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

Edward Snowden Continues To Bring Out Differences Between Civil Libertarians And Advocates Of The Surveillance State

Edward Snowden We The People

The recent vote by the European Parliament calling on member states to protect whistle blower Edward Snowden from extradition and  prosecution, while largely symbolic, demonstrates how the United States government is conservative by international standards. This was seen again in the past week when, with absolutely no evidence to back them, some in the intelligence community used the recent terrorist attack in Paris to make Snowden the scapegoat. Glenn Greenwald has debunked these arguments:

The CIA’s former acting director, Michael Morell, blamed the Paris attack on Internet companies “building encryption without keys,” which, he said, was caused by the debate over surveillance prompted by Snowden’s disclosures. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) blamed Silicon Valley’s privacy safeguards, claiming: “I have asked for help. And I haven’t gotten any help.”

Former CIA chief James Woolsey said Snowden “has blood on his hands” because, he asserted, the Paris attackers learned from his disclosures how to hide their communications behind encryption. Woolsey thus decreed on CNN that the NSA whistleblower should be “hanged by the neck until he’s dead, rather than merely electrocuted.”

The CIA’s blame-shifting game, aside from being self-serving, was deceitful in the extreme. To begin with, there still is no evidence that the perpetrators in Paris used the Internet to plot their attacks, let alone used encryption technology.

CIA officials simply made that up. It is at least equally likely that the attackers formulated their plans in face-to-face meetings. The central premise of the CIA’s campaign — encryption enabled the attackers to evade our detection — is baseless.

Even if they had used encryption, what would that prove? Are we ready to endorse the precept that no human communication can ever take place without the U.S. government being able to monitor it? To prevent the CIA and FBI from “going dark” on terrorism plots that are planned in person, should we put Orwellian surveillance monitors in every room of every home that can be activated whenever someone is suspected of plotting?

The claim that the Paris attackers learned to use encryption from Snowden is even more misleading. For many years before anyone heard of Snowden, the U.S. government repeatedly warned that terrorists were using highly advanced means of evading American surveillance…

Greenwald elaborated more on this, and concluded with a general warning about how the government uses terrorism as an excuse to infringe upon civil liberties:

What the Snowden disclosures actually revealed to the world was that the U.S. government is monitoring the Internet communications and activities of everyone else: hundreds of millions of innocent people under the largest program of suspicionless mass surveillance ever created, a program that multiple federal judges have ruled is illegal and unconstitutional.

That is why intelligence officials are so eager to demonize Snowden: rage that he exposed their secret, unconstitutional schemes.

But their ultimate goal is not to smear Snowden. That’s just a side benefit. The real objective is to depict Silicon Valley as terrorist-helpers for the crime of offering privacy protections to Internet users, in order to force those companies to give the U.S. government “backdoor” access into everyone’s communications. American intelligence agencies have been demanding “backdoor” access to encryption since the mid-1990s. They view exploitation of the outrage and fear resulting from the Paris attacks as their best opportunity yet to achieve this access.

The key lesson of the post-9/11 abuses — from Guantanamo to torture to the invasion of Iraq — is that we must not allow military and intelligence officials to exploit the fear of terrorism to manipulate public opinion. Rather than blindly believe their assertions, we must test those claims for accuracy. In the wake of the Paris attacks, that lesson is more urgent than ever.

The controversy over Edward Snowden’s actions has become apart of this year’s election debates. Hillary Clinton’s comments on Snowden in the first Democratic Debate were just one of many falsehoods from Clinton which went unchallenged during the debate. Nick Gillepsie and Amanda Winkler called Clinton’s comments on Snowden her biggest lie of the debate:

What was Hillary Clinton’s biggest lie during the first Democratic debate?

That NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden could have gone through official channels.

“He broke the laws,” said Clinton. “He could have been a whistleblower, he could have gotten all the protections of being a whistleblower.”

More important is the experience of NSA and intelligence whistleblowers who came before Snowden.

“Tom Drake, Bill Binney, Kirk Wiebe, and Ed Loomis did go through the proper channels,” says Radack. “And all of them fell under criminal investigations for having done so.”

