Small World: Puzzling out the Democratic Debate

Henry Precht

Henry Precht

By Henry Precht

BN Columnist

I’ve been reflecting on the Democrat debate of 10 days ago. “Why?” you may ask, “there’s no profit in that.” Well, this is leaf-raking season and it is quite natural these days to be engaged in labor without profit. Moreover, as we have already been instructed what to think about the outcome of the debate, reflection can be accomplished without much effort.

“Hillary won,” the mainstream media (MS) instructs us. Forceful, strong, well briefed, articulate and appealing. Her chief competitor, Bernie Sanders, came across as a grumpy old man with worn out ideas. No style, not much humor, had to put his hand behind his ear to hear a question. A second place finish at best. The race is over.

That’s where I put down the rake. There were five contestants in the race: to the two principals add Jim Webb, Martin O’Malley and Lincoln Chafee. I won’t introduce them to you; you could Google them if interested. After studying their qualifications for the nation’s highest office, maybe you can then answer the question why they were present? I don’t know which of the three, if any, rises higher above the 1% poll rating.

They were like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern plus the grave digger from Hamlet: walk-on parts, saying their line or two and quickly fading from memory. Or perhaps they were more like a classical Greek chorus, chanting the woes and complaints of the folks in the audience as the main business of the drama is played out by the stars of the show? But please answer the question, why were they there, apart from being clean-shaven and — self-proclaimed — deeply experienced?

Answer: they prevented the program from becoming a two-person affair, a too-easy win for Hillary. A net was slung wide to catch the country’s most impressive ego-massagers. Plainly, CNN producers are not Iranian theocrats, squeezing out the unqualified. They are sportsmen, letting the best person win in a carefully staged event. And by the way, how much research and airtime did the network give to informing the public about the field of candidates? Ever hear any probing inquiry into the background of the three fill-ins?

Did you hear any moderator questions that provided details about the candidates’ policy solutions? What he would do about campaign finance reform? Or how they would reduce income inequality. Or deal with immigration overhaul. Not much of substance was coaxed from the candidates. Entertainment before information.

But back to Hillary and Bernie. I think I agree with most of his “social-democratic” ideas for government and the economy — with the exception of his rural state softness on gun control. My question about Bernie: is he in fact a serious candidate? Does this 74-year-old man really think he has a chance at the nomination, much less an election victory? My hunch is that he is in the race to sell liberal ideas he believes are important to the nation and, by achieving national prominence, might help him get reelected senator in Vermont in 2018.

Plus, Hillary needs an opponent — one with limitations (age, obscurity, extreme views) but who will be taken seriously. Even if Bernie had a chance, the Democrat establishment wouldn’t let him prosper beyond a certain point (maybe he has served his purpose and can now be retired).

So, is it all greased for Hillary? I think so. She is well coached and has staked out positions that will get her through the process. The looming threat of a Biden candidacy seems to have been put away. He would have no interest in a run unless he had a reasonable chance of winning. That chance evaporated as the MS declared Hillary a strong winner in the debate.

From this point until November 2016, it all seems smooth sailing for a Clinton II presidency — unless, as often happens with this beclouded family, some sort of public relations disaster arrives and can’t be managed back into the bottle while the persisting charges of her bad character and lack of respect for the truth return to the front pages.

In which case, when does Chelsea come of age for the job?

Henry Precht is a retired Foreign Service Officer.

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