Who would have expected that the most hotly contested figure in a Democratic presidential debate in 2016 would be Henry Kissinger?
The nonagenarian foreign-policy eminence was the subject of the biggest fireworks of Thursday night’s debate in Milwaukee, which came after some 75 minutes of a mostly earnest, dry debate. As Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders tangled over whether experience (she) or judgment (he, in not voting for the Iraq war) mattered more for a commander-in-chief, Sanders delivered a zinger.
“I am proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend,” Sanders declared, referring to Clinton’s praise for the former secretary of state during the last debate. Suddenly, all hell broke loose. In a surreal spectacle, Clinton—a child of the 1960s campus left and a leader of the nation’s liberal party—defended Kissinger, once a bogeyman to the Democratic Party. She tried to turn the argument back on Sanders, noting that he hadn’t managed to name who his own foreign-policy advisers are. He was ready: “It ain’t Henry Kissinger,” he replied. In a moment of peak Sanders, he then attacked Kissinger for—of all things—backing free-trade agreements. (Alex Pareene wrote eloquently last week about why Kissinger is such a problem for Clinton.)
It wasn’t the only attack Sanders leveled at Clinton on foreign policy. “You’ve got a bit of experience,” he said. “But judgment matters as well.” As usual, he invoked his vote against the war in Iraq, but Sanders also criticized Clinton’s leadership on U.S. intervention in Libya. His critique was very similar to Republican Senator Ted Cruz’s objection to the Libyan war: It’s all well and good to oppose dictators, but you shouldn’t back regime change if you don’t know what will come afterward. Those were doozies, blows that strike right at the heart of Clinton’s experience—her major qualification.
But Clinton had tricks up her sleeve, too. For the final question, the candidates were asked what foreign-policy leaders they most respected. Sanders named Franklin Roosevelt, while hardly mentioning his global record, and Winston Churchill, whose morality was hardly more defensible than Kissinger’s. Clinton, going second, spotted a moment to pillory Sanders. She named Barack Obama, and blasted Sanders for his criticisms of the president, especially a call for a primary challenger to Obama in 2012. Sanders was livid and red-faced. “Madam Secretary, that is a low blow,” he said. “Have you ever disagreed with a president? I suspect you may have.” He added: “One of us ran against Barack Obama. I was not that candidate.” While she has brought these differences up before, it was perhaps Clinton’s most effective jab at Sanders yet, and he seemed genuinely rattled.
It was especially striking because it came during a debate in which Clinton mostly hugged Sanders close. Throughout the campaign, she has tried to align herself with Obama, portraying herself as the guardian of his legacy. But after Sanders’s blowout win in the New Hampshire primary this week, Clinton is trying to adopt chunks of his platform. After Sanders’s conventional opening about how the economy is rigged, Clinton readily agreed: “Yes, the economy is rigged for those at the top.”
Things went that way for most of the night. Thursday’s debate was wonkish, if you’re charitable—or dull, if you’re not. Just a few weeks ago, everyone was clamoring for more Democratic debates, but after watching this one, it’s a little tough to recall why. Clinton and Sanders’s electoral battle is hotter than ever, but their debates have mostly settled into a comfortable pattern and set of topics. They tend to delve deeply into issues, but if you’re looking for sharp contrasts, debates might not be the best place to find them.
The candidates worked hard to differentiate themselves, but they agree on many things: universal health care, ending mass incarceration, abortion rights, helping working-class white communities, taxing the rich. Both candidates want to raise taxes, although Clinton is careful to say she would only do that for the wealthy, while Sanders would raise middle-class taxes while also providing more benefits, he says. Asked what part of the government they would cut, both resorted to promising to slash waste and fraud—an essentially meaningless answer. One notable exception to the comity came on immigration, where Clinton struck Sanders for not voting for the comprehensive immigration-reform bill in 2007. The night also featured a short discussion of women’s reproductive health, a topic that advocates had been complaining was absent from prior debates. But since the two candidates mostly agree, they moved on quickly.