Hillary Clinton has a right her own opinion about the value and damage done by Snowden’s revelations, but she’s simply not credible when she argues he could have worked through official channels.

Martin O’Malley also took a hard line on Snowden during the debate. In contrast, Bernie Sanders has called for clemency or a plea agreement for Snowden. He took the most moderate approach towards Snowden during the first debate:

SANDERS: I think Snowden played a very important role in educating the American people to the degree in which our civil liberties and our constitutional rights are being undermined.

COOPER: Is he a hero?

SANDERS: He did — he did break the law, and I think there should be a penalty to that. But I think what he did in educating us should be taken into consideration before he is (inaudible)

Sanders also defended privacy rights against NSA surveillance during the debate:

Well, I would shut down — make — I’d shut down what exists right now is that virtually every telephone call in this country ends up in a file at the NSA. That is unacceptable to me. But it’s not just government surveillance. I think the government is involved in our e-mails; is involved in our websites. Corporate America is doing it as well. If we are a free country, we have the right to be free. Yes, we have to defend ourselves against terrorism, but there are ways to do that without impinging on our constitutional rights and our privacy rights.

Snowden has received support world wide from civil libertarians and activists against tyranny. The most recent example came from Chinese activist Ai Weiwei:

Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei has expressed alarm about the growth of state surveillance and praised US whistleblower ­Edward Snowden for speaking out about the “technology monster”.

Ai is due in Australia next month for a show at the ­National Gallery of Victoria, where he will share top billing with the late American pop artist Andy Warhol.

Speaking in Berlin, where he runs a studio in tandem with ­another in Beijing, Ai told The Weekend Australian that Snowden was “one of the great heroes” for sharing information about government control.

Ai carries two iPhones, and a picture of Snowden — the National­­ Security Agency contractor who revealed domestic spying in the US — is printed on the back of both.

“This guy should have a Nobel Peace Prize if anybody ­deserves that,” he said. “But, of course, he could not stop it. He just told the people that’s what’s happening.

“Of course, what happened then is a nightmare, this young guy just had to sacrifice everything for saying that.”

Sanders Should Pay As Much Attention To Clinton’s Ties To The Military-Industrial Complex As To Wall Street

hillary_clinton_warmonger_460

There’s been considerable concern, for good reason, about Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street ties, but I don’t think this is the biggest problem to be concerned about should she be elected. I am even more worried about her neoconservative foreign policy views, and being a lackey for the military-industrial complex.

Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, described the problem, starting with discussion of John F. Kennedy. Perhaps Ted Kennedy even thought of the vast differences between Clinton and his brother when endorsing Obama over Clinton in 2008.

Sachs wrote that, in her speech before the Council on Foreign Relations, Clinton “doubled down on the existing, failed U.S. approach in the Middle East, the one she pursued as Secretary of State.”

In rare cases, great presidents learn to stand up to the CIA and the rest of the military-industrial-intelligence complex. JFK became one of the greatest presidents in American history when he came to realize the awful truth that his own military and CIA advisors had contributed to the onset of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The CIA-led Bay of Pigs fiasco and other CIA blunders had provoked a terrifying response from the Soviet Union. Recognizing that the U.S. approach had contributed to bringing the world to the brink, Kennedy bravely and successfully stood up to the warmongering pushed by so many of his advisors and pursued peace, both during and after the Cuban Missile Crisis. He thereby saved the world from nuclear annihilation and halted the unchecked proliferation of nuclear arms.

Clinton’s speech shows that she and her advisors are good loyalists of the military-industrial-intelligence complex. Her speech included an impressive number of tactical elements: who should do the bombing and who should be the foot soldiers. Yet all of this tactical precision is nothing more than business as usual. Would Clinton ever have the courage and vision to push back against the U.S. security establishment, as did JFK, and thereby restore global diplomacy and reverse the upward spiral of war and terror?

Just as the CIA contributed to the downward slide to the Cuban Missile Crisis, and just as many of JFK’s security chiefs urged war rather than negotiation during that crisis, so too today’s Middle East terrorism, wars, and refugee crises have been stoked by misguided CIA-led interventions. Starting in 1979, the CIA began to build the modern Sunni jihadist movement, then known as the Mujahedeen, to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The CIA recruited young Sunni Muslim men to fight the Soviet infidel, and the CIA provided training, arms, and financing. Yet soon enough, this US-created jihadist army turned on the US, a classic and typical case of blowback.

