Liveblogging The First Democratic Presidential Debate

My thoughts on tonight’s exciting debate, starring Hillary “Robitussin” Clinton, Bernie “Sudafed” Sanders, Martin “O’Morpheus” O’Malley, Lincoln “Sweet Dreams” Chafee, and Jim “Zzzzz” Webb.

7:43 Central — Here we go. Anderson Cooper is wearing the smart glasses. Linc is first on the stage, looking dashing in a green tie. O’Malley follows, sporting light blue. Hillary with the dark blue pantsuit, Bernie with blue and gray stripes, and Jim Webb, with silver (and glasses?).

Sheryl Crowe nails it.

And now for some exciting commercials!


8:00 Central  Introductions. Chafee has had no scandals, and has “high ethical standards.” May or may not have formerly been a Republican. Tie is very distracting.

Jim Webb goes on the attack against big money. Bled for our country. May or may not have formerly been a Republican. Tie is also somewhat distracting. Compelling personal story. Has five children.

Martin O’Malley. Tie is not distracting. Actually a pretty good public speaker. Is definitely a Democrat, and goddamnit he wants you to know it. Platitudes.

Bernie Sanders. Tie is not distracting, and that’s good because America has a CRISIS. “Millionaires and Billionaires” — if you had that on your debate bingo card, drink bitches. May or may not be a Democrat, but is definitely angry, so take that, O’Malley. Gets the first solid applause from the crowd.

Hillary Clinton. Never heard of her, but she’s a granddaughter of a factory worker and has a granddaughter, who is probably cute. Does a lot of listening. “Raising wages” is at the center of her campaign. And then tax fairness. Believes in equal pay and paid family leave, and the audience does to! Will heal divides. Fathers will now be able to lie to their daughters and tell them they “too can be President.”

8:01 — Hillary, “will you say anything to get elected?” Says that the TPP was just negotiated so she was entitled to change her opinion. Coop didn’t seem satisfied. HRC insists she is a consistent progressive. “I’m a progressive who likes to get things done.” Will work with Republicans, maybe, if they don’t piss here off.

8:03 — Bernie, “how can any kind of socialist win?” By rattling off statistics and factoids, apparently. Just like in every other country. Denies being part of the “casino capitalist process” that has “wrecked the economy.”
Coop asks if anyone else is not a capitalist. Hillary says capitalism is about small businesses and that we need to “save capitalism is from itself.” Says “we’re not Denmark.”

Bernie agrees that entrepreneurship is great, but growth must be spread fairly. Says he will support small businesses.

8:07Linc, “why should Democrats trust you?” Says he is a “block of granite” who has not changed on the issues, despite changing parties. Says GOP “left me.”

8:08 — O’Malley, “why should Americans trust you” when they see that Baltimore is a flaming dumpster fire? Says that Charm City got better under his leadership. “I did not make our city immune to setbacks, but I did attend a lot of funerals.” Says he helped save over 1,000 lives.

8:11 — Webb, “aren’t you out of step” by being a crotchety white guy with questionable views on race? Says he is in the tradition of the Democratic Party, and that he supports affirmative action for black people. Says lots of white people have it hard.

8:13 — Bernie, “shield the gun companies from lawsuits?” Sanders says he has a D- rating from the NRA. Says he has supported background checks and banning assault rifles. Says we need to improve mental health care. Says that gun shop liability is complicated, but thinks that manufacturers should be exposed to lawsuits.

Hillary says Bernie is not tough enough on guns, and says we need to “stand up” to the NRA. Jabbing hard on this issue.

Bernie says that “all the shouting in the world” isn’t going to keep guns out of the hands of people who “should not have guns.” Emphasizes consensus.

O’Malley. Obama can’t pass gun control, “how can you”? Notes that Aurora shooting parents are in the audience. Joins the pile-on regarding gunmaker liability.

Bernie says “we can raise our voices, but I come from a rural state.” Emphasizes consensus. “I intend to lead the country.”

O’Malley asks if Sanders has ever been to Western Maryland. Says he “led with principle” instead of “pandering.”

