The Forum provided the candidates with chances to deal with "gotcha" questions the GOP is so afraid of
Republicans should be embarrassed. They have complained about the CNBC debate questions at length, about “gotcha” questions, somehow forgetting that Hillary Clinton coolly sat through 11 hours of Benghazi grilling. Indeed, the lead complainant about “gotcha” questions, Ben Carson, spent the day getting raked over the coals in the media for blatant lies about his past, never mind the crazy theories he has forwarded about Egypt’s pyramids. Which brings us to the Democratic Forum.
Say what you want about Rachel Maddow, but she was a good moderator. Yes, she clearly leans left, but she didn’t pitch straight softballs at the candidates. She bluntly asked Martin O’Malley what he’s going to do to keep his campaign relevant, a question that would send Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Jeb Bush screaming for the hills. And she didn’t stop there, grilling Bernie Sanders on his comparatively loose stance on gun violence and Hillary Clinton on her Wall Street connections.
The candidates themselves handled the questions well. The evening started with O’Malley, who took the opportunity to sell himself to voters. While he performed well, it’s doubtful he brought himself closer to the nomination. What he did do was put his name in the discussion and it’s not unthinkable that he will receive some sort of appointment and/or cabinet position in the future. The Gun Violence Prevention Community strongly supports him, and it’s hard to believe he won’t somehow be a factor in this issue down the road.
Bernie Sanders stuck closely to the issue closest to him, income inequality. Where Sanders excelled was talking about the 1% benefitting more than anyone else, and successfully made the argument that America’s economy is a rigged game. He sidestepped questions about attacking Hillary Clinton, saving his brimstone for “cowardly” Republicans. He also greatly improved on the foreign policy issues that he dropped the ball on during the first Democratic debate.
Where Sanders did drop the ball was on gun violence. He couldn’t aptly explain why he voted to allow guns in carry-on baggage on Amtrak trains, and fell back on the rural vs urban arguments regarding guns. Worse still, he defaulted to mental health as the true cause of gun violence, a trope owned by the Republicans.
Still, Sanders was head and shoulders above O’Malley and did present himself as a viable candidate for the Democratic nomination. He gained ground and should continue to do so. Certainly, should he receive the nomination, he will deserve your vote.
Then it was time for Hillary Clinton. Maddow immediately pitched hardballs on criminal justice, the death penalty, and social inequality in America’s prison systems. Here, she was on board with Sanders, recommending reform on all issues. She spoke eloquently about the Death Penalty and why she thinks it needs to be eliminated in all but the most extreme cases.
Then it was time for the Wall Street question, Clinton’s Achilles heel, and she dealt with it by holding up the Koch Brothers financing conservative candidates to protect their business interests. Some will say she was deflecting, some will say she dealt with it head on. But considering it was her sore spot, she cruised through it with the same calm demeanor she handled the Benghazi inquisition.
And no matter what you think of her, Clinton got off the line of the night when Maddow asked which GOP candidate she’d choose for her VP: “There are Republicans I could pick, just not one of them.”
DOMA, coming from Maddow, was especially poignant. Clinton talked about how the far right engendered fear and ignorance to strike down LGBT Equality in Houston, and continued with talk about how if some Americans aren’t treated as equal citizens, that is a tremendous injustice.
Rachel Maddow served well, switching up substantive questions with cutesy jokes and humanizing looks at the candidates’ past. She was not afraid to hit them with hard questions and did her best to draw them all out. Bernie Sanders in particular benefitted from this, shrugging off his “grumpy old man” label, coming off as warmer and more human than he has previously.
The takeaway here is that Democratic candidates are head and shoulders above the hot mess of a clown show the GOP is presenting to the nation. All you need know is these three people are willing to talk about the issues and how to work through them, rather than whining about the questions they got.