The anti-U.S. and anti-Western blowback started with the first Gulf War in 1990, when the U.S. stationed troops throughout the region. It continued with the Second Gulf War, when the U.S. toppled a Sunni regime in Iraq and replaced it with a puppet Shia regime. In the process, it dismantled Saddam’s Sunni-led army, which then regrouped as a core part of ISIS in Iraq.

Next the U.S. teamed up with Saudi Arabia to harass, and then to try to topple Bashir al-Assad. His main crime from the perspective of the U.S. and Saudi Arabia: being too close to Iran. Once again, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia turned to Sunni jihadists with arms and financing, and part of that fighting force morphed into ISIS in Syria. The evidence is that the covert U.S. actions against Assad pre-date the overt U.S. calls for Assad’s overthrow in 2011 by at least a couple of years.

In a similar vein, the U.S. teamed up with France and the UK to bomb Libya and kill Muammar Qaddafi. The result has been an ongoing Libyan civil war, and the unleashing of violent jihadists across the African Sahel, including Mali, which suffered the terrorist blow last week at the hands of such marauders.

Thanks to America’s misguided policies, we now have wars and violence raging across a 5,000-mile stretch from Bamako, Mali to Kabul, Afghanistan, with a U.S. hand in starting and stoking the violence. Libya, Sudan, the Sinai, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan are all cases where the U.S. has directly intervened with very adverse results. Mali, Chad, Central African Republic, Somalia are some of the many other countries indirectly caught up in turmoil unleashed by U.S. covert and overt operations…

An election between Clinton and any of the likely Republican candidates would offer no real choice. Clinton’s plan to handle ISIS is unlikely to work. We can only hope that Clinton can be defeated for the Democratic nomination. Sachs ended by contrasting Clinton’s views with those of Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders:

 O’Malley and Sanders wisely and correctly support an America that works with other countries and with the UN Security Council to build peace in the Middle East rather than an America that continues to indulge in endless and failed CIA adventures of regime change and war. While Clinton arrogantly demands that other countries such as Russia and Iran fall squarely behind the U.S., O’Malley and Sanders recognize that it is through compromise in the UN Security Council that we can defeat ISIS and find lasting solutions in the Middle East.

Whether Clinton could ever break free of the military-industrial complex remains to be seen. If she does become president, our very survival will depend on her capacity to learn.

O’Malley and Sanders did criticize Clinton’s foreign policy views in the second Democratic debate, but it is clear that Bernie’s heart is in attaching her Wall Street ties. I wish he would pay as much attention to her ties to the military-industrial complex and her overly hawkish foreign policy views. It could be hard running against those who pander to fear, but it is important to do if we are to avoid perpetual warfare under either Clinton or a Republican president. As the most popular Senator in America, Sanders might be able to pull this off. Iowa has long been a strong state for anti-war movements, and the Democratic primary voters should respond to this issue.

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.

Sanders Wins Mock Election In Landslide But Can We Believe This, Or Even The Conventional Polls?

Sanders Mock Election

The above electoral map prediction from Western Illinois University has received a lot of attention, especially among supporters of Bernie Sanders, for showing Sanders winning in a landslide. Some argue that we should take this seriously because the mock election model has been right in every election it was used in since 1975. The catch is that it was only used three times since 1975. They deserve some credit for correctly predicting victories for Jimmy Carter over Gerald Ford before many people had heard of Carter, and for predicting the election of Obama when many were (as with Sanders now) claiming he was unelectable.

While I would love for this to be true, it is also very hard to accept the results in specific states, such as Sanders winning Mississippi and Georgia but losing in Hawaii and Maryland. Of course the claims of being right are limited to the final results and not accuracy of state by state predictions. A victory for Sanders, even if closer and involving a different set of states, would still be welcome.