Deprived of major differences, the candidates retreated to familiar mantras. For Sanders, that’s the belief that the entire economy is rigged and that the ultimate solution is political revolution. As usual, he boasted that, unlike Clinton, he has no super PAC and relies on small donors, but he did not take the chance to reprise his very effective attack about her speeches to Goldman Sachs. Clinton missed a softball pitch from Judy Woodruff, who asked how wealthy donors to her campaign were different from wealthy donors to Republicans—didn’t they all want a quid pro quo? Rather than take the easy answer—that her policies would boost the middle class and hurt those donors—she tried instead to brag about her small-dollar donors, a metric on which she’ll never beat Sanders.
Clinton’s mantra is execution. She repeatedly argued that Sanders owed voters a fuller explanation of how he’d get things done. She landed a direct blow on Sanders’s plan for free college tuition, which relies on states to cover one-third of the cost of tuition. Pointing to Wisconsin’s conservative Republican Governor Scott Walker, she said the plan was unrealistic: If red states wouldn’t accept Medicaid expansion that was 100 percent paid for, why would any GOP governors help Sanders out? She closed strong, saying, “I am not a single-issue candidate, and I do not believe we live in a single-issue country.”
Neither politician had a dominant night, and each had his or her stumbles. It was Sanders’s strongest performance so far on foreign policy, typically his Achilles’ heel, and his well-rehearsed message on the rigged economy resonates with Democrats. Clinton was even better, though. After Sanders debated well last Thursday and then trounced her in New Hampshire, Clinton badly needed a strong performance tonight, and she got it. Clinton was competent, wonky, and pounced on Sanders’s weaknesses. But is this debate enough to stall Sanders’s momentum and help her to regain her footing, or is it just a brief respite for her?
In closing as in opening, it seems to me that Bernie Sanders was foolish in a Democratic primary to refrain from specifically mentioning the identity groups that Hillary Clinton has just ticked off in her closing statement.
Hillary Clinton makes her play for black voters by highlighting Bernie Sanders’s criticism of President Obama. “Madam Secretary,” Sanders replies, “that is a low blow. I worked with President Obama for seven years.”
“Do senators have the right to disagree with the president?” he snaps at Clinton.
And then: “One of us ran against Barack Obama. I was not one of them.”
Hillary Clinton says that the most important counterterrorism decision of Barack Obama’s first term was going after Osama bin Laden. To me that’s absurd. I’m glad they got bin Laden. Was that more important than decisions related to ISIS? No. Did that strike make us safer? That isn’t clear to me.
“You’ve got a bit of experience. But judgment matters as well.” Sanders is making the same argument as Marco Rubio here—and one that Republicans will powerfully make against Clinton in a general election.
Bernie Sanders just made his most fully fleshed out critique of Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy record that I’ve yet seen from him. The short version: She overthrows dictators without realizing what will happen next, like “unintended consequences.”
I entirely agree with David about the (a) political missed opportunity and (b) intellectual laziness of the “waste, fraud, and abuse” cliche. Before next debate, and certainlybefore the general-election campaign, the candidates need to be able to name several specific programs they want to get rid of.
Sanders gets a question about what parts of the government he’d like to reduce. That would have been a great chance to talk about intelligence overreach. Instead, he points to waste and fraud—which, as Eric Schnurer points out, is a canard and doesn’t really represent much potential savings.
There’s a fascinating irony in the moderators seemingly holding super-PAC contributions against the candidates, since the candidates are legally forbidden from coordinating with the PACs. From a legal perspective, non-coordination rules are supposed to insulate candidates from corruption, both actual and perceived. But in both the Republican and Democratic races, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are hounding their opponents for those donations and the perceived influence they bring. It’s a stark example of where the Supreme Court’s imagined world of campaign finance is radically different from the world of campaign finance we actually live in.
It is remarkable that Team Hillary, and the candidate herself, have not become more adept at dealing with the Wall Street donors/Wall Street speeches questions. (Of course, we haven’t gotten to the speeches yet tonight.)
