Washington Post Reveals That Trump-Russia Dossier Was Commissioned By Clinton Campaign And DNC

The Washington Post today revealed that the dossier complied with accusations including ties between Donald Trump and Russia (along with more salacious claims) was funded by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. From their report:

The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped fund research that resulted in a now-famous dossier containing allegations about President Trump’s connections to Russia and possible coordination between his campaign and the Kremlin, people familiar with the matter said.

Marc E. Elias, a lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC, retained Fusion GPS, a Washington firm, to conduct the research.

After that, Fusion GPS hired dossier author Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer with ties to the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community, according to those people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Elias and his law firm, Perkins Coie, retained the firm in April 2016 on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC. Prior to that agreement, Fusion GPS’s research into Trump was funded by a still unknown Republican client during the GOP primary.

The Clinton campaign and the DNC, through the law firm, continued to fund Fusion GPS’s research through the end of October 2016, days before Election Day.

This may or may not have any bearing on the accuracy of the information released, but knowing that this was paid opposition research from the Clinton camp could cast doubts on its credibility. We will hopefully know more about the accuracy of the report after investigations by Robert Muller and the Congressional investigations are completed. At this time questions about money laundering and other financial crimes involving Donald Trump, his family, and associates appear to be more credible than claims of collusion between Trump and Russia to alter the election results (not that Trump’s family wasn’t interested if Russia had something to offer).

While some items have been found to be true, much of the information in the dossier has not been independently verified. Today’s revelation of Clinton’s involvement in funding the dossier must cast doubt as to whether its claims such as ties between Russian intelligence and the Trump campaign are true, especially in light of how Shattered revealed that Clinton had latched onto the claim that Russia was responsible within twenty-four hours of her loss to distract from the many mistakes made by her campaign which were the more likely cause of her loss. Even former Clinton strategist Mark Penn recently disputed the claims that Russia caused Clinton to lost the election.

The Russia hysteria being generated by Clinton’s claims has undermined the credibility of the US electoral process with Clinton and many of her supporters making unsubstantiated claims that the election was stolen, been used as justification for restrictions on internet freedom, and has fueled Cold War style hostilities which feed into the goals of Clinton’s neocon allies for increased hostilities towards Russia.

As opposition research can be biased towards the desired conclusions of those paying for the report, the information in the dossier now must be considered to be based upon partisan bias until the claims are independently verified. On the other hand, the decisions announced today by the House to launch two investigations of Hillary Clinton will also be seen as based upon partisanship. This includes investigations regarding the Justice Department’s handling of the Clinton investigation and the sale of uranium mines. The later comes after a recent report providing new accusations of Russian bribes to the Clintons while the matter was being reviewed at the State Department.

While there is undoubtedly plenty to investigate in the conduct of Hillary Clinton, especially her influence peddling at the State Department, it is questionable whether the Republican House can be trusted to conduct a meaningful hearing after how they handled Benghazi.

Update: Vox takes a similar line in recommending skepticism towards the dossier:

Now, however, we know that the dossier’s research during much of 2016 was funded by a top lawyer working for the Clinton campaign itself. That of course doesn’t necessarily mean the information in it is deliberately false — campaigns usually try to dig up opposition research that is true, if they can.

But it certainly presents the possibility that the research of the dossier and subsequent circulation of it were more akin to a dirty trick than a genuine, disinterested effort to find the truth about Trump and Russia. After all, if a campaign hires a firm to find dirt on their opponent, that is what that firm will try and deliver, even if what they turn up is dubious or thinly-sourced.

Overall, viewing this uncorroborated document very skeptically was always a good idea, and the fact that its funders were Trump’s biggest opponents only makes that more the case.

Update II: Further Reaction To Revelation That Trump Russia Dossier Was Commissioned By The Clinton Campaign

Colin Powell Calls Trump A National Disgrace And Says Clinton Comes Across As Sleazy For Good Reason

powell-email-leak

Colin Powell’s leaked emails include criticism of Trump, Clinton, and the right wing. In June he called Donald Trump “a national disgrace” and an “international pariah.” He has considered how Trump should be handled. He has suggested that Trump “is in the process of destroying himself, no need for Dems to attack him.” He also has warned about attacking Trump, pointing out that, “To go on and call him an idiot just emboldens him.”

Powell objected to how Clinton was handling the email scandal. The Intercept reports:  “Sad thing,” Powell wrote to one confidant, “HRC could have killed this two years ago by merely telling everyone honestly what she had done and not tie me to it.” He described her well in writing, ” Everything HRC touches she kind of screws up with hubris.” Despite her hubris, she was also dumb:

“Dumb. She should have done a ‘Full Monty’ at the beginning,” Powell wrote. He added: “I warned her staff three times over the past two years not to try to connect it to me. I am not sure HRC even knew or understood what was going on in the basement.”

The Washington Post has more about Powell on Clinton’s email along with some fact-checking of Clinton’s claims:

“I have told Hilleary’s [sic] minions repeatedly that they are making a mistake trying to drag me in, yet they still try,” he wrote in May to Democratic consultant Vernon Jordan. “The media isn’t fooled and she is getting crucified. The differences are profound and they know it.”

The two situations aren’t completely analogous, as The Post’s Fact Checker has written, but Clinton has used Powell to suggest that her private email server was not totally novel.

Powell was reluctant to endorse Clinton: “Hillary has not been covering here [sic] self with glory,” Powell writes. “For good reason she comes across as sleazy.” He also wrote:

“I would rather not have to vote for her, although she is a friend I respect,” Powell writes to Democratic megadonor Jeffrey Leeds. “A 70-year-old person with a long track record, unbridled ambition, greedy, not transformational, with a husband still dicking bimbos at home (according to the NYP).

Emails from Democratic donor Jeffrey Leads  showed how little Obama and Clinton each actually thought of the other. One email said that Clinton hated Obama. Obama might not be as oblivious to Clinton’s faults as it appears when he campaigns for her:

In one Leeds/Powell email conversation going back to March 6, 2016 over a Politico article about Clinton’s primary loss in Maine, Leeds tells Powell that “no one like her and the criminal thing ain’t over. I don’t think the president would week if she found herself in real legal trouble. She’ll pummel his legacy if she gets a chance and he knows it.”

Powell also questioned Clinton’s health before Sunday’s events. In 2015 he wrote, “I think there is something to it. On HD tv she doesn’t look good. She is working herself to death.” Of course there is a big difference between overworking herself, along with her current pneumonia, and many of the unsubstantiated theories floating around on the internet about her health.