It is easy to dismiss this prediction, and I could not blame either Clinton or the Republicans for denying any meaning to it beyond the enthusiasm of college students for Sanders. The bigger question this year is whether we can believe the conventional polls, especially when they are being used to determine who qualifies for the debates, which can potentially influence the outcome. Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie have been eliminated from Tuesday’s main debate, along with George Pataki and Lindsay Graham being excluded from the undercard debate. Even some pollsters have argued that the polls should not be used in this manner.

One problem is that the Republican candidates are too close together to use the polls to separate them. Then there is the question of whether the polls are all that accurate in predicting a primary election well before the vote. I’ve followed the Democratic primaries far more closely, and have noted many times how little predictive value the polls have. This polling report from December 2007 described how Clinton had a huge lead over Obama. In December 2003, Howard Dean was pulling away in the polls. Eventual winner John Kerry was in sixth place with only 4 percent, even trailing Al Sharpton.

Among the problems with these polls, many voters in states such as Iowa and New Hampshire do not decide until the last minute. People are far more likely to switch between relatively similar members of their own party than they are to switch from a liberal Democrat to a conservative Republican in a general election. Pollsters also adjust the raw results based upon projections as to who will actually vote, but that is difficult to predict. Some polls this year are basing their prediction upon whether someone voted in previous Democratic primaries, but this excludes the people are who, at least from discussions on line, are saying they have just recently registered to vote Democratic in order to vote for Sanders. There is no good way to determine how many of these people, or how many who are turning out in huge numbers for Sanders events, will really vote. The results out of Iowa and New Hampshire could radically alter the results in subsequent states when the media covers the winners more favorably and voters see them in a new light.

Pollsters are having an even more difficult time. An article at The New Yorker described how much fewer people are even responding to polls:

The participation rate—the number of people who take a survey as a percentage of the population—is far lower. Election pollsters sample only a minuscule portion of the electorate, not uncommonly something on the order of a couple of thousand people out of the more than two hundred million Americans who are eligible to vote. The promise of this work is that the sample is exquisitely representative. But the lower the response rate the harder and more expensive it becomes to realize that promise, which requires both calling many more people and trying to correct for “non-response bias” by giving greater weight to the answers of people from demographic groups that are less likely to respond. Pollster.com’s Mark Blumenthal has recalled how, in the nineteen-eighties, when the response rate at the firm where he was working had fallen to about sixty per cent, people in his office said, “What will happen when it’s only twenty? We won’t be able to be in business!” A typical response rate is now in the single digits.

Another problem is that fewer people have landlines:

Even if more people could be persuaded to answer the phone, polling would still be teetering on the edge of disaster. More than forty per cent of America’s adults no longer have landlines, and the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act bans autodialling to cell phones. (The law applies both to public-opinion polling, a billion-dollar-a-year industry, and to market research, a twenty-billion-dollar-a-year industry.) This summer, Gallup Inc agreed to pay twelve million dollars to settle a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of everyone in the United States who, between 2009 and 2013, received an unbidden cell-phone call from the company seeking an opinion about politics. (Gallup denies any wrongdoing.) In June, the F.C.C. issued a ruling reaffirming and strengthening the prohibition on random autodialling to cell phones. During congressional hearings, Greg Walden, a Republican from Oregon, who is the chair of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, asked F.C.C. chairman Tom Wheeler if the ruling meant that pollsters would go “the way of blacksmiths.” “Well,” he said, “they have been, right?”

Difficulties in polling people over a cell phone will also bias the poll toward older voters, as opposed to younger voters who do not have a landline.

With the accuracy of polls in question, perhaps it should not come as a surprise that so few candidates have dropped out. Any conventional Republican candidate can have hopes that outsiders like Donald Trump and Ben Carson will lose in Iowa and New Hampshire, and that their chances are as good as any other candidate’s of being at or near the top.

Both Sanders or Clinton have reasonable hopes for winning the first two states. There is also the possibility that the Democratic electorate might turn more towards Sanders as he gets his message out due to a desire, as Greg Sargent has written in describing the research of Stan Greeenberg, “a reform agenda geared to reducing the influence of the wealthy, the lobbyists, and the special interests.” While Hillary Clinton can sound more liberal by copying ideas from Sanders and O’Malley during the nomination battle, voters should wonder about what happens if she is elected. Where will she get ideas from, how will she know how to respond to new issues, and what will keep her from expressing her naturally conservative inclinations?

