Daily Archives: February 4, 2016

Live-blogging the fifth, last-minute Democratic presidential debate

Updated below (on Friday, February 5, 2016)

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, and Democratic presidential candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spar during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by MSNBC at the University of New Hampshire Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, in Durham, N.H. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Associated Press photo

Bernie Sanders and Billary Clinton spar in the fifth Democratic Party presidential debate in New Hampshire, five days before the state holds its presidential primary election, the first presidential primary election in the nation. Bernie is expected to win New Hampshire, but subsequent states have been polling more favorably for Billary. Tonight’s debate, which was between only the two candidates, should have given Sanders the additional exposure to voters that he has needed.

6:02 p.m. (all times Pacific Time): We’re beginning. No pre-debate punditry, thank Goddess. I’m not a fan of Chuck Todd, but I do like Rachel Maddow, even though MSNBC has been tilted toward Billary Clinton as of late (and has been drifting rightward for a while now).

6:04 p.m.: Bernie begins with his opening statement. He mentions the “rigged economy,” “a corrupt campaign finance system,” Citizens United and the 1 percent, and the political disenchantment that these problems have caused.

6:06 p.m.: Billary in her opening statement raises the specters of racism, sexism and homophobia — identity politics. I’m a gay man, but I don’t need to be pandered to, especially by late-to-the-gay-ball Billary Clinton, and income inequality is a worse problem than is homophobia. (Income inequality harms more people, and of course it harms LGBT folks, too.) Identity politics only keep us commoners fighting each other instead of fighting the powers that be — which is exactly what Billary’s corporate sugar daddies want.

“A progressive is someone who achieves progress,” Billary says. Mmm hmmmmm… (What’s “progress”? She doesn’t define it for us…)

6:10 p.m.: The middle class bailed out Wall Street, Bernie says; now, it’s time for Wall Street to bail out the middle class by helping fund college education, he says.

6:12 p.m.: Bernie denies Billary’s charge that he wants to dismantle “Obamacare.” He states that he would keep it in place while working toward single-payer/Medicare for all.

6:13 p.m.: Billary now trying to redefine progressivism and claim that Bernie’s attacks on her lack of progressivism are attacks not only on her but also on other Democrats, a common political triangulating, deflecting tactic of hers.

6:15 p.m.: Bernie reminds us that free college tuition exists in other nations and used to exist in the United States. Yup.

6:17 p.m.: Bernie reminds us that in September, Billary stated in public that she is a moderate. (She did.) Chuck Todd has asked Bernie if Barack Obama is a moderate or a progressive.

Bernie says he believes that Obama is a progressive (um, he might be fibbing…), although he disagrees with some of Obama’s stances, such as on the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership).

6:20 p.m.: Billary has called Bernie the (self-appointed) “gatekeeper of progressivism,” which is bullshit. Bernie says he doesn’t want to argue about the definitions of words and that it’s important to see who walks the walk, and he reminds us that he does not have a superPAC.

6:21 p.m.: Rachel Maddow asks about how Bernie is running as a Democrat when he became a Democrat only recently. Bernie stated that he wants to see “major changes” within the Democratic Party and that as the longest-serving independent in Congress, he always caucused with the Dems. This is true. (What other choice did he have?)

6:25 p.m.: Wow. Bernie just stated that Billary has the support of the establishment, whereas he has the support of the ordinary American.

Billary has responded by playing the woman card. Because she is a woman running for president, she can’t be part of the establishment, she has claimed. Wow. (Again, this is the New Feminism.)

Bernie reminds us that Billary’s taking Big Money’s big money like she does is to be part of the establishment.

Billary calls these “attacks” and claims through her fangs that all of the big money that she has received from Big Money has had no effect on her decision-making. Riiight…

Billary is now being booed by the audience. Woo hoo!

6:30 p.m.: Bernie is on fire, talking about how big money is destroying the nation. Just: Wow. “There is a reason that these people are putting huge amounts of money into our political system,” Bernie just said, to rousing applause.

Billary again tries to deflect and triangulate, stating that the Repugnicans long have attacked her, so she must not be that bad.

6:35 p.m.: We’re on break now. My computer is sluggish, so I’m not able to capture as much of this debate as I otherwise would like to… Thus far, only Billary has been booed, and Bernie is owning her. She’s quite on the defensive. And her voice sounds strained.

