It is remarkable how much more effective a candidate or collection of candidates sound when they have the time to answer questions fully. For the first time, last night, we got a rare glimpse into the nuance of the differences between these three Democrat challengers. Each candidate, I believe, took full advantage of their time to describe and outline the nature of their policy proposals, their priorities, and their thoughts on how best to implement new reforms.
The debate began with a discussion concerning the kerfuffle over the Sander’s campaigns’ gaining of access to Clinton Campaign data. Senator Sanders apologized for the incident and Secretary Clinton accepted his apology. Republican hopes for an all out war over behind scenes infighting between the two strongest Democrat campaigns were immediately dashed as both the candidates and the moderators moved on.
Moderators then took to the issue of addressing lone wolf attacks like the recent terror attack in San Bernardino. The Democrat candidates agreed that we must address security issues without sacrificing American liberties, though Secretary Clinton argued that there must be some constitutional way for the federal government and private business to come to an arrangement with regard to encrypted data. Hillary argued that if the back door isn’t legal, there must be some other way of accessing this information. She did not say what these other possibilities might be.
While coming short of calling for gun confiscation, the Democrat candidates all called for tougher gun control. Governor O’Malley called out Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders for being weak on Gun Control, holding up Maryland’s strict gun control laws as an example of what we should see across the nation. Bernie Sanders, while talking tough on guns, indicated that gun ownership is an absolute right. Unlike Hillary and O’Malley, who want the strictest possible gun control short of confiscation, Senator Sanders defending his focus on gun safety, as opposed to gun control.
Governor O’Malley reminded the Senator and Secretary that he was the only candidate who has successfully banned guns.
Each of the candidates took turns arguing that the “bigotry” of Donald Trump is what was wrong with the Republican Party and that government should be working with American Muslims to establish meaningful relationships and to establish Muslim Americans as the first line of defense against radicalization. All three Democrat candidates were in agreement that we need to be taking in more refugees and immigrants from Syria and the Middle East, not less, arguing that the fear and racism which fuels the Donald Trump candidacy is not American and not what Americans stand for. Martin O’Malley argued that he was first Democrat to call for the acceptance of the initial 65,000 Syrian refugees and argued that our vetting process is sound.
Hillary Clinton defended her leadership in Libya saying, “I’ll tell you what would have happened if we had not joined with our European Partners and our Arab partners to assist the people in Libya, you’d be looking at Syria”.
Of the three Democrat candidates, both Senator Sanders and Governor O’Malley argued against toppling dictatorial regimes, arguing that doing so creates a vacuum for radical Islamists. Senator Sanders pointed out that such a policy has failed in Iraq, Libya, and now threatens to fail in Syria.
Secretary Clinton continued to make the case, with respect to Syria, that we need to simultaneously focus on taking out Bashar al-Assad and ISIS, while Senator Sanders suggested that focusing on ISIS, not on removing the Syrian Dictator (who is currently backed by Russia), was the proper course. Senator Sanders argued that supporting Muslim countries, like Jordan, in their efforts to defeat ISIS, was more important than getting directly involved in toppling regimes.
Governor O’Malley called for restraint all together, arguing that a foreign policy and military action which is executed with no idea “what happens next” is a terrible course to take. O’Malley argued that ISIS, not Bashar al-Assad was the real problem we needed to address in Syria and Iraq. It would seem that both Senator Sanders and Governor O’Malley favor bombing campaigns, not ground troops, in an aggressive approach to destroy Islamic State, and were distancing themselves from Secretary Clinton and President Obama, along with Republican Senators John McCain, Marco Rubio, and Lyndsey Graham’s strategy of regime change in Syria. The Senator and the Governor clearly do not believe in toppling regimes and creating vacuums.
Secretary Clinton stood by her and President Obama’s dual approach of regime change and ISIS bombings.
Then, for a period of time, Secretary Clinton disappeared from the debate stage. No idea what happened there. During the time that Secretary Clinton was off the stage, ABC talked to Hillary Clinton fans about how great Hillary Clinton was and what a great campaign she was running.
After Hillary Clinton’s return to the stage and a brief apology for her absence, the moderators focused on education and health care. Bernie Sanders called for free universal education and health care, while Hillary argued for a “fix it” approach, calling for ACA reform and “debt-free” college education. All three candidates called for higher taxes and more federal involvement in Health Care and Education. They each called for a federal raise in the minimum wage.
Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley went at it over their ties to Wall Street. Governor O’Malley accused Secretary Clinton of taking huge donations from Wall Street lobbyists and slammed Hillary for “shamefully” dodging questions in the last debate regarding her Wall Street connections by hiding behind 9/11. Governor O’Malley argued that out right Socialism (Senator Sander’s approach) and “Crony Capitalism” (Secretary Clinton’s approach) were wrong for America, arguing instead for more free market competition. Governor O’Malley slammed banking monopolies and accused Secretary Clinton of being in league with the America’s “Big 6” banking concerns. Martin O’Malley called for breaking up the big banks and ending crony capitalist bailouts, telling Hillary that her connection to these banks is why she can’t call for a similar approach, even though she knows it’s right.
Secretary Clinton cackled terribly and quickly turned the tables pointing out that while Martin O’Malley was “heading the Democratic Governors’ Association, he had no trouble at all going to Wall Street to raise money for campaigns for Democratic Governors…”.
Senator Sanders, declaring that his name was invoked (Mrs. Clinton had just praised him), took to reminding the Secretary that he does not have a Super PAC and that Hillary Clinton gets gobs of money from Wall Street Lobbyists. Senator Sanders also reminded Hillary Clinton that he fought this guy named Bill Clinton while the Clinton Administration allowing massive mergers of banks during the 90s. The Senator called to break up Wall Street.
What we learned from last nights’ debate, was that all three of these Democrat candidates have a strong, left-wing message aimed at strengthening the federal governments role and control over American society.
While we did finally get to dig in to many of their differences, the real differences these candidates want to discuss are not with one another, but with the Republican Party. Unlike the three Democrat candidates, as Hillary Clinton pointed out countless times, no Republican candidate has the courage or inclination to increase the federal governments control and responsibility over health care, guns, and education; and unlike the Democrats running for President, are unlikely to expand or strengthen entitlements and federal domestic spending.
The Democrat Party is, for the most part, in agreement about the course America needs to chart, and each of these Democrat candidates appears committed to continuing, if not expanding, President Obama’s fundamental transformation of the United States.