Saturday, November 14, 2015

Live-blogging the second Democratic debate of 2016

I'll be live-blogging the debate here. Keep reloading for more updates.

This is the first Democratic debate after Biden announced he wasn't running, and after three candidates dropped out. There are only three candidates, so no one should need to complain about not having enough time in this two-hour debate.

As always, I'll be writing down quotes as I hear them, so they might not be verbatim, but I'll try to keep them reasonably accurate.

For more live-blogging, check out TPM, the New Republic, and Althouse (my mom).

[Here's the transcript.]

9:06 — First, each candidate is asked for their thoughts on the attacks on Paris yesterday. Sanders vows to "rid our planet of this barbarous organization called ISIS."

9:08 — Hillary Clinton denounces the "radical jihadist ideology" of ISIS, a "terrorist group." The use of the word "jihadist" seems to mark a shift from President Obama, who shies away from referring to the Islamic nature of Islamic terrorism.

9:10 — Clinton is asked if Obama underestimated the threat posed by ISIS. Clinton fails to answer the question, and instead makes her standard points about ISIS and terrorism. The moderator calls her out on this, and asks the same question again. [VIDEO.]

9:13 — Martin O'Malley takes a hawkish tone, calling ISIS "evil" and saying "this is America's fight," though "not only America's fight." [Added later: O'Malley was responding to Clinton's repeated statement that "this cannot be an American fight." However, she added: "American leadership is essential."]

9:13 — Sanders is asked if he still believes climate change is the greatest threat in the world. He says yes — in fact, climate change leads to terrorism. [VIDEO.]

9:14 — Sanders and O'Malley both criticize Clinton for understating America's responsibility to defeat ISIS.

9:15 — Sanders notes that Clinton voted for the Iraq War, which led to ISIS.

9:16 — Clinton defends herself with a long-winded and confusing historical account going back to the '90s. As I understand it, she's basically emphasizing that terrorism was a serious problem well before the Iraq War — but how should that allay any Democratic voters' concerns that her vote to authorize the Iraq War made things worse rather than better?

9:17 — Sanders calls himself "more conservative than the Secretary" on "regime change" — meaning he's more cautious and aware of the unintended consequences. [VIDEO.]

9:21 — The moderator, John Dickerson, points out that Clinton "championed" Obama's invasion of Libya, and quotes Obama saying he learned from Libya that it's important to think in advance about what happens "the day after." Dickerson asks: shouldn't that lesson already have been learned by then, from the Iraq War?

9:23 — O'Malley is asked about his lack of foreign-policy experience. He says: "We are not so good at appreciating threats and building up stable democracies." He also talks about a mom who urged him not to use the phrase "boots on the ground" because she felt her son was diminished by the metonymy. (Of course, he didn't use the word "metonymy.")

9:26 — Clinton is asked if she agrees with Marco Rubio's statement that we're "at war with radical Islam." Clinton dodges the question by saying "we're not at war with all Muslims." As the moderator points out, that isn't what Rubio said — Rubio limited his statement to radical Islam. Clinton praises President Bush for speaking appropriately about this sensitive topic in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks. [VIDEO.]

9:27 — Clinton is asked if we need to "understand" ISIS. This is a politically tricky question, but she gives a clever response: she first says it's "very difficult to put ourselves in their shoes," but then proceeds to do just that by describing ISIS's worldview as one of "nihilism," "a lust for power," and "rejection of modernity and human rights." [Added later:] I'm struck by how Clinton went straight for the hawkish view of ISIS (they're just a bunch of nihilistic, backward people who crave power), and passed up the opportunity to urge us to have a greater understanding of the "root causes" of terrorism. Clinton sounded much like the conservative Charles Krauthammer, writing in the month after the September 11 attacks:

It turns out that the enemy does have recognizable analogues in the Western experience. He is, as President Bush averred in his address to the nation, heir to the malignant ideologies of the 20th century. In its nihilism [the same word used by Clinton], its will to power [similar to the "lust for power" mentioned by Clinton], its celebration of blood and death, its craving for the cleansing purity that comes only from eradicating life and culture, radical Islam is heir, above all, to Nazism. The destruction of the World Trade Center was meant not only to wreak terror. Like the smashing of the Bamiyan Buddhas [in Afghanistan earlier in 2001], it was meant to obliterate greatness and beauty, elegance and grace. These artifacts represented civilization embodied in stone or steel. They had to be destroyed [that would be an example of the "rejection of modernity," as Clinton put it].
9:28 — O'Malley says our Muslim American "neighbors" are not our "enemies" — "they are our first line of defense."

