Live-blogging the first Dem debate

Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, left, speaks as Hillary Rodham Clinton looks on during the CNN Democratic presidential debate Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Associated Press photos

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont speaks during tonight’s first Democratic Party presidential primary debate as Billary Clinton looks on (above), and they yuk it up at perhaps the best moment of the debate (below). Tonight’s debate didn’t change the dynamics of the race; Sanders and Billary remain the top two in the race and are likely to remain the top two for a time to come.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont,, left, and Hillary Rodham Clinton laugh during the CNN Democratic presidential debate, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

5:33 p.m.: All times Pacific Standard Time. I’m live-blogging from California, where it’s now 5:34 p.m., and the debate in Las Vegas, Nevada, sponsored by CNN, begins shortly.

5:38: The infotaining CNN intro reminds us of Billary Clinton’s already-tarnished campaign and Bernie Sanders’ unexpected strength.

5:42: Sheryl Crow’s singing of the national anthem — um, yeah, we didn’t need that… Bernie looks nicely groomed — none of that fly-away hair that he’s so well-known for; he could pass for a Repugnican… I don’t like Billary’s outfit.

I probably won’t be saying much about the other three candidates, as none of them polls more than 1 percent nationally right now

5:49: I dig Anderson Cooper’s purple tie. Men don’t wear purple enough. I like the symbolism of Sanders standing to Billary’s left as we look at the five candidates on the debate stage.

5:50: Lincoln Chafee is talking. He used to be a Repugnican. I have a problem with that. He was, however, the only Repugnican U.S. senator who in October 2002 voted against the Vietraq War. I admire him for that, but again, he polls at no more than 1 percent.

5:52: Jim Webb is now talking. I have no huge problem with him that I can think of right now — he’s more centrist than I like them, but he probably would make a decent president. Too bad that he polls at no more than 1 percent…

5:54: Now Martin O’Malley, my second choice of the five current candidates for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, after Bernie Sanders. O’Malley probably has a shot at vice president, it seems to me, as perhaps Webb does, but his low polling at this point doesn’t bode well for him.

5:56: Now my man Bernie, reminding us how most of the nation’s wealth has gone to the top 1-percent richest and how “millionaires and billionaires are pouring unbelievable amounts of money into the political process.” He also brought up climate change and sustainable energy so that we can “leave this planet a habitable planet for our children and grandchildren.” He stated that we have more incarcerated people than any other nation on earth. We should put money into education and jobs instead of into incarceration, he just stated. We need to take our government back from the handful of billionaires and create the “vibrant democracy” that we can have and should have, he said.

5:58: Billary is blathering now. She has mentioned infrastructure and profit sharing and closing tax loopholes and cutting taxes for middle-class families. She has hit on children, family and women’s issues. She has brought up income inequality and racial inequality and hit on feminism, although she didn’t overdo it.

6:02: First question is to Billary. It ended: “Will you say anything to get elected?” Ouch. Billary is now explaining herself, such as her apparent change on the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership. Billary says she has a “range” of views and that she’s progressive and moderate, if I understand her bullshit correctly. Billary now says that she is a “progressive,” but “a progressive who likes to get things done.”

6:04: Bernie was asked the “socialist” question right off. He is explaining democratic socialism right now, once again talking about Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Anderson Cooper redirects the question, saying “it’s a question of electability.” (Funny how “electability” is to be determined by the corporately owned and controlled mass media, not by those of us who actually cast ballots…)

6:06: Bernie, when asked if he is a capitalist, basically stated that he disagrees with evil capitalism. Billary is now saying that “we’re not Denmark” (you know that some staffer or intern came up with that “zinger”) and is bringing up the old trope, so oft used by Repugnicans defending capitalism, that capitalism means small businesses, despite the fact that mega-corporations have taken over our planet (including having destroyed small businesses and made it nearly impossible for new small business to succeed), and that they did so decades ago.

6:08: Lincoln Chafee says of the Repugnican Party that it left him. He stated that he has changed parties, but not his views. O’Malley is taking heat now for his record in Baltimore, the locale of rioting over race relations earlier this year after a young black man died while in police custody.

6:12: Jim Webb is now taking heat for having stated in the past that he opposes affirmative action. He clarifies/”clarifies” that he supports affirmative action for blacks only. Hmmm. I am not a huge fan of affirmative action, as in some cases it can be used to practice reverse discrimination (yes, that exists, that is a thing, a bad thing), but I do support it in regions/areas of the nation where any group historically has been kept down/oppressed/discriminated against. I don’t support blanket affirmative action, but support it in specific areas/regions where it truly is justice for past wrongs that persist to this day. (Similarly, the now-gutted Voting Rights Act’s pre-clearance requirement did not cover every jurisdiction within the nation, but covered those jurisdictions with historical voting rights violations.)

