Liveblogging the debate

That’s a thirty

Good night, and to hell with Star Wars.

Editorial comment

Three impressive performances. Even O’Malley sounded like someone who could actually be President. I was especially glad to see how calmly and forcefully Clinton handled hectoring questions and Sander’s attacks.

Closing statements

Clinton, having opened, gets to close, which is done in the name of balance but hardly seems fair.

Sanders starts out by praising his rivals, by contrast with the Republicans.  Mentions growing up poor. Promises “a political revolution.” “This great country and our government belongs to all of us, not just a handful of billionaires.”

O’Malley flatters New Hampshire voters. Attacks GOP. “Anger and fear never built America.” Comprehensive immigration reform, debt-free college. Climate change as “the greatest business opportunity to come to the United States in fifty years.” (Only the second mention of climate change in two hours; neither of them was substantive.

Clinton: If a Republican gets sworn is, our rights are at risk. Social Security and the VA health system may face privatization. Planned Parenthood will be defunded. All elections are important, but some are more important than others. Her granddaughter’s future. “Thank you, good night, and may the Force be with you.”

Another break

Chatterers echoing GOP attacks on Clinton for saying “we’re now where we need to be” on ISIS. Apparently if the public disagrees, that settles the question. No analysis

Idiotic question

To Clinton: what sort of First Lady will Bill Clinton make? Follow-ups to others.

All tried their best to answer an undignified question with dignity.



Question to Clinton: Libya is on your account. Do you want to say you’re sorry?

(Howcum none of the Republican questioners were this rude?)

Ans: We needed to overthrow Khaddafi. Libyans wanted it. The other Arabs wanted it. Libyans are now trying to come together to form a national government and get rid of ISIS.

Another nasty follow-up: How much responsibility do you bear? Ans: “We offered more help than the Libyans were willing to take.” “I’m not giving up on Libya.”

Sanders acknowledges complexity, then mentions Mossadegh and Allende. (Neither of them much of a parallel with Khaddafi.) Clinton says again that Sanders voted to dump Khaddafi. O’Malley denounces “lust for regime-toppling,” demands more humint.

Now heroin

Q Forty-something percent in NH know someone with a heroin problem. What you gonna do?

Sanders:  “A tragedy all over the country.” Tell the docs and Big Pharma that they have to get their act together and write fewer prescriptions. Addiction is a disease. Treatment right away. (Doesn’t say how.)

Clinton: She’s heard some great ideas. Five-point plan. $10B in federal money. Come out with a plan. New ideas about policing, but she doesn’t say what they are. Too many opioids being prescribed. (That’s two votes for that, but no mention of how to do it.) First responders should carry naloxone.

O’Malley: A third vote for reining in over-prescribing. Local partnerships. Intervene with “near-miss” overdoses.

No mention of the value of swift-certain-fair community corrections.




Another break, then policing

To Clinton: Do you side with BLM or with the police? Good, textured answer that rejects the false alternative.  Have to deal with racism, but don’t forget the good work the cops do.

O’Malley gives a still more textured answer based on his work as Mayor and Governor. Police transparency.

Sanders agrees with the others, then pivots to mass incarceration. He’s against racism. (I’m glad to hear it.) Thinks cops shouldn’t be shooting unarmed people. (Duhhhhh…) Hates the War on Drugs, will repeal Federal marijuana prohibition. (Which has nothing to do with this problem.) Community policing. Need to end “minimal sentencing.” (I think he means mandatory minimums.)



Third question: higher ed How do you lower the cost? To Sanders: doesn’t making it free just shift the cost to taxpayers? Not much answer on the cost question, which is probably right. Sanders talks free tuition. O’Malley talks income-based repayment. Clinton wants to give states matching-fund incentives to pony up, and focus grants on the poor and the middle class rather than paying for everyone. Unfortunately, Clinton repeats her awful “No tax increases for families under $250k” promise. I can only hope she’s weaseling on this, planning to hide revenue gains in non-income taxes, such as a FTT or a carbon tax. Sanders: Problem is that it’s going to the top tenth of 1%. Paid family and medical leave for $1.61 a week. Clinton: Family and medical leave, sure, but make the rich pay for it. O’Malley: I’ve balanced a budget. (Oh, puh-leeze!) Increase Social Security. (I’m with him on that.) Repeal the “entitlement” to reduced taxes on capital gains. [That is, he doesn’t say it, but he does want to raise taxes on some families below $250k/yr. Good for him!]