Sanders says it is not “pandering” to recognize that Congress won’t pass a Maryland-style bill.

Coop asks Jim Webb to chime in, noting he had an A rating from the NRA. Says ordinary Americans should be able to defend themselves with guns.

Chafee chips in, notes that gun lobby is successful at scaring voters. Says he can “find common ground” with the gun lobby. Sounds delusional.

O’Malley says he won the debate in Maryland by writing letters to gun owners.

8:22 — Hillary, “did you underestimate the Russians?” Hillary says she got a lot of business done with the Russians. Says it’s not acceptable for Vladimir Putin to be “creating chaos” in Syria.

Bernie says Syria is a “quagmire in a quagmire.” Insists he will do everything he can to prevent U.S. involvement. Says we should get Arabs to handle this.

Hillary chimes in and says “nobody” supports U.S. ground troops in Syria.

8:25 — Dana Bash asks the candidates about war in Syria. Hillary and Bernie square off on their records regarding the Iraq War.
(I had some technical difficulty at this point, so excuse the fact that I’m being a tad brief).

O’Malley gets asked if Hillary is too hawkish. Says he agrees with Bernie Sanders that the Iraq War was “one of the worst blunders in modern American history.”

Hillary notes that the decision has already been made regarding the Syrian no-fly zone, and says diplomacy is not about getting the “perfect solution” but about balancing risks. That seems like a slight gaffe that could be used against her later.

Webb says “the greatest strategic threat” is China, not the Middle East.

Cooper asks Bernie to chime in. Bernie seems a bit surprised, says that Russia will “regret” being involved in Syria.

Hillary is asked about Libya and Webb’s criticism. O’Malley says that Benghazi resulted from failed human intelligence. Webb says that Libya was rushed by Obama, and made Benghazi inevitable.

8:39 — Webb is asked if Bernie Sanders can be commander-in-chief when he applied to be a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. Says he respects objectors, but that he feels that he (Webb) is the most qualified to be commander-in-chief.

Bernie thanks Jim Webb and notes they have worked together on veterans benefits. Says when he was a young man (“I am not a young man today”) he notes that he strongly opposed the Vietnam War. But “I am not a pacifist” and says he is prepared to take the country into war.

Chafee and Webb have a back-and-forth regarding Russia and Iran regarding the Iran nuclear deal.

8:42 — What is the greatest threat? Linc – “chaos in the middle east.” O’Malley – “nuclear Iran”. Hillary – nuclear proliferation. Sanders – climate change. Webb – relationship with China, cyberterrorism, middle east.

8:47 — Hillary gets a question regarding e-mails, and whether she can handle crises. Says she has taken responsibility for legal but unwise decisions regarding e-mail. Looks forward to testifying. “Let’s just take a minute” to point out that the Benghazi commission is a partisan hackjob.

Coop, “isn’t it hard to call this just a partisan issue?” Shorter answer — heck no. Says she wants to talk about what the people want.

Bernie chimes in to agree with Hillary. “The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails!” Gets loud applause, and the candidates shake hands.

Linc tries to Lincsplain why this is an issue. Coop asks if Hillary wants to respond. “No.”

Coop asks O’Malley. “Now that we’re finally having debates, Anderson, we don’t have to be defined” by the e-mail issue.

8:52 — Off to Don Lemon with Facebook question. A young man from Des Moines asks, “Do ‘black lives matter’ or do ‘all lives matter’?”

Bernie says #BlackLivesMatter and says that we need to combat institutional racism. Says we have more people in jail than China.

O’Malley says #BlackLivesMatter has a “legitimate, serious” point.

Cooper asks Hillary what she will do for black people that Obama hasn’t. Says that we need to follow-up on obstructed agenda items. Calls for a “new New Deal” for communities of color.

Webb says that “every life matters” but that he has a long history of working with black voters, and that he “risked his political life” on criminal justice reform. Says he has “done the hard jobs” on civil rights, but his answer might have been a bit tone deaf.