6:15: Sanders is now talking about mental health and gun control. Billary now says that we lose 90 people a day to gun violence and that Sanders isn’t strong enough on gun control. Billary fairly clearly wants to make gun control a wedge issue between her and Bernie. She will have limited success with that tack, I believe.

6:18: O’Malley has been talking about the importance of passing “comprehensive gun safety legislation.” Sanders reminds the audience that he comes from a rural state (Vermont) and states that while O’Malley and Billary were elected to represent and govern urban areas, the need for gun control is different in rural areas. This strikes me as plausible, and, in fact, Vermont is second only to New Hampshire in terms of having the fewest murders by gun per capita than any other state.

6:20: Jim Webb defends the Second Amendment and citizens’ ability to protect their families. He’s definitely more to the right than the other four on the stage.

6:21: Chafee says we can work with the gun lobby and find “common ground” on the issue of gun violence. Riiiiighhhhht….

6:23: Billary says we have to “stand up to [Vladimir Putin’s] bullying” and states that it’s “unacceptable” for Russia to be in Syria. Sanders calls Syria “a quagmire within a quagmire.” Bernie reminds us of his knowledge of “the cost of war” from having worked on veterans’ issues in the U.S. Senate.

6:24: In talking about Billary, Lincoln Chafee reiterates that Sanders just remarked that the Vietraq War was the worst mistake in our (military/foreign-policy) history, and that Billary made that mistake when she voted for it in the U.S. Senate in October 2002.

6:26: Billary’s bullshit “deflection” on her stupendous Vietraq blunder is that Barack Obama picked her as her secretary of state because of her great judgment. Riiiiight. What a non-answer.

6:28: Sanders states he supports international coalitions rather than unilateral U.S. military actions when military action is necessary. O’Malley is now piling on Billary for her vote for the Vietraq War, if indirectly. O’Malley says that, unlike Billary, he opposes no-fly zones over Syria, as Sanders does.

6:30: Billary reminded us that O’Malley supported her in 2008. So what?

6:32: Webb now (indirectly) piling on Billary for the Vietraq War, citing it as one of the reasons why we have problems in Syria and elsewhere within the Middle East right now. Webb says we need to focus now on China and its “unelected, authoritarian government.”

6:34: Benghazi now. Billary defending her decisions in Benghazi. She actually looks OK tonight. I guess her outfit is OK… She states “there is always the potential for danger and risk” to diplomats. Probably true. As I’ve written many times, “Benghazigate” is, from what I can tell, mostly bullshit.

6:38: A shitty question to Webb (a Vietnam vet): Should Sanders, a conscientious objector during the Vietnam era, be allowed to be commander in chief? Sanders emphasized his work for veterans and his opposition, as a young man, to the Vietnam War. “I am not a pacifist,” Sanders just stated. He states he has supported some military actions, but that “war should be the last resort.”

6:41: While everyone else listed another country or a region or nukes, Bernie Sanders just named climate change as the greatest security threat to us Americans. I agree; he had the best answer to that question. A leader sees the bigger picture. Military squabbles mean nothing in light of a planet that won’t support human life at some point in the not-distant-enough future.

6:45: We’re at commercial break now. I don’t see a huge “winner” or “loser” of this debate thus far. I don’t see this debate helping Chafee or Webb by any big margin. Just sayin’. It might help O’Malley a little bit. Billary is being Billary — slippery and smooth. Who doesn’t know her and her bullshit already? I don’t see this debate helping or hurting her. Bernie is doing OK thus far. A few minor flubs, but couldn’t I argue that he has had the most to gain from this debate, from the increased exposure to him?

6:47: Moderator Anderson Cooper now has reminded us that later this month Billary is to testify before the “Benghazigate” committee in the Repugnican-Tea-Party-controlled Congress. She’s trying to deflect, saying that we should talk about other, more important issues, and is reminding us that the committee is a Repugnican Tea Party witch hunt. She said she doesn’t want to talk about her e-mails tonight, but other things.

6:49: Whoa. “Enough of the e-mails!” Bernie just pronounced, stating that the real issue is whether or not we’re going to have a continued “oligarchy” or a democracy. This act and these words of Bernie have gotten the biggest applause thus far. O’Malley is now mimicking Bernie’s words. But Bernie got there first.

6:52: For some reason, CNN’s Don Lemon was assigned to ask the question about race relations. It’s the only question that he’s asked thus far… Anderson Cooper has asked all of the others. The five candidates have been asked to answer the question, “Do black lives matter or do all lives matter?” Hey, “Black Lives Matter” got into the debate.

