In Major Economic Speech Sanders Explains That He Supports Principles Of FDR & LBJ, Not Communism As Donald Trump Claims

Bernie Sanders Georgetown Speech

In a speech at Georgetown University, Bernie Sanders explained his economic views, showing that Democratic Socialism is not a form of socialism which opposes free enterprise, and that he is definitely not a Communist as Donald Trump claimed. Full transcript here.

Sanders showed how his economic principles are along the lines of those of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson as opposed to Karl Marx, explaining how Roosevelt’s economic programs were called socialist:

Against the ferocious opposition of the ruling class of his day, people he called economic royalists, Roosevelt implemented a series of programs that put millions of people back to work, took them out of poverty and restored their faith in government. He redefined the relationship of the federal government to the people of our country. He combatted cynicism, fear and despair. He reinvigorated democracy. He transformed the country.

And that is what we have to do today.

And, by the way, almost everything he proposed was called “socialist.” Social Security, which transformed life for the elderly in this country was “socialist.” The concept of the “minimum wage” was seen as a radical intrusion into the marketplace and was described as “socialist.” Unemployment insurance, abolishing child labor, the 40-hour work week, collective bargaining, strong banking regulations, deposit insurance, and job programs that put millions of people to work were all described, in one way or another, as “socialist.” Yet, these programs have become the fabric of our nation and the foundation of the middle class.

Thirty years later, in the 1960s, President Johnson passed Medicare and Medicaid to provide health care to millions of senior citizens and families with children, persons with disabilities and some of the most vulnerable people in this county. Once again these vitally important programs were derided by the right wing as socialist programs that were a threat to our American way of life.

Sanders described the economic challenges we face today:

But, here is a very hard truth that we must acknowledge and address. Despite a huge increase in technology and productivity, despite major growth in the U.S. and global economy, tens of millions of American families continue to lack the basic necessities of life, while millions more struggle every day to provide a minimal standard of living for their families. The reality is that for the last 40 years the great middle class of this country has been in decline and faith in our political system is now extremely low.

The rich get much richer. Almost everyone else gets poorer. Super PACs funded by billionaires buy elections. Ordinary people don’t vote. We have an economic and political crisis in this country and the same old, same old establishment politics and economics will not effectively address it.

Sanders continued to provide considerable detail as to the economic problems we face. For the sake of brevity, and as these are arguments he has repeated multiple times, I advise reading the full speech but will not quote more on this portion of the speech here.

He next explained what he means by democratic socialism:

So let me define for you, simply and straightforwardly, what democratic socialism means to me. It builds on what Franklin Delano Roosevelt said when he fought for guaranteed economic rights for all Americans. And it builds on what Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1968 when he stated that; “This country has socialism for the rich, and rugged individualism for the poor.” It builds on the success of many other countries around the world that have done a far better job than we have in protecting the needs of their working families, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor.

Democratic socialism means that we must create an economy that works for all, not just the very wealthy.

Democratic socialism means that we must reform a political system in America today which is not only grossly unfair but, in many respects, corrupt.

He explained further, but I thought that the portion which might best clear up misconceptions was when he said what democratic socialism is not:

So the next time you hear me attacked as a socialist, remember this:

I don’t believe government should own the means of production, but I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a fair deal.

I believe in private companies that thrive and invest and grow in America instead of shipping jobs and profits overseas.

I believe that most Americans can pay lower taxes – if hedge fund managers who make billions manipulating the marketplace finally pay the taxes they should.

I don’t believe in special treatment for the top 1%, but I do believe in equal treatment for African-Americans who are right to proclaim the moral principle that Black Lives Matter.

I despise appeals to nativism and prejudice, and I do believe in immigration reform that gives Hispanics and others a pathway to citizenship and a better life.

I don’t believe in some foreign “ism”, but I believe deeply in American idealism.

I’m not running for president because it’s my turn, but because it’s the turn of all of us to live in a nation of hope and opportunity not for some, not for the few, but for all.

No one understood better than FDR the connection between American strength at home and our ability to defend America at home and across the world. That is why he proposed a second Bill of Rights in 1944, and said in that State of the Union:

“America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for all our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.”

I’m not running to pursue reckless adventures abroad, but to rebuild America’s strength at home. I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will never send our sons and daughters to war under false pretense or pretenses or into dubious battles with no end in sight.

