By Robert A. Vella
Certainly to my surprise, and likely to others’ as well, last night’s second Democratic Party presidential debate in Des Moines, Iowa was actually quite good and well worth watching. The discussion was serious, substantive, and – for the most part – professionally moderated by CBS. In contrast, the first debate in October was an unmitigated disaster. In my coverage of that complete waste of everyone’s time, I described it as being “moderated by what used to be a legitimate news organization” in reference to CNN, and like “going to the city zoo with a self-appointed expert who happens to hate animals.”
On the downside, and coincidentally or not, the second debate was only watched by about half the viewers of the first debate. The reason for this dramatic drop in viewership is obvious because it was scheduled for a Saturday night during the most exciting part of the college football schedule.
For an accurate assessment of the issues and the candidates’ positions, see Debate Takeaways: Somber on Paris, disputes over Wall Street.
This debate was punctuated by many memorable one-liners which set the tone for the discussion.
Bernie Sanders again linked terrorism and national security concerns to climate change. From Politico:
“Absolutely. In fact, climate change is directly related to the rise of global terrorism,” he said. “This is what the CIA says,” he went on to say, noting a struggle for limited resources like water and land.
Hillary Clinton expressed the gravity of escalating gun violence in America:
“This is an emergency.”
Martin O’Malley referred to populist Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as an:
“… immigrant-bashing carnival barker.”
But, the really great lines came in sometimes heated exchanges over Wall Street reform and over the corrupting influence of money in politics in which both Sanders and O’Malley attacked a defensive, yet defiant Clinton.
“Not good enough,” Sanders retorted after Clinton explained her pragmatic ties to Wall Street.
“I won’t be taking my orders from Wall Street,” O’Malley boasted when answering a question about his potential cabinet appointments in a sharp, sarcastic barb directed at Clinton.
“Who are we kidding?” Sanders asked rhetorically after Clinton outlined her financial reform plan which she claims will make Wall Street play by the rules.
Then, Sanders criticism became even more direct asserting that Wall Street is based on:
“… a business model of greed and fraud.”
In a tactical mistake, Clinton got riled-up and accused Sanders of impugning her integrity while attempting to link the restoration of New York (after the 9/11 terrorist attacks) with her support of Wall Street. From The Hill:
“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,” she said. “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.”
Republicans immediately pounced on the comment with the Republican National Committee sending out an e-mail of the response from reporters on Twitter.
Clinton later said she did not mean to draw such a connection when one of the debate moderators brought up the subject by mentioning a message about it on Twitter.
“I’m sorry that whoever tweeted that had that impression because I worked closely with New Yorkers after 9/11 for my entire first term,” Clinton said. “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 out country.”
Yes, there were two Benghazi email questions asked by the moderators later in the debate; but, they were addressed very quickly and everyone subsequently moved on to more important topics.