Clinton Attacks Sanders With Series Of Bogus Sound Bites At MSNBC Democratic Debate

FILE - In this Jan. 17, 2016 photo, Democratic presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt,  stand together before the start of the NBC, YouTube Democratic presidential debate at the Gaillard Center in Charleston, S.C.  The Democratic presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders reached an agreement in principle on Saturday to hold another presidential debate next week in New Hampshire and three more later this spring.  (AP Photo/Mic Smith)

Wednesday’s one-on-one debate between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton (transcript here) was probably the best debate yet, and unfortunately the lowest rated. Unlike the CNN Town Hall the previous day, Clinton did not struggle to come up with answers. Instead she repeated a serious of prepared sound bites which made her seem ingenuous.

Clinton, an old DLC Democrat, is making a huge mistake in getting into a debate she cannot win when she claims to be a progressive. She has already admitted to being a centrist, and she just shows her propensity for changing her views based upon political expediency when she claims otherwise. She also opens herself up for mocking by actual progressives, such as at Common Dreams, when she claims to be a progressive. As I recently pointed out with this graph, Clinton is much closer to the Republicans ideologically than Sanders and his supporters:

Political Compass 2016 Candidates

If Sanders made any mistake on this line of attack, it was to give the impression that holding certain views are a litmus test of whether one is a progressive. Certain individual progressives might disagree on one or more positions. It is the overall world view which counts, with Clinton opposing progressive viewpoints on a wide range of issues.

Clinton is also fighting a losing battle when claiming not to be part of the establishment because she is a woman. By that logic do we vote for Carly Fiorina? Citing support from Howard Dean does not also help her considering how Dean has sold out to be a lobbyist for they pharmaceutical industry.

Clinton’s sound bites on so many issues are total nonsense. Despite what she claimed, HillaryCare was not ObamaCare. HillaryCare was a highly flawed plan which failed both due to its flaws and her unwillingness to compromise on the details.  Her bungling of health care reform was the first sign that she is a progressive who gets things done. She also got far less done in the Senate compared to Sanders who was influential on passing many amendments.

Clinton repeated her nonsensical attack on Sanders’ proposal for free public universities in saying, “What I want to do is make sure middle class kids, not Donald Trump’s kids, get to be able to afford college.” Donald Trump’s kids are not going to go to free public universities.

In attacking Medicare for All, she falsely claimed, “Senator Sanders wants us to start all over again.” Expanding Medicare, a highly successful program we have now, is not starting all over again. And, in any event, Sanders is not going to take away ObamaCare before Medicare for All is available as the Clinton camp has suggested. Meanwhile, Clinton has no serious proposals to handle the high costs of health care which persist under ObamaCare, despite its improvements to the system, while Medicare for All would provide a solution.

Clinton continued to distort Bernie Sanders’ record on guns, despite his D- lifetime rating from the NRA. She now claims to be more liberal, despite having described herself as a “pro-gun churchgoer” in 2008.

Clinton was put on the defensive regarding her ties to Wall Street and the speaking fees she received from Goldman Sachs. Back when it was seen as a race between Clinton and Jeb Bush, leaders of Goldman Sachs made it clear that they saw Clinton as being on their side. She evaded a question as to whether the transcripts of her highly-paid speeches to them will be released to the public.

Clinton denied that payouts from Wall Street affect her views. Elizabeth Warren has disagreed.

I would also caution Clinton from repeating the phrase, “I have a record” while the FBI investigation of her email is in progress. She also repeated one of her dishonest sound bites here in claiming, “They are retroactively classifying it.” As Reuters described months ago, some of the email was “born classified” and as Secretary of State Clinton should have known the material was classified at the time. Further email releases have only made matters look worse for Clinton since this article was posted.

Clinton tried to excuse her actions by bringing up Colin Powell and Condalisa Rice. What they did does not excuse any violations of the law by Clinton.  Plus stricter rules were put into place in 2009 in response to the abuses under the Bush administration which Clinton violated.

Clinton brags that Obama made her Secretary of State, but that was a political decision. He had rejected Clinton’s views, such as her talk of obliterating Iran, during the campaign. Obama ran foreign policy from the White House, and the Obama administration usually rejected Clinton’s more hawkish, neoconservative advice. Sanders pointed out how he was right on the Iraq war, and warned of the perpetual warfare we are likely to see if Clinton is elected. Unfortunately Clinton’s hawkish views on Libya and Syria were not discussed during the debate. Sometimes I wish Sanders would also move further beyond his usual sound bites.

The issue of electability came up with Sanders pointing out how well he does in head to head match-ups against republicans. Old left versus right arguments re electability no longer apply. These days elections are won by getting out the base. Bernie can do that better than Clinton. Plus Sanders does better with independents while Clinton does poorly in the battleground states. Voters are looking for a candidate with integrity, and a reformer who who fix the system Clinton is too close to, not where a candidate falls on the flawed right to left spectrum.

Sanders is working towards improving his support among minorities (with news coming out earlier in the day that a former NAACP head is planning to endorse Sanders.) He was smart to bring up the impact on minorities when opposing the death penalty. He pointed out that, “too many innocent people, including minorities, African Americans, have been executed when they were not guilty. That’s number one. We have to be very careful about making sure about that.”

Sanders also discussed the water situation in Flint, Michigan. When he spoke of the children being poisoned, an issue where both Democratic candidates agree, I quipped on Facebook that Republicans do not agree–they think that the poisoning of children is an issue which should be left up to the states. (My blow by blow account of the debate on Facebook has been left public for now.)

Besides the issue of whether Clinton is a progressive and a member of the establishment, another topic which came up during the debate was a faux complaint from Clinton that Sanders was waging a negative campaign on her.

The Clinton machine is probably the dirtiest machine in all of politics, yet when someone presents an accurate criticism of Clinton’s record she cries about how she is being smeared. The Clinton machine spread the Reverend Wright and Birther smears against Obama eight years ago. This year we have seen twisting of Sanders’ words to claim sexism, a distortion of his position on guns, and claims that Sanders is going to take Medicare, Medicaid, and even ObamaCare away from people.

Slate called Sanders the winner but did have some criticism of his performance, while others called it for Clinton. David Graham at The Atlantic called Sanders the winner but was reluctant to call Clinton a loser. He highlighted Sanders’ concentration on limited issues, which I think is largely part of his strategy to take on Clinton and build a winning general election coalition. Google showed that there was more interest in Sanders than Clinton during the debate. More importantly, the types of search queries look more like those who are looking to become engaged with the campaign:

Hillary Clinton

  1. How old is Hillary Clinton?
  2. Who can beat Hillary?
  3. Where is Hillary Clinton today?
  4. Will Hillary win?
  5. How much is Hillary Clinton worth?

Bernie Sanders

  1. Where will Bernie Sanders be speaking?
  2. Why Bernie Sanders?
  3. Who would be Bernie Sanders’ VP?
  4. How to donate to Bernie Sanders
  5. Where can I see Bernie Sanders in NH?