In other words, despite the scare tactics employed by his opponents, including Clinton surrogates and some supporters, we are no more in danger of a Red Dawn in America than in Vermont when he was a mayor who was friendly to small business development. Sanders seeks to reform capitalism, not to replace it with true socialism.

Sanders also discussed his principles for handling ISIS after the terrorist attacks in Paris. While Hillary Clinton was calling for more military intervention in a speech the same day, Sanders pointed out that we must also avoid the mistakes of the past–the types of mistakes advocated by hawks such as Hillary Clinton:

Our response must begin with an understanding of past mistakes and missteps in our previous approaches to foreign policy. It begins with the acknowledgment that unilateral military action should be a last resort, not a first resort, and that ill-conceived military decisions, such as the invasion of Iraq, can wreak far-reaching devastation and destabilize entire regions for decades. It begins with the reflection that the failed policy decisions of the past – rushing to war, regime change in Iraq, or toppling Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, or Guatemalan President Árbenz in 1954, Brazilian President Goulart in 1964, Chilean President Allende in 1973. These are the sorts of policies do not work, do not make us safer, and must not be repeated.

Sanders called for more international cooperation, including from countries in the region. After considerably more discussion on this topic, Sanders concluded:

The bottom line is that ISIS must be destroyed, but it cannot be defeated by the United States alone. A new and effective coalition must be formed with the Muslim nations leading the effort on the ground, while the United States and other major forces provide the support they need.

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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:


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?


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.

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Terrorist Attack In Paris To Impact Tonight’s Debate: Anti-War Candidate Sanders vs. Neocon Candidate Clinton

Paris Terrorist Attack

The terrorist attack in Paris, which ISIS has taken credit for, has led CBS to alter the emphasis of the second Democratic debate. When news was received of the attack, CBS decided to “focus more on issues of terrorism, national security and foreign relations.”

While the campaign this year has centered more around economic policy, this debate should emphasize another major difference between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. This discussion is likely to bring out Clinton’s hawkish views and  how they differ from the views of Bernie Sanders.  The terrorist attack might help Clinton in appealing to those who respond to terrorist attacks with more fear and mistakingly respond with a desire for greater military force. NPR points out that, “Clinton has always been seen as more hawkish than President Obama, and that’s something that hurt her in 2008, especially in a state like Iowa, which has its caucus roots in the anti-war movement.”

USA Today also noted this could present a challenge to Clinton:

The debate creates a challenge for Clinton, as it magnifies her public split with Obama on his approach to Syria. Several weeks ago, she was critical of Obama by saying there should be a no-fly zone and humanitarian corridors in Syria, something Obama’s rejected.

Clinton has long advocated for a more robust approach in the Middle East to thwart the Islamic State, including when she was a member of Obama’s administration. As a U.S. senator she voted to authorize the war in Iraq, though she has since called that decision a mistake.

Though Sanders voted for the war in Afghanistan, he opposed Iraq and has highlighted that difference with Clinton. Sanders, who believes the Islamic State must be defeated primarily by Muslim nations in the region, opposed Obama’s recent decision to put Special Operations boots on the ground in Syria while a Clinton spokesman said she “sees merit” in the approach.

The challenge for Sanders is to make it clear that he will do what is necessary to defend the country, but that it is the neoconservative views on foreign policy from both most Republican candidates and Hillary Clinton which are largely responsible for the problem.There is a growing consensus in the foreign policy community that the creation of ISIS was a direct response to the US invasion of Iraq.

In the run up to the Iraq war, Clinton was one of the strongest proponents of the invasion, going beyond most supporters in making false claims of an association between Saddam and al Qaeda. Clinton’s hawkishness extends beyond her support for the Iraq war. Besides Iraq, Clinton differed from Obama and most Democrats in her hard line approach to Iran (including opposing Obama’s plans for talks with Iran during the 2008 campaign), and in her support for greater intervention in Syria. Her approach to Libya, which unfortunately Obama did go along with, has been a disaster.

