The debate tonight was the best thus far in the presidential campaign, in no small part due to the excellence of Gwen Ifil and Judy Woodruff as moderators and that the sponsor was PBS. The two asked intelligent, probing questions without venturing into easy gotcha territory. The contrast between Democratic and Republican debates is stark. What I saw on the stage were two adults engaged in a civil debate. I admit that with only two candidates in the race, the appearance of a free-for-all is easier to avoid, but, even if the GOP narrows the field down to two, I doubt we'll see a debate of this caliber.
To me, Clinton looked strong and won the debate, though Sanders got in a few good licks about her vote in favor of the Iraq war and her reference to Henry Kissinger's compliment on how well she ran the State Department. By now, Clinton probably hopes young people don't know who the hell Kissinger is.
Once again, Sanders answered a number of questions by turning away from the substance of the question to commentary about Wall Street, thus reinforcing the impression of a Johnny One-Note. Of course, he is not, but he's beginning to remind me of Young Marco Rubio with the Wall Street repetitions. Clinton scored with the reference to Sanders' votes on gun regulations and his recent and not-so-recent criticisms of President Obama. Though Sanders often caucused and voted with Democrats, he remains a newly-minted Democrat.
Clinton appeared calm and composed, while Sanders seemed impatient and even agitated at times, waving his hands with his face turning red. A number of people call Clinton cold, and I understand how calm can translate to cold, but I'm not looking for a BFF for president, and I prefer calm to agitation. When Sanders repeatedly raised his hand as a signal that he wanted to speak, I couldn't help but think, "Teacher, teacher! Call on me!"
Both candidates favor health care coverage for everyone, but they have different approaches to get there. Of Sanders' plan for a single payer plan, economist Paul Krugman notes that the numbers don't add up.
Also, while Sanders calls his plan "Medicare for All", it is no such thing because on his campaign website, he says:
As a patient, all you need to do is go to the doctor and show your insurance card. Bernie’s plan means no more copays, no more deductibles and no more fighting with insurance companies when they fail to pay for charges.Sounds great, but Sanders' plan is not "Medicare for All". I know because my health insurance coverage is through Medicare, and I pay deductibles and copays, even with a supplemental insurance policy. So, is it "Medicare for All" or something entirely different? Also, as Krugman notes, getting a single payer plan through the House of Representatives is likely to be a non-starter, even if Democrats regain a slim majority in the Senate. The GOP will retain a majority in the House after the election because so many hold safe seats due to gerrymandered districts.
Clinton's health plan takes a more gradual approach, building on Obamacare to universal coverage, rather than replacing it and starting from scratch. Though there is no guarantee that her plan will pass in Congress if Clinton is elected, it seems somewhat more possible and definitely more realistic.
Clinton's closing statement was powerful and served to define her campaign. A quote is below:
We agree we've got to get unaccountable money out of politics. We agree that Wall Street should never be allowed to wreck main street again.Below is a quote from Sanders' closing statement, which also defines his campaign.
But here's the point I want to make tonight. I am not a single-issue candidate and I do not believe we live in a single-issue country. I think that a lot of what we have to overcome to break down the barriers that are holding people back, whether it's poison in the water of the children of Flint or whether it's the poor miners who are being left out and left behind in coal country, or whether it is any other American today who feels somehow put down and depressed by racism, by sexism, by discrimination against the lgbt community against the kind of efforts that need to be made to root out all of these barriers, that's what I want to take on.
This campaign is not just about electing a president. What this campaign is about is creating a process for a political revolution in which millions of Americans, working people who have given up on the political process, they don't think anybody hears their pains or their concerns.
Young people for whom getting involved in politics is as, you know, it's like going to the moon. It ain't going to happen. Low income people who are not involved in the political process.
What this campaign is not only about electing someone who has the most progressive agenda, it is about bringing tens of millions of people together to demand that we have a government that represents all of us and not just the 1 percent, who today have so much economic and political power.Yes, "like going to the moon." In the real world, the only revolution we're likely to see in the near future is if Republicans take the presidency, the majority in the Senate, and the majority in the House (which is certain), and it will not be pretty.
Keep in mind that when Sanders first entered the race, I favored his candidacy and contributed to his campaign, but, over the course of time, I've come to favor Clinton. I still believe that having Sanders in the race is a net positive, but I hope the supporters of the two candidates don't tear each other apart before the election. From my experience, Sanders supporters have been much more intemperate in their criticism of Clinton and her supporters than the other way around, even to the point of declaring that if she is the nominee, they will not vote, or they will vote for Trump. That, in my opinion, is madness. The stakes in this election are high, and the country will be in a very bad way with Republicans in control of Congress and the presidency. Make no mistake: If Sanders is the nominee, he will surely have my vote.