The First Democratic Debate:
Some Key Take-aways the Morning After
October 14, 2015
Overall, the key take-away from the debate was the startling difference in substance between the Democrats and Republicans. Although it cannot be assumed all viewers will notice, appreciate, or understand the substantive issues, the comparison clearly favorited Democrats. Nonetheless, given the 15.3 million viewers, one has to assume some of them believe they learned more about the issues from the Republican debates.
Bernie’s campaign advisors reported he did not practice because he did not believe he needed practice. In fact, he did need practice. Hillary attacked Bernie’s position on firearms, especially his support of legislation shielding manufacturers from liability. Bernie clearly was unprepared to respond with forceful and persuasive explanation for his support. Bernie’s oft repeated claim of a D+ rating from the National Rifle Association could not protect him from Hillary’s withering attack.
As the moderator Anderson Cooper moved on to other issues, Bernie was able to recover. His strongest point came when Anderson was questioning Hillary’s use of a private email server. After Hillary ran through the steps she has taken to address the issue and noted how Republicans were using this and Benghazi as political attacks, Bernie jumped in to say he was tired of the attention being focused on her “damn emails” when there are so many other issues that needed to be addressed. His outburst ended the issue, at least, for the rest of the debate.
And, although Hillary was overwhelming in her mastery of facts, she may need to refine two of her answers on the “too big to fail banks” and her changes on the Keystone pipeline and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). The timeline Hillary suggested in two of her answers seemed confused. When discussing her why she changed her mind on the TPP, Hillary said that when, as Secretary of State, she expressed support for she “hoped it would be the gold standard for trade agreements.” Actually, as Secretary of State Hillary said “the TPP was gold standard.”
In addition, Hillary in defending her position on how she would regulate the banking industry, said banks that are too big to fail may become a problem. Bernie countered by noting these banks are bigger now than they were when they failed in 2008, and thus, are a problem now.
Anderson tried to get Webb and Bernie to go after each other on Bernie's conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War. Webb did not take the bait and allowed Bernie to explain that he did not believe in that way, but was not a pacifist and had supported the Afghanistan War.
CNN fact checked some of the statements made. CNN noted some of Bernie’s unemployment number were not correct, but without any attribution for the numbers they claimed were correct. Hillary was dinged for saying NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden did not deserve a break because he could have used the whistleblower law to call attention to the NSA’s illegal acts. In fact, Snowden as a contractor was exempt from the whistleblower law and could not avail himself of it.
CNN really covered the post-debate better than MSNBC. In their focus groups, for example, Bernie was the winner, despite all the pundits who believe Hillary won. There were no focus groups on MSNBC. Instead Chris Matthews interviewed Rich Little! MSNBC’s lack of adequate post-debate analysis is interesting because of the vaunted integration of NBC news and MSNBC.