In other comments, Powell is right about the Birther movement: “Yup, the whole birther movement was racist.” Powell called Benghazi a “stupid witch hunt.”

One area in which Powell has sympathy for Clinton is on Benghazi, the GOP reaction to which he labeled a “stupid witch hunt,” as BuzzFeed first reported. And fellow former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice appeared to agree.

“Benghazi is a stupid witch hunt. Basic fault falls on a courageous ambassador who thoughts [sic] Libyans now love me and I am ok in this very vulnerable place,” Powell wrote to Rice in December 2015, referring to former ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens, who was killed in the attack.

Powell added, though, that Clinton bore some blame: “But blame also rests on his leaders and supports back here. Pat Kennedy, Intel community, [State Department] and yes HRC,” referring to Clinton.

“Completely agree,” Rice responded.

In a year in which both major political parties nominated candidates who are unfit to be president, Powell gets it right in his criticism of both Trump and Clinton. With so many people falling into the partisan trap of backing one candidate and overlooking their faults, Powell deserves credit for seeing the faults in both.

GOP Convention Day One: Plagiarism, Horrors, Nude Protests, Stephen Colbert & Jon Stewart

The first day of the convention did not go well for Republicans between having to put down an attempted anti-Trump revolt, poor scheduling, and Melania Trump’s speech plagiarizing even more blatantly from Michelle Obama than Hillary Clinton has taken ideas from Bernie Sanders. It is quite clear from the video above that portions were too similar to be coincidence. I wonder if whoever wrote this speech had studied at Trump University.

Melania also appeared to Rickroll the audience.

Actually the plagiarism might be a good thing. I see the Trump campaign as being more about ego than ideology. The more ideas they steal from the Obamas, the better.

While this probably won’t affect many votes, it is just another example of how Trump does not seem prepared to run a major presidential election campaign (or be president). Other mistakes included having Melania speak before 11 pm eastern time, leading to many people leaving the convention hall, and probably turning off their television, before the final speakers of the evening.

Giuliani Speech

Melania was preceded by speakers including Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani was terrifying to listen to, and it was even worse in the original German. Maybe they knew what they were doing here. After this, Donald Trump will look sane. While Giuliani looked rabid, Donald Trump made his entrance (to introduce Melania) with his version of an imitation of God:

Trump Convention Entrance

Besides Rudy Guiliani, it was a big night for war mongers, making it feel like Hillary Clinton should have been the keynote speaker. Of course she was mentioned frequently. While the Republicans did a poor job of raising her real faults, they did exploit the suffering of the mother of one of those killed at Benghazi, while remaining loose with the facts.

Other Republicans were on-message for interviews. For example see Steve King explain in the video above how whites are the master race. The Republican world view explained briefly.

GOP Nude Protest 1

There were protests outside, including one hundred naked women greeting Donald Trump:

For Cathy Scott, a Republican, being here is a message directly aimed at her party’s presumptive nominee.

“Donald Trump has said so many outrageous, hateful, inflammatory things,” Scott says. “He underestimated his female, Republican vote. I feel like he shot himself in the foot a little bit. I don’t think he knows there’s a black, single, 35-year-old mom, like me, who is listening to what he’s saying. I don’t think he knows I’m in his political party—and that’s unfortunate.”

GOP Nude Protest 2

Monica Giorgio, a 19-year-old nursing student who came straight from the night shift still wearing her teal scrubs, adds: “Because of his negative views on women. I think this is a great way to contrast that.”

“For me, it’s less about Trump and more about creating positive energy around the RNC and to create light where there maybe isn’t as much,” says Sabrina Paskewitz, 23, a student who’s done nude modeling.

Stephen Colbert turned to Jon Stewart to try to figure out how Donald Trump could be the Republican nominee.

Colbert revived a segment from his previous show, The Word, to explain Trumpiness.

Colbert also took his Hungry for Power Games character to the site of the GOP convention.

Awful Choice Of Clinton v. Trump Leaves Opening For Minor Party Candidates

ClintonEqualsTrump

This year the “presumptive” nominee from each of the major political parties is so awful that it hardly makes sense to throw away one’s vote on them if the general election is between Clinton and Trump. While each has advantages and disadvantages over the other, either way we will see the continuation of the warfare/surveillance state regardless of which is elected. The unpopularity of both candidates in recent polls does bolster Sanders’ argument for the superdelegates to support him at the convention, but looking at it more realistically, the Democratic leadership probably would rather lose the general election with Clinton (and have hope of keeping their positions) than to see Sanders win and remake the Democratic Party.

David Brooks’ column asking Why Is Clinton Disliked? is receiving attention today, but it gets the answer wrong. Is is not because of voters missing the touchy feely information he misses. Clinton’s popularity dropped when she became a candidate and voters were reminded of her views and record. Just seeing Clinton on the campaign trail was enough to remind many people of why they did not vote for her in 2008. Her popularity really plunged in the polls as the scandals broke, reminding voters of how dishonest she is.

People might not understand all the specifics of the scandals, but were reminded that with Clinton there is always a scandal just around the corner. Some are totally bogus, such as Benghazi and Vince Foster. Others do show shady behavior on her part, such as failing to reveal the donors to the Foundation while Secretary of State as she agreed to, and then unethically making decisions regarding parties both donating to the Foundation and making unprecedented payments to Bill for speaking.

We don’t know how others will turn out, such as the current FBI investigation into her mishandling of classified information. Today’s potential scandal involves the investigation of Terry McAuliffe for campaign contributions. CNN reports on a potential tie to the Clintons: “As part of the probe, the officials said, investigators have scrutinized McAuliffe’s time as a board member of the Clinton Global Initiative, a vehicle of the charitable foundation set up by former President Bill Clinton.” Whether or not this turns out to be anything significant, we know the next scandal will be here soon, and a fair percentage will turn out to be true.

Of course Donald Trump comes across as being even more dishonest than Clinton. In many cases I’m not sure if he is intentionally lying about world affairs, or just repeating what he read in some right wing email, showing the same lack of knowledge as is commonly seen on the far right. I’ve pointed out in the past his propensity for spreading nutty conspiracy theories, and First Read looked at this problem today:

Donald Trump, conspiracy-theorist-in-chief?

