowa. On the eve of their first debate she leads Sanders, a disheveled, 74-year-old socialist from Vermont, by 16 points. Last week Sanders’ finance report showed over a million small donors, better than Obama’s record 2008 pace. More impressive to the press, he pulled even with Hillary in total money raised. This week it began giving him some of the coverage he deserved all along.
In a primary, packed stadiums and an army of volunteers and small-dollar donors mean more than polls and Super PACs. Some say Sanders has hit his ceiling but he hasn’t even had a chance to reach his audience. Tuesday will be the first long look many centrist Democrats have had at him and the first time anyone has examined him side by side with Clinton. If he picks up as many points for his performance as Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio did for theirs, it will be an earthquake…
He went on to discuss Clinton’s need to be more honest and transparent, among other problems:
This is her problem; misunderstanding many of the issues she studies so hard. She can’t speak with conviction of the evils of globalization, she spent years cheering it on and doesn’t really get what’s wrong with it. She can’t get too worked up about pay to play politics; she perfected it and still deems it the best way to win elections. After four years as Secretary of State she still doesn’t see the folly of exporting democracy by force of arms, or that our safety lies in the rule of law.
Clinton has reversed herself on two huge issues: the Keystone pipeline and the Trans Pacific Partnership. She’ll get less credit than she’d like and fume about how hard it is to satisfy liberals. But in making each switch she looked and sounded as if she were moving pawns on a chess board. She announced the Keystone decision in a blog that provided almost no rationale; the line the “SNL” writers gave her was stronger than anything she said about it in real life. Her TPP interview makes clear her commitment there is provisional. (She hasn’t seen the text) She speaks of jobs and currency but not a word on the issue many progressives find most galling, the ceding to corporate interests of the prerogatives of democracy. Nothing she’s ever said in public suggests she’s given that much thought…
Hillary’s recent epiphanies attest to just how much Sanders has moved the debate. If the TPP dies he more than anyone will deserve the credit. Trump has shown that a rich celebrity can succeed in politics without buying very many TV ads. Bernie’s proving that anyone can. In 2008 Obama built the biggest grass movement in the history of politics, but once he won he took it private. Bernie’s movement is built for his supporters and built to last.
Bernie’s miles ahead of Hillary on the issues that count the most but there are two things he still needs to do. The first is to speak more to the problem of public corruption and inefficiency. On most issues most voters are Democrats, yet Republicans run two of the three branches of the federal government and stand a very good chance of perfecting their monopoly in 2016. Voters want to know that the party of government is ready to fix the government.
Looking briefly at the other candidates, if Martin O’Malley is to have any hope of being taken seriously as a candidate, he will need a huge from the debates. The Washington Post gives an example of how poorly his campaign is doing:
Martin O’Malley, who is hoping to jumpstart his presidential campaign with a strong debate performance here Tuesday, continues to get little love from his home state of Maryland.
The former governor is backed by just 4 percent of voters who are Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents in a potential presidential primary matchup in the state, a new Washington Post-University of Maryland poll finds.
The Washington Post sees Jim Webb as a possible wild card.
“Trump said he would stay in the party, and refuse to run as an independent, as long as the Republicans treated him fairly,” said Lessig. “I’m beginning to have a sense of what he was talking about. If the party won’t allow me to run as a Democrat, that creates a lot of pressure to think about a different way of running that would allow me to make this case to the American people. I’ve received as lot of advice and suggestions from people as to how to spread this message. When I first got into this, I frankly didn’t expect that this would be an issue, but it’s something I increasingly have to think about.”
Lessig had previously ruled out a third party run, prior to the DNC’s actions to keep him out of the debates.