Judy Woodruff just served up what should have been a softball to Clinton. Woodruff noted that two major donors, Donald Sussman and George Soros, have given a huge amount to Priorities USA, the super PAC backing Clinton. Clinton says, There’s no quid pro quo; isn’t it the same for Republicans who receive Koch brothers money? The easy answer, however, is to say: “Look to my policies, which are bad for the wealthy.” Instead, Clinton mostly focuses on the size of her average donation, which doesn’t really answer the question. Besides, she’ll never beat Sanders on the metric of small-dollar donors.
“Yes, we’ll pay more in taxes,” says Sanders as throwaway clause. That’s OK in a Democratic primary, but anyone who has heard of Walter Mondale’s prospects against Ronald Reagan in 1984 knows the perils in a general election.
Indirect as it was, Bernie Sanders’s attack on Hillary Clinton—accusing her of sending kids back into danger to send a political message, if I understood him right—struck me as one of the most uncharitable he has made. Clinton is on solid ground when she says that there was a plausible concern that letting those kids into the country would create a perverse incentive that put more people in more danger.
When Sanders voted against immigration reform in 2007, he didn’t say it was because of the guest-worker program. He said it was because it would increase competition for low-skilled jobs. And then he voted for an immigration-reform bill that included a guest-worker program in 2013.
Bernie Sanders likens the guest-worker provisions in the establishment approach to immigration reform as “akin to slavery.” But those guest-worker jobs would be subject to minimum-wage laws, and they are free to leave anytime. I have concerns about the guest-worker provisions, too. But they’re very, very unlike slavery.
You could hear the audience kind of scoff when Gwen Ifill asked a question about poverty in white communities, but I’m glad she did. One of the most haunting studies in recent months found a sharp rise in white middle- and working-class mortality rates in recent years, largely driven by “despair deaths”: alcoholism, suicide, drug overdoses, and so forth. Neither candidate gave a very focused answer to the question, but it hopefully put the issue on their radars for future debates.
Immigration is a good place to consider how Sanders delivers on his plans. He says he would not deport undocumented immigrants. It’s easy to blast the recent Obama deportations, but what about the people covered by Obama’s executive orders? Those orders are being challenged in the courts now and are headed to the Supreme Court. If Obama loses at the Supreme Court, what would Sanders do differently to circumvent the justices? (To be fair, Clinton is in a similar pickle.) Clinton points out that Sanders voted against comprehensive immigration reform when she voted for it in 2007. That sounds carefully targeted to the upcoming Nevada caucus.
Stagecraft note: A calm, thick-skinned, nondefensive tone is almost always the right one for a candidate who feels that he or she has the fundamentals on their side. Despite everything, the fundamentals are still on Clinton’s side. For anyone in that position, the calmer and more generous-seeming the tone, the better.
It’s almost eerie how much overlap there is between Sanders’s and Trump’s appeal on the issues of trade and the decline of manufacturing. But could either of them bring back those jobs that have been lost?
Asked about resentment in white working-class communities, Clinton goes wonky, talking about how to revitalize coal country. Sanders goes right to the heart, blasting free-trade agreements. Which of those will resonate more with people who are out of work?
Clinton also could have made a point that President Obama has made repeatedly: The greatest impact of his historic presidency in terms of race will not be in relations among adults but in children who now see that a black man can be, and is, the elected leader of the country.
That’s quite a promise from Bernie Sanders: Incarceration will fall below that of other countries by the end of his first term. Ending the policy of incarcerating illegal immigrants for “illegal reentry” could help. But a large part of America’s incarceration problem is at the state and local level, beyond the president’s reach.
Clinton broadens the discussion on racial injustice beyond the question of mass incarceration and policing: “There are other racial discrepancies” in Wisconsin and other states that must be addressed. “When we talk about criminal justice reform,” the country needs to talk about “jobs, education, housing, and other ways of helping communities do better.” Sanders says he agrees with her.
Bernie Sanders says we need a “radical reform” of the criminal-justice system to fight mass incarceration, but he doesn't offer any specific remedies. Clinton, on the other hand, singles out policing and sentencing as two aspects of reform, then pivots to racial discrimination in other aspects of life. I hope the moderators press them more on this.