Sanders Strong And Clinton Off Her Game In New Hampshire Town Hall

Bernie Sanders CNN Town Hall

Bernie Sanders had a strong night while Clinton had a terrible performance at the CNN Town Hall Wednesday night (video and transcript here). It was almost painful to see her stumbling to come up with answers to some of the questions.

Sanders criticized Clinton’s claims of being a progressive saying, “you can’t go and say you’re a moderate on one day and be a progressive on the other day. Some of my best friends are moderates. I love moderates. But you can’t be a moderate and a progressive. They are different.” He elaborated a later exchange:

But there are other issues, Anderson, where I think she is just not progressive. I do not know any progressive who has a super PAC and takes $15 million from Wall Street. That’s just not progressive.

(APPLAUSE)

SANDERS: As I mentioned earlier, the key foreign policy vote of modern American history was the war in Iraq. The progressive community was pretty united in saying don’t listen to Bush. Don’t go to war.

Secretary Clinton voted to go to war.

Virtually all of the trade unions and millions of working people understand that our trade policies — NAFTA, CAFTA, permanent normal trade relations with China, etc. — have been written by corporate America and the goal of it is to be able to throw American workers… millions of working people understand that our trade policies, NAFTA, CAFTA, Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China, et cetera, have been written by corporate America.

And the goal of it is to be able to throw American workers out on the street, move to China and other low-wage countries, and bring their products back into this country. And that’s one of the reasons why the middle class of this country and the working class is struggling so hard.

Secretary Clinton has been a supporter in the past of various trade policies, NAFTA and PNTR with China. Reluctantly, and after a lot of pressure on her, she came out against the TPP, and I’m glad that she did.

Every sensible person understands that climate change is real. It is caused by human activity. And we have got to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel.

For a long time, Secretary Clinton was talking about the benefits of the Keystone pipeline. Well, there are no benefits to excavating and transporting some of the dirtiest fossil fuel in the world.

I was in the lead in opposition to the Keystone pipeline. I’m in opposition to the pipeline right here in New Hampshire and the pipeline in Vermont. I think we have got to move aggressively away from fossil fuel if we’re going to leave this planet in a way that’s healthy and habitable for our kids.

So those are just some of the areas…

CNN described how Clinton performed in their report on the event:

Clinton delivered an uneven performance at the event, sounding confident on policy answers and connecting with the audience when she shared moments from her personal life but stumbling on topics that have dogged her throughout the campaign, including her vote on the Iraq War and her relationship with Wall Street.

Her toughest moment of the night came when she was asked to address the paid speeches she gave at Goldman Sachs after leaving the State Department.

Clinton started to explain that Goldman wasn’t the only group that paid her for speeches. But when Cooper interjected and asked, “Did you have to be paid $675,000?” Clinton appeared caught off guard.

“Well, I don’t know. Um, that’s what they offered,” she said. Clinton went on to insist that at the time of the speeches, she was undecided on whether to seek the White House.

“I didn’t know, to be honest, I wasn’t — I wasn’t committed to running,” Clinton said, uncharacteristically tripping over her words. “I didn’t — I didn’t know whether I was running or not. I didn’t.”

And in one of the more revealing exchanges of the night, Cooper asked Clinton what would be wrong with the so-called “political revolution” that Sanders frequent calls for. Clinton paused before responding: “That’s for Sen. Sanders to explain.”

I wish that when Clinton is stumbling over her answer on Iraq more people would move on to the key point that, while she admits she made a mistake on the Iraq vote, she continued to make the same type of mistake with her positions on Libya, Syria, and Iran. We are not looking at an isolated mistake. We are looking at a pattern of dangerously pushing the country towards more warfare.

Often the best part of town halls are when members of the audience ask questions entirely different from those of the news media. Clinton faced one such question:

This may come a little bit from right field, this may seem, but it’s very personal to me and resonates probably with many other people who are elderly dealing with health issues.

The question is coming to me as a person who is walking with colon cancer. And I’m walking with colon cancer with the word terminal very much in my vocabulary, comfortably and spiritually.

But I wonder what leadership you could offer within an executive role that might help advance the respectful conversation that is needed around this personal choice that people may make, as we age and deal with health issues or be the caregivers of those people, to help enhance and — their end of life with dignity.

As I have found Clinton to do so often during the years, she began to speak incoherently on the topic, unable to answer the question and demonstrating why, as a physician, I do not want to see Hillary Clinton anywhere near health care policy. Tonight she showed no understanding of end of life counseling or palliative care. In the past she messed up health care pretty badly with her awful attempt at health care reform, and she generally sounds ignorant when discussing health care issues.

The night was a success for Sanders and a disaster for Clinton. Unfortunately I do not think that this event received much attention. Hopefully she was thrown off her game by her difficulties in Iowa and will also perform poorly at Thursday’s debate.

Down To One Liberal And One Defender Of Civil Liberties In The Presidential Race

Colbert Hungry for Power Games

The number of presidential candidates should drop quickly now that voting has begun. It is not surprising that many of the candidates are waiting to see if they do better than the polls have predicted, which is reasonable considering how poorly polls often are at predicting primary results. Some of the more mainstream candidates are putting their hopes on New Hampshire. For other candidates, a loss in Iowa was enough to tell them that they had no chance.

On the Democratic side, Martin O’Malley announced that he is suspending his campaign while the Iowa caucus was in progress. It has been clear for months that O’Malley had no real chance with the conservative/establishment voters going for Clinton and the liberal/pro-insurgent voters going for Sanders. There was no middle lane for O’Malley, who certainly would be a far better choice than Clinton. He campaigned hard in Iowa, and there was no point in continuing once this failed to result in support at the caucuses. This leaves Bernie Sanders as the only liberal or progressive left in the race from either party.

For the Republicans, the Iowa caucus is the best shot for a candidate from the religious right to win, as Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum have done in the past. Republicans this year are bucking their usual trend of backing the next in line, with Ted Cruz winning this year. Huckabee at least deserves credit for realizing there is no hope and not dragging it on any longer. I wonder how much longer Rick Santorum and Ben Carson will stay in the race.

Rand Paul dropped out today, realizing it made more sense to work at holding on to his Senate seat, especially when he is increasingly being excluded from the Republican debates. While I disagree with Paul on many things, I did like having Paul criticizing the other candidates for their conservative positions on military interventionism, civil liberties, and the drug war. For that matter, while he has done so at times, I also wish Bernie Sanders would do the same regarding Clinton’s views.

With Paul out, this leaves Sanders as the only candidate opposing unnecessary foreign intervention, the only candidate opposing the surveillance state and other restrictions on civil liberties, and the only candidate who opposes the drug war. By concentrating on economic issues, where he also differs substantially from all the remaining candidates, other issues are receiving too little attention this year.

Stephen Colbert did not do his usual segment on Hungry For Power Games last night, concentrating on the caucus instead. Now he has three candidates to mock tonight.

Update: Rick Santorum is also dropping out.

