February 05, 2016

#DemDebate for #NHPrimary shows differences, but #MSNBC2016 missed big ones as did #FeelTheBern

First, yes, I agree with the talking heads that this was very good overall.* And, overall, except for Chuck Todd's dumb Veep question at the end, of the two-thirds or so that I caught (had a local political candidates town hall earlier, and was on the job for that!) it was very good of him and Rachel Maddow (more on her below) to largely keep themselves out of being part of the debate.

* = The exception is for talking heads that said afterward that Sanders lost, especially those who viewed this in zero-sum terms, and after first deciding to declare Clinton the winner, then said that by definition, Sanders must be the loser.

Clinton's "artful smear" bullshit, plus her claim that, re Iraq, Special Forces are not combat troops, mark her as losing right there, especially when, yesterday, the Pentagon said Dear Leader had been lying about U.S. troop numbers in Iraq.

They were arguably both winners. Sanders built on Wednesday's town hall in comments that specifically reached out to minorities. He gave a great, reverse-twisted low-key close. He showed himself a skillful politician on Clinton's emails. Clinton looked steady, did the best she could on youth issues, especially given the setting, and probably gave a good "mainstream America" answer on the death penalty. She also continued to look better, in terms of presentation but not content, whenever a debate turns to foreign policy issues. Vermont's alt-weekly, an often-supportive site, yet with a critical eye at all times, agrees that Sanders is still weak here, and that his 1-note trumpet within trumpet remains nothing but "Iraq War vote."

I was glad to hear questions on the Trans Pacific Partnership and other things.

That said, while disappointed, I wasn't surprised that the overrated, left-of-center Democratic liberal Rachel Maddow didn't ask some even tougher ones — ones that would not only have separated Bernie Sanders from Hillary Clinton, but might at the same time have separated Bernie Sanders from Green Party or Socialist Party candidates. (Sorry that we have only the Green Party in Texas.)

Let me give you an example or two.

1. The Honduras coup. It was smooth enough that even I was fooled initially, though I eventually called it a semi-coup. Unlike some left-liberals, I still won't call it a full-blown coup, though, and I'm not sure one side was that much better than the other. That said, the quasi-coup or whatever happened while Clinton was Secretary of State, so if Maddow had asked if it were a coup, we know she would have said no. What would Sanders have said?

2. Farm legislation. Per a more in-depth blog post coming up later today, and now posted, Sanders voted in favor of the 2014 Farm Bill, which cut benefits to a certain class of food stamp recipients — to the tune of about $10 billion over 10 years — while doing little trimming of corporate welfare to corporate agriculture, and in some cases, increasing it, including to Vermont dairy farmers. It would have been nice to have a bifurcated question, asking Clinton how she squares this with her ideas of free trade and Sanders how he squares it with his idea of fair trade. A good follow-up would have been to ask Sanders how supporting this farm bill squares with his crusade against the 1 percent.

I mean, Ted Cruz — in Iowa — said he opposes ethanol subsidies.

Some Sanders diehards have twitched when I've even hinted at talking about this.

Sorry folks, but he's Bernie Sanders, not the Second Coming of either Jesus for the Rapture or Elijah for the Seder. Not accepting that a candidate you're really in the groove for is not only not perfect, but at times is even downright wrong, is not a good thing.

This fake New York Times illustrates a real problem on the lack of questions
beyond the bipartisan foreign policy establishment.
3. As I noted on Twitter, unless I missed something significant in the first one-third of the debate, while we did get questions on ISIS, Iran and Iraq, it's "interesting" that we had none on Israel, let alone on Palestine. Sen. Sanders, next time you talk to or about the King of Jordan, tell the rest of us what King Abdullah says about Palestine and about Israel's Berlin Wall.

The best non-asked question here would have been about Boycott, Divest, Sanctions. Second would have been about the idea being discussed in the E.U. to have Israeli products made in occupied Palestine to so be labeled.

And, Berniecrats, don't bring up that he lost relatives in the Holocaust. First, I know that. Second, so did his brother, who does support BDS.

Let's also not forget that this is the Bernie who booted pro-Palestinian activists from his office and threatened to have them arrested.

4. Part of climate change's issue for the future may be how much world population growth is going to exacerbate it, as well as refugee crises and other things. Sure would have been nice to hear both be asked about this.

5. Is Obama's modernizing of nuclear weapons a good idea in general, or should it be done only in a way that doesn't increase our nuclear throw weight, or the temptation to use it in tactical, not just strategic, situations?

Those are just a few, off the top of my head. The lack of them illustrates, to refudiate wingnuts, that MSNBC ain't a bunch of commies, or even pale pink socialists.

(These would all be, in different variations, great questions for a GOP debate, too.)

That said, back to Mad Cow. Per one Berniac (and yes there are some, and because they're not all "bros" I prefer this term to "Berniebros"), no, she was not asking Clinton all softball questions. Rather, she teed up more than one for Sanders. That said, Chuck Todd asking Clinton if she would consider Sanders as Veep was a definite tee-up for her.

Next, per the last hashtag. Sanders isn't doing bad, in terms of political skills, for exactly how he handled the Clinton emails issue. And, he did a great job of building on last night's town hall with his incarceration and related answers and tying them to minorities without pandering. But maybe, per Andrea Miller, he does lack a killer instinct at times. Yes, he let the crowd boos do his job for him on her "artful smear" bullshit. But, he could have done a little twist of the "integrity" knife after the boos subsided. He could have asked, rhetorically, if it was Henry Kissinger who was among those foreign policy advisers Clinton cited. He could have asked, on her "every Secretary of State" gets paid $675,000, if it was OK to ask Colin Powell that, or something to that end. (Of course, maybe he IS, in which case it backfires a bit.)

The big lack of killer instinct may have been deliberate, and that was not in forcefully demanding the Iowa Democratic Party do a full audit or recount of raw vote numbers, after the caucus clusterfuck and shenanigans. Jeff St. Clair touches further on this. Perhaps Brains is right, that this is Sanders already making nice for his eventual reconciliation. That may come a bit later than he thinks, nonetheless, I believe he's right.

Bill Curry thinks that Sanders really can pull off the revolution. And, yes, it's FOB Bill Curry. Interesting. Maybe he's right. With all the foreign policy and gun-related concerns I still have about Sanders, I hope he is right.

But ... the record says ...

For that matter, why didn't Sanders more forcefully protest the "artful smear" smear?

He's definitely right on that then being time for Plan B, i.e., back to full support of Jill Stein (presuming she is again the Green Party's nominee.

Finally, the Dallas Snooze reminded me of why they only endorse one Democrat, at most, every four years on state-level offices and above. Calling Sanders a debate loser is fucking laughable, Brandi Grissom, perfectly illustrating the Peter Principle at the Belo Mansion. (I made sure to put the "no follow" on that link; no cheap page views for the Snooze from here.)

It also reminded me of how it's part of the #InsideTheMopac media, a Texas version of #InsideTheBeltway folks. That, in turn, reminds me of how they're furiously spinning for Clinton again.


Matthew Martinez said...

Also absent from any foreign policy discussions at these debates is the US's relationship with Turkey and its current war with its Kurdish citizens and the PKK. Especially given that the PKK/YPG have shown themselves to be the only forces fully committed to fighting ISIS, as well as establishing a new paradigm of governance based on grassroots participation, explicit and deliberate inclusion of women in all decision making processes, and stewardship to the environment. The silence is deafening.

Gadfly said...

Matthew, good point. This, in turn, gets to whether left-liberals can, and should, support Realpolitik with Russia at times. It couldn't be worse than the current neocon-to-neolib bipartisan foreign policy establishment.