Democratic Debate; Little Hyperbole, Just Reasonable Solutions

ABC News Democratic Debate

The Democratic Presidential Debate participants appeared on ABC Saturday night, December 19, at Saint Anselm College, a Benedictine Institution in Manchester, New Hampshire. The names of the “finalists” for the presidential nomination are easy to remember as there are only three as compared to the stadium-full of Republicans. Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and ex-Baltimore Mayor and former Maryland Governor, Martin O’Malley, were the three.

I wanted to get a sense of how wide the Clinton, Sanders, Democratic National Committee rift had grown, given the voter data dust-up among the three camps. Thumbnail: the Sanders camp got accidental access to Clinton’s voter data twice. Didn’t act on it the first time, snooped around the second time. DNC then refused to give Bernie their voter data.

If Bernie is truly pissed at the DNC and perceived by his supporters as being wronged by the party and Hillary, a percentage of his voters will stay home and cost the Democrats the presidency, just as Ralph Nader did in 2000 to get the extraordinarily harmful Republican ball rolling. Things seemed to turn out OK, given that a staffer from the Sanders campaign was fired and the DNC has relented and given Bernie access to its records.

Hillary even extracted an apology from her opponent who promised to fire anyone else if found to be complicit in the voter data mischief. He wants to work together on an independent investigation. Hillary was gracious in her response. Sounds like the book is closed to me. As a bystander, O’Malley called for less bickering and “higher-minded politics.”

I needed to hear all responses to questions about the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the other grotesque trade agreements that seem to be headed for fast-track approval. Gee, there were none. Again, it appears to be a question to be avoided like the plague on all sides.

Like the last Republican debate, this one was supposed to concentrate on national security and foreign policy and there were numerous questions about same, but the debate also veered off into the economy, education and other timely fare.

ABC World News Tonight anchor, David Muir was one of two moderators. Muir, worked his way up through various network news-oriented programs and spent a good deal of time traveling the world, including numerous Middle East stops. While you expect it from Republicans, his treatment by the Democrat debaters was often lacking in civility as they paid scant attention to his attempts to hold to the time constraints. His ABC colleague, Martha Raddatz, though more than qualified, was unpleasantly cranky. It’s no wonder she’s on husband number three. She’s the Chief Global Affairs correspondent for the network.

It could be my imagination, but it appeared that on several occasions, Sanders was asked a question, followed by Clinton, then back to Sanders for the next question, fully bypassing the third participant, O’Malley. It was also clear that O’Malley was disdainfully treated by Clinton and Sanders as if he had no business on the stage. His pathetic poll numbers would appear to verify that perception, but, frankly, he gave the most cogent answers of the night.

Time after time, an issue would come up that the big two would answer with theoretical and philosophical musings as O’Malley responses were based on experience and actual solutions he had put in place either as Mayor of Baltimore where he transformed the city from a drug-ridden hell hole into spectacular improvements in drug and crime stats. He had similar successes in many areas as his ideas bore fruit for constituents both as mayor and as Maryland governor. But, for Democrats such successes don’t appear to matter.

Poll numbers are an interesting mix, when applied to the Clinton/Sanders race. The ABC News/Washington Post national poll gave Hillary a lead of 59 – 28 percent over Bernie; O’Malley garnered 5 percent. On the other hand voters under 35 adore the 74-year-old brand spankin’ new Democrat (officially, less than a year). They give Sanders a 56 point lead over frontrunner Clinton. O’Malley is still stuck in the political quicksand and may soon get the hint.

The initial questioning went to the San Bernardino attack in the form of the question of how to fight terrorists and ISIS. Prior to the question, Hillary Clinton delivered a broad-brush opening statement that included a strategy to combat and defeat ISIS without getting us involved in another ground war. She also wants to raise incomes and deal with a lot of the problems that keep families up at night.

Her opening remarks included several shots across the Republican bow: “From my perspective, we have to prevent the Republicans from rolling back the progress that we’ve made. They would repeal the Affordable Care Act, not improve it. They would give more tax breaks to the super-wealthy and corporations, not to the middle class. And they would, despite all their tough talk about terrorism, continue to let people who are on the no-fly list buy guns.”

O’Malley told of visiting “our neighbors in a Northern Virginia mosque” in his opening statement. “And as I looked out there at the eyes of our neighbors, I also looked in the eyes of veterans. I looked into the eyes of Boy Scouts. I looked into the eyes of moms and dads who would do anything in their power to protect our country’s values and our freedoms.”

His address included one of the better lines of the debate: “Our enduring symbol is not the barbed wire fence, it is the Statue of Liberty.”

Bernie Sanders opened with the familiar riff of our wealth going to the top one percent. “I’m going to create an economy that works for working families not just billionaires.”

As for dealing with the terrorists of the world, Clinton called for a major coalition of wealthy and powerful nations supporting Muslim troops on the ground. “I have a plan that I’ve put forward to go after ISIS. Not to contain them, but to defeat them. And it has three parts. First, to go after them and deprive them of the territory they occupy now in both Syria and Iraq. Secondly, to go after and dismantle their global network of terrorism. And thirdly, to do more to keep us safe. Under each of those three parts of my plan, I have very specific recommendations about what to do.

Bernie reiterated a Republican talking point: “Number one, our goal is to crush and destroy ISIS.” This was followed by a strategic departure from the GOP approach. Sanders quoted Jordan King Abdullah II on terrorism: “Yes, international terrorism is by definition an international issue, but it is primarily an issue of the Muslim nations who are fighting for the soul of Islam. We the Muslims should lead the effort on the ground.” Sanders followed the quote with “I believe he is absolutely right.”

Here are the remainder of the debate contents you can go here for an exact text of everything that was said. Any objective observer would note that there is far less hysteria and more reasonable and thoughtful attempts to solve the problems that vex most Americans.

A Democratic President is a must!