Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Democratic Primary Debate: A Love Fest, A Santa Claus Syndrome and Unasked Questions

If anyone thought the Democratic primary debate was substantive, policy oriented, an adult conversation and political bonhomie, everything that, in their opinion, the GOP debate was not, is either naive or politically ignorant or a blatant partisan or a mix of all that. What they are not is knowledgeable and objective. Here's why.

Anyone who chuckles about the rowdy GOP debate and preens about how fault like the Democrats were did not live in 2008. As Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama battled for the nomination in 2008 the Democratic party feared being torn asunder. That is no exaggeration. Even as there appeared no pathway toward becoming the nominee Hillary Clinton refused to drop out of the race making the African-American community angry that she'd ensure that Barack Obama arrives at the nomination as 'damaged goods'. At the debate in South Carolina Clinton and Obama lit into each other with Obama wondering which Clinton he was running against and Clinton alleging that Obama worked for a slum lord. Bill Clinton did not help matters for Hillary by recalling how Jesse Jackson failed in his quest for the nomination. The black community was aghast at the blatant put down of Obama's historic candidacy. Much respected black Congressman John Clyburne reportedly said "why doesn't Bill Clinton call Obama a boy and get it over with".

Miffed at what she perceived as kid-glove treatment of Obama by debate moderators Hillary complained in a debate in Philadelphia, "why don't you give him a pillow?"Seeing the nomination slip away the Clinton campaign threw the kitchen sink at Obama. When commentators asked about the harsh tactics Bill Clinton nonchalantly said "politics is contact sport. If you cannot stand the heat get out of the kitchen". Asked if she thought Obama was a Christian Hillary gave a Clintonesque reply "yes, as far as I know".

From Wikipedia
The real low point was before the primaries of Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Obama campaign willfully misrepresented Hillary health care plan of calling for individual mandates as a 'tax'. Incidentally Obama, as president did exactly that and the Supreme Court ruled that it was indeed a tax. Hillary Clinton seethed with volcanic rage and exploded before the press "shame on you Barack Obama. Meet me in Ohio". It was also then that Obama's private comments about people "clinging to guns and religion" and voting against their interests got out Hillary jumped at it with gusto. Obama returned the favor and ridiculed her for "acting like Annie Oakley" and hoped that he'd get to see her soon "in her duck blinds".

Once Obama became the presumptive nominee he and Hillary decided to bury their hatchets and journeyed to a joint campaign event to proclaim unity. The event was scheduled at Unity, New Hampshire. Indeed. So, please save the eye rolling at the rowdiness of the GOP debate.

The Democratic party has a formidable candidate and only one other candidate who is even remotely giving her anxiety while in the crowded GOP field there is actually deep bench of talent once one looks beyond the Trump-Carson-Fiorina circus act. There is no Obama this time who is disrupting the coronation of Hillary Clinton. It actually deprives excitement for the party. The GOP voter is more excited to vote than the Democratic party faithful.

It is a complete fabricated myth to say that the Democratic debate was policy oriented compared to the Jake Tapper moderated GOP debate. First, as the Washington Examiner pointed out, it speaks to CNN's double standards. The CNN conducted GOP debate was promoted like it was fight night from the word go. Jake Tapper, an otherwise decent journalist, reduced a presidential debate to schoolyard brawl by asking each candidate what he or she thought of an uncharitable or critical remark made by another candidate. Compelled to outdo Fox News in the ratings game CNN reduced the GOP debate to a slug fest. The same CNN promoted the democratic debate as high minded policy debate between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. The hypocrisy aside Anderson Cooper lobbed softball questions.

Hillary Clinton is probably the most experienced candidate with an unprecedented resume to ever run for the President. Former First Lady, Senator, first woman candidate to win a primary and Secretary of State. A formidable candidate Clinton is also a magnet for controversies. Anderson Cooper did not ask substantive questions to her. What were the unasked questions?

