I have just finished watching the Democrat debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders that aired on PBS from Milwaukee and here are my observations.
I think Hillary and Bernie were fairly evenly matched up during the domestic portion of the debate. Both were pandering the black vote equally. Hillary got big cheers when she thrashed Wisconsin Governor and former GOP presidential candidate Scott Walker. Bernie stood his ground when Hillary criticized his opposition to comprehensive immigration reform in 2007 by stating the Southern Poverty Law Center, AFL-CIO and LULAC also opposed the bill. Hillary weakly rejoindered it was Ted Kennedy’s bill. Bernie also put Hillary on the defensive once again when it came to her campaign contributions from wealthy donors.
However, Hillary dominated the foreign policy segment of the debate. Not that I found her all that convincing. She said we could ill afford to alienate Muslim countries and then bragged about bringing Iran to the negotiating table. It would seem to me the countries most alienated by bringing Iran to the table outside of Israel were the Sunni Muslim nations. Hillary also said we had a lot of work to do with the Russians. When she said that I tweeted, “Will she continue to do this on her private server?”
But Bernie couldn’t take advantage of Hillary’s malarkey because he is so out to sea on foreign policy and it showed. He spent at least five minutes talking about Henry Kissinger (whom Hillary has praised in the past). I’m sure the late Christopher Hitchens would have been smiling, but Bernie’s focus should have been on Hillary in the here and now and not on Kissinger in Cambodia.
The most contentious moment of the debate took place when Bernie was asked which two leaders (one American and one foreign) he most admired on foreign policy. After a somewhat long winded response, he replied FDR and (somewhat surprisingly) Churchill. Hillary concurred with FDR and said Nelson Mandela was her favorite foreign leader. But at that point she pivoted to criticize Bernie for his criticism of President Obama. She claimed that Bernie called him weak and a disappointment. Bernie replied it was a low blow and said that we live in a democracy and can criticize the President. He also reminded the audience that it was Hillary, not he, who had run against Obama in 2008.
I must say that Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff were fair in their questioning of both candidates as compared to NBC which is pro-Hillary all the way. However, this was offset by the pro-Hillary audience.
Even if you don’t believe a word Hillary Clinton said, this was her strongest debate performance and Sanders’ weakest and she needed it. The Nevada Democrat Caucus vote takes place on February 20, while the South Carolina Democrat Primary takes place one week later with Super Tuesday to follow on March 1. The race could be in a much different state by their next debate which is scheduled for March 6 (a Sunday) in Flint, Michigan, and will air on CNN. Gee, I wonder if Bernie and Hillary will say that the City of Flint or the EPA bears any responsibility for the water crisis.