9:33 — Clinton says she supports taking in 65,000 Syrian refugees. Of course, she says we should have a "careful" screening process to "prevent people who wish to do us harm from coming into our country." (Easier said than done.)

9:42 — Sanders is asked how high he'd raise taxes. He doesn't have an "exact number," but it will be lower than the highest rate under President Eisenhower — "I'm not that much of a socialist compared to Eisenhower!" [VIDEO.]

9:44 — Clinton vows to "defend" Obamacare, in contrast with Republicans, who will tear it up and throw us back into a "contentious debate" about health care. She says she disagrees with Sanders on health care, but Sanders retorts that he was on the committee that drafted Obamacare.

9:46 — Sanders says we need to "end the national embarrassment of being the only advanced country on earth that doesn't guarantee health care to all people as a right, not a privilege."

9:51 — O'Malley says that net immigration in the past year was "zero." He blatantly pleads for media attention: "Go ahead, fact-check me!" (Clinton says he's "basically" right.) [Update: The Washington Post's Fact Checker obliged.]

9:53 — Sanders is asked how much "job loss" he'd find an "acceptable" consequence of raising the minimum wage. Sanders vaguely acknowledges that any policy will have some negative consequences, but he'll "apologize to nobody" for supporting an increase to $15 an hour. For some reason, he suggests that this will especially help to reduce unemployment among black youths.

9:56 — O'Malley is asked why he raised Maryland's minimum wage only to $10.10, when he now calls for increasing the whole country's minimum wage to $15.

9:56 — Clinton admits that "there are no international comparisons" to what would happen if we raised the minimum wage to $15, so she only supports raising it to $12, which "would be the highest above the historical average we've ever had."

10:02 — Clinton is asked how she can rein in Wall Street when she's "indebted" to so many people on Wall Street since they've donated so much money to her. Clinton says this is obvious from the fact that two "billionaire hedge fund managers" have been putting out attack ads against her. Sanders says Clinton's answer is "not good enough," and asks why Wall Street has been such a "major contributor" to Clinton. "Maybe they're dumb! But I don't think so." [VIDEO.]

10:05 — Things really heat up between Clinton and Sanders over Clinton's connections to Wall Street. Clinton says: "He has basically used his answer to impugn my integrity." Sanders protests: "No I have not!" Clinton presses on: "Oh, wait a minute here . . ." She adds that Sanders's plan of "breaking up the big banks" is "not enough." Sanders seems like he's trying to turn down the heat: "I respectfully disagree with you, Madam Secretary." [VIDEO.]

10:08 — O'Malley repeatedly says, very slowly and emphatically, that Clinton's proposal on Wall Street is "weak tea."

10:09 — As in the last debate, Clinton seems to be trying to minimize any apparent difference between herself and the other candidates on financial regulations: "If the big banks don't play by the rules, I will break them up."

10:10 — Sanders says, in a thinly veiled swipe at Clinton: "Here's my promise: Wall Street representatives will not be in my cabinet."

10:11 — Clinton repeats what she said in the last debate about her disagreement with Sanders about lawsuits against gun manufacturers. The moderator shoots back: "If he can be tattooed by one vote . . . why can't you be tattooed by your vote on Iraq?" Clinton frankly admits: "I made a mistake on Iraq."

10:13 — On gun control, Sanders says, "I don't know that there's any disagreement here," and both of the other candidates laugh at him.

10:14 — O'Malley goes after Clinton on gun control: "You've been on three sides of this." She was for gun regulations at first, but then "painted [her]self as Annie Oakley, saying we don't need regulations at the federal level." Sanders tries to take the rug out from under O'Malley with the understatement that Baltimore, of which O'Malley was mayor, is "not the safest city in America."

10:16 — A viewer asks Clinton why she invoked "9/11" to defend against Sanders's charges of being too close to Wall Street. Clinton seems to suggest that the viewer misunderstood. (Well, I didn't understand Clinton's point either.)