Washington Post Editorial Board Spreading Fictions About Bernie Sanders

Washington Post Logo

The Washington Post has carried op-eds both in support of Bernie Sanders and in opposition to him. I looked at a couple of them yesterday. The  Post followed this up with an editorial full of right wing attacks on Sanders which were out of touch with reality. Bernie Sanders has responded:

At a breakfast with reporters here Thursday that was hosted by Bloomberg Politics, Sanders fired back — again and again and again.

“That’s not a new argument. We’ve been hearing that months and months, and that’s in a sense what this campaign is about,” Sanders said in response to a request for his reaction to the editorial. “People are telling us, whether it’s the Washington Post editorial board or anybody else, our ideas are too ambitious — can’t happen. Too bold — really? Well, here’s something which is really bold. In the last 30 years, there has been a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class and working families of this country. The middle class has become poorer and trillions of dollars have been transferred to the top one-tenth of 1 percent.”

“That’s pretty radical, isn’t it?” Sanders said. “Where was The Washington Post to express concern that the middle class was shrinking?”

…When he was asked about foreign policy, Sanders detoured: “Getting back to The Washington Post — check out where all the geniuses on the editorial page were with regard to the invasion of Iraq.” (They supported it.)

At another point: “I know The Washington Post may think I’m radical, but I’m not.”

More on Sanders’ response at Common Dreams.

Just as The Washington Post was wrong on the facts when they supported the Iraq war and in ignoring the economic meltdown, they totally botched the health care issue:

He admits that he would have to raise taxes on the middle class in order to pay for his universal, Medicare-for-all health-care plan, and he promises massive savings on health-care costs that would translate into generous benefits for ordinary people, putting them well ahead, on net. But he does not adequately explain where those massive savings would come from. Getting rid of corporate advertising and overhead would only yield so much. Savings would also have to come from slashing payments to doctors and hospitals and denying benefits that people want.

He would be a braver truth-teller if he explained how he would go about rationing health care like European countries do. His program would be more grounded in reality if he addressed the fact of chronic slow growth in Europe and explained how he would update the 20th-century model of social democracy to accomplish its goals more efficiently. Instead, he promises large benefits and few drawbacks.

Medicare for All is not a program which Sanders has pulled out of the air. Supporters of health care reform have discussed this for years. It is not difficult to see where the savings would come from. To begin with, Medicare is much more efficient in the use of health care dollars than the private insurance industry. This isn’t just about getting rid of corporate advertising and some overhead costs. This is about eliminating the vast amount of money spent on the health insurance industry and the huge profits they make. This is all money which would be better spent on health care for Americans.

Rationing? These days all health care payers have restrictions on what they will pay for. We already have rationing, and often it is the private payers which are more restrictive than the government Medicare program.

Some of the savings will come from the fact that Medicare often pays less than private insurance. Despite this, there is good reason why many of us doctors support the plan. The secret is that we believe we will come out ahead financially with Medicare for All. Here’s why–

Back in the old days, a medical practice would typically have one biller. Now things are much more complicated. Many practices need to pay additional people to handle the billing because of the complexity of handling different rules from each payer–and the billers are very likely the highest paid non-medical employee in any medical practice you step foot in. It gets even worse. We also have to have employees to handle getting prior authorizations from different payers for tests, procedures, and prescriptions, again dealing with multiple sets of rules. On top of all this, a growing amount of payment to physicians comes from incentive payments which come from not only practicing medicine as required, but having somebody enter all the data into the insurance company computer systems. Again, each payer has their own set of rules, often requiring more than one employee to handle them. Plus it is a headache to try to keep track of all the rules from each payer.

Just compare this to the overhead of a medical practice in Canada, which has a single payer plan similar to Medicare for All.

Plus if we have Medicare for All, we will no longer have to worry about bad debts from uninsured patients, and receiving payments significantly lower than from Medicare on patients with Medicaid. It is a win financially for many physicians, as well as for most Americans who will no longer have the large insurance premiums and out of pocket expenses they now face.

The Washington Post also questions whether Sanders  can pass his agenda. Whether or not he can is a fallacious reason not to support him. Sanders’ supporters see what Sanders speaks about as being a description of his long-term goals, not a set of promises to be completed his first hundred days in office. With our current grid lock in Washington, no candidate will be able to quickly get their goals through Congress, but I see Sanders has having a far better chance of bringing in members of Congress who will support him than Clinton. If Clinton is the nominee, my bet is that many people will split their ticket, wanting members of the other party to keep an eye on a president they know is untrustworthy.

Plus the important thing in voting for a president is over matters more directly under the control of the president. Sanders is far less likely to get us involved in unnecessary wars than Clinton or the Republican candidates. Sanders is more likely to reform the surveillance state and back away from the drug war. A Sanders Justice Department will treat those who violate the law on Wall Street far different than I would expect a Clinton Justice Department to respond.

It is The Washington Post, not Bernie Sanders, which is spreading fictions.

Dana Milbank Is Wrong–Nominating Sanders Is The Rational Choice For Democrats

Bernie Sanders Large Crowd

Dana Milbank repeated the establishment line in a column fallaciously entitled, Democrats would be insane to nominate Bernie Sanders.

I adore Bernie Sanders.

I agree with his message of fairness and I share his outrage over inequality and corporate abuses. I think his righteous populism has captured the moment perfectly. I respect the uplifting campaign he has run. I admire his authenticity.

And I am convinced Democrats would be insane to nominate him.

Hillary Clinton, by contrast, is a dreary candidate. She has, again, failed to connect with voters. Her policy positions are cautious and uninspiring. Her reflexive secrecy causes a whiff of scandal to follow her everywhere. She seems calculating and phony.

And yet if Democrats hope to hold the presidency in November, they’ll need to hold their noses and nominate Clinton.

Milbank dismissed the evidence that Sander would do better against the Republicans than Clinton:

Sanders and his supporters boast of polls showing him, on average, matching up slightly better against Trump than Clinton does. But those matchups are misleading: Opponents have been attacking and defining Clinton for a quarter- century, but nobody has really gone to work yet on demonizing Sanders.

Milbank ignores how Clinton and her surrogates have already been launching right-wing sounding attacks against Sanders. Despite this, Sanders does better than Clinton against Republicans in national polls. More significantly in terms of winning the general election, Clinton does poorly with independents and in the battle ground states.

Right wing attacks on Sanders won’t be any different from right wing attacks on Obama, who they already claim is a Marxist Socialist, and a foreign-born Muslim, who will be sending the black helicopters out any minute now to take away their guns and put them in FEMA concentration camps.

Milbank also ignores the importance of turn out. Republican attacks on Sanders will primarily appeal to Republican voters–not people who would ever vote for Sanders. However both Sanders own campaigning and Republican attacks will motivate Democratic leaning voters to turn out. It is Sanders, not Clinton, who has been exciting voters for the past several months, and inspiring many new voters to get involved.

There are traditionally two ways to win an election–motivate your base to turn out in high numbers or win over independents. Sanders can do better than Clinton at both. Plus he can get votes from people who have not voted for the major political parties in the past.

Plus as a general rule of thumb, it is best not to nominate the candidate whose practices are the subject of an active FBI investigation. A Clinton candidacy, assuming she is not indicted, will be dominated by talk of scandal, most likely suppressing the Democratic vote and energizing the Republicans.