Cooper asks Bernie Sanders what he will do for black people that Obama couldn’t. Says that he will focus on creating jobs, raising the minimum wage to $15, pay equity for women, oppose globalization, and make college tuition-free.

Cooper asks Hillary what she will do about income inequality says “you and your husband are part of the one percent.” Hillary repeats her point (made several times) that she will help people reach their “god-given potential.” Notes that Democrats are better than Republicans.

Martin O’Malley agrees with Sanders on income inequality. Brings up Glass-Steagall Act, and says that is a big difference between him and Hillary Clinton.

9:01 — Cooper asks for details about how Hillary would regulate Wall Street banks. Emphasizes her plan to empower regulators to break up banks and look at shadow banks.

Bernie says it’s “not true” that Hillary’s banking plan is tougher than his. Says he fought deregulation of banks in the 1990s. Says that we’ve got to “break them up.”

Hillary says she respects Bernie Sanders’ passion, but that she “represented Wall Street” as a Senator from New York and supposedly told the bankers to cut it out. Might be considered a mild gaffe.

Bernie says “in my view, Congress doesn’t regulate Wall Street. Wall Street regulates Congress.”

O’Malley goes Full Sanders and starts rattling off statistics about bank consolidation. Re-iterates that he is for a “firewall” between investors and retail banking, and that Hillary is not. Brings up Keystone.

Hillary says “everybody on this stage has change a position or two.” Says that she got tough on the Chinese regarding climate change.

9:06 — Cooper asks Bernie if he would risk the economic stability of the country to stick with his principles. Bernie says that his objection to the 2008 bailout was that the burden was imposed on the middle class instead of on “the millionaires and billionaires.” Notes that his education plan would make college tuition-free based on a financial transaction test.

Cooper asks Jim Webb for his views. Notes that he called for a windfalls profit tax, and complains that he doesn’t get equal time.

Cooper asks Linc about Glass-Steagall. Says it was the first vote he made in the Senate. Coop digs in, asks if he voted for something he didn’t understand. Spins about the Bush cuts.

9:10 Dana Bash asks Bernie Sanders if it makes sense to provide college free to “Donald Trump’s kids.” Bernie says that a college degree is what a high school degree used to be, and reiterates that it is paid for by taxing Wall Street.

Dana Bash pivots to Clinton, and asks about other plans that Bernie Sanders has offered for Social Security expansion, etc. Hillary says that students should work during collegeEmbraces “enhancing” benefits.

Bernie chimes in, notes that he has been a leader in defending Social Security benefits, and eliminating the cap on the Social Security taxes.

9:15 — Juan-Carlos Lopez asks Bernie Sanders why he voted against a 2007 immigration bill. Bernie says he voted against it because the guest-worker program in the bill was “semi-slavery.” Says he supports comprehensive immigration reform.

Lopez then turns to Hillary whether Obamacare should be expanded to undocumented immigrants. Hillary says she supports healthcare for children, and supports an exchange buy-in.

O’Malley says that he would “go further than Obama” on immigration.

Webb says “he wouldn’t have a problem” with undocumented immigrants getting Obamacare. Talks about his wife’s story as a Vietnamese refugee.

Hillary chimes in with a note that there is “such a difference” between the Democrats’ views on immigration and the Republicans. Never hurts to get in a free swipe at the opposition party.

Cooper asks about giving in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants. Hillary says that it is basically up to the states.

O’Malley, on cue, notes that he already did it in Maryland. Calls Donald Trump “that carnival barker.”

Anderson Cooper asks why Bernie Sanders didn’t take action sooner on veterans’ affairs. Bernie notes that he was only chair for two years, and that during his tenure he worked with John McCain to fundamentally reform VA care.

Coop then asks Chafee about his vote on the PATRIOT Act. Says he’d be willing to reform it.

Hillary says she doesn’t regret her vote on the PATRIOT Act. Blames the Bush Administration for screwing up the law.

Coop notes that Bernie Sanders was the only one to vote against the PATRIOT Act. Bernie says he would shutdown NSA telephone snooping.