Rand Paul made a point of how both most of his Republican opponents and Hillary Clinton have had the same approach to Syria both in the last debate and on the campaign trail, with Truth-Out explaining why he was right. Discussion of Clinton holding neoconservative views is hardly new, with The Week asking in 2014, Will neocons ditch the GOP for Hillary Clinton? This was based upon a longer story in The New York Times on Clinton’s neoconservative views. Neoconservative Robert Kagan was a key Clinton adviser at the State Department. Clinton has also attacked Obama’s foreign policy after leaving the State Department, echoing (as The Nation pointed out) the far right and neocons. Steve Clemons, Washington editor of The Atlantic, described how Clinton gave “a very neoconservative sounding speech” at the Brookings Institute in September, showing a sharp contrast with Obama’s views. Joe Scarborough has said that Clinton will be “more of a Neocon” than the 2016 Republican nominee.

The debate will also present a challenge for Martin O’Malley to show that he is capable of responding to foreign policy issues.

The debate might also will touch on the vast differences of opinion between Clinton and Sanders on civil liberties as well as foreign policy. Sanders differers from Clinton in having opposed the Patriot Act and NSA surveillance. Beyond her supporting George Bush’s approach to terrorism,  Clinton’s poor record on civil liberties also includes her support for the Workplace Religious Freedom Act , a bill introduced by Rick Santorum and opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union for promoting discrimination and reducing access to health care, leading a campaign to censor video games and introducing a bill making flag burning a felony.Having criticized George Bush in the previous sentence, it is only fair to point out that Bill Clinton also had a  poor record on civil liberties, with Hillary likely to continue this dubious part of his legacy if elected.

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Fourth Republican Debate Primarily Economic Fantasy With Moments Of Sense On Foreign Policy From Rand Paul


This week’s Republican debate (transcript here) was largely a display of the standard Republican misconceptions about the economy, plus Bush and Kasich arguing with Donald Trump about whether you could just deport large numbers of people currently living in the United States. While, once again, he has received the least attention, I found Rand Paul to have the most sensible contribution to a Republican debate, this time arguing with hawkish views which are shared by most of the Republican candidates, along with Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton:

CAVUTO: Senator Paul, you have already said, sir, that that would be a mistake in not talking to Vladimir Putin, or to rule it out. You’ve argued that it’s never a good idea to close down communication. With that in mind, do you think the same applies to administration efforts right now to include the Iranians in talks on Syria?

PAUL: I’d like first to respond to the acquisition, we should — I think it’s particularly naive, particularly foolish to think that we’re not going to talk to Russia. The idea of a no fly zone, realize that this is also something that Hillary Clinton agrees with several on our side with, you’re asking for a no fly zone in an area in which Russia already flies.

Russia flies in that zone at the invitation of Iraq. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but you better know at least what we’re getting into. So, when you think it’s going to be a good idea to have a no fly zone over Iraq, realize that means you are saying we are going to shoot down Russian planes. If you’re ready for that, be ready to send your sons and daughters to another war in Iraq.

I don’t want to see that happen. I think the first war in Iraq was a mistake. You can be strong without being involved in every civil war around the world.

This won’t go over well in a Republican primary battle, but Paul did give shot at trying to reconcile his views with more traditional conservative Republican positions in his closing statement.

PAUL: We’re the richest, freest, most humanitarian nation in the history of mankind. But we also borrow a million dollars a minute. And the question I have for all Americans is, think about it, can you be a fiscal conservative if you don’t conserve all of the money? If you’re a profligate spender, you spend money in an unlimited fashion for the military, is that a conservative notion? We have to be conservative with all spending, domestic spending and welfare spending. I’m the only fiscal conservative on the stage.

The current Republican front runners, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, meanwhile seemed totally clueless on foreign policy, as they frequently appear to be whenever the debates turn to issues.

This also does not mean that Paul made any sense consistently. Earlier in the debate he called for “government really, really small, so small you can barely see it.” How does that reconcile with wanting the government to interfere with the personal decisions of a woman regarding her own body? CNN also debunked Paul’s claim that Democrats are presiding over income inequality.