Last night, the Washington Post wrote how Donald Trump described the 1993 suicide of White House aide Vince Foster as “very fishy.” From the Post: “When asked in an interview last week about the Foster case, Trump dealt with it as he has with many edgy topics — raising doubts about the official version of events even as he says he does not plan to talk about it on the campaign trail. He called theories of possible foul play ‘very serious’ and the circumstances of Foster’s death ‘very fishy.'” This isn’t the first time that Trump has dabbled in conspiracy theories. There’s the 2011 “birther” crusade against President Obama; there’s the allegation that Ted Cruz’s father was with Lee Harvey Oswald; and there’s Trump flirting with the idea that the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia might have been murdered. As MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin wrote earlier this month, “[Trump], whether by choice or by nature, appears fundamentally unable to distinguish between credible sources and chain e-mails. Equally significant, though, is that he uses these falsehoods to elevate fringe conspiracy theories and anecdotes that politicians are normally careful to keep far away from mainstream politics. He’s spread discredited claims linking vaccines to autism, for example — a debunked theory that medical officials say has harmed efforts to wipe out preventable diseases.”

While the two major party candidates will probably obtain the majority of the vote if it is a race between Clinton and Trump, this could be a better than usual year for minor party candidates. FiveThirtyEight points out that Libertarian Gary Johnson is now polling at around ten percent and predict he “might be on the verge of becoming a household name.”

Jill Stein provides another alternative from the Green Party. She made a strong appeal to Sanders voters in an interview with Truthout:

…I think the Green Party and my campaign [are] “Plan B” for Bernie supporters because the Democratic Party is the opposite of everything they’ve been working for and building for the last eight months or so, and to simply be dumped into Hillary’s campaign right now is kind of unthinkable.

The sabotage of Bernie’s campaign by the Democratic Party really makes the point about why we need an independent party, because it has shown that it is very hard to have a revolutionary campaign inside of a counterrevolutionary party…

So this is what the party does, and it has only become more corporatist, militarist and imperialist even while it has allowed very inspiring, progressive campaigns like Bernie’s to be seen and heard for awhile. After George McGovern was nominated in 1972, the party changed the rules of the game over the course of the next decade so that that kind of a grassroots campaign could never happen again. So Bernie had to fight on a very steep playing field and it’s just that the machine is powerful. Over the decades, as the Democratic Party continues to fake left, it continues to move right. I think that is the take-home lesson here — that we are not creating a more progressive, more grassroots party; it is only becoming more of a corporate instrument.

Either Stein or Johnson would be preferable to Clinton or Trump.

Will Donald Trump’s Tactics Work Against Hillary Clinton?

Trumps and Clintons

Hillary Clinton currently is tied with Donald Trump in some polls and leads in others. The Democrats should have an advantage in the electoral college, although this is no longer clear with Clinton doing poorly in battleground states and independent voters. If the general election is between Clinton and Trump, the contest might come down to which of the two is disliked less, and whether Trump’s attacks on Clinton are as effective as they were against his Republican opponents.

The New York Times has a report on how Trump is expected to attack Clinton:

Donald J. Trump plans to throw Bill Clinton’s infidelities in Hillary Clinton’s face on live television during the presidential debates this fall, questioning whether she enabled his behavior and sought to discredit the women involved.

Mr. Trump will try to hold her accountable for security lapses at the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and for the death of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens there.

And he intends to portray Mrs. Clinton as fundamentally corrupt, invoking everything from her cattle futures trades in the late 1970s to the federal investigation into her email practices as secretary of state.

Drawing on psychological warfare tactics that Mr. Trump used to defeat “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz, “Little Marco” Rubio and “Low-Energy” Jeb Bush in the Republican primaries, the Trump campaign is mapping out character attacks on the Clintons to try to increase their negative poll ratings and bait them into making political mistakes, according to interviews with Mr. Trump and his advisers.

On the surface, I have my doubts as to whether this will really work but, on the other hand, who would have thought that Trump could have eliminated Jeb Bush from competition by calling him “low-energy?” Still, much of this looks like the typical overreach which has worked to the advantage of the Clintons in the past. Rather than attack the Clintons with factual criticism, Republicans tend to mix in a tremendous amount of fiction with their attacks, leading many to discount the large amount of legitimate criticism.

I really have my doubt that there is any benefit in bringing up ancient history. People already have their opinions about Bill’s affairs and the impeachment–with his popularity increasing tremendously in response to Republican over-reach with impeachment. Clinton has received criticism even from some feminists for the manner in which she treated women who have made accusations against Bill, but Trump is hardly going to benefit from feminist criticism of Clinton considering his record.

Trump could benefit from criticism based upon the fortune Bill and Hillary made from their political positions. The question here is whether voters will see the person who pays out money for political influence as being any better than those who receive money by influence peddling. Personally I see them as just two sides of the same bad coin, but Trump might be able to turn this to his advantage if he can be seen as someone exposing a dirty system.

There is plenty to work with regarding the email scandal. While mishandling of classified information is receiving the most talk these days, Trump might be better off concentrating on other aspects of the scandal. It is best to wait and see what happens with the FBI investigation. If there is any type of adverse report coming out of this, that will be more significant than anything Trump says. If nothing comes out of this, there is no point in making it an issue. I suspect that there will be no prosecution based upon Clinton’s position, even if others at lower levels have been prosecuted for less.

Trump should stick with criticism based upon violating government regulations regarding government transparency, influence peddling, and simply acting foolishly. Of course Trump has hardly been acting like an open-government advocate himself.

The email scandal could help Trump make the argument that Clinton is dishonest. Factcheckers have repeatedly demonstrated that Clinton has been lying on the facts, with Factcheck.org and Jake Tapper at CNN recently showing yet again that Clinton is lying when she claims that what she did was allowed (video above). Of course Trump will have the problem that the factcheckers consider him to be even more dishonest than Clinton.

Benghazi has been repeatedly investigated and there is little there. The major accusations don’t hold up at all. While systemic errors might have increased the risk, the various right wing conspiracy theories regarding the attack have been debunked.  There is no reason to think that the outcome would have been different if someone else had been Secretary of State at the time. This whole scandal has now been reduced to discrepancies between what Clinton told her family and others regarding the cause of the attack. Whether this was an attempt at pre-election spin versus errors made during the fog of war, this is hardly enough to justify further talk of Benghazi. Similarly, many of the other lines of attack coming from right wing sources do not hold up.