Cooper asked Clinton whether her Presidency will be Obama's third term. Clinton gave her by now much mocked laughter and said that if elected being the first woman President would be difference enough. Cooper had no follow through or push back. Clinton just reduced the Presidency to affirmative action where an extra chromosome is deemed change enough. Barely months after leaving the cabinet Clinton had ridiculed Obama's central foreign policy theme of 'do no stupid stuff' as being an insufficient 'organizing principle' for a great country. We do not yet know what she thinks of as 'organizing principle' on the foreign policy front.

'Two for the price of one' was Hillary Clinton's campaign stump speech in 1992. Many of the key topics of today's campaign have its roots in the Clinton Presidency when Hillary was a co-equal partner and yet she was not called to answer for them. There was mention of re-instating Glass-Steagall act but no one sought to ask Hillary what she thought of the act repealed by her husband and now widely blamed for the 2008 financial crises. The large scale incarceration of blacks is spoken of as an urgent racial issue but nobody asked Hillary what her thoughts were on legislation signed by her husband to 'get tough on crimes'. Democrats love to talk of income inequality and a rigged economy but no one asked Hillary if she still agrees with her husband's legislation to 'end welfare as we know it'.

Bill Clinton was widely derided for his style of compromising and 'triangulation'. Hillary was not asked what 'kind' of a president she would be. Seeking to be the new Democrat Bill Clinton declared 'the era of big government is over'. Yet, Hillary, nudged by Bernie Sanders, a self declared democratic socialist, is calling for big government. She was not asked to draw a contrast with the Clinton era. More importantly, in 2008 Obama tied Hillary Clinton's support of NAFTA around her neck as an albatross and presented her as inimical to the working class voter base. In fact Obama's campaign rhetoric was so shrill that Canada was alarmed if he would, as president, repeal the landmark trade pact. To quell the anxieties Obama campaign despatched Austan Goolsbee in secret to the Canadian embassy to calm them saying that all such posturing was only for the sake of campaign. Any other candidates candidacy would have sunk without a trace when such things come out into the open but Obama, the teflon candidate, sailed on. Now, that Obama is negotiating a historic trade pact with South Asian countries. For the second time Hillary found herself selling a free trade pact. Asked why is she now opposing a trade pact she was promoting Hillary said "it did not meet her gold standard" for such acts. Nobody asked her what is indeed her gold standard. If Obama got the pillow from questioners in 2008 in 2012 it is Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton is nothing if not the best informed policy wonk. A commentator once wrote that if the presidency was decided by a written exam she'd ace it. Hillary burst into the national conscience with the disastrous attempted overhaul of the nations convoluted health care industry during Bill Clinton's first term. It was a failure that defined Hillary in the public mind well into the 2000s. Obama's legacy making legislation, often pejoratively referred to as 'Obamacare', is the 'Affordable Care Act'. One of the key revenue streams for funding ACA is a tax on employer provided health plans deemed too generous. The tax, called 'Cadillac tax', actually ensnares a lot of the health plans negotiated by Unions like the UAW. Hillary is now calling for the repeal of that tax. Nobody asked her how she proposes to fund ACA after depriving it of a key revenue source.

A key moment during the debate was when Hillary was asked about the seemingly never ending email scandal. Hillary in true Clinton fashion took responsibility for her decision to use a private email server without mentioning the many months she spent pretending it was a non-issue and tied herself like a pretzel on the timeline of events and finally capping it all with, again, a Clintonian parsing of legality there were no emails in her server that was deemed classified at the time it came in. In yet another moment of how the mainstream media is misreading popular sentiment contrary to their expectations the email scandal lived on in popular discourse and has impacted Hillary's popularity especially on the question of whether she is trustworthy.

