Twelve takeaways from last night’s 2016 Democratic Presidential NBC debate in Charleston, SC, including why Bernie won.

Bernie Sanders... emphasized that the real issue in the election is that he wants the equivalent of a political revolution that... would take the power from the moneyed interests...

In perhaps the strangest decision during the debate, the moderators chose to spend only about 20 minutes... on foreign policy, terrorism and national security


Nobody has yet given this reporter a reason to take Governor O’Malley’s candidacy seriously, so we’ll do as the debate moderators and likely primary voters do, i.e., ignore him by treating the former Maryland Governor as a potted plant.

12.  Socialist Senator Sanders (I-VT) listed his top three priorities as “(1) Healthcare for all, as a right, (2) increasing the minimum wage to at least $15/hour and (3) creating millions of decent-paying jobs by re-building our crumbling infrastructure.”  Sanders also noted he would, “Tell the wealthiest citizens they would have to start paying their fair share of taxes.”  Since the top one per cent of income earners pay about one third of the federal income taxes, you might think NBC’s moderators Lester Holt and Andrea Mitchell would have asked Bernie just what he meant by a fair share.  But, Holt and Mitchell almost never asked a challenging, follow-up question.

11.  Democrat former Secretary of State Clinton listed her “Top three priorities as (1) creating more good paying jobs in manufacturing, infrastructure and clean and renewable energy, (2) increase the minimum wage [elsewhere Hillary has said $15/hour would be too high, as she thinks that might increase unemployment—suggesting $12 might be good and (3) guarantee equal pay for women’s work.”  [Isn’t that sexist to call some work “Women’s work.” OMG, wait till Trump finds out Hillary said that:)]

10. Since Hillary is always cheating, she sort of had more than three priorities, adding, “I would also present my plans to build on the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) by decreasing out of pocket and prescription drug costs…and put the prescription drug and insurance businesses on a more stable platform…and we also have a lot to do on immigration reform, voting rights reform and campaign finance reform, but we need to do this by staying united and together.” (or some such claptrap). A tie on issues 10-12.

9. Bernie came out slightly ahead on the healthcare issue. Hillary tried to argue that Bernie was against Obamacare and wanted to increase taxes on the middle class to pay for his proposed “Medicare for all, or single payer healthcare.” Bernie announced his proposal, prior to the debate, as to how he would pay for his single payer healthcare [Read here].  A part of Bernie's single payer healthcare would be paid for with  an increase in federal income taxes for those earning more than 250K in a year, which many view as middle class, but during the debate he argued that although a family of four earning 50K would have a new healthcare annual insurance premium of about $440, they would be saving 10 times that in their current employee paid healthcare, so it probably sounded pretty good to likely Democratic primary voters.  Of course, income  tax rates on those earning more than 250K would increase significantly with income, as would payroll taxes on employers, and death taxes.  Total federal government spending and taxes would increase to about 40% of GDP, from its current level of 25%, making the country look more like socialist Netherlands than capitalist U.S. —but that was an issue beyond the ability of moderators Holt and Mitchell to understand-- so it was never raised.  Advantage Bernie on this issue.

8. Bernie Sanders, at several key points in the debate, emphasized that the real issue in the election is that he wants the equivalent of a political revolution that through campaign finance reform would take the power from the moneyed interests, i.e., the super pacs, who in his view control congress and  presidential candidates like Hillary.  Sanders referred to $600,000 in speaking fees alone that Hillary received from Goldman Sachs. Until you have real campaign finance reform, which Sanders implied Hillary would never support, the super pacs, along with insurers, drug companies and Wall St. would continue to block healthcare, financial and other needed reforms.  If you are a Democratic Caucus voter in Iowa or Primary voter in New Hampshire, this argument should have a lot of appeal to you. Advantage Bernie.

7. Hillary essentially tried to respond to Bernie’s arguments by wrapping herself in Obama’s popularity in the Democratic Party.  She argued that Senator Sanders tried to find someone to “Primary,” Obama in the 2012 election because he thought Obama had not been progressive enough in his first term.  Since this was the truth, Sanders kind of turned pink when Hillary said that—and the split screen picked this up.  Advantage Hillary—at least for Democratic older women and African-American voters—the core of Obama’s and now Hillary’s base.  Sanders did manage to say that Obama supported Bernie in his 2006 U. S. Senate race and that Bernie supported Obama in the 2008 and 2012 general elections- but what Democrat didn’t? Advantage Hillary on this issue.

6. Neither the moderators nor the candidates raised foreign policy until 9:20 pm (CST), 80 minutes into the two hour debate, when Hillary smiled and said “I am proud of the Iran Nuclear Agreement.”  Ever the cautious candidate, the former Secretary of State said, “We still have to be careful with Iran, noting that “We have had one good day over 36 years [with them].” She could not foresee any conditions under which she would put American troops on the ground to go after ISIS,” and of course neither could Senator Sanders-- who noted how much he admired [monarch] King Abdullah, who said “[ISIS] is a war for the soul of Islam, so Muslim troops should be on the ground with our support.” Sanders noted that a “[power] vacuum was created by the disastrous war in Iraq, which I vigorously opposed.” Unforunately for the 74 year old Sanders, he had a senior moment, and forgot to argue “How close can Hillary really be to Obama,” when she voted, as a Senator in 2002, to authorize President Bush to take military action in Iraq,” while then State Senator Obama came out again the Iraq War in November, 2002 on “Public Affairs.” Watch Obama questioned on this issue by Berkowitz here. Advantage Bernie on this issue.