The rampant misconceptions which dominate Republican thought have already been discussed in many places. Jonathan Chait both debunked some of their false claims and pointed out that these candidates will never satisfy the desire for change, and certainly not reform which I discussed earlier in the week. ” He noted that, “All the candidates prefer to live in a world in which big government is crushing the American dream, and all of them lack even moderately credible specifics with which to flesh out this harrowing portrait.” Later he concluded:

In a debate where chastened moderators avoided interruptions or follow-ups, the candidates were free to inhabit any alternate reality of their choosing, unperturbed by inconvenient facts. Presumably, the general election will intrude, and the nominee will be forced to make a stronger case against what looks, at the moment, like peace and prosperity. listed multiple false statements during both the prime time and undercard debates, with further detail in the full post:

  • Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said that “welders make more money than philosophers.” Actually, those with undergraduate degrees in philosophy earn a higher median income than welders.
  • Businessman Donald Trump said that President Dwight D. Eisenhower had forced out 1.5 million immigrants who were in the country illegally. The federal government claimed it was 1.3 million, but historians say that’s exaggerated.
  • Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said the Tax Foundation calculated that his tax plan “costs less than virtually every other plan people have put up here, and yet it produces more growth.” But the foundation said Bobby Jindal’s and Rubio’s plans both would lead to higher gross domestic product growth over a decade.
  • Cruz also repeated the years-long falsehood that there’s a “congressional exemption” from Obamacare. Members of Congress and their staffs face additional requirements than other Americans, not fewer.
  • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said that his state has had “eight credit upgrades,” but two credit rating agencies moved the state to a “negative” outlook in February. And it faces a $117 million deficit in its most recent budget.
  • Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said he had cut his state budget by 11 percent during the 2001-2003 recession. Over his entire tenure, however, spending went up by 50 percent.
  • Jindal claimed that there were “more people working in Louisiana than ever before.” That’s wrong. There were fewer Louisianans working in September than there were in December 2014.
  • Huckabee said that Syrians make up only 20 percent of the refugees arriving in Europe. The figure is actually 52 percent for 2015.

Further fact-checking and analysis at The New York Times, CNN, AP, and NPR.

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Bernie Sanders Has Excellent Night At Democratic Forum While Hillary Clinton Dodges Questions On Her Record

MSNBC Democratic Forum

We might  have had a full debate rather than a series of interviews at Democratic Forum hosted by Rachel Maddow if not for the limitations on debates imposed by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, but Friday did have a series of good interviews with the Democratic candidates.  Martin O’Malley was interviewed first and overall did well, including taking jabs at both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Still he felt like the warm up act before the main show, with his campaign remaining in serious trouble.

Salon is calling Bernie Sanders’ interview his best moment in weeks,  and he  also received excellent reviews at Slate. This included Sanders getting  the opportunity to explain his strong civil rights record as seen in this video:

And the event included this opportunity for Sanders to be charming and funny:

Plus Sanders  criticized Hillary Clinton on issues including the Keystone Pipeline, campaign finance reform, and deploying troops to Syria:

“Now to me, as opposed to maybe some other unnamed candidates, the issue of Keystone was kind of a no-brainer,” Sanders said, pointing to President Obama’s decision earlier that day to block the TransCanadian oil pipeline. “So I said no to the Keystone on day one.”

Though Sanders complained that it was largely the media trying to play up animosity between the two, “begging me to beat up on Hillary Clinton,” Sanders did take the bait in a way he hasn’t in the past.

“Now, I have many disagreements with Hillary Clinton. And one of them is that I don’t think it’s good enough just to talk the talk on campaign finance reform. You’ve got to walk the walk,” he said.

Sanders also said he was opposed to President Obama’s recent decision to deploy special operation forces to Syria to help battle ISIS. Pointing out he had opposed the Iraq war from the beginning, unlike Clinton, the Vermont senator said he did “not want to see us get in — sucked into a quagmire of which there may be no end.”

Sanders also criticized Republicans for being cowards in trying to suppress the vote, and criticized campaign coverage by corporate media.

Hillary Clinton did have to dodge a bunch of questions. This included her relationship with Wall Street and her opposition to ending capital punishment:

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton says the Wall Street bankers who gave her millions of dollars don’t have any influence over her policy positions.

Asked whether she is too close to Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street special interests to “reel them in,” Clinton replied that “anybody who thinks that they can influence what I can do doesn’t know me very well.”

“They can actually look and see what I have said and done throughout my career,” Clinton told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow at the First in the South Presidential Candidates Forum at Rock Hill, S.C. on Friday.

“I went to Wall Street. I went to the NASDAQ in December 2007 and basically said, ‘You guys have got to stop it. What you are doing is not only a disaster for home owners because of the mortgage foreclosures … but it’s going to have dire consequences for our country.’ ”

Clinton answered most questions confidently, but seemed to get tripped up when Maddow asked about her support for the death penalty – a position opposed by many on the left, including Democratic primary rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Clinton’s answer — crammed with qualifiers — suggested an extreme ambivalence in her position.