6:37 p.m.: Mega-asshole Chuck Todd asks Bernie why he isn’t participating in the public presidential campaign financing system, and doesn’t it make Bernie a hypocrite that he isn’t? Todd knows that Bernie couldn’t even begin to begin to effectively compete against Billary if he did that. Jesus fuck, I hate Chuck Todd.

Bernie calls the public financing system ineffective and antiquated for today’s political campaigns, and Billary agrees with him that it is (of course, she is not participating in it, either).

6:40 p.m.: The topic now is Billary’s speaking fees from Wall Street weasels. Bernie reminds us how evil Goldman Sachs and the other Wall Street weasels are, and reminds us that the Wall Street weasels tanked the nation’s economy but that none of them saw any jail time, whereas we commoners routinely see jail time for much, much lesser crimes/”crimes.”

6:43 p.m.: Bernie evokes Elizabeth Warren, the first time, I believe, that she has come up in these debates. The banks must be broken up, Bernie says. Billary disagrees and evokes Obama again. She claims that the Wall Street weasels hate and fear her. Riiiiight

Todd chimes in that more experts like Billary’s plan to take on Wall Street than Bernie’s. I have no idea whether this is true or not, but who are these “experts” of whom he speaks? Are they pro-Wall-Street “experts”?

6:47 p.m.: Billary tells us that she was highly paid (in speaking fees) to talk about such things as how “stressful” it was to help nab Osama bin Laden. Wow.

Billary doesn’t want us to focus on her coziness with Wall Street. She wants us to look at other bad actors, too, she says, such as Big Oil. Of course she wants us to look elsewhere. That’s her campaign tactic: Look! Over there!

6:51 p.m.: Rachel Maddow asks if Bernie as president could effectively work with Big Business, given his (socialist) campaign rhetoric. I resent the widespread idea that the president of the United States of America or any other elected public official should not be accountable to the American people, but instead should kowtow to Big Business — and leave it to a corporately owned and controlled “news” network to put forth that pro-capitalist/pro-corporate, anti-populist and anti-democratic worldview.

Bernie reminds us that while sometimes corporations do positive things, so often they do harmful things, such as send American jobs overseas in order to increase their profits.

6:55 p.m.: On break now. I’m not missing Martin O’Malley. Just sayin’.

6:57 p.m.: Topic now is ISIS. Billary says no combat troops to Iraq or Syria. She says the United States should provide support, but that the natives of the embattled nations should do the fighting.

6:59 p.m.: Bernie reminds us that unlike Billary he voted against the Vietraq War (this was when he was in the U.S. House of Representatives and she was in the U.S. Senate), which helped create ISIS in the first place. Repetitive, but true.

Billary responds by making a Sarah-Palin-like statement that we have to look forward, not backwards, but her incredibly poor judgment in having voted for the Vietraq War in October 2002 is fair game; it’s part of her record of “accomplishment.”

7:02 p.m.: The right-of-center Chuck Todd is being obviously much tougher on Bernie than on Billary, isn’t even trying to conceal his bias, and why isn’t Rachel Maddow getting a lot more air time than she is?

7:04 p.m.: Bernie sums up his foreign-policy philosophy, states that his “key doctrine” as president would be that the United States cannot be the world’s police and cannot do it all alone.

7:06 p.m.: Billary fear-mongers now, reminds us that the president is also the commander in chief.

Bernie states that while Billary has had the foreign-policy experience as secretary of state, judgment is important as well as experience, and he reminds us once again that Billary voted for the Vietraq War.

Billary reminds us once again that Obama made her his secretary of state, so she must have great judgment, and pathetically, she reminds us once again that she was part of the fishy nabbing of bin Laden.

Fuck. There are five more of these debates?

7:14 p.m.: Asked by Chuckie in an apparent trick question, Bernie names North Korea as our most worrying adversary right now. Chuckie then gives the “right” answer (Russia), and then asks Billary the same question, having already just given the “right” answer. Again, Chuckie doesn’t even give the pretense of fairness.

7:22 p.m.: On break. My streaming has gone in and out, so I probably have missed some stuff.

That said, these debates are pretty repetitive. I almost miss Martin — almost

7:24 p.m.: Chuck Todd asks if Bernie Sanders agrees with The Des Moines Register’s editorial about the fucked-up Iowa Democratic caucuses on Monday night (see my post from earlier today). Bernie says he does, but that the issue of the problems with Iowa’s Democratic caucuses have been overblown, as he and Billary left Iowa with roughly the same number of delegates.