While currently far behind in the polls, even Martin O’Malley, who has spent a lot of time in Iowa, might have a chance of doing far better that he currently polls in a state where organization is often what counts and upsets are common.

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.

Sanders Expanding Campaign With First Ad And Hispanic Outreach

Bernie Sanders has released his first ad–video above. Transcript follows:

Voice Over

The son of a Polish immigrant who grew up in a Brooklyn tenement.

He went to public schools, then college where the work of his life began.

Fighting injustice and inequality.

Speaking truth to power.

He moved to Vermont, won election and praise — as one of America’s best Mayors.

In Congress, he stood up for working families and for principle

Opposing the Iraq War.

Supporting veterans.

Now, he’s taking on Wall Street and a corrupt political system.

Funded by over a million contributions.

Tackling climate change to create clean energy jobs.

Fighting for living wages, equal pay and tuition-free public colleges

Bernie Sanders

“People are sick and tired of establishment politics and they want real change.”

Voice Over

Bernie Sanders.

Husband.  Father. Grandfather.

An honest leader — building a movement with you, to give us a future to believe in.

Bernie Sanders

“I’m Bernie Sanders and I approve this message.”

Sanders Dreamers

Sanders is also working on strengthening his campaign in other ways, including hiring Erika Andioila, called “the best known immigration activist in the country” by Buzzfeed:

Erika Andiola, the most well-known immigration activist in the country, is joining the Bernie Sanders campaign, according to three sources with knowledge of the hire.

It’s a big splash in the immigration movement, as Andiola is respected up and down the loosely connected advocacy apparatus that includes groups close to the Democratic establishment, groups far to the left, and undocumented immigrants in local communities, where Andiola has worked across the country.

Andiola joins her boyfriend Cesar Vargas, himself a high-profile DREAMer activist, who was hired by Sanders last week and will also focus on Latino outreach in the southwest states, with Nevada and its early caucus, a focal point…

Martin O’Malley’s campaign and Director of Public Engagement Gabriela Domenzain also used Andiola, along with other activists, as a sounding board as they crafted their immigration policy.

Andiola has long explained that her objective during the cycle was to push Clinton, the presumed favorite for the Democratic nomination, to the left on immigration.

Now she joins Sanders, who has now hired a string of activists long-involved in immigration battles. In addition to Andiola and Vargas, the Sanders campaign recently hired Arturo Carmona of Presente to lead Latino outreach, and named Javier Gonzalez formerly of SEIU the campaign’s Nevada field director.

There has been previous interest in Bernie Sanders by Latinos. For example, In July, César Vargas wrote about Why Latinos Should Vote for Bernie Sanders and Why He Needs Us for HuffPost Latino Voices.

The campaign for the Democratic nomination is now down to Clinton, Sanders, and O’Malley. Lawrence Lessig has dropped out due to being frozen out of the debates.

Sanders and O’Malley Express Reservations On Troops On Syria While Clinton Flip Flops On Another Issue

Clinton Flip Flop

Barack Obama’s decision to send limited troops into Syria has shown the predictable divisions in the Democratic field. Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley have expressed strong reservations, while Hillary Clinton has taken only seventeen days to flip flop on her position regarding troops on the ground.

The Washington Post reported on Sanders’ reservations:

Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders voiced concerns Friday about President Obama’s decision to dispatch a small number of Special Operations troops to northern Syria, saying through a spokesman that he fears the United States could be drawn into “the quagmire of the Syrian civil war.”

The independent senator from Vermont “believes that the crisis in Syria will be solved diplomatically, not militarily,” Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs said in a statement.

Sanders, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for the White House, was asked about the issue later Friday by an audience member at a town hall in Derry. He said that he agrees with Obama’s overall objective to provide support to groups and countries battling the Islamic State in the region.

But Sanders added: “You have a quagmire in a quagmire. . . . My nightmare is that we get sucked into a never-ending war in that part of the world.”

Stars and Stripes also note his “concern about the United States being drawn into the quagmire of the Syrian civil war which could lead to perpetual warfare in that region.