Thus far, only Bernie Sanders has answered the question directly, with “Black lives matter.” Was it a rhetorical question? I took it as an actual, literal question…

Jim Webb says that “every life matters.” I agree with that, as I agree that “black lives matter,” but if Webb wants to go anywhere in this race, he’d better learn to say that “black lives matter”…

6:56: The discussion on race relations was disappointingly short and shallow. Now it’s Bernie talking about the economy and the disappearing middle class, his forte.

6:57: Wow. Anderson Cooper just reminded us that the Clintons are part of the 1 percent, so, he asked Billary, how can they understand and help the middle class? Billary responds that she has a “five-point economic plan,” which reminds me of something from “Kill Bill.”

6:59: O’Malley just said that he was happy to support Billary in 2008, but that “something happened in between” then and now. (Zing!) O’Malley says he supports the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act, which Billary opposes and which Bernie Sanders also supports.

7:01: Bernie Sanders says “fraud is the business model” of Wall Street, and that the Clinton administration deregulated the big banks in the 1990s, and that he fought that deregulation in Congress at that time.

Billary says that she went to Wall Street and told them to “cut it out.” Wow. That incredibly cheesy line sounded like a “Saturday Night Live” parody of Sarah Palin, such as “I can see Russia from my house.” I can see it coming back to haunt her.

7:03: O’Malley is reminding us of Billary’s “reversals,” such as the Keystone Pipeline, and O’Malley reminds us that he supports the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act while Billary opposes it. Billary denies that she flip-flopped on Keystone.

7:06: Webb complains that he hasn’t really been able to get a word in edgewise. His carping, whether he has a legitimate complaint or not, probably isn’t helping him. Isn’t leadership about getting yourself into the fray?

7:08: Chafee says that in the U.S. Senate he voted to kill Glass-Steagall (that vote, which led to the economic collapse at the end of George W. Bush’s second disastrous term, was in 1999, with the support of then-President Bill Clinton) but that he didn’t really know what he was voting on, as he’d just gotten to the Senate and was still green. That got him one of the worst, if not the worst, reactions from the audience. Ouch. It was over for Chafee before tonight’s debate, but it’s really over for him now.

7:10: Bernie Sanders is talking about how every American’s college education should be paid for, and that a tax on Wall Street speculation could accomplish that. Billary says she has a plan for college affordability, but she’s talking about the refinancing of current student loan debt. Wow. That’s thinking outside of the box! She states she wants college students to work at least 10 hours a week. Because work sets you free.

It’s fairly clear that the pro-Wall-Street, pro-plutocratic, pro-corporate Billary prefers Band-Aids when the dying, bled-to-near-death nation needs a blood transfusion.

7:14: Ah, finally: Immigration reform. Sanders calls for “comprehensive immigration reform” and “a path to citizenship.” Billary is talking about her support for health care for the children of undocumented immigrants. O’Malley reminds us that “we are a nation of immigrants” and that he also supports “comprehensive immigration reform.”

Webb states that his wife is an immigrant from Vietnam and states “I wouldn’t have a problem with that” when asked about his support for health care for undocumented (child?) immigrants as though he’d never thought of it before.

Billary interrupted Webb to remind everyone that the Democrats are much better on immigration than are the Repugnicans.

7:19: O’Malley just called Donald Trump a “carnival barker.” Yup.

7:20: Sanders reminding us of his record on veterans’ issues again.

7:21: Billary says she doesn’t regret her vote on the PATRIOT Act, states that the Bush regime subverted it. (She’s always blaming someone else.) We are reminded that Bernie Sanders voted against the PATRIOT Act.

7:23: Billary essentially says that Edward Snowden should “face the music,” that is, be criminally prosecuted. She states that instead of having fled the country, he could have been a well-received whistle blower, which is as bullshit as her assertion that capitalism is all about mom ‘n’ pop businesses. Sanders acknowledges that Snowden broke the law, but is much easier on Snowden than was Billary.

7:26: Billary reminds us that she’d be the nation’s first female president. She won’t criticize the Obama administration, but will say only that as president she would “go further.” Sanders says that the one way his presidency would not be like a third term of the Obama administration is that he would inspire a “revolution” among Americans to take the nation back from the billionaires.

Webb pooh-poohs that, of course. There won’t be any “revolution,” he glibly states, adding that we can’t pay for Sanders’ ideas. (We can’t, but the treasonous plutocrats who have stolen our wealth for some decades now sure can after we recover it from them.) Meh. We need visionaries, not naysaying centrists like Webb. I can’t support Webb. He doesn’t personally repulse me, but I don’t see that he’s visionary or inspiring enough to lead the nation, and what played well enough for him to be a U.S. senator for Virginia isn’t going to win him the Democratic Party presidential nomination.

We’re in another commercial break now, but it’s safe to say that Chafee and Webb are not going to advance in the 2016 Democratic Party presidential primary fight. O’Malley might survive for a while longer, but those two probably won’t be in this race much longer.