A lot of a president’s long-term appeal depends on how people react to hearing him (historically) or her (potentially) over extended periods. I agree with both of these candidates on most points of policy. Not 100 percent sure how I’d look forward to hearing from them repeatedly over next four years. (And of course the same standard needs to be applied to the GOP field.) One practical implication: Presidents need to ration how often they appear on air, so as not to wear out their welcome any more quickly than necessary.
If I’m not mistaken, this is the first real discussion of women’s rights in any of the Democratic debates so far, and in particular of reproductive rights. Sanders bashes Republicans for “hypocrisy”—he says they want small government in many respects, but they also want to tightly regulate women’s right to choose.
Many people have noted that Clinton’s campaign seems to have belatedly realized that more debates are better for her, not worse, because she’s good at debating. Another way it may help her: highlighting the repetitiveness of Sanders’s message, with its hyper-focus on income inequality.
Sanders really missed an opportunity to point out that he would make history as the first Jewish president in response to that question about whether he’d be “thwarting” the first woman president. In his defense, he has been clear that he isn't observant.
The fact that Sanders’s plan for education relies on states to cover much of the cost seems like a major weakness. As CNN reports, Sanders would have states cover about one-third of the cost of tuition. But given how many GOP-led states have rejected Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, which is free at first and 90 percent paid by the federal government after that, what are the odds red states will sign up?
Clinton deflects a question about whether she agrees with Madeleine Albright’s line that “There’s a special place in hell for women that don’t support other women.” Albright, Clinton said, has been saying that for 25 years.
Conor: I’ve come around to this argument of Clinton’s. Obamacare was seen as the most incremental way possible to get toward universal coverage, and it was hugely disruptive. What Sanders is proposing would be orders of magnitude more so.
Hillary Clinton repeats her argument that the Bernie Sanders approach to health care would throw us into a “contentious debate” on the issue. I don’t see any possible future where health care policy, circa 2017, isn’t contentious.
Sanders: “There is one major country on Earth that does not guarantee the health care of all its people.”
I am all for noting an unfortunate part of American exceptionalism when it comes to the error of our not having broader health coverage. But China is also a pretty major country, and it does not have a health-insurance system that covers everyone or that the United States would want to emulate.
In my ideal world, Hillary Clinton would spend 60 percent of her time arguing why her plan, vision, personality, approach, etc. are so good for the country; 35 percent on why the plan, vision, personality, etc. of Donald Trump et al are so bad; and about half of the remainder on what is wrong with Bernie Sanders. I just don’t see much more than that for anti-Sanders paying off in the long run.
The one question I have about this debate is: Why is it being held in Wisconsin? This was one of the original six scheduled by the DNC. The Badger State primary isn’t until April, and the Democrats will probably be targeting their answers to the voters in the states that cast their ballots next, Nevada and South Carolina.
Hillary Clinton essentially agrees with Bernie Sanders’s priorities—then gives specific call-outs to African Americans, Hispanics, and women. That she would do so in her opening was entirely predictable. Its effectiveness could have been blunted by Sanders had he done the same. I’m puzzled that he missed the opportunity.
While mentioning America’s incarceration rate and marijuana arrests, Bernie Sanders easily could have thrown in a “disproportionately affecting African Americans,” but didn’t do so. I wonder why. Reaching black voters has got to be one of his political priorities going forward.
Journalists should never be part of the story. But it’s worth mentioning that Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill, the first female co-anchor pair of NewsHour, make up the first female-only moderating team for a presidential contest.
The Democrats are debating for the sixth time tonight, and after two states have voted, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders arrive in Milwaukee in a position virtually no one would have predicted a year ago—essentially tied.
The Democrat’s command and poise left her rival looking frustrated, peevish, and out of sorts.
Monday brought the first debate of the presidential season, but it often felt like two separate debates. One, from Hillary Clinton, was wonky, crisp, and polished; if not always inspiring, it was professional and careful. The other, from Donald Trump, was freewheeling, aggressive, and meandering, occasionally landing a hard blow but often substance-less and hard to follow. But the two debates intersected at times, sometimes raucously, as Trump repeatedly broke in to interrupt Clinton.
