BROOKLYN–Thursday’s presidential debate shows the vulnerability of Democrats heading into the November election. Most recent political analysis in the mainstream media has centered on Republicans’ wide wider field of candidates and the growing #NeverTrump movement. Yet the sharp exchanges between Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders on everything from capital market regulation to gun control, NATO and Israel showed sharp philosophical divisions between the party’s two major factions.
While there was no knockout punch for either side in the Brooklyn Democratic debate, Sanders’ sharp attacks on Clinton and her aggressive counterpunches made it clear that the early-stage niceties in the Democratic primaries are long gone.
“I do question her judgment,” Sanders said. “I don’t believe that that is the kind of judgment we need to be the kind of president we need.”
Clinton shot back and won over the crowd by referencing a recent gaffe by Sanders at a recent editorial board meeting.
“Senator Sanders did call me unqualified,” she said. “I’ve been called a lot of things in my life. That was a first … But if you go and read, which I hope all of you will before Tuesday, Senator Sanders’ long interview with the New York Daily News talk about judgment and talk about the kinds of problems he had answering questions about even his core issue, breaking up the banks. When asked, he could not explain how that would be done and when asked about a number of foreign policy issues, he could not answer about Afghanistan, about Israel, about counterterrorism, except to say if he’d had some paper in front of him, maybe he could. I think you need to have the judgment on day one to be both president and commander-in-chief.”
Clinton struck a conciliatory tone toward NATO, while Sanders called for America to reduce its vital role in this vital partnership that serves as a counterbalance to Russian aggression. On Israel, Sanders seemed to suggest that Israel did not value Palestinian self-determination, despite the fact that Israelis are significant supporters of the Palestinian economy and have repeatedly sought for peace despite hostility from radical extremists.
On the issue of transparency, Clinton’s refusal to release transcripts of her Wall Street speeches showed her leading from behind. Leaders do not wait for others to do the right thing; they trailblaze and forge new paths.
“You know, let’s set the same standard for everybody,” she said. “When everybody does it, OK, I will do it, but let’s set and expect the same standard on tax returns. Everybody does it, and then we move forward.”
Clearly, this is not the inspirational vision we need to move our country ahead.
With recent McClatchy polling showing one in four Bernie supporters would not vote for Clinton in the general election (though just 14 percent of Clinton supporters saying they would not back Sanders), this does not bode well for Democrats in the fall.
Certainly Republicans are experiencing their own intra-party jostling, yet it’s clear that the Democratic race is far from serene. On the Republican side, it doesn’t appear that Donald Trump will be able to unify the party with a solid majority, and so smart members of the GOP would quickly coalesce behind an alternative to solidify a cohesive alternative to the Democratic disarray.