Martin O’Malley also expressed concerns while campaigning in Iowa. The Souix City Journal reported:

ISIS must be stopped, and the U.S. should support the coalition to defeat the Syria-based Islamic militant group, former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley said Friday.

But the Democratic presidential candidate hesitated to support a move that would place U.S. troops on the ground, pointing to past examples of U.S. interference in Middle Eastern affairs.

“We have to stay involved, but we also have to be very, very cautious because it’s hard to point to an example where putting American boots on the ground gave us the desired result in the last 15 years,” O’Malley s

O’Malley’s comments came hours after the White House announced that Democratic President Barack Obama had authorized the deployment of fewer than 50 special operations U.S. troops in the Kurdish-controlled region of Syria.

If elected, O’Malley said he’d like to find ways to cut off ISIS’ finances and stop its propaganda.

Hillary Clinton has previously advocated a no-fly zone in Syria, with Sanders disagreeing. On October 13 at the first Democratic Debate, Hillary Clinton said, “We don’t want American troops on the ground in Syria.”  It only took Clinton seventeen days to flip-flop on this position. On October 30 Clinton’s campaign released this statement:

Hillary Rodham Clinton supports the decision by President Barack Obama to deploy a small number of special operations forces to northern Syria to work with local ground forces in the fight against Islamic State militants. Campaign spokesman Nick Merrill said in a statement that Clinton “sees merit in the targeted use of special operations personnel.’ He added that Clinton also strongly ‘supports ongoing diplomatic efforts to end the conflict.’

Clinton’s quick reversal on this issue reinforces the view that her more progressive statements while campaigning for the Democratic nomination provide no guarantee that she will not return to her more conservative views if elected.

Republican candidates also took the expected positions.  Rand Paul opposed sending in ground troops. The Des Moines Register reports:

 Sen. Rand Paul said Saturday he is not ready to “send our sons and daughters back to a war in Iraq,” but is “not completely for doing nothing” to fight the Islamic State.

The Kentucky senator spoke to members of the Jasper County Farm Bureau in Newton before taking a tour of a pipeline farm in Reasnor. Paul touched on a variety of rural issues in front of the small group, but was firm on his stance on Syria following the news that the Obama administration will send 50 special operations soldiers to consult with rebel groups fighting ISIS.

“The fighting on the ground needs to be done by the people who live there,” he said. “The Sunnis will have to rise up and say ‘enough is enough.'”

Paul said while the radical group needs to be fought, it should not be by the United States military. He said he “would help the Kurds fight” but is against putting troops in Syria because the first Iraq War was bad for foreign relations and the national debt.

In contrast, Chris Christie took the more conventional Republican line, stating he believes the military should go “whole hog.”

The New Jersey governor and Republican presidential candidate addressed the issue during a town hall in response to news that the Obama administration approved up to 50 special operations soldiers to enter Syria and work as military advisers with rebel groups fighting the group known as ISIS.

“For me, this is too little. too late from the president, and if you’re going to involve American troops, you’d better go whole hog,” he said.

The U.S. should deploy boots on the ground only if the strategy of arming U.S. allies in the region fails to defeat ISIS, Christie added.

“I think we have to keep American troops as an option on the table, but to me it is a later option, not a first option, and the president should have been doing all these other things first,” he said.

Quick tip for Chris Christie: Think twice before using terms like “whole hog” as the listener might conjure up a different image when  you say this than  you desire.

Update:  Donald Trump expressed opposition to Obama’s plan, but he hardly expressed an anti-war viewpoint. He opposed limiting to fifty people, telling CNN, “You either do it or you don’t do it. Fifty people. He puts 50 people.” Trump also supports returning ground troops to Iraq.

Marijuana And The Death Penalty: Sanders and Clinton Engage In More Significant Off Stage Debate Than The Republicans In Colorado

Bernie Sanders Marijuana

The third Republican debate was widely considered to be a train wreck. It was probably the worst for Jeb Bush as it largely turned into an excuse for pundits to write off his chances to win the Republican nomination. Failing to inspire enthusiastic support is a greater political sin than to fail to show up to one’s job in the Senate (a failing common to candidates running for the presidential nomination of either party). Meanwhile the Democratic candidates have spent the last couple of days disagreeing over issues, including marijuana and the death penalty.