Saying they have to stop it is no more convincing than when she said she told Wall Street to cut it out in the first debate.

Maddow also challenged Clinton on her recent fallacious comments on DOMA. She listed areas where Clinton wanted to go use military force contrary to others in the Obama administration, questioning if the election of Hillary Clinton would be more likely to get us into a war. Clinton ignored the examples cited by Maddow, and her long hawkish history, claiming she preferred diplomacy, despite her record, including Libya, Syria, and Iraq. Both Sanders and O’Malley have recently disagreed with Clinton on deploying troops to  Syria.

Clinton also dodged answering questions as to whether she was an introvert or extrovert, and one question which she cannot be blamed for not being able to answer. Maddow asked which of the Republican candidates she would chose as her running mate if they were her only choices, and who could blame Clinton for rejecting them all?

Update: Saturday Night Live’s take on the Democratic Forum can be seen here. Larry David was again fantastic with his impersonation of Bernie Sanders.

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Bernie Sanders Says He Disagrees With Clinton “On Virtually Everything” But Her 2008 Views On Guns Were Remarkably Close To His

Sanders on Guns

The quote of the day has to be Bernie Sanders saying “I disagree with Hillary Clinton on virtually everything,”  in an interview with the The Boston Globe. However, as I will get to below, looking back at old statements from Hillary Clinton on gun control, her views were quite similar to views expressed by Sanders, making her attacks on Sanders  look rather calculating and hypocritical.

The interview in The Boston Globe continues Sanders’ harder line against Clinton seen the last several days:

His more aggressive posture toward Clinton is part of his strategy to draw clearer distinctions between his liberal record and her shifts on major issues including gay rights, the environment, and trade.

“I disagree with Hillary Clinton on virtually everything,” said Sanders during a meeting with the Boston Globe’s editorial board. “What is important is to look at is the record, the track record that Hillary Clinton has had for her long and distinguished career as a public figure.”

Sanders said he was “delighted” that Clinton, the former secretary of state, recently said she opposes the mammoth trans-pacific trade deal. But he noted that she remained silent earlier this year when liberals were trying to find the votes needed to help block legislation.

He also pointed to her recent decision to oppose the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, an issue that was being studied by the State Department when she was in charge of it.

“How many years do you have to think about whether or not we excavate and transport the dirtiest fuel in the world?” he said. “It didn’t take me too long to think about that.”

During the meeting at the Globe, Sanders pushed back on the notion that he inoculated Clinton to criticism over her use of private server during the first Democratic debate when he said “enough about your damn emails.”

“I didn’t let her off the hook,” Sanders said. “There is a process going on in this country. There is an investigation. The FBI is doing what it is doing.”

He added: “Whatever happens with the email thing will happen. I don’t know. I’m not an expert. Let it take place.”

…During his discussion with The Globe, he cited multiple examples of issues where has tried to defend the middle class by on taking powerful interests and casting unpopular votes.

They included his votes against both wars in Iraq, his opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

“You asked me about the differences between Hillary Clinton and myself? I have taken tough votes throughout my entire life,” Sanders said. Later he circled back to the idea: “You are looking at a guy who cast difficult votes.”

During the interview, Sanders conceded that he did not do enough to beat back the false charges of sexism and racism from Clinton which I discussed yesterday.

The interview also turned to Sanders’ record on gun control, which Clinton has distorted while campaigning. The article does point out parts of his record which his critics ignore:

He has voted to ban military-type assault weapons, said he wants buyers at gun shows to submit to background checks, and said that he wants to do more to prevent so-called straw purchases, in which a person prohibited from buying a gun legally circumvents federal background checks.

As I have discussed in a previous post, despite claims that Sanders is pro-guns, the NRA has in various years given him grades of F and D- on gun control measures which he has supported, including bans on assault weapons, restrictions on concealed weapons, ending the “gun-show loophole,” and expanded background checks, plus opposing shortening waiting periods. This is what he said when interviewed by Diane Rehm:

Well, I come from a state which has virtually no gun control. And in Vermont, guns are seen as something people use for hunting, target shooting, antique gun shows. But I realize, and Vermont has realized, that guns in Detroit and Los Angeles are used to shoot at police officers and to commit terrible crimes. So, I believe that we have to do everything we can to make sure that guns do not fall into the hands of people who should not have them. Period.

