Questions Left Unasked

A Look Back then Marching On

A few thoughts about last night’s Democratic primary debate on CNN and then back to Congress where the future successes or failures of all the candidates on both sides will likely be determined.

First – this debate was an improvement on multiple levels from the most recent Republican version. Unlike that event, which for most of the evening made me feel like we were listening in on a conversation taking place in the 7th Grade girls bathroom, this debate actually covered…wait for it…issues. Serious conversation took place on financial regulation, social security, gun laws, energy independence and several other topics all without anyone calling another candidate names or dropping in sexist or racist innuendo. There is hope that the words politician and grownup are not mutually exclusive.

dem debate

Second – Anderson Cooper’s questions were an improvement on Jake Tapper’s. Although the network persisted in trying to frame the debate as some kind of boxing showdown between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton (strange visual on that…right?) the questions mostly got to the issues that ought to be debated as there are significant policy differences between the two Democratic front runners (as outlined in The Atlantic this morning.) Bernie Sanders got the most applause of the evening (and I will say my own as well) for shutting down the invitation from Cooper to get into the muck of Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, which will make zero difference to anyone in the months and years ahead and instead redirecting the conversation toward income inequality.

Third – Like most debates this event was light on specifics. I found myself wondering exactly how Bernie wants to pay for everyone to go to college and whether his math adds up. I also wanted to know more about Hillary’s approach to lowering healthcare costs; the “we aren’t Denmark” line was effective but a “We’re #1 because we are America” approach hasn’t seemed to work too well in practice. I also wanted to hear more about Martin O’Malley’s plan for clean energy independence by 2050 – a worthy goal…how? But to be fair there is no way to get into specifics in 60 seconds. It is up to us to read what we can and ask questions early and often where there appear to be gaps. Here are each of the five candidates Web sites.

Hillary Clinton

Bernie Sanders

Martin O’Malley

Lincoln Chafee

Jim Webb

Last though are a couple of questions that weren’t asked but I wish had been:

For Hillary Clinton – you have aligned yourself pretty closely with much of the work of the Obama administration and blame partisanship in Congress, probably rightly,  for the inability to get more done in the last seven years – what would you do differently than the President has done to work with a Republican-controlled Congress should that majority be preserved? Why will it work for you?

For Bernie Sanders – You have campaigned on the idea that we need a revolution in domestic policy and that many parts of our political process are broken – it is hard to disagree. But what if the people don’t turn out next November any more than they have in past elections and we end up with the same kind of Congress we have today. Do you think you could pass any of the sweeping kinds of programs you are campaigning on? Why and How?

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