Many of those who applauded the Democratic debate pointed to how Hillary's arch rival Bernie Sanders rallied to her support saying that people don't want to listen anymore to "your damn email scandal". Hillary, beaming with gratitude, thanked Bernie as the hall, crowded with devoted partisans, erupted into a standing ovation. Sanders had his own selfish reason in wanting to put an end to any discussion of the email scandal. Sanders's candidacy is built around talking economic equality and his policy prescriptions of 'democratic socialism' and every minute spent talking something else takes the oxygen out of his campaign against a vastly better funded, better organized juggernaut of a campaign that is Hillary's campaign.

Bernie Sanders calls himself a 'democratic socialist' while in reality he should just call himself a 'socialist' but I guess that term is too radioactive to use. Amongst the democratic party it has become an article of faith, a religious orthodoxy, to make it appear that there is no problem on earth that can be solved without taxing the "millionaires and billionaires" and there is no ill on earth that does not involve "the rich". This is no longer the party of Bill Clinton, the new Democrat and it is not even the party of Obama but it is trying to hark back to the days of the muscular liberalism of FDR.

Bernie Sanders is the rock star excitement in 2015 for Democratic party. The leftward lurch of Hillary Clinton is to steal some of that thunder and protect her flank and not make the mistake she did in 2008 of not watching out the left wing of the party. Cooper asked Sanders to define 'democratic socialism' and elicited a non-definition. When pressed whether he thinks his high taxation agenda would work Sanders offered Denmark as an example. Hillary Clinton laced into him saying "we are not Denmark" and that she, unlike Sanders, is a "progressive but a progressive who likes to get results". Sanders was left blinking and wondering what hit him.

Sanders too was not asked to justify his so called 'Denmark model'. Democrats are the worst cheats when they talk of increasing taxes for the 'millionaires and billionaires' because in reality many of their tax proposals starts at $250,000, which in reality, is mostly middle class in the expensive to live North East and California. Democrats are unleashing a class war in America by making 98% people think that they can have the cake and eat it too by making the 2% pay for it. In reality if every utopian idea of the democrats is implemented it'd take taxes on a much larger population. In recent interviews Sanders concedes, oh so slyly and oh so shyly, that indeed the taxes will affect everyone and not just the much vilified rich.

From Wikipedia
Anderson Cooper, a limousine liberal himself, did not have the intellectual gravitas to point out to Sanders that it is the much reviled 'rich' who pay the majority of the taxes too. It is a complete canard to say the rich get tax breaks. All statistical data point to the incontrovertible truth that the rich, especially the demonized top 1%, pay the lions share of America's tax receipts. Actually in Denmark, like any European country, the middle class pays a much higher tax than America. The duplicity of democrats, starting with Obama, is in offering European style socialism with American taxation where, unlike Europe, the few pay for every program. If socialism is to be stuffed down my throat I'd much rather prefer the European model than the American one.

Donald Trump has made the GOP the laughing stock of the world and the democrats are salivating at the prospect of Trump being the GOP nominee. What is less noticed or spoken of is how Bernie Sanders's immigration policies are strikingly similar to Trump albeit without the racism of the latter. Sanders stoutly opposes immigration. Of course like his beloved Denmark he wants America to close it's borders. Interestingly there was no question on that.

Asked if they would pardon Edward Snowden if he returns to America all the candidates safely agreed that they'd not pardon him. The real unasked question was about the grotesque surveillance state that Obama's administration presides over. Obama, in his first inaugural address, loftily declared that he rejects the false choice between security and liberty. Yet, Obama's warrantless wiretaps have prompted even somebody like former New York Times editor to remark that this is the most dangerous presidency in American history. No one, not even Obama's secretary of State, was asked "what do you intend to do?"

A columnist listing the winners of the night included Barack Obama because the incumbent was not criticized at all and in fact all candidates struggled to differentiate themselves from the incumbent. This underscores how little Obama's record, despite his approval rating hovering less than 50%, was not really dissected especially by those who want to succeed him from his own party. Essentially they were all auditioning for Obama's third term.

