As Fortune noted, the Democratic presidential candidates held a debate on Saturday night, an odd day and time for such an event since most Americans are busily doing something else besides watching politicians yammer. The timing was not by chance. The people planning the debate seriously hoped that as few people as possible would watch it. The reason for that hope is the propensity for people like Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to say things that tend to alarm the voters and make them not want to support them.
For example, Sanders has been hammering Clinton for being, in his view, in the pay of Wall Street fat cats. The folks who work at the banks and brokerage houses that affect the American economy in such profound ways have become the new enemies of the people, and not just among Democrats. Hillary Clinton had a very strange and perhaps overly bold answer.
“So, I represented New York, and I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked. Where were we attacked? We were attacked in Downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is. I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild. It was good for New York, it was good for the economy, and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists who attacked our country. So it’s fine for you to say what you’re gonna say, but I looked very carefully at your proposal, reinstating Glass Steagall, is a part of what very well could help, but is nowhere enough. My proposal is tougher, more effective and more comprehensive, because I go after all of Wall Street, not just the big banks.”
Clinton’s exploitation of 9/11 to justify her helping out Wall Street is something that is going to haunt her. The fact that she now is expressing a willingness to hammer the fat cats is a bit of a contradiction, considering that she claimed that she was rebuking the terrorists by being their gal while in the United States Senate. In any case, as with everything that comes out of Clinton’s mouth, a trust issue exists.
In the contest to say things that cause people to raise eyebrows and drop jaws in astonishment, Bernie Sanders was up to the task. Because of the terrorist outrage that happened in Paris Friday night, some of the questions by necessity turned to foreign policy and national security. This turn is said to have irked Sanders, who wanted to keep the attention firmly on the social justice issues that he is more comfortable with. He was adroit at turning things from Islamic terror to something he is more interested in.
Besides blaming Hillary Clinton’s initial support for the Iraq War for the rise of ISIS and hence the massacre in Paris, Sanders made another unique connection. He said that climate change is, “directly related to the growth of terrorism.” The theory is that ISIS is not slaughtering innocents in western cities because they believe that Allah wants them to establish a world-wide caliphate. They are machine gunning rock concert audiences and Friday night diners because of global warming. The obvious implication Is that the sooner we can get off of fossil fuels, the sooner ISIS can return to being peaceful farmers and goat herders. It is an insight that has not occurred to anyone else.
Martin O’Malley, the third candidate on the stage, did not say anything that was memorable. It was just as well, since that may have made him not so much the winner as the person who lost the least during the debate.