Rather than using Benghazi, Trump would be much smarter to campaign against Clinton’s policy on regime change in Libya, as well as her support of military interventionism in Syria and Iraq, along with her overly belligerent attitude towards Iran and Russia. A vote for Clinton is very likely a vote for wars, and for reigniting the Cold War with Russia. Clinton’s hawkishness could cost her the election if Trump could manage to sound coherent on foreign policy, bit it is questionable if he can handle this.

While these major lines of attack from Trump all have problems, Clinton’s strategy looks absolutely out of touch with reality. Greg Sargent interviewed Clinton’s chief strategist, Joel Benenson. He suggested that a major strategy of the campaign will be to argue that Trump has “been in it for himself.” The counter-attacks from Trump regarding the conduct of the Clintons are obvious considering the fortunes they made by capitalizing on their political positions. I’d suggest that Clinton obtain a new strategist, as a campaign based upon the lines outlined by Berenson would greatly increase the chances of a Trump victory in November.

In contrast, Bernie Sanders could easily campaign on the line that Berenson recommends for Clinton. Plus he would not have Clinton’s problems with dishonesty, money in politics, and foreign policy. Nominating Bernie Sanders would be the best way for Democrats to defeat Donald Trump.

Sanders and O’Malley Challenge Clinton On Foreign Policy And Economics In Second Democratic Debate

Democratic Debate 2

After failing to challenge Hillary Clinton in the first Democratic Debate, both Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley put Clinton on the defensive in the second (transcript here). The added focus placed on the terrorist attacks might have played to the candidate who tries to sound the toughest on terrorism, but instead highlighted how (as I discussed  prior to the debate) it was Clinton’s neoconservative foreign policy views, which are essentially the same as George Bush’s, which led to the destabilization of the region and creation of ISIS. While Clinton admits that her vote for the Iraq war was a mistake, this does not get her off the hook for being one of the strongest advocates of going to war. She also demonstrated that she did not learn from her mistake in advocating greater military involvement in Syria and Libya.

Sanders did make a mistake in his opening statement, insisting on sticking with his planned concentration on economic matters rather than shifting to say more about the Paris terrorist  attacks as Clinton and O’Malley did. From there, both Sanders and O’Malley criticized Clinton’s policies, but sometimes appeared to pull back, failing to give the knock out punch before a partisan crowd invited by Clinton ally Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Sanders’ first major criticism of Clinton was blunted by John Dickerson asking him about his statement at the previous debate that “the greatest threat to national security was climate change.” This forced Sanders to defend his previous statement before getting to the more relevant point:

Absolutely. In fact, climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism. And if we do not get our act together and listen to what the scientists say you’re gonna see countries all over the world– this is what the C.I.A. says, they’re gonna be struggling over limited amounts of water, limited amounts of land to grow their crops. And you’re gonna see all kinds of international conflict.

But of course international terrorism is a major issue that we’ve got to address today. And I agree with much of what– the secretary and– and the governor have said. Only have one area of– of disagreement with the secretary. I think she said something like, “The bulk of the responsibility is not ours.”

Well, in fact, I would argue that the disastrous invasion of Iraq, something that I strongly opposed, has unraveled the region completely. And led to the rise of Al Qaeda– and to– ISIS. Now, in fact, what we have got to do– and I think there is widespread agreement here– ’cause the United States cannot do it alone. What we need to do is lead an international coalition which includes– very significantly– (UNINTEL) nations in that region are gonna have to fight and defend their way of life.

In response to follow up questions, which made it clear that Sanders had opposed the invasion of Iraq and Clinton had been in favor of it, Sanders also said, “I don’t think any sensible person would disagree that the invasion of Iraq led to the massive level of instability we are seeing right now. I think that was one of the worst foreign policy plunders in the modern history of United States.” He also discussed other attempts at regime change, concluding, “And that I am not a great fan of regime changes.” Meanwhile Hillary Clinton didn’t help her cause by quoting George W. Bush along with justifying her polices with neocon talking points.

John Heer at The New Republic summed up the danger Clinton is in with her conservative foreign policy views:

…for the first time in this election season, she’s being challenged by Democrats on foreign policy. That’s a very different dynamic than the Benghazi hearing, where the Republican focus on esoteric conspiracy theories made her look good. Against Sanders and O’Malley, she’s having to to defend something larger: her foreign policy vision, which led her to support the Iraq War and later made her a strong advocate for intervention in Libya and Syria. Sanders made a palpable hit by noting the problem with regime change as a policy goal. There are strong echoes here of Obama’s successful challenge of Hillary Clinton in 2008, where sharp differences in foreign policy visions defined the characters.

Clinton was doing so poorly on foreign policy that she had me wondering if she would next say that as president she would tell ISIS to cut it out, as she has said about Wall Street. Matters went from bad to worse for Clinton when the debate turned to her Wall Street ties. Sanders dismissed Clinton’s plans as “Not good enough.” He took a hard line against Wall Street with lines such as, “The business model of Wall Street is fraud.”

Martin O’Malley also put up a strong argument here, saying, “I believe that we actually need some new economic thinking in the White House.” He differentiated himself from Clinton in saying, “I won’t be taking my orders from Wall Street” and dismissing Clinton’s policies as “weak tea.”

Clinton 911 and gender cards

Clinton totally fell apart in trying to respond, relying on both the 9/11 and gender cards, even if these made no sense in this context. Chris Cillizza called this one of “a few verbal and/or policy mistakes that will likely haunt her in the days to come.” Glenn Thrush wrote that, “Wall Street is Hillary Clinton’s golden albatross” and further described her off the wall defenses:

Hillary said something really cray-cray. The pressure of the dual Sanders-O’Malley attack on Clinton’s Wall Street connections prompted her to say one of the craziest things she’s uttered in public during this campaign or any other. When Sanders acidly pointed out that Clinton has raked in millions from the wealthy executives at Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, she riposted with a clever reference to gender politics: “You know, not only do I have hundreds of thousands of donors, most of them small, and I’m very proud that for the first time a majority of my donors are women, 60%.”

Cool. But things got weird. Even though Bill Clinton had close ties to Wall Street (his Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin would go on to become head of Citigroup) and financial sector’s donors ponied up plenty of cash for her 2000 New York Senate run, she claimed that the main reason bankers have flocked to her cause is – wait for it – because of the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. “So I— I represented New York, and I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked,” she said, as the moderators from CBS gaped, gob-smacked. “Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is. I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild. That was good for New York. It was good for the economy, and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists who had attacked our country.”

