The 2016 Democratic primary officially crashed off the rails on Tuesday evening at the CNN debate in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed she’s an “outsider.” Former Rhode Island Governor and Senator Lincoln Chafee dismissed a vote he cast in the U.S. Senate because he had just been appointed to the seat and because his father had just died. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley wants to put the entire nation on a renewable energy grid by 2050. And Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is pushing for a “revolution,” that former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb says is never going to come.
The clown car that is the Democratic field in 2016—if one could call it a field, since there are only two candidates above one percent in the polls—was up and running on Tuesday evening for two and a half hours.
Perhaps the biggest moment of the night came when CNN’s Anderson Cooper—the only shining “star,” on stage—asked Clinton about O’Malley’s comments earlier this year about how the “presidency is not a crown to be passed back and forth between two royal families.”
“This year has been the year of the outsider in politics, just ask Bernie Sanders,” Cooper asked Clinton. “Why should Democrats embrace an insider like yourself?”
Incredulously, Clinton—the consummate political insider—claimed she was an “outsider.”
“Well, I can’t think of anything more of an outsider than electing the first woman president, but I’m not just running because I would be the first woman president,” Clinton replied, before pausing for applause from the entirely Democrat audience.
I’m running because I have a lifetime of experience in getting results and fighting for people, fighting for kids, for women, for families, fighting to even the odds. And I know what it takes to get things done. I know how to find common ground and I know how to stand my ground. And I think we’re going to need both of those in Washington to get anything that we’re talking about up here accomplished. So I’m very happy that I have both the commitment of a lifetime and the experience of a lifetime to bring together to offer the American people.
When Cooper offered O’Malley the opportunity to expand on his comments from before, he demurred—opting instead to praise Clinton’s and her husband’s actions. O’Malley said:
Well, actually, you know, we had this conversation. And I will share with you that I’ve traveled all around the country, Anderson, and there’s two phrases I keep hearing again and again and again. And they’re the phrases ‘new leadership’ and ‘getting things done.’ We cannot be this dissatisfied with our gridlocked national politics and an economy where 70 percent of us are earning the same or less than we were 12 years ago, and think that a resort to old names is going to move us forward. I respect what Secretary Clinton and her husband have done for our country. But our country needs new leadership to move forward.
In Clinton’s response to O’Malley—because apparently O’Malley’s praise of her merited a response—she attacked Republicans and asked Americans not to vote for her because of her last name. Clinton said:
Well, I would not ask anyone to vote for me based on my last name. I would ask them to listen to what I’m proposing, look at what I’ve accomplished in the Senate, as secretary of of state, and then draw your own conclusio. I certainly am not campaigning to become president because my last name is Clinton. I’m campaigning because I think I have the right combination of what the country needs, at this point, and I think I can take the fight to the Republicans, because we cannot afford a Republican to succeed Barack Obama as president of the United States.
Chafee’s nonsensical answer on why he voted for the Glass-Steagall repeal in 1999 in the U.S. Senate—which Cooper claimed was “the very bill that made banks bigger”—wasn’t much better.
“The Glass-Steagall was my very first vote, I’d just arrived, my dad had died in office, I was appointed to the office, it was my very first vote,” Chafee miserably failed to explain what Cooper noted was his hypocrisy of attacking Clinton “for being too close to Wall Street banks” after having cast that vote.
“Are you saying you didn’t know what you were voting for?” Cooper asked in a follow-up.
“I’d just arrived at the Senate. I think we’d get some takeovers, and that was one. It was my very first vote, and it was 92-5. It was the…” Chafee continued.
“With all due respect, governor,” Cooper interjected again.
“But let me just say…” Chafee began.
“… what does that say about you that you’re casting a vote for something you weren’t really sure about?” Cooper followed up.