Sanders’ views on guns don’t sound all that much different from Hillary Clinton’s views in 2008, except that both of them are stressing the issue more now than in the past due to the increase in high-profile gun violence. Listen to these excerpts from a Democratic presidential debate on April 16, 2008:

I’m not sure why the caption on the You Tube video refers to her as “Lady Clinton” but this is the only clip I could find which contains the pertinent portions on gun control. Notice how evasive she is, how she flip-flopped on the issue, and how she raised the same ideas which she attacks Bernie Sanders for. Rather than specifically discussing Vermont as Sanders has, Clinton noted how the situation in New York City is different from Montana or outstate New York. The transcript from this portion of the debate (including portions cut from the video) is under the fold.


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Clinton Escalates Her Smear Campaign; Sanders Takes Off The Gloves

Sanders Aggressive vs. Clinton

Hillary Clinton has already been widely criticized for her dishonest attacks on Bernie Sanders with false claims of sexism, which were reminiscent of how she used racism in her dirty, and unsuccessful, campaign against Barack Obama eight years ago. Now she has turned to racism to extend her smear campaign against Sanders. William Saletan wrote, Hillary Clinton Is Stepping Up Her Smear Campaign Against Bernie: First she suggested the Vermont senator was sexist. Now she’s reaching for the race card.

After summarizing how Clinton falsely accused Sanders of sexism, he described how she is using the race card by twisting another line from Sanders which in no way suggested racism. He noted, “She’s taking Sanders’ remarks out of context and twisting them to breed resentment. You’ve got to twist the facts pretty hard to portray Sanders as a racist or sexist.”

Salon went even further in an article entitled Hillary Clinton’s anti-Sanders smears are completely out of control: Why her latest Bernie broadside is utterly hypocritical. The article also points out that her “her willingness to smear a left-wing opponent is cynical and particularly remarkable coming from a candidate who has supported some of the most anti-black political initiatives of the past three decades.” It summarizes many of policies Clinton backed when Bill was president which ultimately were devastating for black communities, along with Clinton’s position in more recent years:

As late 2008, Clinton staffers pointed to Obama’s criticism of mandatory minimum sentences to suggest that he was too liberal. And Clinton still supports the death penalty, something she quietly clarified in October after what Politifact describes as 15 years of obfuscatory silence. Someone may have advised her that it would be one too many issues to “evolve” on all of a sudden. There is, after all, so much to evolve about.

We can only hope that, as in 2008, we reach a point where Clinton’s smear campaign results in many Democrats reconsidering whether she is fit to be president.

Bernie Sanders has been more willing to directly confront Hillary Clinton. The Wall Street Journal ran an interview with Sanders entitled, Bernie Sanders Takes Gloves Off Against Hillary Clinton in Interview.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is drawing sharper distinctions with front-runner Hillary Clinton, casting her policy reversals over the years as a character issue that voters should take into account when they evaluate the Democratic field.

Sen. Sanders of Vermont, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, also said the federal investigation of the security surrounding Mrs. Clinton’s private email account is appropriate.

In the Democratic debate last month, Mr. Sanders said voters were “sick and tired” of the focus on Mrs. Clinton’s “damn emails.” Afterward, many Democrats and political analysts said that he had appeared to dismiss her use of a private email account and server in her four years as secretary of state.

Mr. Sanders rejected that assessment on Wednesday. If her email practices foiled public-records requests or compromised classified information, those are “valid questions,” Mr. Sanders said…

In an interview on Capitol Hill, Mr. Sanders said he wasn’t daunted, given his starting point as a little-known independent senator from Vermont. And he took time in the interview to cite polls in which he fares better than Mrs. Clinton in a general election showdown against various Republican candidates.

Since he joined the race, he has attracted the largest crowds, with tens of thousands of people coming out to hear his fiery speeches about income inequality and the untrammeled power of the “billionaire class.”

“We had to fight very hard in the last six months to get my name out there, to get my ideas out there,” Mr. Sanders said. “We still have a long way to go with the African-American community, with the Latino community.…But we’re working hard, and I think at the end of the day we are going to pull off one of the major political upsets in American history.”

