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Democrat Debate Recap

Gary Bauer · Oct. 15, 2015

Clinton Cruises

The consensus of the talking heads is that Hillary Clinton was the clear winner in [Tuesday] night’s Democratic debate. But some focus groups and online polls suggested that Bernie Sanders held his own. Clearly, she did better [Tuesday] night than she has so far in the campaign.

There were some sharp exchanges, but none of the other candidates managed to damage her. In one sense, Clinton prevailed because her opponents were so weak.

For example, conservative commentator Erick Erickson observed, “I’m still amazed the other four candidates made Hillary Clinton come off as the likable, reasonable, responsible Democrat.”

National Journal’s Ron Fournier wrote that Hillary Clinton won “because she’s a strong debater. She won because Bernie Sanders is not.”

Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker wrote, “Hillary Clinton won because all of her opponents are terrible.”

The Biggest Loser

[Tuesday] night’s biggest loser wasn’t even at the debate. If Joe Biden was waiting to see if Clinton would stumble, or if he was hoping that her email scandal would trip her up, he must be sorely disappointed today.

Clinton even got an assist from Bernie Sanders on the email issue. When moderator Anderson Cooper raised the subject of Clinton’s private email server and the ongoing investigation, Sanders said, “The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails! … Enough of the e-mails. Let’s talk about the real issues facing America.”

The left-wing crowd loved it and erupted into wild applause, as did the assembled “unbiased” journalists in the press room.

Throughout the debate, Clinton repeatedly “hugged” Obama. When it appeared that she might be on the ropes over her vote for the Iraq war, she deftly turned the issue around by noting that Barack Obama picked her to be secretary of state, so he obviously trusted her judgment.

In short, Clinton showed none of the vulnerabilities that would enable Biden to easily justify jumping into the race at this late stage.

What They Discussed

Bernie Sanders used valuable airtime [Tuesday] night to defend socialism, saying that “countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway” were models we should emulate.

He and other candidates offered a wish list of new spending plans — while we are still running $500 billion deficits — and I don’t recall Anderson Cooper asking any of them, “How are you going to pay for it?” (According to one analysis, Sanders is proposing about $18 trillion in new spending over ten years.)

They bemoaned the state of the economy, stagnant wages and the struggles of middleclass families — all valid concerns. But at times it seemed they had forgotten that George W. Bush is not president — Barack Obama is.

They tried to outbid one another on raising the minimum wage and in appealing to illegal immigrants. Clinton suggested illegal immigrants should be eligible for Obamacare subsidies. O'Malley said he would “go further than President Obama has” when it comes to using executive orders to change our immigration policies.

To the extent that foreign policy was discussed, the debate largely centered around relitigating the Iraq war. There was virtually no discussion about what they would do now, as America is on defense everywhere around the world.

Asked what was the greatest national security threat facing the nation, two candidates offered climate change. I don’t recall any solutions for dealing with the Islamic State, the refugee crisis or Iran’s behavior since the nuclear deal. Israel was mentioned only once.

What You Didn’t Hear

Anderson Cooper studiously avoided anything related to cultural and values issues. Where were the “gotcha questions” that Republicans get — like who wants to ban contraception? The sanctity of life only came up when Hillary Clinton praised Planned Parenthood and “a woman’s right to choose.”

That would have been a good opportunity for Cooper to ask, “Is there one abortion anyone on this stage would legally prevent?”

The closest thing to a “gotcha question” the candidates were asked came when a law student asked, “Do black lives matter, or do all lives matter?”

That should have been an easy question to answer. Martin Luther King said our goal should be a society where we are judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin. But only one candidate (Jim Webb) could tell that audience, “All lives matter.” The rest of them cowered.

Telling Moments

Beyond Bernie Sanders’ defense of socialism, two telling moments really stood out to me. Anderson Cooper asked the candidates, “Which enemy are you most proud of?” Lincoln Chafee said coal companies. Martin O'Malley said the NRA. Bernie Sanders said Wall Street.

Hillary Clinton said Iranians and, of course, Republicans. But when did she make Iran an enemy? As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton started the secret talks that led to the nuclear deal, which she supports.

Then there was Jim Webb’s response. Referring to his combat experience in Vietnam, Webb said, “I’d have to say the enemy soldier that threw the grenade that wounded me, but he’s not around right now to talk to.” Webb’s answer was met with total silence.

If someone said that in any bar or neighborhood picnic, the instinctive reaction of most Americans would be appreciation for their service. But not at that forum packed full of leftists.

Poll Position

A new Fox News poll finds there may be some movement taking place in the Republican presidential race.

Donald Trump leads, but he’s just one point ahead of Dr. Ben Carson — 24% to 23%. And Texas Senator Ted Cruz moves up to third place with 10%. No other candidate receives double-digit support.

Last month, Carly Fiorina was tied for third. But in this latest poll, she slipped into sixth place.

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