Milbanks admits that voters must be willing to hold their nose to vote for Clinton, but what makes him so sure that they will do so as opposed to staying home? Running on the argument that “my candidate is bad, but yours is even worse” is not how to win an election. Voters want to vote for something, not just vote for the lesser of two evils.

With all their faults, at least Republicans are willing to stand for something, even if the wrong things. Republicans don’t worry if their candidates are too extreme, and they reject those who they consider to be Republicans In Name Only.

Many Sanders supporters back him primarily because of the economic issues which have dominated the campaign. Many of us became active in the blogosphere in response to the abuses of the Bush administration. We are not going to be excited by a Democrat who advocates the same neoconservative foreign policy, has supported the same types of restrictions on civil liberties and expanded power for the Executive Branch, and who as actively worked to increase the role of religion on public policy. She has been a hawk on the drug war. While better than the Republicans in agreeing with the scientific consensus on climate change, she is so indebted to the petroleum industry that her environmental policies have not been much better.

This is hardly a record to get people who vote based upon principle, as opposed to party affiliation, to get out to vote for Hillary Clinton. No wonder Milbank realizes we would have to hold our noses.

Democrats, and some of their supporters in the media, think Democrats need to hide from principles and run candidates who are Republican-lite. They never get the lesson, no matter how often that results in the Democrats losing.

Fortunately not everyone agrees. The Nation gave one of their rare endorsements to Sanders and The Washington Post also ran a recent op-ed by arguing that Bernie Sanders is the realist we should elect.

Many of the pundits agree — this is a choice between head and heart. If Democrats think with their heads, they will go with Hillary; with their hearts, with Bernie.

But this conventional wisdom clashes with the reality that this country has suffered serial devastations from choices supported by the establishment’s “responsible” candidates. On fundamental issue after issue, it is the candidate “of the heart” who is in fact grounded in common sense. It wasn’t Sanders’s emotional appeal, but his clearsightedness that led the Nation magazine, which I edit, to make only its third presidential endorsement in a primary in its 150-year history.

For example, foreign policy is considered Clinton’s strength. When terrorism hits the headlines, she gains in the polls. Yet the worst calamity in U.S. foreign policy since Vietnam surely was George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Clinton voted for that war; Sanders got it right and voted against. Clinton has since admitted her vote was a “mistake” but seems to have learned little from that grievous misjudgment. As secretary of state, she championed regime change in Libya that left behind another failed state rapidly becoming a backup base for the Islamic State. She pushed for toppling Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war and lobbied for arming the Syrian opposition, a program that ended up supplying more weapons to the Islamic State than to anyone else. Now she touts a “no fly zone” in Syria, an idea that has been dismissed by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as requiring some 70,000 troops to enforce, and by President Obama as well. People thinking with their heads rather than their hearts might well prefer Sanders’s skepticism about regime change to Clinton’s hawkishness.

The worst economic calamity since the Great Depression came when the excesses of Wall Street created the housing bubble and financial crisis that blew up the economy. Clinton touts her husband economic record, but he championed the deregulation that helped unleash the Wall Street wilding. The banks, bailed out by taxpayers, are bigger and more concentrated than they were before the crash. Someone using their head — not their heart — would want to make certain that the next president is independent of Wall Street and committed to breaking up the big banks and shutting down the casino. But Clinton opposes key elements of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) rational reform agenda for the banks, and her money ties to Wall Street lead any rational observer to conclude she’s an uncertain trumpet for reform.

Americans continue to suffer from a broken heath-care system that costs nearly twice per capita as those in the rest of the industrialized world — with worse results. Obama’s health reforms have helped millions get health care — particularly through the expansion of Medicaid and by forcing coverage of pre-existing conditions. But millions continue to go without care, millions more are underinsured and unable to afford decent coverage, and even more are gouged by drug companies and insurance companies that game the system’s complexities. Eventually the United States will join every other industrial nation with some form of simplified universal care. Sanders champions moving to “Medicare for all.” Clinton has mischaracterized his proposal, erroneously claiming it would “basically end all kinds of health care we know, Medicare, Medicaid, the Chip Program. It would take all that and hand it over to the states.” She says she would build on Obamacare but has yet to detail significant reforms that would take us closer to a rational health-care system. Sanders supported Obamacare but understands we can’t get to a rational health-care plan without leaders willing to take on the entrenched interests that stand in the way. It isn’t romantic to think that it is long past time for the United States to join every other industrial country and guarantee affordable health care for all…

In the face of the Sanders surge, Clinton supporters have resorted to the “electability argument”: that Sanders can’t be elected because he’s too far left. Put aside the irony of Clinton dismissing the electoral viability of someone she might lose to. Clinton has inevitable baggage of her own that raises doubts about her electoral prospects. And Clinton’s decision to present herself as the candidate of continuity in a time of change is problematic.

Clinton’s closing ad before Iowa makes her central argument clear: Trust her. She’s experienced and committed. She’ll keep Republicans from taking away the progress we’ve made. Sanders’s ad makes his argument clear: Trust yourself. Come together, take back the country and make this nation better. The first appeals to the head; the latter to the heart. But even the most hard-headed pragmatist might think the latter has as good a chance at getting elected and a better chance of forcing change than the former.

Update: Washington Post Editorial Board Spreading Fictions About Bernie Sanders

Clinton Campaign Underestimated Sanders–But Also Underestimated Clinton’s Weaknesses

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton listens to a speaker during a campaign stop at the YMCA in Rochester, New Hampshire June 15, 2015.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder - RTX1GLP8

With Clinton falling in the polls and acting desperate, it is no surprise to see The New York Times run a headline saying, Clinton Campaign Underestimated Sanders Strengths, Allies Say.

Advisers to Hillary Clinton, including former President Bill Clinton, believe that her campaign made serious miscalculations by forgoing early attacks on Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and failing to undercut his archliberal message before it grew into a political movement that has now put him within striking distance of beating her in Iowa and New Hampshire.

According to Democrats close to the Clintons and involved with her campaign, Mrs. Clinton and the former president are also unnerved by the possibility that Mr. Sanders will foment a large wave of first-time voters and liberals that will derail her in Iowa, not unlike Barack Obama’s success in 2008, which consigned Mrs. Clinton to a third-place finish. They have asked her advisers about the strength of the campaign’s data modeling and turnout assumptions in Iowa, given that her 2008 campaign’s predictions were so inaccurate.

…Mrs. Clinton’s problems are broader than just her message: Opinion polls show that some Democrats and other voters continue to question her trustworthiness and whether she cares about their problems. Recent polls show that her once-formidable lead over Mr. Sanders in Iowa has all but vanished, while he is holding on to a slight lead over her in New Hampshire.

While they have underestimated Sanders, as they underestimated Obama eight years ago, this isn’t the real problem. The problem for the Clinton campaign is that they failed to see the weaknesses in their candidate and they hopefully underestimated the ability of Democratic voters to recognize them. Clinton lost in 2008 and is struggling today not only because of the attributes of Obama and Sanders, but because Clinton does not have what it takes to a leader in the Democratic Party. She should have remained a Republican.