Needless to say, the remark – delivered in her emphatic shout-voice — raised eyebrows 24 hours after the terror attacks in Paris killed more than 120 people. And it’s not likely to go away…

Alexandra Petri pointed out that she didn’t even play the gender and 9/11 cards all that well:

The only trouble with the Card Playing answer that you have to be a little bit subtle when you deliver this answer or else people will notice what you are doing and their sympathy will evaporate like morning dew and they will say things like “The woman card AND the 9/11 card, wow!”

In fact, later in the evening, a follow-up — from Twitter, no less — (out of the mouths of eggs!) commented: “I’ve never seen a candidate invoke 9/11 to justify millions of Wall Street donations until now.”

Clinton was widely criticized on Facebook and Twitter for these comments, with many women being offended over Clinton’s use of the gender card, and many Democrats objecting to her use of 9/11. Some of the Twitter responses on her use of the 9/11 card were listed here. Clinton is not likely to live down this moment, with a Clinton response when in trouble now likely to be defined as a noun, a verb, a gender reference, and 9/11.

Sanders also had one of the better lines of the evening when he pointed out how we have had much higher marginal tax rates in the past. He said, “I’m not that much of a socialist compared to Eisenhower.” In reality we are not seeing more affluent Democrats avoiding Sanders out of fear of higher tax rates with a recent poll showing Sanders doing the best among Democrats earning over $100,000 per year.

John Dickerson, who did an excellent job as moderator, challenged the manner in which Clinton has been attacking Sanders’ record on guns by distorting their records. He asked, “Secretary Clinton, you’ve said that Senator Sanders is not tough enough on guns. But basically he now supports roughly the same things you do. So can you tell us some of the exact differences going forward between the two of you on the issue of gun control?” He challenged the idea of attacking Sanders based upon a single vote:

JOHN DICKERSON:

Secretary Clinton just a quick follow up, you say that– Senator Sanders took a vote that– on immunity that you don’t like. So if he can be tattooed by a single vote and that ruins all future– opinions by him on this issue, why then is he right when he says you’re wrong vote on Iraq tattoos you for offering your judgment?

HILLARY CLINTON:

I– I said I made a mistake on Iraq. And I would love to see Senator Sanders join with some of my colleagues– in the senate that I– see in the audience, let’s reverse the immunity. Let’s let’s go to the gun makers and tell– on notice that they’re not gonna get away with it.

In reality Sanders had more than a single vote which gun control advocates could disagree with, but far more votes in favor of gun control than his opponents give him credit for. However, Clinton’s support for the Iraq war, along with her continued support for increased military action, is hardly comparable. Sanders has a record of generally supporting gun control, while Clinton has a record of generally supporting military intervention. As I asked during my comments on the debate on Facebook, “If Hillary Clinton hates guns so much, why does she want to send people off to more wars with guns?”

Martin O’Malley pointed out how many times Clinton has flip-flopped on the gun issue:

But Secretary Clinton, you’ve been on three sides of this. When you ran in 2000 you said that we needed federal robust regulations. Then in 2008 you were portraying yourself as Annie Oakley and saying that we don’t need those regulation on the federal level. And now you’re coming back around here. So John, there’s a big difference between leading by polls and leading with principle.

Clinton’s flip-flopping on gun control can be seen in an excerpt from a debate back in 2008 which I quoted extensively here.

Sanders and O’Malley did fail to contradict other statements where Clinton dodged and distorted the truth. They let her get away with using her Benghazi testimony as evidence she can withstand further damage from the FBI inquiry into her personal email server. However Benghazi and the alleged mishandling of classified information under investigation by the FBI are two different matters. Her violations of new transparency requirements instituted under Obama in 2009 is yet another issue independent of Benghazi, and something which Sanders and O’Malley should hold Clinton accountable for.

Sanders also let Clinton get away with totally distorting what a single payer plan is. When she expressed regrets that everything would not be run from the federal government, she had me wondering if she even understands how Medicare is currently run by several intermediaries which typically are responsible for a handful of states, or how Medicaid is currently run by the states.  While Sanders didn’t correct Clinton’s distortions, he did make his principles on universal health care clear in saying, “I want to end the international embarrassment of the United States of America being the only major country on earth that doesn’t guarantee health care to all people as a right and not a privilege.”

Clinton also had a rather absurd response to Sanders’ plan for paying for college tuition in saying, “I disagree with free college for everybody. I don’t think taxpayers should be paying to send Donald Trump’s kids to college.” That makes no more sense than saying we should not provide free education for kindergarten through twelfth grade so that we don’t send Donald Trump’s kids to school. Plus, as Karoli pointed out at Crooks’s And Liars:

Honestly, I don’t want to pay for Donald Trump’s kids to go to school either, but I also doubt any of them would go to school at a public university anyway, so we won’t have to worry about that…So let’s not worry about Donald Trump’s kids and just focus on the majority of kids and parents out there who are going way too far into debt to get educated. There must be a better way.

Sanders and O’Malley further criticized Clinton in their closing comments. Sanders once again called for “a political revolution” and O’Malley echoed the same idea in saying, “will not solve our nation’s problems by resorting to the divisive ideologies of our past or by returning to polarizing figures from our past.” Earlier O’Malley accused Clinton of supporting crony capitalism and I wonder when he will run an ad quoting Clinton as saying “I come from the ’60s, a long time ago.” We are also likely to see this line repeated (if she wins the nomination) should a younger Republican, such as Marco Rubio, be her opponent.

O’Malley did quit well during the debate but Sanders once again dominated the on line buzz on Facebook and Twitter, along with winning the non-scientific online polls. The bigger question is whether showing the stark contrasts between his views and Clinton’s will remind Democratic voters that the same reasons Obama challenged Clinton in 2008 still hold. Mark Halparin pointed out in discussing Sanders,  “If he improves this much again by the next debate, Clinton could have a real problem.” Unfortunately far too few people watched a debate which Debbie Wasserman Schultz scheduled on a Saturday night to minimize viewership. The scheduling of the next debate is even worse (unless the goal is to protect Hillary Clinton from criticism), occurring on the Saturday night before Christmas.

Update: The New York Times has an op-ed entitled Hillary Clinton Botches Wall Street Questions

Middle-class Americans associate Wall Street with the 2008 meltdown of the economy that cost so many their homes and savings. In the debate Mrs. Clinton repeatedly referred to her plan for reining in banks, but offered precious few specifics. This is what happens when Hillary Clinton the candidate gets complacent. The debate moderator, Mr. Dickerson, had even tipped her off before a commercial break that the next topic was Wall Street.