[Added later:] Here's how Politico quotes Clinton:
I represented New York, and I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked. Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan, where Wall Street is. I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild. That was good for New York. It was good for the economy, and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists who had attacked our country. [VIDEO.]
TNR tries to explain it. Politico reports on more negative reactions to what Clinton. David Axelrod, Obama's former adviser, mocks her on Twitter:
@HillaryClinton vehemently offers support for Wall Street as post-911 recovery effort. Does that fly?
O'Malley's deputy campaign manager, Lis Smith, gets personal:
My dad worked in WTC from the day it was built to the day it went down. @HillaryClinton, never invoke 9/11 to justify your Wall St positions
10:17 — Clinton says some stuff that I didn't catch about Glass-Steagall. She admits it's an "arcane" discussion, and I think she knows that talk of "Glass-Steagall" doesn't mean much to most viewers, especially when no one bothers to explain it. Even Ben Bernanke, the former chair of the Federal Reserve, doesn't understand why there's so much focus on it in the debates! I don't know if the candidates are even thinking about the fact that some of their viewers who will be eligible to vote in 2016 are teenagers; Glass-Steagall was repealed in 1999, when they were babies.

10:25 — Sanders is asked about the apparent discrepancy between his statement in the last debate that he was "sick and tired" of hearing about Clinton's emails, and his later comments, but Sanders brushes this off as a media invention. We get a sequel to the Sanders/Clinton love-fest from the last debate, with Sanders saying: "I didn't know that I had so much power! We don't hear much about her emails anymore! . . . We've gotten off of Clinton's emails — good!" Clinton: "I couldn't have said it better myself!"

10:27 — Clinton: "President Obama deserves more credit than he's gotten for what he got done in Washington, despite Republican obstructionism."

10:28 — Dickerson brings up her recent congressional testimony on Benghazi, and asks if she can assure us the "other shoe isn't going to drop." Clinton: "I think after 11 hours, that's pretty clear!"

10:30 — When O'Malley is asked about criminal justice reform, he says he has more "graveside" experience than the other candidates.

10:32 — Sanders calls to "end minimum sentencing" and legalize marijuana at the federal level, so states can be free to legalize it.

10:35 — Sanders is asked why government should pay for tuition, when about 40% of college students don't graduate. Isn't the taxpayer money just "thrown away" on them? Sanders doesn't answer that question, but simply reiterates his support for "free" college (to the extent anything that would cost billions of dollars can be called "free").

10:38— Clinton: "I disagree with free college for everybody." Her rationale is that taxpayers should have to "send Donald Trump's kids to college." (Of course, Trump's kids went to private colleges, which wouldn't be affected by Sanders's plan.) Government and families should both "contribute."

10:40 — The moderator points out that Clinton's health-care plan back when she was First Lady was "Sanders-esque." Clinton seems wistful: "Revolution never came! . . . I have the scars to prove it!"

10:42 — As the moderator is starting to go to a commercial break, O'Malley begs for more time, but Dickerson blames it on technology: "I'm sorry, Governor, we've got to take a break, or the machine breaks down!" [Update: Out of the three candidates, O'Malley spoke the least — 25% of the time — and Clinton spoke the most — 40% of the time.]

10:46 — The candidates are all asked about "a time you've been tested," which they could draw on as president. Clinton says the time she had to advise Obama on the mission to kill bin Laden. Clinton gets personal: "It was an excruciating experience — I couldn't talk to anybody about it," including her husband. Sanders's answer is pretty dull by comparison: he says he'd draw on his experience compromising with Republicans when he was Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

10:51 — In his closing statement, O'Malley says we shouldn't return to "polarizing figures of the past." I can't imagine who he has in mind!

10:52 — Clinton starts her closing statement with a good line: "I've heard a lot about me in this debate. I'm going to keep talking and thinking about you." At the end of her statement, she gets wild applause.

10:54 — Sanders's closing statement is evocative of Larry David's impersonation of him: "We need a political revolution! . . . Turn off the TV! . . . Please become a part of the revolution!"

O'Malley successfully baited Trump into giving him some much-needed publicity.

Peter Beinart, a liberal, thinks this debate showed troubling signs for Clinton:
imagine @marcorubio on that stage and u can imagine how far on the defensive @HillaryClinton will be on ISIS
So who won tonight? It's hard to say. Maybe the Republicans.

Update: Many are saying the winner was John Dickerson.


Juan paxety said...

This is clearly the Hillary show. CBS continues to show reaction shots of her and not the others.

elcee said...

For the record, explanation of the law and policy, fact basis of Operation Iraqi Freedom drawn from the primary sources of the mission.

