Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Comments on the Democratic Debate in Miami

This was truly the most bizarre debate I've ever seen. The level of questioning from the three interviewers, two from Univision, a Spanish-language network, and one from the Washington Post, was beyond belief.

Here are some samples:

Where did you fail last night in Michigan? followed by What went wrong in Michigan? What went wrong in Michigan? What failed in Michigan specifically?

She has 1,221 delegates, including superdelegates, and you have 571. What is your pathway to make up the deficit, and can you realistically catch up?

So who specifically gave you permission to operate your email system as you did? Was it President Barack Obama? And would you drop out of the race if you get indicted? followed by Secretary Clinton, the questions were, who gave you permission to cooperate? Was it President Obama? and If you get indicted would you going to drop out?

Secretary Clinton, is Donald Trump a racist?....Senator Sanders, do you think it's fair to call Donald Trump a racist?

And then, believe it or not, a question about Benghazi, which included a video clip:

Hillary and Obama and Panetta and Biden and all of -- and Susan Rice, all told me it was a video, when they knew it was not the video. And they said that they would call me and let me know what the outcome was.

followed by:

Secretary Clinton, did you lie to them?

And there was much, much more. What were they thinking? Is this their idea of hard-hitting questioning? I looked for pundits remarking on this, but the only things I saw were people commenting on how Univision showed it could be "tough on both sides." The only critical coverage I saw was from the left-snarky news site Wonkette, which headlined its story Dear Univision: Show Us On The Doll Where Hillary And Bernie Hurt You, with the subhead what the hell did we just watch?!

All that aside, I as a Clinton supporter was depressed by Hillary's performance, particularly her persistent failure to push back on the issue of her supposed corruption. Don't her advisers know what a big issue this is? At one point, Sanders accused her of saying that the big banks were her constituents, and she let it slide, instead of saying something like this:

"I certainly never thought big banks were my constituents, and I think you may have misunderstood me. Here's what I was trying to say: I was a senator from New York. There are almost 400,000 people in New York who work in the financial industry. Those people were my constituents. Some of them are Democrats, some Republicans. But if any one of them gives me money, Senator Sanders will say, 'Aha! You're taking money from Wall Street!' If you look at a list of my contributors, you will see the names of some banks with some big sums of money beside them. But those banks didn't give me that money. Almost all of it is from individuals who work for those banks. Some of them may be trying to influence me, but a lot of them are just supporting my campaign, like people who give money to Senator Sanders.

"If you want to see whether I'm in the pocket of the big banks, here are two tests. First, look at what the banks want. What the banks really badly want is the repeal of Dodd-Frank. They have literally hundreds of lobbyists working on it. All the Republican candidates have promised it. I'm against the repeal of Dodd-Frank. It's made the banking system a lot safer, and it's actually starting to make some banks smaller. Senator Sanders thinks it's not important, but all the money the banks are spending says otherwise.

"The second test is to ask who the billionaires are afraid of. Senator Sanders thinks it must be him. Maybe, but I haven't seen any sign of it.  All the Republican Super PAC spending has been against me, except for this latest ad that praises Senator Sanders. I don't think the Koch brothers really want Senator Sanders to be President, but they certainly want him to be the Democratic nominee." 

Granted, it's not clear that the moderators would've let her say all that.

I'm writing this before the results of today's primary are in. We'll see how much difference any of this made.

Update: Evidently, not much. Perhaps those of us watching from afar underestimate how much difference actual campaigning makes. In any case, I think Hillary still needs to deal with the campaign-finance issue if she wants to win over Bernie voters for the general.