Wednesday, October 14, 2015


The consensus is that Hillary Clinton won last night's debate, and I agree -- though I also think Bernie Sanders did well. I don't quite share Josh Marshall's belief that Sanders did better than Clinton -- Marshall thinks Clinton "had a pretty good debate" but Sanders "did really well" -- though I think this is a fair summary:
Sanders also had a good debate. He was clear, made his points with a coherence that resonates for where Democrats are right now. It was probably the first time a lot of people have heard him speak at length. He did really well.... I was struck most by his clarity, weaving together Citizens United with a critique of broken fiscal and economic policy into a coherent attack on rising plutocracy.
But the Kool Kidz disagreed. Mark Halperin gave Clinton an A and Sanders a B minus:
... appeared rattled and defensive when Clinton went after him. Struggled to engage his rival in a commanding way, often staring straight ahead rather than meeting her face to face. Was too passive for several spells, failing to create an advantageous one-on-one debate-within-the-debate with Clinton, as was expected. Didn’t garner a single decisive win in any back-and-forth with Clinton, although he looked big when dismissing her email controversy as a tempest in a teapot and a distraction from real issues. Showed little flesh and blood, beyond his trademark crankiness.
Ahhh, the trademark crankiness. National Review's Jim Geraghty wrote:
Sanders may rock the arenas when they’re filled with progressive grassroots activists, but his style doesn’t transfer well to a broader audience. He’s the party guest whom you instinctively don’t want to talk to, who begins shouting immediately, who grabs your lapel and spits a bit as he jabs his finger into your chest for emphasis. He’s Senator Larry David.
Well, maybe it's just me, but I would totally vote for Senator Larry David. A debate isn't my living room -- politics is where you're supposed to hector people once in a while. Besides, the guy who supposedly can't turn off his self-righteous ideological rage is also the guy who had the menschiest moment of the night -- a moment most commentators, including Geraghty's colleague Jonah Goldberg, seem to be completely misreading:
I can’t decide if it was shrewdness, naiveté, or something closer to cowardice that drove Sanders to bequeath unto Hillary the gift of saying, “The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails!” The calculation probably involved all three motivations: He will raise a lot of money from Democrats who hate Republicans more than they dislike Hillary. He honestly thinks that presidential campaigns are won with a Ron Paul-like focus on the issues, as he defines them. And, he’s simply afraid to go for the jugular.
No. I'm reminded of an old Jon Stewart bit in which he chastised some Republican or other for choosing political advantage over common decency; the way Stewart put it was: "Be a person!" That's what Sanders did in that email exchange -- he was a person. He expressed his personal disgust at the GOP's slash-and-burn tactics and didn't care about the way that could be used or misused politically.

But here's the main reason the insiders think Sanders lost:

Chuck Todd said the debate winner was "the only person that apparently prepared, Hillary Clinton. Prepping matters." And Mark Halperin said this about Clinton's approach to prep vs. what Sanders did:
She heard about Chuck's interview with Sanders. She was incredulous, I'm told, that he had said he wasn't a capitalist. She demanded to see the transcript or the tape, I'm not sure which. And then she went after him hard. I think that ended the night. He was totally unprepared. He treated this like something he'd done before. There's nothing like that stage, and he wasn't close to ready, and his people know that.
Chuck Todd added:
I know people tried to get Sanders to prepare, but at the end of the day they're like, "Bernie be Bernie, he's very comfortable in his own skin, he does--" I think he thought doing all the interviews he does, doing all the rallies he does, he speaks off the cuff and he knows his messaging....
And on and on about lack of preparation.

That's why Hillary won, according to these people: She won the debate by their standards. She showed them that she'd successfully prepared herself to debate the way they want candidates to debate. Sanders was just who he was.

I'm of two minds about this. Ideologically I'm more progressive than Clinton, which means I'm closer to Sanders -- but I'm terrified at the prospect of a Republican presidency, and I want a Democratic presidential candidate who knows how to campaign. I'm still not sure that's Clinton -- not at a moment when the public seems to want someone who colors outside the lines. But political skills still matter -- including the skill to impress these damn pundit gatekeepers. If she's back in gear and is capable of impressing these SOBs, good for her. She needs to keep doing that -- alas.


Pops said...

Why do you keep quoting Mark Halperin? His WADR is almost cancelled and Joe Scarborough and YOU are the only one who care what he says. His "Morning Pilates" With Fag Hag Ann Romney is all he has.

Steve M. said...

The Beltway hangs on every word from Scarborough and his little claque. MSNBC's giving Joe Scar an extra hour a day. I don't want these people to dictate the tone of the conversation, but they do.

mlbxxxxxx said...

Bernie won the debate for me in his opening statement. After that, I felt like saying, "turn out the lights, we're done here." That said, I know that Bernie cannot be the nominee and cannot win if he were. I think HRC acquitted herself very well and will be seen as the clear winner of the debate. That is a very good thing since her drooping poll numbers were starting to wear on her. Maybe some of the sharks will stop circling her and maybe Biden will figure it's time to take himself out of the running.

