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.

Chad R. MacDonald has a degree in English literature from Cape Breton University and subsequently received a full scholarship to AMDA in New York City. He is a former security professional, veteran of the hospitality industry, and experienced in both the arts as well as administration.He has been writing all his life, likes baseball, hockey, literature, science, the arts, and marine photography.Chad lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son and their gigantic cat.


  1. While I would agree that mental illness alone does not “cause” gun violence; to imply that it is not a major factor (especially in mass shootings) is neither honest nor realistic. Faulting Sanders for including mental health in the discussion isn’t reasonable. Even the president believes that addressing mental health issues needs to be a major part of any new gun legislation.

      • The author of this article, though I did not interpret “it doesn’t” just that it is not the overwhelming major cause. Maybe Sanders was speaking of mass killings, not your every day senseless gun deaths.

  2. Senator Sanders voted for a law that allowed guns to be transported in CHECKED LUGGAGE on Amtrak Trains. That means that they do NOT have access to the guns and allows hunters to transport their weapons to hunting lodges. I do not see anything wrong with this. I wish people would understand the difference between carry on luggage and checked luggage. And as for the other bill that would hold gun manufacturers and ammunition makers exempt from prosecution in the case of a killing. Unless there is other extenuating circumstances (like the manufacturer creating unsafe or unlawful weapons and ammunition or the merchandise being somehow faulty) why should they be held accountable? Are Car manufacturers held liable if a teenager takes the car and runs it into a group of people? If we want the guns to be unlawful make them unlawful…then you can rightfully charge the manufacturers.

    • I completely agree with you Jackie on the gun manufacturer issue. I’ve never understood why that’s such a big issue, to find the manufacturer’s responsible. The ONLY case I could think of would be small gun shops that are either building limited or custom runs, or if the manufacturers are also the distributors and retailers, which most aren’t. To say that some small gun shop owner sells a gun that he got from a manufacturer, and that owner resells it without doing proper checks (or any other manner of these lines), and the end owner goes on a shooting spree and the manufacturer should be responsible for that, is completely asinine.

      • See Jackie’s examples of times to hold a manufacturer responsible, e.g, for manufacturing an unsafe weapon, for failing to ensure safety lock was in the design and worked.

        Why so much compassion for corporations that make a living off 30,000 American deaths a year?

      • A proper analogy would be auto manufacturers selling to dealers who re-sell to alcoholics. If someone has no license, or is a repeat offender for dui’s, then should they be sold a car?

        I am not saying I have an answer, but I can agree Regulation can be a slippery slope, yet it can also be better than doing nothing. Background checks, registration and databases, waiting periods, training and certification, these can all be good things if handled properly.

        • That is, knowingly or negligently selling to re-sellers not complying with regulations (assuming those regulations are strong enough to be effective, but that’s another issue).

    • You provided several reasonable circumstances for holding gun manufacturers liable then you sound defensive about the concept. In fact, a court recently made this decision.

Leave a Comment