The last time I gave a presidential field pre-debate advice, they ignored me (“Donald Trump: Act presidential”). But I’m no quitter. Maybe the Democrats will at least give this a read:
Bernie Sanders: Watch your temper. You’re giving Hillary Clinton a run for her money because you are, in the words of Democratic consultant David Axelrod, “utterly authentic. And right now, that is Clinton’s challenge.” Your anger over stagnant wages and growing inequality isn’t part of some fad; it’s your signature fanaticism, and it fits the times. But be careful: There’s a fine line between angry and mean. Clinton and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley are going to try to push you over it. They know you can be a bit of a grouch, which plays better on the campaign trail than it does on the debate stage. Stick with what got you this far—rising populism across the political spectrum—and remember that most Democratic voters are meeting you for the first time.
Martin O’Malley: Show some life. I remember telling people in January that Clinton would appear vulnerable at some point and that you were the most likely candidate to exploit her too-high expectations. I blew that one. But so did you. When top Iowa Democrats urged you (in this story) to confront Clinton on her coziness with Wall Street, you demurred. When Congress discovered Clinton’s private email server, you hesitated to criticize her blatant wrongdoing. Time and again, you passed up chances to use the news cycle to raise your profile. I thought perhaps you were aiming for the vice-presidency or a Cabinet post, but your advisers said you simply wanted to define yourself to voters before going negative—that you were biding your time. Well, governor, it’s your time.
Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee: Get a clue. Forgive me for lumping the two of you together, but I’m not sure why you’re in the race. Senator Webb, at least you’ve got national security chops and a reputation for can-do pragmatism in the Senate. But you, Senator Chaffee, are a cipher—a Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat who seems to be campaigning as hard for the presidency as I am. And I’m not running. This is your fleeting chance to break out, gentlemen. Prove me wrong again.
Hillary Clinton: Tell the truth. Your apology for causing confusion about your use of private email on the job rang hollow because your wrongdoing is clear: You stashed official email on a covert server, an act that subverted the Freedom of Information Act, thwarted legislative oversight, and jeopardized U.S. secrets. It violated federal rules in place while you headed the State Department. So, please, don’t say it was “above board.” Don’t claim you turned over all your work-related email. Don’t pretend you didn’t traffic U.S. secrets over a home-brewed server. We know those are lies. Don’t cite phony precedents. Don’t blame the GOP or the media. Credibility and accountability are gateways to leadership. So, please, just tell us: What were you hiding?
If your answer is nothing, tell the FBI to make public your deleted email—everything that isn’t absolutely personal. We need to see your email because you've made it impossible to take your word.
Joe Biden: Don’t run, at least not yet. If Clinton has nothing more to hide, you’ve got everything to lose by challenging her. If time uncovers deeper layers of wrongdoing, you’ve got plenty to gain by waiting.
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.