On the issue of Mrs. Clinton’s emails, Mr. Sanders didn’t say he regretted his debate remarks. “You get 12 seconds to say these things,” he said of the debate setting. “There’s an investigation going on right now. I did not say, ‘End the investigation.’ That’s silly.…Let the investigation proceed unimpeded.”

Mr. Sanders said he has long-held positions on issues that weren’t always popular. Asked about Mrs. Clinton’s recent announcement that she opposed a Pacific trade deal she had once backed, among other changes in position, he said that consistency on such issues “does speak to the character of a person.”

He also said that in 2002 he voted against authorizing the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a measure that Mrs. Clinton supported as a New York senator.

“It is important to see which candidates have the courage to cast tough votes, to take on very, very powerful interests,” he said.

When voters assess whether he or Mrs. Clinton would be tougher on Wall Street financial firms, Mr. Sanders said the choice is clear. Mrs. Clinton has laid out a plan that would levy a risk fee on large banks and says that regulators should use their authority to break up banks that have grown too large. She is against reinstating Glass-Steagall, a Depression-era law that separated commercial and investment banking. That measure was repealed in President Bill Clinton’s administration.

Mr. Sanders supports the re-imposition of Glass-Steagall and has called for breaking up the largest banks.

“I have been walking the walk, not just talking the talk,” he said. He said he took a tough stance against efforts in the 1990s to deregulate the financial sector and suggested that Mrs. Clinton is compromised when it comes to Wall Street regulation, because of donations she has received.

A Wall Street Journal analysis last year showed that financial services were among the largest sources of money Mr. and Mrs. Clinton have taken in since they arrived on the national stage in the 1992 presidential campaign.

“People should be suspect of candidates who receive large sums of money from Wall Street and then go out and say, ‘Trust me, I’m going to really regulate Wall Street,’ ” Mr. Sanders said.

The title is a bit misleading in making it sound like Sanders is just now taking off the gloves, as these are all things he has said before. This includes his clarification that when he did not want to talk about the email during the debate, he did not mean that this is not a subject which should be investigated.

It is a difficult question as to how much Sanders should say about the email during a presidential primary. While independents are concerned, and the issue could very well cost Clinton the election should she be the Democratic nominee, the majority of Democratic voters are oblivious as to how serious the scandal really is. Many Democratic voters attribute the scandal to more false claims from Fox, failing to realize that it has been liberals concerned with government transparency and fighting corruption who have been raising the current charges.

Sanders could have challenged the lies Clinton told about the email scandal during the first Democratic debate which had already been debunked in the past by fact checkers. Her lies were again debunked by fact checking sites such as after the debate:

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 (, 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 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.

My bet is that Sanders, who would probably only talk about economic issues during the campaign if he could get away with it, is not fully aware of all the facts regarding the Clinton scandals which have already been established. We can be certain that if Clinton wins the nomination, the Republicans will repeat them endlessly, further hindering Clinton’s ability to win the general election. In the meantime, it is probably their differences on many other issues, including the economy, Social Security expansionforeign policy, civil liberties, the drug war, capital punishment, and social issues, which will give Sanders a shot at upsetting Clinton for the nomination.

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What Bernie Sanders Needs To Learn From The First Democratic Debate


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

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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. 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 (, 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 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.


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How Negative Will Clinton Go Against Sanders and Biden?

Sanders Raise Money Clinton Super Pac

Considering how dirty her 2008 campaign was against Obama, there has been speculation as to how negative Hillary Clinton will get against Bernie Sanders, and against Joe Biden if he decides to run. The New York Times notes that Clinton must be cautious in debating Sanders:

Over the next week, Mrs. Clinton and her aides will look for the best way to explain to viewers why she is a better choice than her nearest rival without sounding condescending to Mr. Sanders, or dismissive of his views, so she does not risk alienating his growing army of supporters.

“I’ve seen every attack people have thrown at him, and none of them have worked,” cautioned Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont, who supports Mrs. Clinton.

Not all of them have been exactly subtle. In 2004, the Republican challenging him for his House seat sought to deride him as a political oddball. “Crazy Bernie,” an advertisement called him, “a holdover from the Woodstock days of reefer and flowers.” But Vermont voters did not seem to mind…

For Mrs. Clinton, debating Mr. Sanders poses a challenge reminiscent of the more troublesome one she faced in 2008, when Senator Barack Obama’s criticisms of her were widely characterized as fair, but Mrs. Clinton’s efforts to counter them and defend herself often were not.

