It’s now been about a week and we’ve had time to sit back and think about what happened in the debate. No longer a first impression kind of deal; we can reflect on what actually happened, what was said, and what, if any, impact the debate will have.
The first thing is that it appears that Joe Biden hasn’t written off a run for President. God only knows why, but he’s still thinking of running – and after having heard the debate. That should tell you that he realizes and sees that this current field is eminently beatable.
Worse luck for us all if he does run. He’s not a winning candidate, has way too much baggage, and is too intemperate to be a President. If he runs and wins the nomination, Democrats can write off the Presidency for at least 4 years.
That can’t be good.
The second thing is that Hillary Clinton won. That’s definitive. That’s not just my opinion, but is matched in polling. It wasn’t a simple matter of her ‘not losing’; it was that she actually won via her performance. Sorry, Bernie Sanders supporters, Hillary was the winner. Oh, don’t get me wrong, Bernie Sanders did quite well – very well, in fact, and almost won the debate himself. But Hillary won. She won by being on top of her game. She won by being prepared. She won by having ready answers to tough questions. She won by not getting irritated by the stupidity around her and irritating question. She won by being personable, something she hasn’t shown before. She was able to respond well to virtually everything, knew the issues and addressed them well, and didn’t come off as some liberal sop.
That’s a winning show.
Something else shown is that these candidates seem to respect each other. The disagreements, and there were a few, were polite, reasoned, and measured. I got no sense that, for example, Hillary would refuse to support Bernie Sanders (or Lincoln Chafee or Martin O’Malley or Jim Webb). And vice versa. No hints dropped that anyone would attempt a third party run. No hints or implications that anyone on the stage was incompetent, foolish, dangerous, or not a “true” Democrat (are you listening Republicans? Some of us actually like respectful discourse).
That said, I was extremely disappointed in the performances of “the others,” Chafee, O’Malley, and Webb. O’Malley was okay but I didn’t see enough of him to make me move towards him. Pity because I think he’d be a good candidate. Chafee seemed unprepared and scared. And the response to his first vote in the Senate? What’s with the defensiveness and the answer overall? Holy smoke. Defend the vote entirely, renounce your prior position and move on; we all make mistakes. But to blame it on your father’s death, your first vote in the Senate, the lack of sleep or whatever else? Seriously? Also, if someone is unprepared when they know long in advance that they’ll be on a stage with other candidates, questions flying at them, in a national forum, that does not speak well to their capabilities to become Commander in Chief. You have to be ready on Day 1. Jim Webb’s complaining about not getting enough face time, enough questions thrown his way was beneath a man of his stature. C’mon, man, step up.
The reason those performances disappointed me was that these men are better than they showed. Webb in particular. Yes, he has problems as a potential candidate. Yes, he’s kind of cranky and cantankerous and isn’t in any way, shape, or form a liberal. He, like Biden, has made some intemperate statements that will likely come back to haunt him. But he’s got enough going for him that he could be a good alternative to whatever street muck the Republicans spew out and force the American public to consider. Chafee’s a good man, articulate, thoughtful and intelligent. He’s not a novice and not a fool and not without redeeming value. He, like Webb, is better than he showed. Plus wouldn’t it be kind of fun to say you voted for Lincoln for President? And, again, O’Malley simply didn’t get his message out well enough or strongly enough to get folks to take a harder look.
Personally, I love Bernie Sanders. I love his message. I love the passion with which he argues his points and ideas. I love that he knows the issues and knows what the average person, the one who’s scuffling to make ends meet, the ones who are the backbone of this great nation are going through whenever the economy hiccups. He just gets it. But is he electable? I hate to ask that, it kills me in fact, but I’m not convinced that he is.
That’s the key question. If Democrats are to keep the Republicans from completely rewriting law that helps America – (like the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare), if we’re to keep Republicans from being able to appoint Supreme Court Justices who will harm individual rights including a woman’s right to choose, freedom of and from religion, to do what they wish with the partner they wish, to marry the person they choose to marry, then we have to nominate and elect someone that will appeal to middle American. Is a Rooseveltian liberal, a self-described Socialist like Bernie Sanders, that person?
My question, though, is whether Hillary is that person either. I don’t think so. But on the basis of this first debate (and we need more than the few that are scheduled), I feel a little better about the idea of a Hillary presidency.
The debates are on. Hillary Clinton won the first debate. Let’s hope the candidates continue to clarify issues and portray themselves in the best light. America deserves nothing less.