Coop then asks the candidates whether Edward Snowden is a hero or traitor. Chafee says that we should bring Edward Snowden home. Hillary says he broke the law, and should “face the music.” O’Malley says “whistleblowers do not run to Russia.” Sanders says that Snowden “played an important role in educating the American people” but says that he should be punished for breaking the law. Webb stumbles, says he would leave it to the courts, rambles about destroying collected information.

Coop asks the candidates how their presidency would not be a third Obama term. Chafee would change middle east policy. O’Malley says that he would more populist and break up banks. Hillary Clinton says that she would be the first woman president, but refuses to name a specific policy difference. Bernie Sanders says he would lead a political revolution against corporate power. Webb dismisses Bernie, saying that “the revolution is not gonna come” but notes that he would be more conservative with executive authority.

O’Malley riffs on revolution, saying he wants a “Green Revolution,”

9:34 — Hillary. “Why should Democrats embrace an insider.” First woman president. Accomplishments. Etc.

O’Malley says our country needs new leadership.

Hillary says she wouldn’t “want anyone to vote for her based on her last name.”

Sanders notes that he doesn’t raise money from “millionaires and billionaires.”

9:38 — Facebook time! Anna from Tempe asks how the candidates will address climate change. O’Malley gets the question first, touts renewables.

Webb gets it next. Cooper asks him about supporting coal. Webb says he is a believer in “all of the above” energy solutions. Says we need to focus on China and India.

Sanders says we can’t fix climate change until we have campaign finance reform. Namechecks the Pope.

Hillary Clinton tells a story, that I think, is about beating up the Chinese vis-a-vis climate change at the Copenhagen Airport. Says we need verifiable commitments from other countries.

9:42 — Dana Bash asks Hillary Clinton about Carly Fiorina’s objection to paid family leave, that it might cost jobs and hurt small businesses. Hillary cites California as a success story. Calls it “typical Republican scare tactics.” Has a genuine moment describing challenges of being a working mother.

Hillary hits it out of the park attacking the GOP over Republican bullying (and sneaks in a mention to Planned Parenthood). “Big government this, big government that.” Definitely a high point.

Bernie Sanders chimes in, agreeing that America needs paid family leave.

O’Malley notes that Maryland already did that.

9:46 — Lopez asks Bernie Sanders how he would vote on a Nevada referendum to legalize recreational marijuana. Says he’d probably vote for it because of the problems of criminalizing drugs (including overcriminalization).

Hillary gets it next. Lopez asks if she is ready to take a position on recreational marijuana legalization. “No.” Does say that she is definitely in favor of medical marijuana. Says that we need to address mass incarceration.

9:48 — Another Facebook question. How will you work with the Republicans?

Bernie says that the GOP “has played a terrible terrible role as total obstructionists.” Says that people need to rise up and “make the Republicans an offer they can’t refuse.”

9:54 — Question is basically, who would be the hardest to work with? Chafee – coal companies. O’Malley: “The National Rifle Association.” Clinton — “Probably the Republicans.” Sanders: pharmaceutical and finance. Webb: “the enemy soldier who through the grenade who injured me.” What???

9:56 — Wrapping up now. Final statements.

Chafee, with all the enthusiasm as a comedy defensive driving instructor, reiterates that he has had “no scandals” (oh really Linc? your tie is a scandal). Says he wants to be the peacemaker.

Webb. Wants a national economic plan. This may be the only opportunity he’s had to speak for 90 seconds this whole debate.

O’Malley. Notes that the Democrats are not insane bigots. Says debate was “an honest search for the answers.” Says we need to “speak to the goodness in our country.”

Sanders. Hits on his main points. “Only major country” etc. “Nobody up here, certainly no Republican, can address the major crises in our country, unless millions of people stand up to the billionaire class.” Asks viewers for “30 bucks apiece.”

Hillary finishes up. “Please come and make it clear that America’s best days are ahead.”

10:04 — My impressions:

  • Doubt this will have a major impact on the polls. This was a friendly debate and everyone really did well (even Chafee and Webb, who came across as weirdos from time to time).
  • In my view, the best performances were: O’Malley, Clinton, Sanders, Webb, Chafee.

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