Sanders outburst about her "damn emails" is being read as supportive of her but when I heard it, I thought I detected more than a modicum of irritation directed at HRC herself. Regardless, he was channeling the feelings of many of us and did himself no harm by it. It is shocking that the wingers are nonplussed by it, they are usually so perceptive.

flipyrwhig said...

Clinton's "drooping poll numbers" are virtually identical to the hypothetical Biden boomlet. Without Biden in the mix Clinton gets about 50% and leads by 20-25%. With Biden in the mix she gets about 40% and leads by 10-15%. Biden polls in the 20s. It's all the same phenomenon. The media pushes it because they find Clinton boring and want to keep her below 50% so that they can run stories about why she isn't sealing the deal. That way they can set up either stories about how she finally sealed the deal or how she blew it. It's narrative on top of narrative: metanarrative a la _Game Change_. Don't fall for it.

Ten Bears said...

Back to the emails, as I listen to the NPR discussion, yes, I'm damned tired of hearing about the emails. I'm fairly well known here as no fan of the Clinton's, for my own reasons not applicable to the matter at hand, none the least as a No Party Affiliated vote (like voting by mail, we can do that in Oregon). However, speaking as one with advanced degrees and fully engaged the first fifteen of the past twenty-five years as an analyst, administrator and instructor of computers and information systems across the academic, business and legal environments, a Y2K survivor, were I in her position I would have the same damned thing. It was prudent. Secure (for the time). And it was a point in time when these things were still evolving, not to mention the government is notoriously behind the curve on these things.

Not changing my mind, just giving her the benefit of the doubt. There are more important things to talk about.

From what I've seen of it, Cooper was an ass.

tony in san diego said...

It is nothing but sportscasting. "Well, they have to give it all they've got, and not let the other team think they are tired." Their only comments are on style.

Scott Peterson said...

"the public seems to want someone who colors outside the lines"

I'm not at all convinced that's what the public wants. That's what the GOP base wants, yes.

tnb said...

"She showed them that she'd successfully prepared herself to debate the way they like candidates to debate. Sanders was just who he was."

So Bernie was being himself, "authentic" while HC practiced to be good in the way the media assholes wanted, which is not "authentic" but last week they were bitching that HC wasn't authentic? Today she's in their club.

Unknown said...

Oliver Willis has an audio of a radio interview with Rep. Hanna (R-NY) in which Hanna basically confirms that the House Bennnnngggghhaaazzziiii witchhunt is, well, a partisan witchhunt. By minimal extension, the House Eeeeeeemmmmaaailll witchhunt is the same.

The entire Hanna interview is worthwhile listening to, because it describes that there are in fact a number of dinosaurs, uh, actually moderate House Republicans. My guess is it's mainly a geography issue: House Rs from NY, Mass, Cal, Illinois, and the relatively minority of reliably blue (but also relatively urbanized and large population) states in presidential years, are bound to hove towards Hanna's POV, or else risk defeat. Besides, they're really the reps for the Chamber, Wall Street, Big Corporations, Big Oil, the Military-Industrial Complex and the other oligarchical non-governmental forces, all of which NEED the debt ceiling raised and for the fed govt to be funded as a huge & vital customer.

So, the picture gets clearer & the problem narrows: the Tea Party has a natural home in the relatively less populus but at the same time really fucking rural, racist & dumb Red states, but otherwise their main power (cue the Spanish Inquisition) is fear, from their ability to primary just about any establishment R, IOW do a Cantor or his or her ass. Yes, that's a problem for the oligarchs, and one they can't solve. The Southern Strategy, the Fundy Right, the NRA, the Drown Gummint in a Bathtub factor, Libtards R Evil, the TeaPs, the Freedumb Caucus, the Let It Burn white Race Supremacists, Patriots & Segregationists & the rest are all phenomena the oligarchs funded directly or indirectly, thru the GOP or otherwise, to control Congress. But they never having a plan to stuff those horrors back into Pandora's Box, and if the Civil War never ending has taught us anything, it's that none of any of that is ever over.

You'd THINK the oligarchs would all get together and figure out they have to abandon the GOP and start buying Dems like there's a shortage, but the problem is, too many of those goddamn Dems are, while not exactly Bernie Sanders, leaning in that direction.

Unknown said...

Link the audio file of Rep. Hanna's interview at Oliver Willis' site:

I mean, it's not a surprise, of course, that the Congress GOP's investigations are aimed at preventing a President HR Clinton and nothing else. If there's any surprise, it's that it's taken this long for the cracks to show.

trog69 said...

Once something tangible occurs within the Republican uncivil war about tactics, I find it doubtful that the financial titans won't be able to gather enough people to pass their favored bills. It will take either one party taking over both chambers and the WH, or a long, sustained campaign of losses for the WH/Senate before we even see what the oligarchs have up their sleeves for their next trick.