7:34: Some audience applause when Anderson Cooper states that some allege that the presidency isn’t a “crown” to be handed among members of the same family. Billary says that as a woman she’d be an “outsider.” Oh, please. That’s overplaying the feminism card a tad. 

O’Malley says that “our country needs new leadership to move forward.” Billary insists, “I’m not campaigning to be president because my last name is Clinton,” but because she is uniquely qualified to lead the nation now.

Bernie Sanders reminds us that he doesn’t have a superPAC, which is indeed something that he can brag about, because getting big money out of politics means walking your talk.

7:38: Webb, being from a coal state, apparently is the weakest of the five candidates on the stage where climate change is concerned. He’s attacking China again, apparently deflecting the problem of climate change onto China.

7:40: Sanders calls climate change a “moral issue” and reminds us that big coal and big oil and their big money to politicians perpetuates the problem of climate change.

7:42: Billary talks about her support for working mothers, including paid family leave nationally. I support this, of course. Billary reminds us that the Repugnicans are “fine with big government” controlling women’s reproductive choices, but that they oppose governmental programs that will help women. The wealthy will pay for aid to women and families, Billary said. I agree with her wholeheartedly, and again, it’s not the plutocrats’ wealth; it’s our wealth, which they stole from us.

7:45: Sanders states he supports the nationwide legalization of recreational marijuana, if I understand his answer correctly. Billary states she supports medical marijuana but apparently supports a “states’ rights” approach on the legalization of recreational marijuana: that is, allow the states to legalize it if they wish, but no nationwide legalization of recreational marijuana now. That’s another Billary wuss-out, the refusal to take a strong stand.

7:50: Another commercial break now. Again, I expect Webb or Chafee to drop out first. Webb can’t utter “China” as the answer to every question, and he can’t win the Democratic Party presidential primary by being so far to the right. Chafee won’t be able to shake his having left the Repugnican Party in September 2007, which wasn’t long ago enough.

7:55: Chafee in his closing statement says he’s proud that he’s the only Repugnican U.S. senator who voted against the Vietraq War, and he reminds us that his political career has been clean and scandal-free. I applaud his Vietraq War vote, but again, he can’t win this race.

7:57: Again, Webb seems like a nice guy, but I don’t see him winning this thing. Too military, too much to the right.

7:58: O’Malley’s closing statement is pretty good. I like him more after tonight. He strikes me as pretty smart and probably sincere. “We need to speak to the goodness within our country,” in contrast to the Repugnican Tea Party traitors’ use of hatred and fear for political gain, he concluded. Yup. This debate has helped O’Malley, methinks.

7:59: Sanders in his closing statement states that until and unless we “stand up to the billionaire class,” we cannot succeed, and he reminds us that his superPAC-free campaign is averaging donations of “$30 a piece.”

8:01: Billary asks us, in her closing statement, “who [of the five candidates on stage] has the [best] vision to change the lives of the American people”? Um, from tonight’s debate, I’d answer Bernie Sanders, first, and Martin O’Malley, second.

Billary’s closing statement sounded like it was written by an advertising firm. Little that she says sounds heartfelt and unrehearsed.

That said, if I had to predict how the poll numbers of these five candidates will look in the coming weeks, again, I see Chafee and Webb dropping out fairly soon. They’re not going to catch fire. I expect O’Malley to remain in the game for a while. He might end up as the vice-presidential candidate.

I expect Bernie Sanders’ numbers to go up a bit — if for no other reason than that this debate his given him more exposure, and the more exposure he gets, the higher his poll numbers go. I don’t see Billary’s numbers going up (or down) much as a result of this debate, frankly. Who doesn’t already know her pretty well by now? Who, by now, doesn’t already support her or oppose her?

I suppose that if you actually support Billary Clinton, you’ll believe that she “won,” and that if you support Bernie Sanders, as I do, you’ll believe that he “won.”

I mean, Billary was more polished, having been a fakey fake for many, many years now, but if sincerity is your measure, she didn’t win. If authenticity is your measure, Bernie won, in my book, and I’ll always take the substance over the varnish.

The race for the 2016 Democratic Party presidential nomination remains between Bernie Sanders and Billary Clinton. Tonight’s first of the too-few-thanks-to-pro-Billary-DINO-Debbie-Wasserman-Schultz debates didn’t change that. Tonight’s debate didn’t make me think differently of Billary or Bernie, but did make me think differently of Webb and Chafee (especially Webb, whose debate performance sadly was lacking, even his too-far-right views entirely aside [seriously — I’d hoped that he’d do better than he did]).

Tonight was, I think, a pretty good night for Martin O’Malley. I don’t see him moving up to the top two, on which Sanders and Billary have the lock, but he has cemented his place at No. 3, methinks.

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