As the linked article notes, she is weak on ethics. She is weak in policy, both in terms of a history of showing poor judgment on the big issues and in term of opposing liberal viewpoints. By now everyone is aware of the considerable differences between the two with regards to Wall Street, despite Clinton’s attempts to distort the issueThe Nation did an excellent job of succinctly summarizing how often she has been wrong on foreign policy in their endorsement, briefly quoted here. Democratic voters, especially the young, also do not want a candidate who is so conservative on social issues that she teamed up with The Fellowship in the Senate, or who who has a long history of taking conservative stands on civil liberties and government transparency. She has similarly opposed campaign finance reform in the past as she has benefited from money from the special interests, making it hard to believe she will take serious action on the issue. Her record on the environment suggests she is more concerned about protecting the special interests she is indebted to as opposed to supporting any serious change to deal with climate change.

These are many of the same issues which led Democrats to support Obama over Clinton eight years ago.

Clinton’s campaign based upon inevitability and electability against Sanders has fallen apart, as the same strategy did eight years ago, as her lead in the polls has evaporated, and as many head to head polls against Republicans show that Sanders is more electable than Clinton is. Plus, as a general rule of thumb, it is not wise for a political party to nominate a candidate involved in a major scandal, and who has the FBI investigating their actions.

As Van Jones put it last week, the Democratic base is in “full-on rebellion” against Hillary Clinton. This can also be seen in the endorsements from MoveOn and Democracy for America, as well as in DFA’s defense of Sanders from the dishonest attacks from the Clinton campaign.

If there wasn’t a Barack Obama in 2008 and a Bernie Sanders today, somebody else would be challenging Clinton as they are because of the weaknesses of Hillary Clinton.

Jim Webb and Gary Johnson Taking Steps Towards Independent Runs For The Presidency

Jim Webb

Jim Webb continues to talk about an independent run for the presidency, and has now hired former Draft Biden finance director Sam Jones to handle fund raising should he decide to run.

It is doubtful that such a third party candidacy will receive any meaningful support nationally, but The Washington Post notes that “polling suggests he could have a significant effect on the race in his home state of Virginia, taking between 13 and 19 percent of the vote from the two major candidates.”

Should Hillary Clinton win the Democratic nomination there we will have a situation where the Democratic candidate is at least as hawkish, and very likely more hawkish, than the Republican candidate–and we have seen how the Republicans cannot be trusted on foreign policy.

Webb would be preferable to Clinton or any likely Republican candidate on foreign policy, having disagreed with Clinton on her support for both the Iraq war while in the Senate and her push for regime change in Libya as Secretary of State. Both of these policies supported by Clinton have resulted in disasters. While Donald Trump also has a better track record than Clinton regarding regime change, he has far too many other negatives to be seriously considered as commander in chief.

Having Webb in the race could theoretically provide a counter to the likely neocon policies of both Clinton, should she defeat Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination, and most Republican candidates, Webb is otherwise too conservative to provide a meaningful choice. As any vote for a third party would amount to only a protest vote, other possibilities look far more intriguing. At this time, should I make a protest vote (which is easier not living in a battle ground state), I lean towards Jill Stein of the Green Party.

Gary Johnson, who also ran in 2012, has also announced his candidacy for the Libertarian Party nomination. Considering that Clinton’s record on civil liberties is also extremely conservative, I might also consider him as a protest vote should Clinton win the Democratic nomination. Entrepreneur Austin Petersen and cybersecurity expert John McAfee have also announced candidacies for the Libertarian Party nomination. Jesse Ventura has also expressed interest, which might make the race even more interesting.

Nomination Of Sanders Essential To Prevent Clinton’s Neocon Policies

Sanders On Iraq Vote

While foreign policy has frequently been pushed behind economics in this election, largely due to the emphasis placed on this by her major challenger, Bernie Sanders, foreign policy remains a major reason for opposition to Clinton on the left. Sanders showed the contrast in their views in the last Democratic debate, while the Republicans showed why they cannot be trusted on foreign policy their debate.  In an interview with The Guardian, Sanders  discussed how Clinton’s pursuit of “regime change” in Libya helped rise of Isis:

Speaking to the Guardian in an extensive pre-debate interview, the senator from Vermont criticised Clinton for carelessly fomenting regime change in Libya “without worrying” about the ensuing instability that has helped Islamic State forces take hold in the country.

“Regime change without worrying about what happens the day after you get rid of the dictator does not make a lot of sense,” Sanders said.

“I voted against the war in Iraq … Secretary Clinton voted for that war. She was proud to have been involved in regime change in Libya, with [Muammar] Gaddafi, without worrying, I think, about what happened the day after and the kind of instability and the rise of Isis that we have seen in Libya.”

Foreign policy has recieved far more emphasis in the liberal media compared to the rest of the campaign coverage. I have looked at Hillary Clinton’s neoconservative and hawkish views multiple times.  At Salon, Paul Rosenberg recently described how Clinton has been a neoconservative hawk, concentrating on her mistakes on Iraq and showing how she made similar mistakes in her failed policy in Libya. The foreign policy views she has held in the past should be taken as a warning of what to expect should Clinton be elected. As Secretary of State her more interventionist advice was overruled by more sensible people in the Obama administration. There will be no such restraints on Clinton’s militarism should she be elected.

Rosenberg looked at how Clinton justified the invasion of Iraq in her Senate speech. He discussed how Clinton failed to show understanding of the problems which the war would inevitably result in, including the increase in extremism and terrorism. He next discussed her fundamental errors in repeating the false claims of a threat of WMD in Iraq, first quoting from Clinton:

In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001.

It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well affects American security.

Now this much is undisputed.

Rosenberg responded:

We now know unequivocally that Iraq did not rebuild its WMD capacities, as Clinton had claimed. There were already ample reasons to doubt it at the time, so she was clearly lying when she said “this much is undisputed.” But she was also expressing a common elite consensus view. And her stress on elite consensus was another troubling aspect of her speech for us to consider—which we’ll return to below. First, however, we need to focus on Clinton’s claim that Saddam had “given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members.”

Of course, Saddam, as secular dictator, had no reason at all to behave as Clinton described. He and bin Laden were bitter ideological enemies, and the only thing that could bring them together was necessity and a common enemy they hated and feared more than each other. That would be us. And although both Saddam and bin Laden are dead, their followers have joined together to fight us. That is, in fact, the origin story of ISIS—or at least a crucial part of it, as counter-terrorism expert Malcolm Nance has explained, talking to William Arkin, for example.

There is more worth reading on how the invasion of Iraq led to the later threat from ISIS.

Rosenberg next criticized how, “Clinton went on to craft an equally misleading picture of the policy options,” leading to her support for the war. Clinton has called this a mistake, but we saw that as as Secretary of State she had not learned from this mistake:

After all, Clinton herself pushed hard for a similarly flawed regime change strategy in Libya—Conor Friedersdorf even compared her role in Libya to Cheney’s in Iraq. Hyperbolic? Yes. But he did have a point. As summarized by Joel Gillin at the New Republic, she did get carried away with questionable intelligence, over-focused on deposing a long-time U.S. bogeyman, and failed to give sufficient consideration to the depths of difficulties that would follow afterwards. All of which allowed the broader jihadi threat increased opportunity to spread.

