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The First Democratic Presidential Debate: A Shift to the Left

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The focus was on “Democratic Socialism” last night.  Every candidate in the field, except perhaps Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, seem eager to show their socialist credentials.  All struggled to articulate how their presidency would be different than that of President Obama.

When asked to articulate specifically how her presidency would be different, the clear front runner, former-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said the only difference is that she is a woman.

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, how would you not be a third term of President Obama?

CLINTON: Well, I think that’s pretty obvious. I think being the first woman president would be quite a change from the presidents we’ve had up until this point, including President Obama.

And her policy positions reflected that.  She made sure to mention she will continue the aggressive push for the LGBT agenda in her opening remarks and went out of her way to bring into the discussion her support of late-term abortion and the selling of baby body parts by expressing her full support of Planned Parenthood.

CLINTON: Well, look, you know, when people say that — it’s always the Republicans or their sympathizers who say, “You can’t have paid leave, you can’t provide health care.” They don’t mind having big government to interfere with a woman’s right to choose and to try to take down Planned Parenthood. They’re fine with big government when it comes to that. I’m sick of it.

It was a strange comment, because the fight to defund Planned Parenthood is to take big government out of the issue.  It’s about the government not giving tax dollars to the biggest abortion provider in the country, especially when the group has been shown to be engaging in practices that violate federal law.

Not to be outdone, Former Governor of Rhode Island Lincoln Chafee — whose schizophrenic political career has seen him as a Republican, then an Independent, and finally a Democrat — explained he is just as radical as anyone running:

CHAFEE: And I open my record to scrutiny. Whether it’s on the environment, a woman’s right to choose, “gay marriage,” fiscal responsibility, aversion to foreign entanglements, using the tools of government to help the less fortunate.

Former Governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley made his mark by calling out Donald Trump on immigration when asked whether he believed that undocumented immigrants should get in-state college tuition:

O’MALLEY: Anderson, we actually did this in my state of Maryland. We passed a state version of the DREAM Act.


O’MALLEY: And a lot of the xenophobes, the immigrant haters like some that we’ve heard like, Donald Trump, that carnival barker in the Republican party. …


O’MALLEY: … tried to mischaracterize it as free tuition for illegal immigrants. But, we took our case to the people when it was petitioned to referendum, and we won with 58 percent of the vote. The more our children learn, the more they will earn, and that’s true of children who have yet to be naturalized but will become American citizens.

A large portion of the night was also spent explaining a sea of flip flops by most of the candidates. When Anderson Cooper (who did very well, by the way) pressed Secretary Clinton on her many “evolutions,” she was sure to run to the left and claim she stood by her principles, despite her record.

COOPER: You were against same-sex “marriage.” Now you’re for it. You defended President Obama’s immigration policies. Now you say they’re too harsh. You supported his trade deal dozen of times. You even called it the “gold standard.” Now, suddenly, last week, you’re against it.  Will you say anything to get elected?

CLINTON: Well, actually, I have been very consistent. Over the course of my entire life, I have always fought for the same values and principles, but, like most human beings — including those of us who run for office — I do absorb new information. I do look at what’s happening in the world.

Other notables include Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont saying that climate change is the biggest national security threat we face:

COOPER: Senator Sanders, greatest national security threat?

SANDERS: The scientific community is telling us that if we do not address the global crisis of climate change, transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to sustainable energy, the planet that we’re going to be leaving our kids and our grandchildren may well not be habitable. That is a major crisis.

Sen. Webb was impressive on his response and overall knowledge of the issues but was not radical enough, at least for those who were present at the debate.  Here is his answer on our greatest national security threat:

WEBB: Our greatest long-term strategic challenge is our relation with China. Our greatest day-to-day threat is cyber warfare against this country. Our greatest military-operational threat is resolving the situations in the Middle East.

Secretary Clinton was in no mood to talk about her e-mails.  When pressed on the issue, she quickly moved to student loans and college affordability.  And Sen. Sanders agreed, giving her a big boost by saying he was tired of talking about it.  “Enough of the e-mails,” he said, to big cheers from the crowd.  Kudos to Cooper for trying to press on the issue, but there was no appetite for it.  It was odd, because it doesn’t seem appropriate for Democrats to proclaim that Democrats have done nothing wrong; imagine the outrage if Wall Street was permitted to assess its own actions and declare they have done nothing wrong when an allegation is made.

Cooper did not engage in the typical race baiting either that has plagued politics for a long time now, which was refreshing.  There was one ridiculous question about whether “all lives matter” or “black lives matter,” but it was not overdone.  It is worth pointing out that Sen. Webb was the only one courageous enough to say that all lives matter, which again shows how incredibly unproductive the discussion has become.

It was a good debate overall.  We are fortunate to live in a country where this sort of exercise is still valued — where citizens can tune in and hear from the candidates to make up their own minds.  We should all recognize it and appreciate it in the name of liberty and freedom.