Sunday, November 15, 2015

Bernie Sanders Bests Hillary In 2nd Dem Debate

The Democrats face off: A good, substantive debate that put Hillary's weaknesses on display
While not quite a 'cakewalk', Bernie Sanders' debate performance last night was certainly stronger than Hillary's and showed confident  command of security issues outside of his stock inequality arguments.  Sure,  the politically clueless will likely dump on the Vermonter and get hysterical about socialism (while ignoring their pet carny barker fascist, 'The Donna') but  the rest of us can take comfort in seeing how a real debate is conducted by adults - after the Reeptard, juvenile delinquent fiasco last week.

The 2nd Dem debate on CBS altered the format of questions at the last minute to take into account the Paris Terror attacks. It was good, as well as insightful and timely, as it afforded us the opportunity to see the three candidates with minimal time for preparation, especially as regards the first phase of questions asked by Face the Nation" anchor John Dickerson . He was joined by CBS News Congressional Correspondent Nancy Cordes, KCCI anchor Kevin Cooney and the Des Moines Register's political columnist, Kathie Obradovich.

Dickerson handled all the questions in the first part, based on the candidates' security proposals in the wake of he ISIS attack  in Paris on Friday. All of them agreed that a collaborative effort was called for, that the U.S. had to work with other nations to bring ISIS down and not try to be the world's cop and 'go it alone'. (Of course, ever since JFK's Pax Americana speech in June, 1963, warning of this very tendency,  the American Right has had him in its sights,  finally realizing he was not the 'cold warrior" they had always fancied him to be.).

It was especially fascinating to see Hillary hedge and squirm in response to Dickerson's probing about whether the Obama administration (which she was a part of ) underestimated the radical Islamists, and especially after chasing Qaddaffi from Libya. One thing we saw from last night, Hillary knows how to tap dance - even if she can't answer questions directly. (As journalist Bob Herbert noted this morning on MSNBC Hillary is taking it from the Right on the Benghazi episode, and from the Left over her vote for the war in Iraq. The latter event, of course, was responsible for destabilizing Iraq and paving the way for ISIS.)

Bernie Sanders hit the ground running in his responses,  rightly emphasizing the Muslim world must be involved too - they can't just sit by the sidelines as the West acts. If there are any good Muslims in the region, they need to come to the fore and help deal with the bad ones, the jihadis. Else admit they are also jihadis, waiting to take it to the West.  Sanders' points are even more germane now in the clear light of a new day, since as geopolitical expert Hillary  Mann Leavitt noted this morning, the ISIS attacks are not intended to "take away our freedoms", but to change our policy. In other words, their desire is to get the West to go off half cocked and unilaterally launch a full scale war without ANY Muslim allies involved - so they can garner recruits and justify full out jihad. This is why it is essential that taking out the ISIS bugs be a full collaborative effort, not just with NATO and Russia involved, but ALL the Muslim nations in the region too. Let them also contribute "boots on the ground", bombing attacks whatever.

Hillary herself was more or less out in left field and hedging much of the time, often not answering Dickerson's questions directly but giving her own digressive speeches. Including warning that China and Russia still posed threats so heck, we couldn't just stop diverting billions to our nuclear weapons stockpile (Bernie made the point that some of those hundreds of billions could go to fighting ISIS).

Hillary also dashed the hopes of many of us  that she'd be willing to cooperate with Putin and Russia to fight the jihadists.  Why would she when her own underling (Victoria Nuland) at State,  helped oust Viktor Yanukovich in the Ukraine? As I told wifey, if she is elected watch for her to start a dustup and facedown with Putin. She can't help it, the 'neocon-ish warhawk' is in her DNA.

Meanwhile, Dickerson couldn't trip up Bernie when he referred to the last Dem debate and Bernie's answer that climate change is the biggest security threat. He expected Sanders to backtrack, especially after the Paris attacks, but he just doubled down. He informed the audience that climate change in fact was largely responsible also for the Syrian crisis and civil war as it forced millions to flee lands that had become uninhabitable, no longer arable.  As those millions migrated, it brought them into conflict with people in other areas - namely pro-Assad residents.

Bernie was perhaps also  referring to this news from several months ago,

which I doubt most of the audience had heard before


"the Department of Defense issued a report in which it highlights the global security implications of climate change. In the report, the authors note that climate change will exacerbate current world problems like ” poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership and weak political institutions that threaten stability in a number of countries.”

