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Monday, January 18, 2016

Democratic Presidential Candidates' First Debate of 2016 – The Gloves Are Off

First appeared on Blogcritics.

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During the Democratic Presidential Debate in Charleston, South Carolina, last night, the former elephant in the room in previous debates (no, not Republican candidate Donald Trump) now stumbled out front and center –William Jefferson Clinton, husband of candidate Hillary Clinton and 42nd President of the United States.

When Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was asked about a derogatory comment he had made regarding Mr. Clinton, Sanders at first became irate about being asked the question. He said that he wanted this to be a campaign about the “issues,” but then admitted Mr. Clinton’s behavior was “deplorable” in regard to his history with women other than his wife.

Why this seems important now has less to do with Mr. Clinton himself and more to do with Mrs. Clinton – who firmly admits that she plans to discuss job related things over the breakfast table with her husband before going to work as president. Mr. Clinton, who served two terms as Commander in Chief, would seem a perfect resource, right?

The thing that Sanders slyly insinuated but clearly wanted to be known is that Mrs. Clinton’s judgement shouldn’t be trusted. Why, you may ask? Because either she still trusts old Bill to be the loving and loyal husband that he always should have been or that she is so set on the prize of the highest office in the land that she continues to turn a blind eye to what most of the rest of America knows that he did.

So we can talk about the economy, healthcare, and guns – which all came up last night – but nothing seems as pertinent as Mrs. Clinton’s connection to Bill. If she wants to come off as a champion of women’s rights and issues, then she has to confront the Ghost of White House Past. If she continues to sweep Bill (and all his baggage) under the carpet, Mr. Sanders just may have a chance to upset the apple cart here.
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One of the things that has stood out as different from the Republican debates up until this evening had been personal attacks. The Hateful 8 (well, now they are down to seven and counting) of Republicans seems to love to bash mostly Mrs. Clinton while also bombarding each other with personal assaults. The Republican debates have been actually good theater, especially with MC Trump front and center. The Democratic debates have been more about policy, about issues, and the three candidates (one must feel for former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley who is most decidedly a third wheel here) have steered clear of personal attacks until now.

Unfortunately, moderator Andrea Mitchell did pose the question and, one must admit, this is fair game and needs to be addressed. While Sanders had great answers regarding his healthcare policy, rebutted Mrs. Clinton’s attack on him regarding guns (asking why does he have a D- rating from the NRA if  he is so pro-gun), and generally comes off as a solid candidate, he waffled too much regarding Mr. Clinton.

What should happen is that Mr. Sanders needs to distinguish himself as a champion of men and women’s rights, and to do this he must not waver again if the Bill Clinton issue comes up. It is a serious matter that Mr. Clinton appears to have been an abuser of women, perhaps not in the league of another guy named Bill, but certainly a serial one nonetheless. If Mrs. Clinton can turn a blind eye to Mr. Clinton’s transgressions because she has the other one focused on the prize of the Oval Office, what other things has she ignored for the sake of getting to the top?

The time to soon actually cast votes in primaries for this run for the White House is coming soon. Mr. Sanders, who hails from Brooklyn and sounds like someone you could have met at the old El Greco Diner in Sheepshead Bay, comes across as genuine and seems to be an honest guy. He lets people know that he has no strings attached to the big guns that back Mrs. Clinton (and other candidates). His attack on Mrs. Clinton regarding her speaking fees ($600,000 for Goldman Sachs alone last year) brings up a disturbing issue about the Clintons and their connections.

dem2Mrs. Clinton is poised and polished but seems always on the script, and apparently does not like to veer off from what her expectations are regarding questions. She clearly did not score any knockout points, even when she tried to hammer Mr. Sanders on guns, so it seems delivering the coup de grace is not in her debating toolbox, at least not yet.

Overall we come away from last night’s debate with a clear picture of these three people: Mr. Sanders is the outsider; Mrs. Clinton the insider, and Mr. O’Malley the odd man out. With Mr. Sanders rising in the polls, we have to wonder whether history repeats itself, reminding us of how Barack Obama came out of nowhere and eclipsed Mrs. Clinton in 2008. We’ll have to see what happens in Iowa and New Hampshire, but it seems very much like it could be a case of déjà vu all over again for Mrs. Clinton if something doesn’t change soon.

Photo credits: aol, cnn, foxnews

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