The questions on Iraq war and Syria were dispatched off by the candidates, especially Hillary Clinton, with staple talking points that went unchallenged. Another question that went unasked was Obama's policy of drone wars that has come to be written about with great concern even on the front pages of New York Times, especially on the very contentious way that the administration counts the dead, its classification of who is a terrorist is controversial to say the least. We are asked to believe such a vacuous debate was substantive. If this is how policy debates are to be conducted I'd easily trade it for the motley raucous GOP debate.

The democratic party has been afflicted by what I'd like to call the 'Santa Claus syndrome'. Santa Claus, at least sets some criteria to get a gift, one has to have behaved good, the democrats want to run the economy like its a candy store and outdo Santa. It is pathetic that there was no serious questioning on the biggest problem that America faces. Debt and deficit. Make no mistake America's debt problem is a ticking time bomb and no amount of taxing the 1% will fix it. Also, make no mistake that the large part of debt is entirely due to what is collectively called 'entitlement spending'.

On the issue of taxes a Tamil blogger provided a Freudian slip that best illustrates why taxing the rich is popular and why somebody like Sanders draws support. The blogger, a Sanders supporter, cooly said "well its not people like us who'll be affected by his taxes". Essentially he was confessing that while he may get to enjoy the benefits (actually that is itself debatable) it'll be somebody else paying for it. Coming from a country ruined by freebies he has learned little of the cost of such sloganeering.

One of Sanders's pipe dreams is to provide free college. Of course, yet again, it is to be paid for by taxing the rich. Oy vey, if only I had a penny every time that idea was offered I can retire securely. The reckless government funding of college tuition has played a big role in fueling the exponential increase of college tuition in America. If health care spending is to be controlled democrats love to bash the service providers, viz the insurance companies and hospitals whereas when it comes to tuition increase there is little or no talk of holding universities responsible but instead talk only revolves around how to raid the treasury to keep funding the ravenous appetite of universities. The Obama administration's feeble efforts in including affordability as a criterion in scoring universities was quietly buried thanks to the immense power of lobbying that universities, breeding grounds for future merchants of utopia, exercised. It is easy for democrats to rail and rant against the much regulated industries of oil and high finance than to even offer a weak protest against the true driver of inequality, unaffordable college education.

Democrats love to brag that Obama's 'Affordable care act' brought the number of uninsured down by a large margin. True. Very true. But what is also true is that nearly 80% new enrollees in ACA draw a subsidy from the government and most are part of the expansion of medicaid. This is absolute catastrophe waiting to explode. In this context is worthwhile recalling that a video showing one of the architects of the act bragging that the American public was duped into supporting the healthcare overhaul on the premise that it would cut costs whereas the goal was only to expand care and taming the cost was not even on the agenda. And here we have a debate that featured Hillary Clinton without a question about any of that. Civility? Shucks. Policy oriented debate? My foot.

Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, struggling in the polls and therefore seeking to gain a foothold in the debate shrieked with self-righteous indignation that he'd expand healthcare to even illegal immigrants. Of course who cares about how to pay for it. O'Malley left a solid blue Maryland so broken that they elected a Republican to succeed him as governor. It is not without reason that every liberal state is fiscally deep in the red with structural deficits. Of course O'Malley was on the debate stage merely as decoration that Anderson Cooper did not even pretend to ask him anything substantive.

The night's only moment of candor, albeit, again, with the right dose of righteous indignation, was when Bernie Sanders bristled about his voting records on gun rights. Mr Sanders, who voted against the 'Brady bill', angrily thundered that he comes from a state, Vermont, which cherishes gun rights. So by that token he should give a pass to Hillary Clinton  who as Senator from New York had to accommodate Wall Street banks because after-all what can the state of New York do without those fat cats?