Sanders also observed the Pentagon budget is now over $600 billion a year, and certainly doesn't need to be expanded. My one complaint - which I posted before - is that he didn't also come out and state it needs to be cut. This would have had much relevance in the later "Middle Class" segment where he was asked how he would pay for all his programs including: free college, expanding Social Security and a single payer health system. Alas, his proposal for taxing the richest at higher rates (he didn't say how high but conceded they'd be less than Ike - at 91 percent- e.g. ."Well, I'm less a socialist than Ike") would still not be enough to provide the needed $$$. He'd have to surely cut  in half the defense budget back to 2.0 percent of GDP (from 4 % now), which is greater than the next ten nations combined.

On the issue of Wall Street, both Sanders and Martin O'Malley clearly had Hillary boxed into a corner, given she's received millions of bucks in campaign donations. The implication of Dickerson was that the contributors will expect something in return from her and they will. Hillary tried her best to sashay out of such admission by proffering deflections such as "standing up"  for the WTC  traders and the Street after 9/11. Implying there were 'bigger fish to fry' than little campaign donations and possible quid pro quo .  Then she claimed she had received hundreds of thousands of  donations adding: "I’m very proud that for the first time a majority of my donors are women, 60 percent" - clearly playing the gender card.

But Bernie wasn't letting it slide, noting that:

"I have never heard a candidate, never, who has received huge amounts of money from oil, from coal, from Wall Street, from the military-industrial complex, not one candidate say, oh, these campaign contributions will not influence me. I’m going to be independent. Well, why do they make millions of dollars of campaign contributions? They expect to get something. Everybody knows that. Once again, I am running a campaign differently than any other candidate. We are relying on small campaign donors, 750,000 of them, 30 bucks apiece. That’s who I’m indebted to.”

 Indeed, the history of such donations has proved otherwise and was reflected in many of or loophole-filled laws. (Author William Greider once referred to them as "Hollow laws" in his book, Who Will Tell The People- The Betrayal Of American Democracy.)

As the NY Times observed regarding her forlorn tactics:

"Middle-class Americans associate Wall Street with the 2008 meltdown of the economy that cost so many their homes and savings. In the debate Mrs. Clinton repeatedly referred to her plan for reining in banks, but offered precious few specifics. This is what happens when Hillary Clinton the candidate gets complacent. The debate moderator, Mr. Dickerson, had even tipped her off before a commercial break that the next topic was Wall Street.

Her effort to tug on Americans’ heartstrings instead of explaining her Wall Street ties — on a day that the scars of 9/11 were exposed anew — was at best botched rhetoric. At worst it was the type of cynical move that Mrs. Clinton would have condemned in Republicans."

On the issue of the Affordable Care Act, all the candidates agreed it could be better and at least Hillary did herself proud by arguing that Medicare ought to be able to bargain for the best drug prices just like the VA. One wonders why this hasn't been pushed even more, given previous estimates by the GAO estimate the savings at nearly $200 b over ten years. But hey, maybe because the loony Right would get even more hysterical and call it "socialism" failing to appreciate the VA benefits are even more "socialistic" since they are entirely run by gov't (Medicare conjoins with private insurers to deliver care.)

Bernie then described how he'd accompanied seniors in his state of VT in the 1990s to Canada to get drugs at one tenth the price as in the U.S. I also recall having read of those expeditions which were made in other states too. That option was foreclosed by the Bushies in 2003 with the passage of the Medicare Modernization Act that prohibited any drug purchases from Canada and also bargaining like the VA does for lower prices. (The Affordable Care Act, after an $80b deal with PhrMA also denied those options)

The result has been a ridiculous game played every year by the drug companies changing drug prices and their respective tiers including making seniors pay more for generics (by changing the tier, e.g. from 1 to 3) to preserve profits. (I ought to know- I just got a generic gout prescription that cost me $169 for 30 pills, which used to be $15.) So no surprise many of us are outraged at what we have to pay for some of these damned drugs.

Bernie's point, which wifey and I applauded (since she is as much a victim) was overhauling the entire PhrmA price gouging constellation and forcing them to simplify as well as rationalize drug prices so seniors don't have to do twenty five hours of research each year to ensure they're not getting screwed over by keeping their current drug plan. In many cases while the senior finds the monthly premiums do go down, the tiers of the drugs he needs are changed so he still ends up paying more. Only careful research, consuming many hours of time, enables him to see another Part D plan may be better so he signs on - but then they may change tiers for their own drugs next time!

All in all Bernie Sanders delivered a sound, presidential performance that has to please his supporters, especially that he wasn't about to let many of Hillary's absurd responses just slide. If some still weren't convinced he didn't yet measure up to "Hill" this ought to be Exhibit A to disprove it, and they need to watch the debate again if in doubt. As for the Right wing critics, since they are mentally  'off the reservation' anyway, committed to loony tune carny barkers, fascists and xenophobes, there is little hope reason can make a dent in their misperceptions.

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