Her effort to tug on Americans’ heartstrings instead of explaining her Wall Street ties — on a day that the scars of 9/11 were exposed anew — was at best botched rhetoric. At worst it was the type of cynical move that Mrs. Clinton would have condemned in Republicans.

One Less Challenger For Hillary Clinton, But Two Liberals Continue To Oppose Her

Chafee Drop Out

The number of challengers to Hillary Clinton has fallen even further. After Jim Webb left the race earlier this week, and Joe Biden announced he is not running, Lincoln Chafee has also dropped out. While he never had a chance, it is a shame that he was not able to do more with his campaign themes of prosperity through peace and support for ethics in government, considering how they respond to two of Hillary Clinton’s biggest faults. (Chafee’s support for conversion to the metric system never had a chance in presidential politics.)

The rapid decrease in the number of candidates running has led to calls for Lawrence Lessig to be included in the debates. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has acted to freeze him out, apparently not happy with his reform message, which runs counter to the politics of Schultz and her preferred candidate, Hillary Clinton. (Should I have said three in the title of the post?)

Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley remain in the race against front runner Hillary Clinton. Clinton has had a good week politically. She did great at the Benghazi hearings. However, being more sane than a bunch of idiot Republican Congressmen is not sufficient to make someone a good choice to be president. Nor does being a polished debater, while wrong on the issues.

While the attacks re Benghazi are nonsense, Clinton’s hawkish positions on Libya, Syria and Iraq, along with her conservative views on economics and social/cultural issues, continue to make her an unacceptable choice. Hopefully the Benghazi witch hunt comes to an end so we can concentrate on the real reasons Hillary Clinton is unfit to be president, both ethically and on the issues.

It is going to be difficult to keep the Democrats from nominating a Republican-lite candidate such as Hillary Clinton, but upsets have happened many times in past nomination battles, including to Hillary Clinton eight years ago. As I have noted multiple times, the national polls are not at all predictive in a nomination battle. A news report from December 2007 described how Clinton had a huge lead over Obama. In December 2003, Howard Dean was pulling away in the polls. Eventual winner John Kerry was in sixth place with only 4 percent, even trailing Al Sharpton.

Stephen Colbert, Larry David, and Bill Maher On Bernie Sanders & The Democratic Race

Larry David Bernie Sanders

With all the tedium of the Benghazi hearings, we can use something more amusing. Here is how a few comedians have recently covered the race, including the first Democratic debate.

Here is Stephen Colbert on the debate, mocking his use of statistics by showing how Bernie Sander would split a check at dinner. Colbert realized that due to Facebook sponsoring the debate, the backdrop will filled with “F CNN.” Noting Sanders’ comments on Hillary Clinton’s email during the debate, Colbert joked, “You know the debate was really uneventful when the banner headline the next day is ‘Elderly Man Not Interested In Email.'”

Here is Saturday Night Live’s take on the Democratic Debate. Larry David received most of the coverage for his amazing impersonation of Bernie Sanders. Alec Baldwin also had a great impersonation of Jim Webb, using his actual positions and showing why it was inevitable that he would drop out of the race. He passed on answering these questions:

“Okay, senator. Sure. You’re the only person here with an A rating from the NRA. Want to tell us why?” His  next question was, “You once said that affirmative action is racist against whites. Explain?”

Bill Maher did a segment showing how the Republicans like Donald Trump hear something totally different when Sanders said something. Watch the video for the full list, with some examples below:

Sanders said, “I supported President Clinton’s effort to deal with ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.”

Republicans  heard, “I will refocus our military on gardening and interpretive dance. We must aspire to the fighting style of the Iraqi Army: tear off your uniforms and run.”

Sanders said:“When I was a young man, I strongly opposed the war in Vietnam.”

Republicans heard, “I would have loved to fight in Vietnam, but for the other side. Not only do I hate our troops, but sometimes I lock John McCain in his office, do a Vietnamese accent and laugh.”

Sanders said that he“has a D-minus voting rating from the NRA.”

Republicans heard, “Rifles are for men with small penises. Every single gun in this country should be confiscated and melted down to make Tony Awards.”

Bill Maher also interviewed Sanders at the start of the show. Video above.

What Bernie Sanders Needs To Learn From The First Democratic Debate

democratic-debate-sanders-clinton

The media continues to declare Clinton was the winner of the Democratic debate, ignoring all those in the focus groups who considered Sanders to be the winner. This underestimates the benefits Sanders received from the debate in gaining greater exposure, increased fund raising, and probably new supporters. However this is how the debates work and Sanders has to play the game. Essentially we have the same pundits who downplayed Sanders campaign from the start declaring Clinton to be the winner.

Unfortunately we cannot just write this off as media bias. Many people base their views of a debate on post-debate media coverage, and Sanders needs to keep this in mind when formulating debate strategy. The debate might have exacerbated Sanders’ long-standing problem. He is far better on the issues than Clinton,and would make a far stronger general election candidate based upon independents and the battle ground states. However Hillary is stronger among partisan Democrats–and unless Sanders brings in far more new voters than expected, they will determine the nomination. We run a great risk of Clinton winning the nomination, and winding up with a Republican president.

I was concerned about Sanders’ unconventional debate strategy prior to the debate. Unfortunately we knew going into the debate that the mainstream media would call it for Clinton based upon matters of being a more polished debater and having the more establishment ideas, and the media would continue to downplay Sanders as they have from the start. They don’t seem to care about how evasive or dishonest Clinton was ,even if some reporters and the fact checkers have pointed this out.

Debate winners have always been based upon how the media represents the debate. Bernie won the focus groups among those actually watching, but unfortunately that is now how it works. A candidate has to win the press coverage, and this does influence the polls. This was only one event, and not too much attention should be placed upon it, but the polls are showing that Clinton did get a bounce from the debate, at least among the Democratic base. NBC News, for example, reports Clinton Wins Debate, Re-energizes Core Backers.

It was not all bad news for Sanders:

Bernie Sanders has picked up considerable steam among young voters, capturing the support of 54% of those under the age of 30 compared to Clinton’s 26%. Among Hispanics, Sanders has more than doubled his level of support, to 33%. He also continues to gain traction among those with a high school degree or less, although Clinton is still outperforming him by 18 points. Fortunately for Clinton, these groups do not tend to turn out in primary elections as strongly as the groups from where she draws her strength.