In a debate that featured 3 senators and two governors, one of whom had been a senator too, there was no question of how they'd work with GOP or reach out across the aisle. For the foreseeable future the GOP will control the house and the Senate will not have a filibuster proof democratic majority unless a full blown drubbing of the GOP happens thanks to until now unthinkable situation of Trump being the nominee. A democratic president will have to reach across the aisle. Obama who had no experience of crafting any legislation let alone a bipartisan legislation had no idea of how to be a Bill Clinton. Unlike George Bush who worked with his arch rival Ted Kennedy to create a bipartisan legislation to reform education Obama had to pass his health care reform without a single vote from the GOP. The cause was not just the GOP's intransigence but also that of a hubris driven imperious president who loved to taunt his rivals "elections have consequences and I won". For all those who rail against GOP's intransigence belabor under the ignorance of how the likes of Harry Reid and Elizabeth Warren operate. Warren, the liberal lioness, once said that she'd much rather leave "blood and teeth on the floor" instead of compromising on the nature of an agency she was proposing. Once GOP took control of the Senate Obama was able to move more bills than he ever could when Harry Reid controlled the senate. Privately Obama administration confided to New York Times that without Reid the president has found GOP more willing to work with him and more willing to be professional.

As for the much lauded civility of Obama asking his one time bitter rival Hillary Clinton to serve in his cabinet people forget that he asked Bush appointee Robert Gates to continue as Secretary of defense. Sure it was nice of Obama but we need to credit Gates too for agreeing to serve under a guy who vilified his former boss as a ticket to the Oval office. Also less noticed is how non-partisan Bush was and is. During the days of the financial crises, a gift of the Clinton economy actually, Bush instructed all his officials to keep the campaigns of both Obama and McCain equally informed because one of them will have to succeed him. Also, unlike what the departing Clinton administration did Bush ensured that the incoming Obama team was already up to speed on national security and key issues.

In case the readers have forgotten I take pleasure in reminding them how childish the Clinton administration behaved when George Bush took over. Peeved over the contentious and controversial manner of how Bush reached the presidency many Clinton officials vandalized the computers in the White House by removing the letter 'W' from the keyboards.

Let's see what kind of beast will slouch towards the Oval office in 2016.


1. CNN debate
2. "86% of Health Care Enrollees Receive Subsidies, White House Says"
3. Healthcare architect Jonathan Gruber saying "lack of transparency" helped pass Affordable Care Act
4. Jonathan Gruber calls the American voter "stupid"
5. The Denmark fallacy. Here's how US taxation compares to other countries. Check the graphic. At $55,000 Denmark levies a 60% tax.
6. Medicare and Social Security is driving US debt
7. Clinton White House vandalized computers when George Bush transitioned in
8. Tensions flare between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in South Carolina debate in 2008
9. Hillary Clinton says 'Shame on  you Barack Obama' in Ohio
10. Hillary Clinton complaining about the preferential treatment given to Barack Obama during debates
11. "The rich pay majority of US income taxes"
12. Elizabeth Warren on leaving "blood and teeth on the floor"
13. Bernie Sanders for taxing "ALL" to fund family leave plan
14. Bernie Sanders tells Bill Maher that more than just 1% will be taxed more (but not too many)

1 comment:

kailash said...

Hope you have read the vandalism article written in NYT , it says it was worst during Sr. Bush's departure . After clinton days 14000 bucks spent to repair the damage ( wear and tear ) . Also it dint confirmed whether damage was done by Clinton staff in White House . Are you saying that Clinton is responsible for their staffs childish behavior ( even if its done by them ).
Even though Democrat presidential debate dint go deeper it has atleast touched topics which are mostly affecting Americans day to day life .
With respect to NSA Spying Sanders clearly said he is against it . “I'd shut down what exists right now — is that virtually every telephone call in this country ends up in a file at the NSA,” Sanders said. “That is unacceptable to me.”
I agree they dint got any tough questions like trade agreement , ACA and about dealing with republicans in house for which sanders said revolution is required and webb said he dint expect revolution.Sanders is the only one who doesnt accept money from big donors so far his contributions are mostly low level contributions . I expect the remaining three debates to be more meaningful and should give clarity to public .