Friday, February 5th, 2016

By Reed Galen

Quote by a Smart Person: "Conflict is drama and how people deal with conflict shows you the kind of people they are." Stephen Moyer

Welcome to the American Singularity.

Thursday night’s Democratic debate was at times intense. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton met one on one for the last time before voters go to the polls in New Hampshire on Tuesday. There is an enormous difference in the dynamics of a debate when it is down to two candidates. There’s no where for the candidates or the moderators to go except to the pair of individuals on stage. There’s no ability to play off a third or fourth party – all the attacks are on you, and your fire is directed in only one direction.

Both candidates did well this evening. What struck me was the difference in how each went after the other. Sanders went after Clinton on her $675,000 in paid speeches to Goldman Sachs. The calls for Clinton to release the transcripts of those talks will continue ad infinitum. If she doesn’t figure it out, Goldman Sachs could become Hillary Clinton’s Bain Capital.

When the continuing issues surrounding her email accounts came up, Sanders refused to pounce, only after loudly stating that he wouldn’t make a political issue of her troubles. But Clinton is still, nearly a year later, still tied up in knots over how to answer the issues of her email and whether or not she received and/or transmitted classified material.

That she is now discussing the process by which information is deemed classified, and relying on references to former Secretaries Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice illustrates her unwillingness or inability to accept responsibility for making a bad decision. Clinton’s weaknesses tonight are what they always are: self-inflicted wounds brought on by poor judgement and belief that she doesn’t play by the rules to which others must adhere.

For Sanders, he was extremely week on national security. This is not surprising as he’s been a democratic socialist Senator from Vermont. At times, when discussing ISIS, Iraq and Afghanistan he was shaky and seemed unprepared. Clinton can name the leaders of Middle Eastern countries and quote chapter and verse Barack Obama’s foreign policy. And Clinton is correct, being is President is not just pushing domestic programs – Commander in Chief is a huge part of the job.

Sanders is helped, however, by having been a staunch leftist his entire life. His near-purity as a liberal helps in these events: whether on trade or the death penalty, he knows where he lives ideologically, and where much of the Democratic primary electorate does as well. You could watch Clinton on the other hand, as she talked he way through capital punishment and trade deals she once supported but now opposes, sliding intentionally and purposefully to her left for purely political reasons.

 

As a Republican watching a Democratic debate, it is impossible to remain completely objective. That Sanders and Clinton had a spirited discussion over the meaning of the word “Progressive” (nee Liberal) and who most qualifies for that label was truly astonishing. For all the talk of the Republican field being out of step with Independent voters or being unable to cross over and capture members of the other party, I say the Democrats should spend sometime looking in the mirror.

 

On the whole, I’d say both candidates could leave the debate stage feeling generally good about their performances last night. However, it is clear after watching Sanders and Clinton spar directly that the former secretary of state is the far more experienced and wily pol. She knows how to play the game; she knows the buttons to push and she knows how to rebut attacks while putting the blame on her opponent for even daring to bring up a given issue. Her biggest issue will be, as it always is, that she doesn’t have passion on her side. She’s got to use every last bit of energy she has to convince Democrats that she’s worth not just supporting, but also leaving the house on a snowy Tuesday morning to actually vote for her.

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AuthorReed Galen