Already, a “super PAC” supporting Mrs. Clinton showed the risks that can come if an unsuccessful attack on Mr. Sanders blows back. As The Huffington Post reported, the super PAC, Correct the Record, in a document that was intended to be off the record, drew a connection between Mr. Sanders and Hugo Chávez, the socialist president of Venezuela who died in 2013, because Mr. Sanders supported a deal to bring low-cost Venezuelan oil to New England. Mr. Sanders, calling it “the same-old, same-old negative politics,” seized on the report and raised more than $1 million in two days.

More on how Sanders set fund raising records in response to this attack here. Clinton’s dirty campaign in 2008 led many Democrats, such as Ted Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy  to ultimately endorse Obama instead of her, and any dirty tricks from Clinton this campaign might have the same effect.

Clinton might try to attack Sanders’ views but this will be difficult because of how often he has been right on the issues and Clinton has been wrong. Clinton has often avoided discussing the issues in this campaign, and she did not do a good job on education. Alternet reports Hillary Clinton Delivers a Lame Attack on Bernie Sanders’ Free College Tuition Plan. Just wait until they talk about Iraq during the upcoming debate.

Clinton’s attacks on Sanders have generally come through surrogates. Politico reports on how Morning Joe is responding to the use of surrogates:

There’s a mandate on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”: No candidate surrogates or spokespeople can appear on the show until the candidate agrees to be interviewed. And it all started with the Hillary Clinton campaign.

“The rule was put in place for Hillary’s campaign because while just about every other candidate came on, the Clinton team kept trying to put out surrogates and staffers,” host Joe Scarborough told POLITICO. “We finally said ‘not until the candidate comes on herself.’ And then some suggested we have Jeb [Bush’s] people on a month or so ago, but we held to the same policy.”

Bush himself went on the show last week, meaning his surrogates and spokespeople can now appear as well. But Clinton, Ben Carson, John Kasich and Marco Rubio, none of whom has appeared on the show since they announced their campaigns, will have to wait.

“It applies to everybody. It just started with Hillary because her people were aggressive with getting pollsters and spokespeople on, but it applies to everyone,” Scarborough said. “That’s the fairest way to do it.”

While I often disagree with Joe Scarborough, this policy does sound like a good idea.

New York Magazine reports that Clinton’s usual hit-man, former Republican hit-man David Brock, will be leading the attacks on Joe Biden:

If Joe Biden jumps into the Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton will be ready to go on the offensive. According to a source close to the Clinton campaign, a team of opposition researchers working on behalf of Clinton is currently digging through Biden’s long record in office to develop attack lines in case the vice-president runs. The research effort started about a month ago and is being conducted by operatives at Correct the Record, the pro-Hillary superpac founded by David Brock, which is coordinating with the Clinton campaign. According to the source, the research has turned up material on Biden’s ties to Wall Street; his reluctance to support the raid that killed Osma bin Laden; and his role in the Anita Hill saga as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The oppo-research project reveals how seriously Clintonworld is taking the prospect of a Biden candidacy. So far, Clinton hasn’t taken any direct shots at Biden herself. But behind the scenes, her loyalists are making moves to blunt Biden’s campaign should he run. “Even implicitly his campaign’s argument would be ‘I have integrity and you don’t,'” a Clinton ally said. “If that’s the message, this could be messier than Obama-Clinton ’08. At least Obama had the Iraq War vote and could make a case about generational change. This guy” — Biden — “is older than she is and just as conventional.”

A spokesperson for the Clinton campaign declined to comment.

Joe Biden might respond that while they voted the same on the initial Iraq vote, their views otherwise were quite different. Biden spent the next several months looking for alternatives to war while Clinton was one of the strongest advocates of going to war, including making false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. Biden often opposed Clinton’s more hawkish views as Secretary of State. Biden was pushing for Obama to “evolve” on same-sex marriage while Clinton was still opposed to it. Biden did not join up with the religious right while in the Senate as Clinton did. Biden didn’t spend his time in the Senate proposing to make flag burning a felony, or waging a war against video games as Clinton did. While Biden is not my first choice, he is certainly not as conservative as Clinton on social issues and foreign policy. Both Clinton and Biden have problems with regards to their ties to Wall Street and their hard line views on the drug war.

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