Chafee implored, before finishing what he called an answer:
I think you’re being a little rough. I’d just arrived at the United States Senate. I’d been mayor of my city. My dad had died. I’d been appointed by the governor. It was the first vote and it was 90-5, because it was a conference report. But let me just say about income inequality. We’ve had a lot of talk over the last few minutes, hours, or tens of minutes, but no one is saying how we’re going to fix it. And it all started with the Bush tax cuts that favored the wealthy. So let’s go back to the tax code. And 0.6 percent of Americans are at the top echelon, over 464,000, 0.6 Americans. That’s less than 1 percent. But they generate 30 percent of the revenue. And they’re doing fine. So there’s still a lot more money to be had from this top echelon. I’m saying let’s have another tier and put that back into the tax bracket. And that will generate $42 billion.
O’Malley’s push for a “green energy revolution” and putting all of America on one entirely renewable energy grid is only outmatched by his efforts as governor to tax rain—yes, he pushed a tax on rainfall in Maryland as governor.
“What we need is a green energy revolution,” O’Malley said. “We need to move America to a 100 percent clean electric grid by 2050 and create five million jobs along the way.”
O’Malley hawked the plan again later in the debate as well—comparing it to America putting a man on the moon.
O’Malley said, as if this were some sort of accomplishment everyone in politics is trying to reach:
I have put forward a plan — and I’m the only candidate, I believe, in either party to do this — to move America forward to a 100 percent clean electric grid by 2050. We did not land a man on the moon with an all-of-the-above strategy. It was an intentional engineering challenge, and we solved it as a nation. And our nation must solve this one. So I put forward the plan that would extend the investor tax credits for solar and for wind. If you go across Iowa, you see that 30 percent of their energy now comes from wind. We’re here in Las Vegas, one of the most sustainable cities in America, doing important things in terms of green building, architecture and design. We can get there as a nation, but it’s going to require presidential leadership. And as president, I intend to sign as my very first order in office the — an order that moves us as a nation and dedicates our resources to solving this problem and moving us to a 100 percent clean electric grid by 2050.
But—other than Sanders’ open defense of his self-description as a socialist, or “democratic socialist” to be precise—the moment that takes the cake for crazy in the first Democrat debate is Sanders’ push for a “political revolution.” Sanders said when asked how he’d be different from Obama:
I have a lot of respect for President Obama. I have worked with him time and time again on many, many issues. But here’s where I do disagree. I believe that the power of corporate America, the power of Wall Street, the power of the drug companies, the power of the corporate media is so great that the only way we really transform America and do the things that the middle class and working class desperately need is through a political revolution when millions of people begin to come together and stand up and say: Our government is going to work for all of us, not just a handful of billionaires.
Webb, perhaps the only Democratic candidate on stage who still supports capitalism but had a seriously unimpressive performance when it came to delivery of his remarks and his fighting over debate stage time with Cooper, put down Sanders’ call for a revolution fairly easily. He also dismissed President Obama’s misuse of executive authority. Webb said:
I got a great deal of admiration and affection for Senator Sanders, but I — Bernie, I don’t think the revolution’s going to come. And I don’t think the Congress is going to pay for a lot of this stuff. And if there would be a major difference between my administration and the Obama administration, it would be in the use of executive authority. I came up as a committee counsel in the Congress, used to put dozens of bills through the House floor every year as a committee counsel on the Veterans Committee. I have a very strong feeling about how our federal system works and how we need to lead and energize the congressional process instead of allowing these divisions to continue to paralyze what we’re doing. So I would lead — working with both parties in the Congress and working through them in the traditional way that our Constitution sets.
All that’s not to mention the efforts by pretty much the entire Democratic field to clean up Clinton’s very real email scandal–which the entire mainstream media is going nuts with.
So, with all that said, despite what the pundits–who were probably all handed a set of talking points from the Clinton campaign–say, the biggest question left is if and when Vice President Joe Biden is going to get in this race. He’d have mopped the floor with all these low-energy Democrats on that stage.