It was a commanding performance from the Democratic nominee. Clinton delivered a series of detailed answers on subjects ranging from race to the Middle East to tax policy. Meanwhile, she delivered a string of attacks on Trump, assailing him for stiffing contractors, refusing to release his tax returns, fomenting birtherism, and caricaturing black America. She stumbled only occasionally, but left few openings for Trump. She remained calm and often smiling as Trump repeatedly attacked her and interrupted her answers—doing it so often that moderator Lester Holt, often a spectral presence at the debate, finally cut in twice in short order to chide him. (Vox counted 40 instances; Clinton made some of her own interruptions, but fewer.) Clinton displayed a sort of swagger perhaps not seen since her hearing before Congress on Benghazi.
If undecided voters were looking for an excuse to come around to Clinton’s corner, they may have found it on Monday night.
Donald Trump sniffled and sucked down water. He bragged about not paying federal taxes—“That makes me smarter.” He bragged about bragging about profiting from the housing crisis—“That’s called business, by the way.” He lost his cool and maybe the race, taking bait coolly served by Hillary Clinton.
If her objective was to tweak Trump’s temper, avoid a major mistake, and calmly cloak herself in the presidency, Clinton checked all three boxes in the first 30 minutes of their first debate.
It may not matter: Trump is the candidate of change and disruption at a time when voters crave the freshly shaken. But the former secretary of state made the strongest case possible for the status quo, arguing that while voters want change in the worst way, Trump’s way would be the worst.
For decades, the candidate has willfully inflicted pain and humiliation.
Donald J. Trump has a cruel streak. He willfully causes pain and distress to others. And he repeats this public behavior so frequently that it’s fair to call it a character trait. Any single example would be off-putting but forgivable. Being shown many examples across many years should make any decent person recoil in disgust.
Judge for yourself if these examples qualify.
* * *
In national politics, harsh attacks are to be expected. I certainly don’t fault Trump for calling Hillary Clinton dishonest, or wrongheaded, or possessed of bad judgment, even if it’s a jarring departure from the glowing compliments that he used to pay her.
But even in a realm where the harshest critiques are part of the civic process, Trump crossed a line this week when he declared his intention to invite Gennifer Flowers to today’s presidential debate. What kind of man invites a husband’s former mistress to an event to taunt his wife? Trump managed to launch an attack that couldn’t be less relevant to his opponent’s qualifications or more personally cruel. His campaign and his running-mate later said that it was all a big joke. No matter. Whether in earnest or in jest, Trump showed his tendency to humiliate others.
In a unique, home-spun experiment, researchers found that centripetal force could help people pass kidney stones—before they become a serious health-care cost.
East Lansing, Michigan, becomes a ghost town during spring break. Families head south, often to the theme parks in Orlando. A week later, the Midwesterners return sunburned and bereft of disposable income, and, urological surgeon David Wartinger noticed, some also come home with fewer kidney stones.
Wartinger is a professor emeritus at Michigan State, where he has dealt for decades with the scourge of kidney stones, which affect around one in 10 people at some point in life. Most are small, and they pass through us without issue. But many linger in our kidneys and grow, sending hundreds of thousands of people to emergency rooms and costing around $3.8 billion every year in treatment and extraction. The pain of passing a larger stone is often compared to child birth.
Who will win the debates? Trump’s approach was an important part of his strength in the primaries. But will it work when he faces Clinton onstage?
The most famous story about modern presidential campaigning now has a quaint old-world tone. It’s about the showdown between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in the first debate of their 1960 campaign, which was also the very first nationally televised general-election debate in the United States.
The story is that Kennedy looked great, which is true, and Nixon looked terrible, which is also true—and that this visual difference had an unexpected electoral effect. As Theodore H. White described it in his hugely influential book The Making of the President 1960, which has set the model for campaign coverage ever since, “sample surveys” after the debate found that people who had only heard Kennedy and Nixon talking, over the radio, thought that the debate had been a tie. But those who saw the two men on television were much more likely to think that Kennedy—handsome, tanned, non-sweaty, poised—had won.