7:27 p.m.: Rachel asks if Bernie can be a strong general-election presidential candidate. With strong voter turnout, yes, he can, Bernie answers. Strong voter turnout would propel him to the White House, regain the Dems the U.S. Senate and win back governorships for the Dems, he says.

7:29 p.m.: Billary won’t directly answer Rachel’s question as to whether or not she believes Bernie Sanders could beat the eventual Repugnican presidential candidate (the match-up polls have Bernie doing significantly better than Billary against Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio), but she indirectly says that he could not, and she fear-mongers again, saying that the president must keep us safe.

You know, if fear-mongering appealed to me, I would vote Repugnican. (I have to wonder if Billary’s having been a Goldwater Girl has had a permanently lasting effect on her. Seriously; I’m not being flippant.)

7:31 p.m.: Chuckie asks Billary about the e-mail issue. She says she isn’t worried about it at all and talks about the great evil of “retroactive security classification.” She engages her common tactic of claiming that others have done just as she has done, so therefore, she is innocent.

Bernie is asked if he still dismisses E-mailgate, as he did in the first debate. Bernie says, “There is a process under way [the investigation of Billary’s e-mail use is ongoing] and I will not politicize it.” (Bernie is civil to a fault, I think sometimes. But he’s gotten this far, so I can’t really say that he’s doing something majorly wrong.)

7:40 p.m.: The issue now is the death penalty. Billary says she will not oppose the death penalty in every instance. She says the death penalty should be reserved for the most heinous crimes, such as how Timothy McVeigh was executed for the Oklahoma City bombing, but that too many states can’t be trusted to administer the death penalty properly, unlike the fed.

7:43 p.m.: Government shouldn’t be part of killing, Bernie says, an apparent blanket opposition to the death penalty.

(My stance is closer to Bernie’s than to Billary’s; but I think that I am pretty OK with the death penalty for war criminals who are responsible for the deaths of thousands of people [and other crimes against humanity], such as George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, et. al. Seriously — justice was done at Nuremberg, but war criminals walk free among us here at home. It it’s never war criminals or other members of the elite who are executed, but only us commoners, for much lesser crimes. [And sometimes, of course, we commoners are executed when we are innocent.])

7:47 p.m.: Flint, Michigan, was discussed, but I lost my streaming… I did hear Bernie state that if Flint were rich and white, instead of largely poor and black, its water wouldn’t have been poisoned with lead. Yup.

Topic now is trade agreements. Billary states she opposes the TPP.

Chuckie reminds us that Bernie has never supported a trade deal in his years in Congress. Bernie says that all of the trade deals he’s voted on in Congress have screwed the working class and the middle class. He reminds us that he opposed NAFTA, which Bill Clinton signed into law.

Bernie says that corporate America has written the trade deals over the past 30 years, so he has not been able to support them. Excellent answer. He blew Chuckie (and Billary) away.

7:55 p.m.: Billary won’t pick one most important thing that she would push for first as president, stating she rejects the “premise” of Chuckie’s question.

Bernie without hesitation says campaign finance reform would be the one most important thing that he would push for first, because no other problem can be resolved until that problem is resolved. Excellent (and quite correct) answer.

8:00 p.m.: Billary just said that her service as secretary of state was praised by Henry KissingerWow… (Again: Goldwater Girl…)

8:03 p.m.: Chuckie asks Billary if she’d make Bernie her vice-presidential candidate if she wins the presidential nomination and asks Bernie if he’d make Billary his if he wins. Both Billary and Bernie responded that it’s too early for the veep discussion. (I take that as “no” for both of them…)

8:04 p.m.: Billary in her closing statement reminds us that we have other kinds of inequality other than income inequality, another apparent shout-out to identity politics.

I don’t disagree with her on the face of that statement, but we commoners bicker over identity politics (race, sex/gender, sexual orientation, religious orientation, etc.) to our own continued detriment. The establishment wants us to bicker thusly, since if we commoners are fighting each other then we are not fighting the establishment, and since Billary is part of the establishment…

(Again, I’m a gay man, but I don’t want, need or welcome Billary’s pandering to me on LGBT issues. Not only does she come awfully suspiciously late to the game, but I put my own narrow, selfish issues aside and I put climate change and income inequality [to name just two huge problems/issues] above identity politics. They’re far more important than is the relative pettiness of identity politics.)