Second question: health care To Clinton: What’s broken in Obamacare? (Questioner specifies premiums, deductibles, rising medical costs.) Clinton: Rx costs. Sanders: Single-payer. Campaign finance.

First question after the break Worker pay is flat; CEO pay is up. What are you gonna do? Sanders: Make the billionaires pay taxes. Minimum wage. Infrastructure. Transaction tax to pay for higher ed. O’Malley: Mostly lost in transmission. Something about jobs in cities. Clinton: Glad we’re talking about this, because Republicans won’t. Laundry list, including equal pay for equal work. Q to Clinton: Forbes had a headline eight years ago “Business loves Clinton.” Should they? “Everyone should.” I’m for the struggling, the striving, and the successful. Yes, people at the top have to pay taxes. But of course I want to work with business, if they want to develop an economy that works for everyone. Q to Sanders: Will business owners like you? Ans: No they won’t. Greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior. Concentration of financial sector. Too big to fail. Glass-Stegall. Campaign contributions. “The greed of the billionaire class is destroying the economy.” O’Malley: “Look at the economy as an eco-system.” While I’m yawning, may I ask why none of these folks has mentioned unions? O’Malley attacks Sanders for socialism and Clinton for crony capitalism. Anti-trust. Break up the big banks. Glass Steagall. Clinton: “Two hedge-fund billionaires are now running ads against me.” Again, missing some of this in the transmission. Points out that O’Malley cozeyed up to Wall Street as the head of DGA. Slaps at Sanders for CFTC vote. But points out that any of the Dems is better on this than any of the Reps.

Commercial break Apparently after the break we get to talk about health care: one hour in to a two-hour debate. Thank heaven for small mercies.

One more question: now it’s f*cking ISIS again To Sanders: if you supported troops in Afghanistan, why not vs. ISIS? Ans.: I voted against Iraq; we can’t be the policeman of the world. Muslim troops only. Follow-up: What if it doesn’t work? Ans.: “I will make it work.” To Clinton: You support Special Forces. Isn’t that ground combat? Ans: Afghanistan was different; we were attacked from there. ISIS is mostly about bad regimes in Iraq and Syria. American troops would make things worse, giving ISIS targets.  Goes back to attacking Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric. Follow-up: But don’t you support Special Forces? Doesn’t that run the risk of a bigger war? Or are you willing to give up if it doesn’t work? You’re offering a false choice, and I think [detail detail detail detail] could work. Best Clinton performance of the evening so far. Sounded like President. O’Malley: Need to invest in diplomacy, human intelligence, international development. “New alliances.” Clinton: No-fly zone to protect Syrians from both Assad and ISIS. Yes, you need to have Russian acquiescence. Reporter challenges her: Would you shoot down a Syrian or Russian plane? Clinton: It won’t come to that? Sanders announces for the forth or fifth time that he voted against the Iraq war. Yes, Bernie, we heard you. Worries about getting rid of dictators. “Think about what happens the day after.” Move toward democratic society. (And a pony, I guess.) Clinton reminds Sanders that he voted for regime change in Libya. “Yes, these are hard problems.” Question to Clinton: Is Sanders wrong to say we should give up on getting rid of Assad? Ans: Yes he is. You need the anti-Assad, anti-ISIS Syrians to think they have a chance to win. Hammers Sanders for wanting more Iranians in Syria. Despite hectoring from the questioners, all three of these folks – even O’Malley – sound like possible Presidents. O’Malley appeals to “the thinking of a new generation,” gets himself booed. Compares getting rid of Khaddafi and Assad to getting rid of Mossadeq (!). Agrees with Sanders and disagrees with Clinton that we shouldn’t say “Assad must go.” Clinton: Assad has killed 250,000 people, and it’s his misrule that created ISIS. We’re now where we need to be. We can get rid of ISIS and Assad. “If the United States does not lead, there is a vacuum.” Big cheers. Sanders: We can’t fight ISIS and Assad at once. Assad comes first.

Another G*d-damned question on terrorism To Clinton: You say you want to take refugees, but your supporter the Governor of NH says she doesn’t want to take in Syrians.  Clinton appears to “a nation of resolve,” then argues for 18 to 24 months of delay and then taking “widows and orphans.” Not a profile in courage. O’Malley stands tall, calls for taking 65,000 or more. Mentions the Chaldean Christians.