While the Democrats could not actually debate, as this would violate Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s rules, they had a far more interesting disagreement on the issues. Marijuana barely came up at the Republican debate in Colorado, where recreational use has been legalized, but Bernie Sanders did make major news on the issue. He took a position quite different from the pro-drug war views of Hillary Clinton, and far more significant than Martin O’Malley’s position:

Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders announced his support Wednesday for removing marijuana from a list of the most dangerous drugs outlawed by the federal government — a move that would free states to legalize it without impediments from Washington…

“Too many Americans have seen their lives destroyed because they have criminal records as a result of marijuana use,” Sanders told a live audience of more than 1,700 students, which erupted with applause. “That’s wrong. That has got to change.”

No other presidential candidate has called for marijuana to be completely removed from the schedule of controlled substances regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Long-shot Democratic hopeful Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland, has said that he would put marijuana on Schedule 2, a less-strict designation. The party’s front-runner, Hillary Rodham Clinton, has repeatedly said she wants to see how legalization experiments in Colorado, Washington and other states play out before committing to any changes at the federal level…

His plan would also allow marijuana businesses currently operating in states that have legalized it to use banking services and apply for tax deductions that are currently unavailable to them under federal law.

Sanders previously indicated his interest in legalization of marijuana when appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Sanders’ proposal would put an end to raids by the federal government on medical marijuana facilities where medical marijuana is legal and block the current impediments to research on medical uses of marijuana. Wonkblog also points out that this would restore marijuana to the status which was intended before Richard Nixon interfered. (With Hillary Clinton taking the more Nixonian position here, it is yet another in a long list of similarities between Clinton and Nixon which seem to keep coming up).

Marijuana was originally placed on Schedule 1 as a temporary measure in 1970 while a government-convened panel of experts figured out how to handle it from a legal standpoint. Two years later, the panel recommended complete decriminalization of small amounts of the drug: “the Commission recommends … [that the] possession of marijuana for personal use no longer be an offense, [and that the] casual distribution of small amounts of marijuana for no remuneration, or insignificant remuneration, no longer be an offense.”

But President Richard Nixon ignored his own commission’s findings and kept marijuana on Schedule 1, saying “we need, and I use the word ‘all out war,’ on all fronts” when it came to weed.

Sanders and Clinton also disagreed on the death penalty this week:

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) stood by his long-standing opposition to the death penalty on Thursday, calling for an end to the policy during a Senate speech on criminal justice.

“When we talk about criminal justice reform, I believe it is time for the United States of America to join almost every other Western, industrialized country on Earth in saying no to the death penalty,” Sanders said during his speech on the Senate floor. “We are all shocked and disgusted by some of the horrific murders that we see in this country, seemingly every week. And that is precisely why we should abolish the death penalty. At a time of rampant violence and murder, the state should not be part of that process.”

Sanders’ remarks come one day after former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is also running for president, came out against ending capital punishment, adding that she believes the use of the death penalty should be “very limited and rare.”

…The Vermont senator has publicly opposed the death penalty for his entire tenure in Congress. In 1991, his first year as a member of the House of Representatives, Sanders spoke out against the policy during debate on the Violent Crime Prevention Act of 1991, which sought to expand the death penalty.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, another primary rival of Clinton and Sanders, is also opposed to the death penalty. In 2013, he signed a bill abolishing the practice in Maryland.

According to a Gallup poll conducted earlier this year, 61 percent of Americans are in favor of the death penalty in murder convictions, while 37 percent are not.

Of course. Hillary Clinton remains guided by the polls as opposed to principle. In calling for the death penalty to be rare, it is interesting that she uses the same word she uses for what should come of abortion, a position which has long frustrated many abortion rights activists for the manner in which it stigmatizes women who choose to have an abortion, and it provides cover for the religious right’s battle to restrict access to abortion.

The Democrats were disagreeing over real issues, while the Republicans were engaged in distortions of the facts and bashing of the mainstream media. Among the Republican lies debunked, PolitiFact classified Chris Christie’s claim that Bernie Sanders is “going to raise your taxes to 90 percent” as “pants on fire.”