Bernie in his closing statement seemed a bit tired, but what a week it has been for him. Tonight’s debate was squeezed in between Iowa and New Hampshire at the last minute.

Tonight’s debate largely was what Donald Trump might deem “low-energy,” with Bernie on fire a few times, and overall it certainly was repetitive of the previous four debates.

Tonight’s debate has given more voters and potential voters more exposure to Bernie Sanders, and the O’Malley distraction is gone, thankfully, but of those who already are significantly familiar with Bernie and with Billary, I don’t expect tonight’s debate to have changed their allegiance.

That is, again, if you were a Berner or a Billarybot before tonight’s debate, you’ll most likely remain a Billarybot or a Berner after it.

I expect Bernie to win New Hampshire on Tuesday, if not by the double digits that he’s polling there now, then in the high single digits, and I hope that he can win Nevada on February 20.

If he does, then it’s really game on.

Update (Friday, February 5, 2016): I’d suspected that Billary’s claim that being a woman means that she couldn’t possibly be part of the establishment would draw derision, but apparently the “feminist” card is working (at least with some if not even with most).

Slate.com, for instance, has run a piece titled “Hillary Says She’s Not an ‘Establishment’ Candidate — Because She’s a Woman,” but the piece does not much call her out on the brazen identity politics.

Instead, the author, Josh Vorhees, who usually does better, writes that “Yes, Clinton is the favorite of the Democratic establishment, regardless of how you want to define it” — but writes that her reminding all of us yet once again that she possesses the XX chromosomes “was nonetheless a powerful point worth making.”

He concludes that “Bernie may be calling for a political revolution — but electing a woman as president would also be a revolutionary act.” (Um, so would be electing our first [at-least-ethnically] Jewish [and non-Christian/”Christian”] president in Bernie Sanders.)

Would Vorhees have said that of Sarah Palin, that her election would have been “a revolutionary act”? I mean, we’ve never had a female president or vice president.

I prefer Doug Henwood’s take on the matter in his excellent book My Turn: Hillary Clinton Targets the Presidency (in the prefatory section in which he discusses the book’s great cover art):

It would be a good thing to have a woman president after the 43 bepenised ghouls and functionaries who’ve occupied the office. (OK, there were a few who weren’t half-bad — you wouldn’t need more than one hand to count them.) But, as I argue in this book, if you’re looking for a more peaceful, more egalitarian society, you’d have to overlook a lot about Hillary’s history to develop any enthusiasm for her.

The side of feminism I’ve studied and admired for decades has been about moving towards that ideal, and not merely placing women into high places while leaving the overall hierarchy of power largely unchanged. It’s distressing to see feminism pressed into service to promote the career of a thoroughly orthodox politician — and the charge of sexism used to deflect critiques of her.

Absolutely. (And “bepenised” — I love that…)

It was nice to have our first non-white president in Barack Obama, but in November 2008 I’d thought that I was voting for a progressive president (you know, all of that hope and change) — not just our first black president.

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Iowa’s Des Moines Register: Dem caucuses were ‘a debacle, period’

Here, in its entirety, is an editorial that The Des Moines Register published last night (links are the Register’s):

Once again the world is laughing at Iowa. Late-night comedians and social-media mavens are having a field day with jokes about missing caucus-goers and coin flips.

That’s fine. We can take ribbing over our quirky process. But what we can’t stomach is even the whiff of impropriety or error.

What happened Monday night at the Democratic caucuses was a debacle, period. Democracy, particularly at the local party level, can be slow, messy and obscure. But the refusal to undergo scrutiny or allow for an appeal reeks of autocracy.

The Iowa Democratic Party must act quickly to assure the accuracy of the caucus results, beyond a shadow of a doubt.

First of all, the results were too close not to do a complete audit of results. Two-tenths of 1 percent separated Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. A caucus should not be confused with an election, but it’s worth noting that much larger margins trigger automatic recounts in other states.

Second, too many questions have been raised. Too many accounts have arisen of inconsistent counts, untrained and overwhelmed volunteers, confused voters, cramped precinct locations, a lack of voter registration forms and other problems. Too many of us, including members of the Register editorial board who were observing caucuses, saw opportunities for error amid Monday night’s chaos.