One more damned question on terrorism To Clinton: the FBI wants keys to encryption. Your tech friends say no. She admits she doesn’t know the answer at a technical level, calls for government and the tech industry to work together to balance privacy and safety. O’Malley wants a “collaborative approach” but doesn’t want to give up privacy. Pivots to a heartrending story about a Muslim-American kid who asks his father whether they have to leave the country if Trump wins. Too bad these folks are focusing all their fire on Trump when Cruz is at least as dangerous, and more likely to be the nominee.

Sanders’ best moment (so far) Lashes out at Trump’s unpatriotic hate-mongering, links it to economic issues: “He thinks you get paid too much.”

Editorial comment Half an hour into this, and except for very brief mentions in Clinton’s and Sanders’s opening statements, not a word about jobs or health care or economic growth or inequality or taxation or environmental policy.

Fourth question To O’Malley: would you confiscate the existing stock of assault weapons, and if you don’t then why does a sales ban matter? Attacks both of his opponents. Clinton says “Let’s tell the truth, Governor.” Sanders flashes back at O’Malley: says he’s been for gun control in a state where it costs votes. Good theater, I guess, but who cares? The questions seem designed to generate clashes rather than to elicit intelligent policy discussion. Unfortunately – or perhaps not – the live feed is very rocky; I’m hearing about 80% of this.

Third question More terrorism (damn it!). This time about guns. To Clinton: “You believe in gun control, but polls say the voters believe in guns. Are they wrong?)  Clinton gives a somewhat diffuse answer – “More guns won’t make us safer”- pivots back to the dangers created by GOP anti-Muslim rhetoric in fostering the clash of civilizations that ISIS wants. Sanders is for “sensible gun safety regulation.” (Won’t say “gun control.”) Points out overwhelming support for universal background check. Endorses closing the “gun show loophole” (which doesn’t exist) and keeping military weapons out of civilian hands (if he means fully automatic weapons, that’s already true). O’Malley goes after Sanders and Clinton for inconsistency. Is anyone listening.

Second question Is about San Bernardino, phrased as a childish demand that Mommy and Daddy(s) promise perfect safety. Clinton gives a solid answer including destroying ISIS making Muslim Americans the first line of defense. O’Malley talks about first responders and “battle tempo.” Yawn. Points out that foreign adventurism can have blowback. Sanders starts with agreeing, then subTweets a shot at Clinton’s vote for the Iraq War. Shows that he knows the name of the King of Jordan.

First question To Sanders on (groan) the DNC data breach. Blames it on a vendor screw-up, but admits his staff “did the wrong thing.” Then attacks the DNC for acting “arbitrarily.” Calls for a joint investigation with Clinton; implies that her staffers stole some of his campaign data. “Apologizes,” but repeats the unjustified suggestion that Clinton’s people were also cheating. Clinton accepts the apology with reasonable grace. Gets a big hand for saying people don’t care about this nonsense. O’Malley joins; demands “a politics of higher purpose.” Seriously, ABC? Don’t we have anything serious to talk about?

Opening Statements HRC starts with the obligation of the President to protect the country (defined in terms of protection against ISIS) and promote equitable economic growth. Hammers the Republicans on both fronts. O’Malley starts out trying to scare people about Jihadis, and turns to trying to scare them about “the fascist pleas of billionaires with big mouths.” Sanders denounces “Establishment politics and establishment economics.” Wants “an economy that works for working families, not just billionaires.” Folds in campaign finance. Then switches to climate change. Wants to put together a coalition of rich nations to pay poor Muslims to kill ISIS on our behalf. First round to Sanders.

Preliminaries I almost never watch television political coverage; like a naive drug user, I lack the acquired tolerance that helps protect against overdose. So far the ABC team is underwhelming; pure horse-race (not to say, pure horse-sh*t), with the only two “issue” references so far being “terrorism” in the context of San Bernardino and the sill controversy about the Sanders campaign’s monkeying with the DNC voter data-base. And ABC News seems to have fouled up the live feed, with lots of skipping back and for the in the audio. Fortunately, since the data content so far has been identically zero, the bad feed isn’t doing anything to reduce it. (I bet you didn’t know the Zero Lower Bound problem applied to information theory.)     I’m not sure why the DNC decided to try to bury the Democratic Presidential debates by putting them on when no one with an actual life is watching, but since I don’t have an actual life I’m going to be live-blogging tonight’s. Watch this space.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

One thought on “Liveblogging the debate”

  1. Am I imagining that you don't much care for Bernie?

    But I came on to say, that in the 4th para or so of today's LAT story about San Diego starting a new program for non serious offenders, it sounds like it might be HOPE-y. You probably already know.

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