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

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

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

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

Political Compass 2016 Candidates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hillary Clinton

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

Bernie Sanders

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

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

Bernie Sanders CNN Town Hall

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

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

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

(APPLAUSE)

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

Secretary Clinton voted to go to war.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So those are just some of the areas…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update: The MSNBC New Hampshire Democratic Debate

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

Bernie Sanders Large Crowd

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

I adore Bernie Sanders.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update: Washington Post Editorial Board Spreading Fictions About Bernie Sanders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jim Webb

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nomination Of Sanders Essential To Prevent Clinton’s Neocon Policies

Sanders On Iraq Vote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now this much is undisputed.

Rosenberg responded:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rosenberg concluded:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salon Article Advocates Writing In Bernie Sanders If Clinton Wins Democratic Nomination

No Clinton

An article at Salon (More like Reagan than FDR: I’m a millennial and I’ll never vote for Hillary Clinton) is receiving some attention for providing reasons why the author would not vote for Hillary Clinton. Walker Bragman began by suggesting that the usual course would be to utilize primaries to try to select the candidate most aligned with the change he wants, and then vote for the lesser of two evils in the general election if it came to this. He argues that this strategy doesn’t apply this year due to the manner in which the DNC is resisting the possibility of selecting a change candidate in rigging the rules for Clinton.

Bragman then went through the arguments as to why he does not want to vote for Clinton. He started with Hillary’s personality repels me (and many others). The section would be better labeled with her character as opposed to personality, as it deals with her dishonesty and double talk.

The next section is more accurately labeled with On foreign policy, Clinton is a neoconservative. This section primarily deals with her approach to handling ISIS, and I would add more regarding her neoconservative views on Iraq and Libya.

The next section is On domestic policy, Clinton is basically a moderate Republican. Many examples are listed to back this up, concentrating on economic policy. I would have included her conservative views on civil liberties and social/cultural issues. Of course an article would have to be quite long to include all the reasons why liberals should not vote for Clinton–and I have pointed out other posts elsewhere along these lines in the past.

The final section is Choosing Hillary threatens the future of the Democratic Party. The section notes the conservative background of New Democrats such as Bill Clinton. I would also take this a step further. Hillary Clinton supports many ideas which Democrats would never accept from a Republican, but many Democrats defend when it comes from Clinton. Similarly, Democrats would be very skeptical of a Republican who received such large contributions from Wall Street, or who benefited financially from parties they were making decisions about. Yet many Democrats ignore unethical conduct from Clinton they would never accept from a Republican. Maybe this wouldn’t hurt the future of the Democratic Party, but it would leave us with a Democratic Party which stands for even less than the party now stands for. That threaten the future of the nation.

The article gives many excellent reasons to vote for Sanders over Clinton in the primaries, along with reasons to be upset if the system gives the nomination to Clinton without a fair fight. However, should Clinton win the nomination, it does not address the fact that the Republican candidate will be even more conservative than Clinton on some issues. While Clinton is more like Reagan than FDR, and is in many ways a combination of George W. Bush and Richard Nixon, the Republican Party has moved much further to the right in recent years.

This leaves the question as to whether it will matter if Clinton or a Republican wins–which is more difficult to say without knowing which Republican will be the GOP nominee. It is definitely possible that there will be no meaningful difference with regards to foreign policy and civil liberties issues if Clinton or a Republican wins. There is the danger that the next president will be hostile to government transparency, and nobody has reached the level of the Clinton corruption in using the office of the presidency to enhance their personal worth. We will probably see a continuation of the surveillance state and of the drug war regardless of whether Clinton or a Republican wins.

The biggest danger in a Clinton presidency would be that many Democrats will support conservative policies, leaving a weak liberal opposition to her policies, while there would be greater unity in opposing what might even be the exact same policies coming from Republicans.

The biggest upside to Clinton winning over the Republicans might be that after campaigning as a progressive for the nomination, she will continue to govern as one. At very least Clinton would support a handful of liberal positions such as reproductive rights if elected. While this would be favorable, it is hardly enough to be happy with the prospect of her election considering her many conservative views. Unfortunately we have already seen her swing to the right on some issues and she has shown throughout her career that she cannot be trusted to stand up for liberal ideas. Much of the differences we now see between Clinton and the GOP candidates are far less differences on the issues and more a matter of which party’s voters they are currently trying to attract.

The biggest differences could be the veto pen and the Supreme Court. There is now the possibility of a bill reaching Obama’s desk to repeal Obamacare from the Republican Congress–and we can be certain it will not be replaced with a single payer system. If this happens, Obama will veto it. Clinton would also veto it, along with other conceivable damaging legislation the Republicans might get through Congress. Clinton would also choose Supreme Court justices from a far different pool than any Republican president would, and it is possible they would be more conventional Democrats as opposed to ones as conservative as she is.

I don’t mean this to argue either way as to whether Sanders supporters should vote for Clinton or write in Sanders should Clinton win the Democratic nomination. It is far too early to argue over this, especially considering that we don’t know who will win either party’s nomination at this point. It is also way too early, and far too annoying, for Clinton supporters to constantly interrupt discussion among Sanders or O’Malley supporters on Facebook, and elsewhere in social media, to ask if they will vote for Clinton in the general election. It certainly shows a degree of insecurity about their candidate that they are so fearful that many Democrats will not turn out to vote for their candidate in the general election.

Not living in a battle ground state also makes it far easier for me to consider what would amount to a protest vote should Clinton win the nomination, while I might vote differently if I anticipated a situation like Florida in 2000. Rather than writing in Sanders, as many now say they will do, I would first take a closer look at the Green Party, feeling that this might help build a more long term opposition force from the left than writing in Sanders would. This is about policy positions, not personalities. And as for the comparison to Gore in 2000, there is a major difference. It was unfortunate that Bush and not Gore won due to their different views on foreign policy, leading to the Iraq war. In this case, Clinton shares the neoconservative views which we would have been better off keeping out of office in 2000.

An updated version of this post which elaborates more on some of the issues raised has been posted at The Moderate Voice

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.

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.

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