In particular, the key claim that something genocidal was about to unfold was entirely unfounded, according to a lengthy review of the Libya intervention at the London Review of Books, which noted that “in retaking the towns that the uprising had briefly wrested from the government’s control, Gaddafi’s forces had committed no massacres at all; the fighting had been bitter and bloody, but there had been nothing remotely resembling the slaughter at Srebrenica, let alone in Rwanda.” Given that Libya had normalized relations with the West in 2003/2004, renouncing its former international outlaw role, including an active WMD program, it was strikingly counterproductive to turn on Gaddafi like that, if you want to coax other “rogue states” into the community of nations.

Rosenberg concluded:

The last 14 years have seen America completely lose track of what its own core ideological strengths are. If “they hate us for our freedoms,” then fine, we’ll get rid of them. That’s been our response in a nutshell. We’ve been taken so far out of touch with our own values that it might seem like a pipe dream to turn the tables on ISIS and exploit their contradictions. But that’s exactly what we need to do. And nothing in Hillary Clinton’s record shows any capacity for engaging ISIS on those terms.

To the contrary, Clinton’s just like Bush and the neocons in fighting the last century’s wars. She’s much smarter about it, in theory at least. But we’re in a whole different ballgame now, and none of our foreign policy elites seem to have a clue about that, despite a growing choru

In a normal election year, Clinton’s failures as Secretary of State would be a major election issue. We are now seeing the same mistakes with Clinton’s views on Syria. However, Clinton benefits from a double standard in which many Democrats feel that it is somehow unfair that Clinton be criticized or held accountable for her views, and the many mistakes which have characterized her career. Some claim that criticism of Clinton is a right wing plot, when they are the ones backing right wing policies in defending Clinton’s record. Criticism of Clinton is written off as Clinton Derangement Syndrome, with the conservative Democrats who make this argument echoing both the words of those who defended George W. Bush with cries of Bush Derangement Syndrome, and as a result pushing for what would amount to a third term for George Bush’s policies (with the ethics of Richard Nixon).

While Bernie Sanders is the only candidate who has a realistic chance of providing an alternative to the neoconservative views of Hillary Clinton and the Republican candidates, another candidate has also criticized Clinton’s foreign policy views. Jim Webb, who has kept open the possibility of a third party run, has criticized Clinton for her “inept leadership” on Libya in a Facebook post found via The Hill:

Our next commander in chief must define a strategic vision for the country and accept accountability for past actions. Hillary Clinton should be called to account for her inept leadership that brought about the chaos in Libya, and the power vacuums that resulted in the rest of the region. She’ll need better answers than the recent nonsensical comment that she advocated taking out Muammar Qadaffi in Libya in order to avert a situation like Syria. The predictable chaos in Libya was bad enough, but it also helped bring about the disaster in Syria. Who is taking her to task for this? http://read.bi/1SbMG7h

She said, “If we had not joined with our European partners and our Arab partners to assist the people in Libya, you would be looking at Syria.” In reality that is what we are looking at. As the Harvard (Kennedy School) Lessons from Libya study of 2013 found, “The biggest misconception about NATO’s intervention is that it saved lives and benefited Libya and its neighbors.” Radical Islamist groups, suppressed under Qaddafi, emerged as the fiercest rebels during the war, highlighted by the September 2012 attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three of his colleagues.

Clinton talked at this last DNC debate about her failure as Secretary of State as if she was successful. While she held that office, the U.S. spent about $2 billion backing the Libyan uprising against Qadaffi. The uprising, which was part of the Arab Spring, led directly to Qaddafi being removed from power and killed by rebel forces in 2011. Now some 2,000 ISIS terrorists have established a foothold in Libya. Sophisticated weapons from Qaddafi’s arsenal—including up to 15,000 man-portable, surface-to-air missiles have apparently fallen into the hands of radical Islamists throughout the region. For a Secretary of State (and a Presidential administration) this is foreign policy leadership at its worst.

The first rule of wing-walking (and regime change) is never let go of what you have until you have a firm grasp on where you are going.

Clinton lacks any real grasp of the dangers of interventionism, repeatedly making the same mistake she made in supporting the Iraq war. Her mistakes on policy, including but not limited to foreign policy, are far more important than the mistakes she has made campaigning this year which the media is more likely to discuss.

Outrageous Statements From Donald Trump Distract From Serious Flaws In Other Conservative Candidates (Including Clinton)

Trumps and Clintons

One of the many problems with Donald Trump’s outrageous statements (undoubtedly made more to attract attention and support from a certain segment of the Republican Party than out of conviction) is that it might be making people fail to realize that many other candidates running also have positions which in a normal year might disqualify them from serious consideration. This is most clearly true within the Republican Party, but Hillary Clinton also benefits from the non-stop vulgar and sexist attacks on her from Trump. Donald Trump’s views make the flaws in the other candidates look far less significant in comparison, but there remains reasons why other candidates would be unacceptable as president.

Politico looked at The Wild Ideas You Missed While Donald Trump Was Talking, finding that many people are not noticing extreme views from other Republican candidates when Trump gets most of the attention:

The good news for Republicans, arguably, is that their rhetoric has been so consistently over-the-top that it has started to sound routine; academics call this “shifting the Overton window,” the range of what’s considered politically acceptable. I’ve watched all the debates as well as the undercards live, but when I reviewed the transcripts, I was amazed how many radical statements had slipped under my radar. Ted Cruz called for putting the United States back on the gold standard. Marco Rubio accused President Barack Obama of destroying the U.S. military. Huckabee said Bernie Madoff’s rip-offs weren’t as bad as what the government has done to people on Social Security and Medicare. Lindsey Graham said his administration would monitor all “Islamic websites,” not just jihadist ones. I had even forgotten Trump’s claim that vaccines caused autism in a 2-year-old girl he knew.

Vaccines do not cause autism. Goldbuggery is crackpot economics. The U.S. military is still by far the strongest in the world. And what the government has done to people on Social Security and Medicare is give them pensions and health care. But none of those statements drew any pushback from the other Republican candidates, or, for that matter, the media moderators. Neither did Ben Carson’s assertion that if the United States had set a goal of oil independence within a decade, moderate Arab states would have “turned over Osama bin Laden and anybody else you wanted on a silver platter within two weeks,” which is wackadoodle on multiple levels.

On the other hand, the Republican debates do present an extremely distorted view of Obama’s record, with nobody present to present the facts:

These are presumably winning messages in a Republican primary. It’s not clear whether they would be in a general election. The reality of the Obama era, for all its warts, is that unemployment has dropped to 5 percent, the deficit has shrunk by two thirds, illegal immigration has plateaued, far fewer U.S. soldiers are dying abroad and Americans are more likely to be killed by lightning than by terrorists at home. The question is whether the run-for-your-lives talking points will crash into statistical reality, or whether they will gradually help create a new political reality.