Also see Recommendation: How to talk about your Iraq vote (advice to Hillary Clinton). Excerpt:
President Clinton was right to strictly enforce the Gulf War ceasefire despite the opposition of the Security Council members that advocated for Saddam in 1998 and again in 2002-2003. Your husband was right to impress the gravity of Saddam's "clear and present danger to the stability of the Persian Gulf and the safety of people everywhere" (President Clinton) upon you as a Senator and his successor in the White House. According to the Iraq Survey Group and the Iraqi Perspectives Project that studied captured regime documents, President Clinton's dire warnings about Saddam from 1998-1999 were correct. But for the regime change, Saddam would have rearmed - was in fact already rearming in violation of UNSCR 687 - Saddam was a terrorist and tyrant, and Saddam's peculiar decision-making, ambition, and the nature of his regime were not reconstructed as mandated by the Gulf War ceasefire.

When the the law, policy, and facts underlying Operation Iraqi Freedom are correctly understood, it is clear that your husband and his successor in the White House were right about Saddam. Your critics and competitors for the Democratic nomination for President are wrong now and they were wrong in 2008. You were right to vote for the 2002 AUMF.

MikeR said...

In retrospect, a lot of us Americans over-reacted to 9/11. It was the kind of thing that draws a _REACTION_! Bush pretty much dropped everything else he had to make sure that Islamic terrorism would be destroyed. (People who think he wasn't sincere about it are out of touch with reality. It cost him everything he had, and he paid it gladly.) Lots of us dreamed that we might be successful in remaking Middle Eastern society into something civilized.
Well, we were wrong. The US should have smashed up Afghanistan in response. If Saddam Hussein was getting too far out of line, we could have smashed him up some too. Then we should have left, with a Middle East that would maybe have a little more respect. Maybe. Sometimes that's the best you can do.
Instead, we took Saddam Hussein out, tried to build new civilizations in places that just aren't ready, and created a power vacuum filled by Iran and other Islamic radicals like ISIS.
So I don't actually blame those who voted for the Iraq War. President Obama would probably have voted for it too, had he been in the Senate at the time. But none of that means that this is not a problem for Clinton now, because nobody thinks of it that way.

Eric said...

"we took Saddam Hussein out, tried to build new civilizations in places that just aren't ready"

You point to one of the most frustrating and disturbing aspects of President Obama's course-change from President Bush with Iraq. It was not established that Iraqis "just aren't ready" for liberal reform. In fact, at the time when outgoing President Bush entrusted Operation Iraqi Freedom to incoming President Obama, the peace operations with Iraq were evidently succeeding.

For a picture of Iraq's progress until President Obama changed course, see:
UN Recognizes 'Major Changes' In Iraq (link) by VP Joe Biden on behalf of the UN Security Council, 2010.
How Obama Abandoned Democracy in Iraq (link) by OIF official and senior advisor Emma Sky, 2015.

Generally speaking, building a nation does not happen faster than raising a child. We were only in Iraq for about 8 years - only about 4 years if you count from the start of the Counterinsurgency "Surge". A decade is barely enough time for the 1st stage of nation-building under placid conditions, let alone the complexity we faced with Iraq.

For context, imagine the consequences had President Eisenhower similarly determined to change course, disengaged then withdrawn our peace operations from Europe and/or Asia in the early 1950s at a similar 8-year mark from WW2. Like the circumstances in which we left Iraq, in the early 1950s, the progress in Europe and Asia was tangible but still fragile and immature, the regions were dangerous, and the future was uncertain.

Fortunately, we don't have to know what might have befallen South Korea, West Germany, etc, had Ike chosen to leave our commitments like Obama did. Unfortunately, we do know what happened to Iraq due to Obama's course-change from Bush.

"and created a power vacuum filled by Iran and other Islamic radicals like ISIS"

The regime change didn't cause a power vacuum. The US prematurely and precipitously withdrawing peace operations from Iraq caused a power vacuum.

Make no mistake, President Obama chose to leave Iraq like we did. See:
Withdrawal Symptoms: The Bungling of the Iraq Exit (link) by OIF senior advisor Rick Brennan, 2015.
US could have ‘prevented’ ISIS rise, interview with USFI CDR General Ray Odierno, 2015.

Simply, President Obama was in President Eisenhower's position yet Obama chose to contradict modern American history as leader of the free world and thus made a mistake with enormous dire consequences.

For more sources about the US exit from Iraq, go here.