The Sanders campaign is rechecking results on its own, going precinct by precinct, and is already finding inconsistencies, said Rania Batrice, a Sanders spokeswoman. The campaign seeks the math sheets or other paperwork that precinct chairs filled out and were supposed to return to the state party. They want to compare those documents to the results entered into a Microsoft app and sent to the party.

“Let’s compare notes. Let’s see if they match,” Batrice said Wednesday.

Dr. Andy McGuire, chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party, dug in her heels and said no. She said the three campaigns had representatives in a room in the hours after the caucuses and went over the discrepancies.

McGuire knows what’s at stake. Her actions only confirm the suspicions, wild as they might be, of Sanders supporters. Their candidate, after all, is opposed by the party establishment — and wasn’t even a Democrat a few months ago.

So her path forward is clear: Work with all the campaigns to audit results. Break silly party tradition and release the raw vote totals. Provide a list of each precinct coin flip and its outcome, as well as other information sought by the Register. Be transparent.

And then call for a blue-ribbon commission to study how to improve the caucuses, as the Republican Party of Iowa did after its own fiasco in 2012. Monday’s mess showed that it’s time for the Democrats to change, too.

The caucuses have become something they were never intended to be. It’s as if RAGBRAI tried to morph into the Tour de France. It wasn’t built for the speed or the significance.

The current process grew out of efforts to find a more democratic way to choose delegates to conventions, after the grassroots saw how Democratic power-brokers controlled the nominating process in 1968. But the caucuses have become as antiquated and opaque as the smoke-filled rooms of yore.

Democrats should ask themselves: What do we want the Iowa caucus to be? How can we preserve its uniqueness while bringing more order? Does it become more like a straw poll or primary? How do we strike the balance between tradition and transparency?

We have time to consider these questions. First, however, we need answers to what happened Monday night. The future of the first-in-the-nation caucuses demands it.

As I noted recently, there is no good reason for Iowa not to scrap the caucus model altogether and adopt a primary-election model, which most of the states possess.*

There should be paper ballots that can be recounted if necessary, as it is here in California. No caucusing, just secret ballots cast by individual voters — again, on paper, so that recounts and audits are possible.

We can’t have faith or trust in the results of what’s supposed to be a democratic process if we have no way to check those results, especially when the results are so close that they are within a fraction of 1 percent — and, of course, when a state’s Democratic Party official refuses to release for review the documentation that is supposed to back up the official results of a democratic process, as is the case in Iowa.

You’d think that Team Billary would want to avoid the skepticism and doubt of Billary’s razor-thin “win” in Iowa, would want to remove all doubt and skepticism that Billary “won” fairly and squarely, but I’ve yet to read or hear that Team Billary has asked for the documentation of the Iowa caucuses to be released.


*Wikipedia states this of the New Hampshire primaries:

The scheduled date of the New Hampshire primary always officially starts out as the second Tuesday in March, which is the date when town meetings and non-partisan municipal elections are traditionally held.

New Hampshire law stipulates (in section RSA 653:9 of the statute book) that the secretary of state can change the date to ensure that the New Hampshire primary will take place at least seven days before any “similar election” in any other state.

The Iowa caucuses are not considered to be a similar election. In recent election cycles, the New Hampshire primary has taken place the week after the Iowa caucus.

New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary status was threatened in 2007, when both the Republican and Democratic National Committees moved to give more populous states a bigger influence in the presidential race.

Several states also sought to move up the dates of their 2008 primaries in order to have more influence and dilute the power of the New Hampshire primary. Originally held in March, the date of the New Hampshire primary has been moved up repeatedly to maintain its status as first. The 2008 primary was held on January 8.

Perhaps Iowans don’t want to compete with New Hampshire’s demand to always hold the first primary anywhere in the nation, so they don’t want to let go of the caucus model, but, it seems to me, a hybrid is possible: caucus as usual, but then cast votes on paper ballots as in a primary election, so that there is a clear paper trail of ballots.

P.S. Slate.com’s Josh Vorhees weighs in on the Register’s editorial and the problems with the Democratic Iowa caucuses, and concludes: “So, it’s fair to wonder: Would the Iowa Democratic Party be as confident in its final results if they would have shown Sanders with the narrow lead as opposed to the other way around?”


Methinks that the Iowa Democratic Party wanted to deliver a “win” to Billary, whether she actually won or not.

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