5. In perhaps the strangest decision during the debate, the moderators chose to spend only about 20 minutes, or 15% of the debate time, on foreign policy, terrorism and national security. Not covered at all by moderators Lester Holt and Andrea Mitchell were the deaths of 140 people in November due to ISIS terrorists in Paris, deaths of 14 people last month due to a San Benrardino partially home grown, partially Pakistani, Muslim, ISIS inspired couple (with its implications for the Obama administration’s inability to vet middle eastern and failed state immigrants), the status of the Al Qaeda threat to the   U.S., Iran’s capture of ten U.S. sailors last week and Iran’s breach of the Geneva Conventions by their creation and use of a video of the American prisoners surrendering in a kneeling on their knees pose with their hands on their head, Iran’s breach in the last month of U. N. resolutions regarding anti-ballistic missile tests.

4. Also not covered by the debate moderators were Iran’s firing of a missile recently that barely missed the U. S. S. Harry Truman, Hillary’s role in the State Department’s decision to decline security requests in Ben-Ghazi and issue a “Stand down order” that may have led to the death of Ambassador Stevens and three other U. S. citizens at the Embassy, the current FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton for her potential violation of federal laws regarding handling of classified data, the loss of 250,000 Syrian lives and the chaos created by millions of Syrian refugees in Europe that might have been avoided by an early decision of the Obama administration to back the Syrian rebels against Assad, the dismal state of U. S. relations with Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Israel, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Egypt, the contempt displayed by Iran, China and Russia toward the U.S. due to President Obama’s unwillingness in almost any circumstance to initiate use military power (except for drones), the decision by the Obama Administration to close down GITMO by releasing high and medium risk terrorists to other countries, the decision to obtain release of five U. S. innocent hostages by agreeing to release seven Iranians convicted of violating sanctions against Iran, the growing threat of ISIS and Al Qaeda and what specifically the Democratic presidential candidates would do to address these issues.

3. Senator Sanders did make a good point that not enough thought was given by the U. S. to what would happen when the U. S. and its allies got rid of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.  Again, Sanders forgot to make the same criticism of Senator Clinton, who voted to support the Iraq War.  Sanders also argued that wealthy countries like Saudia Arabia and Qatar have to start putting some skin in the game.  Alert moderators might have followed up by asking if Sanders meant that they should be putting forth troops to take on ISIS, or did he mean that they should arm themselves to balance a push by Iran to take over the region? In any case, advantage Bernie Sanders on this issue.

2. In one of the few times that NBC moderator Andrea Mitchell challenged either candidate, Mitchell asked Secretary Clinton if President  Obama should have stuck to his red line in Syria, i.e., taken action against Syria or supported the rebels in Syria when Assad used chemical weapons against his own people.  In a baffling, mind blowing answer, Secretary Clinton said “We were able to get chemical weapons out.” But, it is a well-known fact that Assad used chemical weapons—that is what is meant by the crossing of the Red Line.  And, Mitchell asked again, “Should President Obama have stuck to his threat.” And Clinton again bizarrely responded that “You have to constantly re-evaluate as President.”  Does that mean that Hillary finally remembered that Assad did use chemical weapons against his own people.  Had the 67 year old Clinton just had a senior moment, or two?  Not to reassuring for voters.  Why didn’t Mitchell question on this until she got a clear answer. It is a fairly important point. Is it because NBC, MSNBC and CNBC essentially act like fully owned subsidiaries of the Democratic Party—and they don’t feel like they have an obligation to act like real journalists when it comes to questioning Democrats. In any case, Advantage Bernie on this point.

1. Who won the debate?  Bernie gave the liberal Democratic voters more of a reason to feel good for voting for him.  This was a stronger performance by Bernie than the first three debates as he for the first time drew a strong contrast between Hillary and him—arguing that he, unlike her, is not a pawn of big drug and insurance companies—and of Wall St.  So, he came out looking like he would fight harder and better on domestic, progressive financial and healthcare issues. On guns, he said before the debate he changed his mind and would now vote to remove liability immunity for gun manufacturers—which sort of took that issue off the table. On foreign policy, Bernie said he voted against the Iraq War, which will please Democratic primary voters immensely.  Yes, Bernie forgot to remind viewers that Hillary voted for the Iraq War—but many should remember from 2008 that Hillary went the wrong way on Iraq—which is the main reason she lost in 2008 to Obama. Wouldn’t it be funny if Hillary lost the 2016 Democratic Presidential primary for the same reason she lost in 2008?  Advantage Bernie

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