The Republicans do deserve some credit for being willing to display their views in public. The article does chastise the Democrats here in concluding that the Republicans are “acting like a confident party—perhaps an overconfident party—while the Democrats are acting like they’ve lost their feck.”

In reality, it is the Clinton campaign (which only wanted four debates) and the DNC, which expanded the number to six but hid most of them on nights when few would be watching, which are acting cowardly. Both Sanders and O’Malley have been pushing for more debates. I also think that Clinton has benefited from the exaggerated coverage paid to Trump. If not for his unexpected success in the Republican race, the big story of the year might be Sanders’ challenge to Clinton. After all, Sanders does beat Trump in head to head contests–and often by a larger margin than Clinton does.

Clinton benefits in other ways from Trump being in the race. The large number of lies from Trump dominated the year-end report from Factcheck.org. This led to a fairly long list of lies from Clinton being less obvious, posted further down in the story after Trump’s lies.

The concentration by the media on outrageous comments from Trump distracts from talk about the unethical conduct from Clinton, as well has the poor judgment she has shown throughout her career. Most importantly, it distracts from a more thorough look at Clinton’s views, including her neoconservative views on foreign policy, her conservative views on social/cultural issues, and her turn to the right on economic issues and health care. It also might be kept in mind that, with all his unacceptable statements and views, Donald Trump did oppose the Iraq war which Clinton pushed so hard for, and which turned out to be a disaster.

Third Democratic Debate Showed Sanders’ Strength On Foreign Policy, Health Care, And Social Justice

Third Democratic Debate ABC News

The third Democratic Debate (transcript here) was most significant for Sanders doing his best job yet in the debates of taking on Hillary Clinton on foreign policy. Unfortunately, with the debate airing on the Saturday night before Christmas, The Guardian might have it right in this headline: Sanders outshone Clinton on foreign policy at the debate. But who watched? Both Sanders and O’Malley were also critical of Clinton’s Wall Street ties and economic views. During much of the evening I felt like I was watching a debate between two Democrats and a Republican.

While Sanders was prepared to take on Clinton’s foreign policy views, he did begin with his usual themes in his opening statement:

I am running for president of the United States because it is too late for establishment politics and establishment economics. I’m running for president because our economy is rigged because working people are working longer hours for lower wages and almost all of new wealth and income being created is going to the top one percent. I’m running for president because I’m going to create an economy that works for working families not just billionaires.

I’m running for president because we have a campaign finance system which is corrupt, where billionaires are spending hundreds of millionaires of dollars to buy candidates who will represent their interests rather than the middle class and working families. I’m running because we need to address the planetary crisis of climate change and take on the fossil fuel industry and transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy.

I’m running for president because I want a new foreign policy; one that takes on Isis, one that destroys ISIS, but one that does not get us involved in perpetual warfare in the quagmire of the Middle East but rather works around a major coalition of wealthy and powerful nations supporting Muslim troops on the ground. That’s the kind of coalition we need and that’s the kind of coalition I will put together.

The breech in security on the DNC’s voter data base came up. Sanders explained the situation, including an open admission of what staffers had done wrong, and then was asked if Clinton deserved an apology:

Not only — not only do I apologize to Secretary Clinton — and I hope we can work together on an independent investigation from day one — I want to apologize to my supporters. This is not the type of campaign that we run.

And if I find anybody else involved in this, they will also be fired.

Clinton appeared shocked, as if she didn’t see this coming. Such an honest response to a scandal is so foreign to her.

It didn’t take long for the debate to turn to foreign policy. Sanders criticized Clinton’s interventionist foreign policy views and support for regime change. There was a detour on gun control when Clinton was asked, ” Secretary Clinton, in the wake of the San Bernardino attack, you all emphasized gun control. But our latest poll shows that more Americans believe arming people, not stricter gun laws, is the best defense against terrorism. Are they wrong?”

Clinton stumbled in answering but I do think she was trying to say the right thing here. She finally did say, “Guns, in and of themselves, in my opinion, will not make Americans safer.”

O’Malley took advantage of this to attack the records of both Clinton and Sanders on guns. He is right, as I have discussed here, that Clinton changes her position on this every election year. He is also right that Sanders has had some votes which gun control advocates could rightly criticize, but as has generally been the case when this issue has come up, Sanders’ general history of support for gun control was distorted. Among the issues was that O’Malley raised was that, “Senator Sanders voted against even research dollars to look into this public health issue.”

The problem with citing a single vote against any Senator is that bills contain multiple items, and it is possible that Sanders voted against the amendment based upon details unrelated to the general issue. This vote took place in 1996 and in more recent interviews Sanders has not been able to recall the specifics of why he voted against this at the time. More importantly, Sanders now favors funding for this research. All three candidates are strongly promoting gun control.

Hillary Clinton often seemed to deflect from questions by bringing up criticisms of Donald Trump. Most were valid, but Clinton was wrong on one point:

And we also need to make sure that the really discriminatory messages that Trump is sending around the world don’t fall on receptive ears. He is becoming ISIS’s best recruiter. They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists. So I want to explain why this is not in America’s interest to react with this kind of fear and respond to this sort of bigotry.

The fact check sites, including Factcheck.org, states that no such video exists. This is apparently as fictitious as the videos which Carly Fiorina claimed to have seen regarding Planned Parenthood at the second Republican debate.

Clinton was confronted with the contradictions in her statements on Syria by Martha Raddatz, who tried to force Clinton to defend her foreign policy failures several times during the debate:

Secretary Clinton, you too have ruled out a large U.S. combat force, yet you support sending in special operations forces to Syria, and sending those 100 to 200 troops to Iraq to do exploitation kill raids.

We’ve already lost one Delta Force member in a raid. It has looked very much to me like we’re already in ground combat on frequent trips I’ve made there.

After a weak answer from Clinton, Raddatz followed up:

Secretary Clinton, I want — I want to follow up on that. You do support sending special operations forces there. You support what the president has done already. One of the lessons people draw from Vietnam and war since is that a little force can turn into a little more and a little more. President Obama certainly didn’t expect to be sending 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan the first year of his presidency.

Are you prepared to run the risk of a bigger war to achieve your goals to destroy ISIS, or are you prepared to give up on those goals if it requires a larger force?

Clinton continued to struggle to defend her foreign policy views. After Clinton mentioned her support for a no-fly zone in Syria, Raddatz asked, “Secretary Clinton, I’d like to go back to that if I could. ISIS doesn’t have aircraft, Al Qaida doesn’t have aircraft. So would you shoot down a Syrian military aircraft or a Russian airplane?”

Both O’Malley and Sanders criticized Clinton’s views, with Sanders putting it all in perspective:

I have a difference of opinion with Secretary Clinton on this. Our differences are fairly deep on this issue. We disagreed on the war in Iraq. We both listened to the information from Bush and Cheney. I voted against the war.

But I think — and I say this with due respect — that I worry too much that Secretary Clinton is too much into regime change and a little bit too aggressive without knowing what the unintended consequences might be.