Communal living is hardly a departure from tradition—it's a return to how humans have been making their homes for thousands of years.
For most of human history, people were hunter-gatherers. They lived in large camps, depending on one another for food, childcare, and everything else—all without walls, doors, or picket fences. In comparison, the number of people living in most households in today’s developed countries is quite small. According to the Census Bureau, fewer than three people lived in the average American household in 2010. The members of most American households can be counted on one hand, or even, increasingly, one finger: Single-person households only made up about 13 percent of all American households in 1960. Now, that figure is about 28 percent.
Belonging to a relatively small household has become the norm even though it can make daily life more difficult in many ways. Privacy may be nice, but cooking and doing chores become much less time-consuming when shared with an additional person, or even several people. Water, electric, and internet bills also become more bearable when divided among multiple residents. There are social downsides to living alone, too. Many elderly people, young professionals, stay-at-home parents, and single people routinely spend long stretches of time at home alone, no matter how lonely they may feel; more distressingly, many single parents face the catch-22 of working and paying for childcare. Living in smaller numbers can be a drain on money, time, and feelings of community, and the rise of the two-parent dual-earning household only compounds the problems of being time-poor.
The Donald J. Trump Foundation reportedly used $258,000, most of it other people’s money, to settle legal disputes for the Republican nominee.
For people at certain income levels, finding creative ways to avoid taxes is practically a leisure sport. Donald Trump, golf and casino magnate that he is, would never miss out on a leisure sport, would be?
In a new article, The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold, who’s already collected a series of scoops on the Donald J. Trump Foundation, reports that Trump sometimes had people who owed him money pay his foundation instead—to the tune of at least $2.3 million. That’s legal, provided that the person who would have received the income still pays taxes on the money, which is where things get unclear. A Trump adviser initially denied that Trump had ever directed fees to his foundation, but when presented with evidence that he had a $400,000 fee for appearing on a Comedy Central roast (nice work if you can get it) sent to the foundation, the adviser said Trump had paid taxes on it. But he refused to say whether Trump had paid taxes on the rest of the $2.3 million.
The president and FARC’s leader used a pen made from a bullet to end the nearly 60-year-old war.
NEWS BRIEF The war lasted nearly 60 years and killed a quarter-of-a million people. Thousands were kidnapped, and more were injured by landmines placed in the jungles controlled by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). On Monday, the Marxist group’s rebel leader, Timochenko, used a pen made from a bullet to sign a peace deal with Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, which ends the last big Cold War-era conflict in Latin America.
The deal, signed in Cartagena, marks the end of four years of negotiations between the government and the rebels. Colombians will vote October 2 on whether to accept the deal—and it’s predicted they will—which would draw FARC soldiers out of the jungle and into designated disarmament zones set up by the United Nations. They will then form a political party recognized by the government and be given 10 seats in Colombia’s 268-member Congress. As part of the deal, FARC was removed from the European Union’s list of terrorist organizations.
A new study of pregnant women finds nausea and vomiting are associated with a reduced risk of miscarriage.
People are always saying the wrong thing to pregnant women.
Expectant mothers hear everything from the obnoxious (“You’re huge!”) to the outright bizarre (“If you eat that Sriracha, your baby will come out bald”).
Then there are the well-meaning—yet utterly unhelpful—superstitions and platitudes: “I can tell from how you’re carrying that it’s a girl.” (No, you can’t.) “At least the terrible sleep you’re getting now is great preparation for all those sleepless nights you’re going to have with baby!” (Bone-splitting exhaustion is not something you need to practice ahead of time.) “But morning sickness means your baby is healthy!”
Actually, there might be something to that last one.
Pregnant women have long been told that feeling miserable every single day for several months may indicate that a developing baby is doing well—especially in the first trimester, when nausea and vomiting are most common. Now, there’s more science to support the idea.