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!]

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HRC talks to CNN about MJ

Reasonable answers, calling for follow-up questions the CNN interviewer was too incompetent to ask.

A CNN interviewer asked Hillary Clinton about cannabis policy.

On medical use, she replied that we need more research, including research about drug interactions, but in the meantime people with serious medical conditions where there’s “anecdotal evidence” of efficacy ought to have access.

On non-medical (“recreational”) use, she said that the states are the laboratories of democracy, that two states are trying legalization, and that we should wait and see how that goes.

Perfectly reasonable answers, as far as they went, and perhaps a little bit more pro-cannabis than I might have expected from such a cautious candidate.

But they cried out for follow-up questions:

1. As President, what would you do to promote medical research on cannabis and cannabinoids? Would you tear down the barriers to research now created by federal policy: in particular, the UMiss monopoly on cannabis for research purposes and the requirement that every study receive a “grant” of cannabis from a special committee within HHS?

2. While the states are doing their experiments, to what extent should the federal government help, or at least get out of the way? Colorado and Washington are now issuing state licenses to commit federal felonies. Current banking regulations make it difficult-to-impossible for cannabis stores to have bank accounts or to take credit cards, creating a huge all-cash business that is therefore an attractive robbery target. A state that wanted to experiment with state-monopoly retailing (arguably the best approach) would currently be barred from doing so by federal law. As President, would you propose changes in the Controlled Substances Act to make state-level experiments legal?

Instead, of course, the CNN interviewer asked her whether she intended to inhale. Arrrgggghhhhhh!

How long is it going to take for the press corps to stop giggling about cannabis policy and start reporting on it?