I think that whether Sanders can win the nomination will come down to whether the big crowds he is attracting turn into actual voters who come out to vote for him. This also makes interpretation of polls more difficult as there is no way to predict how turnout will be among his supporters. Sanders can win if he brings in enough people who are fed up with the system to vote.

Regardless of whether the first debate helped Clinton more, fortunately there are more debates (even if far too few). Sanders is a smart man. I bet he has figured out how the game is played with debates. Hopefully he goes into the next debate prepared with sound bites, prepared to more directly take on Clinton, and better prepared to talk about other issues (where he is right and Clinton is wrong) beyond economics.

Democrats are making a big mistake if they think that a polished performance by Clinton in the debate has done anything to turn around her problems in a general election campaign. While many Democrats mistakingly think the party has a lock on the electoral college, winning the presidency for a third consecutive term will not be easy. I don’t think anyone can really predict what will happen, but in the past week an analysis from Ipsos/Reuters predicts a Republican victory.

Clinton’s weakness among independents and in the battle ground states will make it very difficult for her to win the general election. Sanders received some momentary praise for defending her, but he was wrong. As Philip Bump pointed out after the debate, only Democrats are sick and tired about hearing about Clinton’s email. Independents do care, and this will hurt her in a general election. As The Washington Post also noted, this is not a problem which is going to go away.

While it received applause before a partisan Democratic crowd invited by the DNC, Sanders would have been much smarter to have both denounced the Republicans for playing politics with their Benghazi witch hunt, and criticizing Hillary Clinton for her violation of the rules and unethical behavior as Secretary of State. It shouldn’t have been necessary to wait for the fact check articles to point out how Clinton was repeating the same lies she has been telling for months about the email.

If Sanders had his way, he would talk only about income inequality and economic policy. It is possible he might not even be aware of the facts related to the Clinton scandals. This is not  how to win a campaign. Sanders needs to be prepared to defend transparency in government and criticize Clinton for her abuses. He also needed to be even better prepared to criticize her for her support for greater military intervention in Libya and Syria. He needs to oppose her more strongly on civil liberties and social issues. He must defend his position on guns, both supporting rational gun control and respecting the rights of hunters, as part of an overall difference between Sanders and Clinton on civil liberties issues.  He must make more out of his support, and Clinton’s opposition, to expanding Social Security. He needs to continue to discuss climate change, along with pointing out the weakness of Clinton’s environmental record. 

While the economy is important, Sanders cannot look like a single-issue candidate. Even when talking about the economy, he needs to be better prepared to explain during a debate just how much can be done by increasing taxes on the top one percent. He needs to discuss the socialist ideas which many Americans take for granted, while stressing reforming but not eliminating what is good about our capitalist system.

An updated version of this post appears at The Moderate Voice

The Democratic Debate: Clinton Wins On Style And Gets Support Of Pundits; Sanders Wins On The Issues And Wins The Focus Groups

CNN Democratic Debate

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders each entered the first Democratic debate with different goals, and both accomplished them. Clinton was more polished, with both more debating experience, and having prepared in a conventional manner. She was also better at evading questions she did not want to answer. She won the chattering class. The same journalists who have underestimated Sanders from the start, and have not taken his campaign seriously, say that Clinton won.

Sanders won on the issues, and did what he intended to enhance his campaign. Sanders won the focus groups. He gained 35,163 followers on Twitter, compared to 13,252 for Clinton. Although unscientific and of questionable meaning, he won the online polls by large margins. Alternet summarized:

Bernie Sanders by all objective measures won the debate. Hands down. I don’t say this as a personal analysis of the debate – the very idea of “winning” a debate is silly to me. I say this because based on the only objective metrics we have, online polls and focus groups, he did win.  And it’s not even close.

Sanders won the CNN focus group, the Fusion focus group, and the Fox News focus group – in the latter, he even converted several Hillary supporters. He won the Slate online poll, the CNN/Time online poll, 9News ColoradoThe Street online poll, Fox5 poll, the conservative Drudge online poll and the liberal Daily Kos online poll. There wasn’t, to this writer’s knowledge, a poll he didn’t win by at least an 18 point margin.  But you wouldn’t know this from reading the establishment press. The New York Times, The New Yorker, CNN, Politico, Slate, New York Magazine, and Vox all of which unanimously say Hillary Clinton cleaned house.

Sanders went into the debate with an unconventional preparation as I discussed last week. Sanders did not go into the debate memorizing zingers or planning to try to take down Hillary Clinton. He used the debate to get access to potential voters who were not aware of him, and succeeded. This is also seen in the number of Google searches for him. To some degree this could be the novelty factor, from people who already knew about Clinton but not Sanders, but the large number of people expressing interest is bound to translate into some new supporters.

While Clinton did receive far more favorable reviews from the mainstream media, there are exceptions. Philip Bump at The Washington Post did point out how Sanders was the candidate breaking through. The Chicago Tribune considered Sanders to be the winner. Russell Berman at The Atlantic  argued that Sanders might receive a bigger bounce from the debate than Clinton. As might be expected, many blogs on the left also felt that Sanders won the debate.

With his lack of conventional debate preparation, there were areas in which Sanders could have explained himself better, along with other points where Sanders clearly won on the issues.  He should have been  prepared for a question based upon the recent Meet the Press interview. I recently discussed why the Democratic Socialist label is not hurting Bernie Sanders. Despite the labels he prefers, Sanders seeks to reform capitalism, not eliminate it. It is notable that he did point out his support for small and medium sized business:

SANDERS: I think everybody is in agreement that we are a great entrepreneurial nation. We have got to encourage that. Of course, we have to support small and medium-sized businesses.

But you can have all of the growth that you want and it doesn’t mean anything if all of the new income and wealth is going to the top 1 percent. So what we need to do is support small and medium-sized businesses, the backbone of our economy, but we have to make sure that every family in this country gets a fair shake…

Sanders could have also done a better job on guns, but he did note his D- lifetime rating from the NRA (with Sanders also receiving an F at  least once).

Let’s begin, Anderson, by understanding that Bernie Sanders has a D-minus voting rating (ph) from the NRA. Let’s also understand that back in 1988 when I first ran for the United States Congress, way back then, I told the gun owners of the state of Vermont and I told the people of the state of Vermont, a state which has virtually no gun control, that I supported a ban on assault weapons. And over the years, I have strongly avoided instant background checks, doing away with this terrible gun show loophole. And I think we’ve got to move aggressively at the federal level in dealing with the straw man purchasers.