Yes, we could get rid of Saddam Hussein, but that destabilized the entire region. Yes, we could get rid of Gadhafi, a terrible dictator, but that created a vacuum for ISIS. Yes, we could get rid of Assad tomorrow, but that would create another political vacuum that would benefit ISIS. So I think, yeah, regime change is easy, getting rid of dictators is easy. But before you do that, you’ve got to think about what happens the day after. And in my view, what we need to do is put together broad coalitions to understand that we’re not going to have a political vacuum filled by terrorists, that, in fact, we are going to move steadily — and maybe slowly — toward democratic societies, in terms of Assad, a terrible dictator. But I think in Syria the primary focus now must be on destroying ISIS and working over the years to get rid of Assad. That’s the secondary issue.

With Clinton lacking any arguments of substance to defend her views, Clinton resorted to her usual tactic of deception. She tried to deflect from such criticism, and deny the substantial difference in their views, by distorting  Sanders’ record in saying, “With all due respect, senator, you voted for regime change with respect to Libya. you joined the Senate in voting to get rid of Qaddafi.” As Politico pointed out after the debate, the vote referred to a nonbinding resolution he voted for, which asked the dictator to “desist from further violence, recognize the Libyan people’s demand for democratic change, [and] resign his position.” This was hardly comparable to the removal of Qaddafi by force which Clinton backed.

O’Malley criticized Clinton’s antiqued thinking, with this not being the only time he contrasted his age to his two older opponents:

During the Cold War — during the Cold War, we got into a bad habit of always looking to see who was wearing the jersey of the communists, and who was wearing the U.S. jersey. We got into a bad habit of creating big bureaucracies, old methodologies, to undermine regimes that were not friendly to the United States. Look what we did in Iran with Mosaddegh. And look at the results that we’re still dealing with because of that. I would suggest to you that we need to leave the Cold War behind us, and we need to put together new alliances and new approaches to dealing with this, and we need to restrain ourselves.

I mean, I know Secretary Clinton was gleeful when Gadhafi was torn apart. And the world, no doubt is a better place without him. But look, we didn’t know what was happening next. And we fell into the same trap with Assad, saying — as if it’s our job to say, Assad must go.

We have a role to play in this world. But we need to leave the Cold War and that sort of antiquated thinking behind.

O’Malley was strong in criticizing Clinton’s ties to Wall Street and pointed how in the second debate she “very shamefully, she tried to hide her cozy relationship with Wall Street big banks by invoking the attacks of 9/11.” Clinton down played her contributions from Wall Street by ignoring her super PAC contributions, while Sanders pointed out, “Secretary Clinton, I don’t have a super PAC. I don’t get any money from Wall Street.” I am even more concerned about the corrupting effects of the contributions to the Foundation and unprecedented speaking fees paid to her husband.

The debate moved to health care with Sanders repeating his support for Medicare for All and Clinton objecting based upon the tax increases this would require. Sanders defended his proposal from Clinton’s attacks:

But Secretary Clinton is wrong.

As you know, because I know you know a lot about health care. You know that the United States per capita pays far and away more than other country. And it is unfair simply to say how much more the program will cost without making sure that people know that, we are doing away with cost of private insurance and that the middle class will be paying substantially less for health care on the single payer than on the Secretary’s Clinton proposal.

Clinton continued to channel right wing attacks on progressive programs by concentrating on their costs while ignoring their benefits in saying, “I don’t think we should be imposing new big programs that are going to raise middle class families’ taxes.”

Sanders responded by once again showing how he supports the economic policies of FDR and LBJ:

Number one, most important economic reality of today is that over the last 30 years, there has been a transfer of trillions of dollars from the middle class to the top one-tenth of one percent who are seeing a doubling of the percentage of wealth that they own.

Now, when Secretary Clinton says, “I’m not going raise taxes on the middle class,” let me tell you what she is saying. She is disagreeing with FDR on Social Security, LBJ on Medicare and with the vast majority of progressive Democrats in the House and the Senate, who today are fighting to end the disgrace of the United States being the only major country on Earth that doesn’t provide paid family and medical leave.

Sanders was the strongest candidate in speaking out for social justice:

Well, this whole issue concerns me. And I agree with much of what the secretary and the governor have said. But let’s be clear. Today in America we have more people in jail than any other country on earth, 2.2 million people. Predominantly African-American and Hispanic.

We are spending $80 billion a year locking up our fellow Americans. I think, and this is not easy, but I think we need to make wage a major effort, to come together as a country and end institutional racism. We need major, major reforms of a very broken criminal justice system. Now, what does that mean?

Well, for a start it means that police officers should not be shooting unarmed people, predominantly African-Americans.

It means that we have to rethink the so-called war on drugs which has destroyed the lives of millions of people, which is why I have taken marijuana out of the Controlled Substance Act. So that it will not be a federal crime.That is why we need to make police — and I speak as a former mayor. I was a mayor for eight years, worked very closely with a great police department. And what we did is try to move that department toward community policing, so that the police officers become part of the community and not, as we see, in some cities an oppressive force.

We need to make police departments look like the communities they serve in terms of diversity. We need to end minimal sentencing. We need, basically, to pledge that we’re going to invest in this country, in jobs and education, not more jails and incarceration.

Towards the end, Martha Raddatz returned to Clinton’s failed policy on Libya, which Clinton has received considerable criticism for:

Secretary Clinton, I want to circle back to something that your opponents here have brought up. Libya is falling apart. The country is a haven for ISIS and jihadists with an estimated 2,000 ISIS fighters there today. You advocated for that 2011 intervention and called it smart power at its best. And yet, even President Obama said the U.S. should have done more to fill the leadership vacuum left behind. How much responsibility do you bear for the chaos that followed elections?

Clinton tried to deflect and Raddatz followed up:

Secretary Clinton, I want to go back. That — government lacked institutions and experience. It had been a family business for 40 years. On the security side, we offered only a modest training effort and a very limited arms buy-back program. Let me ask you the question again. How much responsibility do you bear for the chaos that followed those elections?

Sanders also showed his disagreements with Clinton on regime change:

SANDERS: Look, the secretary is right. This is a terribly complicated issue. There are no simple solutions. But where we have a disagreement is that I think if you look at the history of regime changes, you go back to Mossaddegh (ph) in Iran, you go back to Salvador Allende who we overthrew in Chile, you go back to overthrowing Saddam Hussein in Iraq, you go back to where we are today in Syria with a dictator named Assad.

The truth is it is relatively easy for a powerful nation like America to overthrow a dictator but it is very hard to predict the unintended consequences and the turmoil and the instability that follows after you overthrow that dictator.

So I think secretary Clinton and I have a fundamental disagreement. I’m not quite the fan of regime change that I believe she is.

After many questions of substance, the final questions were rather lame regarding the role of the president’s spouse. The candidates then gave their closing statements, with Clinton going last and concluding, “Thank you, good night and may the force be with you.”

The force was strong in Bernie Sanders, while Hillary Clinton (and Debbie Wasserman Schultz) have been taken away by the dark side.