Also I believe, and I’ve fought for, to understand that there are thousands of people in this country today who are suicidal, who are homicidal, but can’t get the healthcare that they need, the mental healthcare, because they don’t have insurance or they’re too poor. I believe that everybody in this country who has a mental crisis has got to get mental health counseling immediately

While some Democrats will attack his record, I believe that Sanders’ approach of considering both the need for gun control and the rights of hunters to be a stronger position for a general election. Sanders would also be in a stronger position than Clinton to bring both sides to the table to work on sensible gun legislation.

Sanders was more prepared for the questions about Black Lives Matter. Note that Sanders repeated the phrase, but Clinton did not. Sanders wins a point over Clinton in his support for expanding Social Security. In contrast to the Republicans, it was good to see a political party which faced reality on climate change, but there are also aspects of Clinton’s environmental record which could have been challenged.

Sanders was right in arguing that war should only be considered as a last resort. Clinton was unable to defend her mistakes on Libya or Syria, but her opponents could also have done a better job of criticizing her on these. Perhaps it would have been different if Joe Biden was there, considering how he spent four years opposing Clinton’s hawkish views. Sanders was also far better than Clinton when discussing civil liberties, including his opposition to NSA surveillance, and marijuana laws, including opposition to the drug war. Despite calling himself a Democratic Socialist, in many ways Sanders is the most libertarian candidate running from either party (at least for us left-libertarians who concentrate on civil liberties as opposed to greater freedom for giant corporations).

Clinton was right in saying that the economy does better when a Democrat is in office. It was clear that any of the participants in last night’s debate would have been better than the Republicans running. She was knocked for her flip-flopping on the issues. Factcheck.org exposed her for trying to throw her previous statements on TPP down the memory hole:

Clinton revised her earlier position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed trade agreement between 12 Pacific Rim countries, claiming that she merely said she “hoped” it would be a “gold standard.” But her earlier support was more unequivocal.

The topic arose when debate moderator Anderson Cooper asked Clinton if some of her recent position changes were tied to political expediency, and he specifically referenced Clinton’s recent decision to oppose the TPP.

“You supported his trade deal dozens of times. You even called it the ‘gold standard.’ Now, suddenly, last week, you’re against it,” Cooper said. “Will you say anything to get elected?”

Clinton said that over the course of her career, her values and principles have remained consistent, though some positions have evolved as she “absorb[s] new information.”

“You know, take the trade deal,” Clinton said. “I did say, when I was secretary of state, three years ago, that I hoped it would be the gold standard. It was just finally negotiated last week, and in looking at it, it didn’t meet my standards. My standards for more new, good jobs for Americans, for raising wages for Americans. And I want to make sure that I can look into the eyes of any middle-class American and say, ‘this will help raise your wages.’ And I concluded I could not.”

But Clinton didn’t add the “hoped it would be” qualifier when she made the initial comment about the TPP in 2012.

“This TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field,” Clinton remarked in Adelaide, Australia, on Nov. 15, 2012. “And when negotiated, this agreement will cover 40 percent of the world’s total trade and build in strong protections for workers and the environment.”

Two days later, in Singapore, Clinton again sang the praises of the TPP.

“The so-called TPP will lower barriers, raise standards, and drive long-term growth across the region,” Clinton said. “It will cover 40 percent of the world’s total trade and establish strong protections for workers and the environment. Better jobs with higher wages and safer working conditions, including for women, migrant workers and others too often in the past excluded from the formal economy will help build Asia’s middle class and rebalance the global economy.”

The same article also noted that Clinton has repeated some of the same lies she told in the past about the email scandal which have been debunked in the past by fact checkers,

When asked about her unusual email arrangement as secretary of state, Clinton said, “What I did was allowed by the State Department.” That’s not the full story.

Clinton conducted government business exclusively using a personal email account (hdr22@clintonemail.com), and those emails were stored on a private server.

As we have written before, the State Department and the Clinton campaign have cited a National Archives and Records Administration rule issued in 2009 that said federal agencies that allow the use of personal emails must preserve them “in the appropriate agency recordkeeping system.” So personal emails were allowed.

But federal rules also required Clinton to preserve her work emails “at the end of the Secretary’s tenure or sooner if necessary.” She did not turn over copies of her emails to the State Department until Dec. 5, 2014 — nearly two years after she left office on Feb. 1, 2013.

Also, whether the State Department allowed it or not, Clinton’s decision “to conduct all e-mail correspondence through a private e-mail network, using a non-.gov address, is inconsistent with long-established policies and practices under the Federal Records Act and NARA regulations governing all federal agencies,” according to congressional testimony of Jason R. Baron, a former director of litigation at the National Archives, who is now a lawyer at Drinker Biddle.

Sanders’ biggest error was to present statistics for underemployment when making statements about unemployment, and got the ranking of the United States in income inequality wrong.

Sanders did provide an unexpected lifeline to Clinton when the email scandal came up, objecting to discussing this instead of the issues. It makes sense that he would not want to include this in his campaign, especially at a Democratic debate in front of partisan Democrats invited by the DNC. Besides, if Sanders had his way, he would talk about nothing other than income inequality and related economic matters throughout the debate, and the campaign. It is also unnecessary for Sanders to discuss this when there are still around thirty-six FOIA suits in progress along with the Justice Department investigation. If this was a debate in the general election, the Republicans could have raised a lot of valid points against Clinton, and this time would not have had to make things up as with Benghazi. As The Washington Post noted, the email scandal is not a problem which is going away. Sanders can sit back and let it all play out.

While both Clinton and Sanders could claim victories in this debate, the night did not go as well for the other candidates. I thought Martin O’Malley often did a fine job, including setting Clinton straight on economic policy at one point, but so far there are no signs he is receiving credit for this.  He has shown he could make a fine cabinet member, but it is hard to see him becoming a viable candidate for the nomination this year.

I give Lincoln Chafee credit for taking on Clinton over both her support for the Iraq war and over ethics. While he has no chance at becoming president, probably not now or ever, I do hope he remains around in politics, and perhaps in the next administration, to provide a conscience. Unfortunately he will be most remembered for being unprepared for his first vote as a Senator. Jim Webb blew any chance of using this debate to improve his campaign, and probably will only be remembered for having said he killed somebody.

Donald Trump also tried to get in on the action by live-blogging the debate, but he seemed totally over his head when issues came up. Once again, the Democrats showed they were far superior to the Republican candidates.