If you were waiting for an impassioned presidential debate that addresses the concrete issues we face in the 21st century, last night’s Democratic CNN debate was the one to watch.
CNN moderators Wolf Blitzer, Dana Bash and NY 1's Errol Lewis posed precise and varied questions to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, touching on matters ranging from the Mideast to gun and energy policy. The question of judgement was also hotly debated.
The tone of the Democratic nominating contest has changed as of late; last night was a clear reiteration of the growing aversion between the two candidates.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has picked up seven of the last eight primaries and caucuses. A strong win for Clinton in New York would effectively push back against the momentum his campaign has generated over the past few weeks.
Hillary Clinton took heat, again, for her decision not to release her paid speeches. Quickly, though, she hit Sanders on his interview with the New York Daily News, in which he rejected the idea of supporting Sandy Hook parents suing AR-15 advertisers. Sanders seemed unprepared or unable to successfully rebut Clinton’s attack.
One of the most significant moments of the night came during a discussion of foreign policy and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Bernie Sanders, the first Jewish candidate to win any delegates for a major political party’s nomination, made a powerful case against Israeli policy in the region.
“As somebody who is 100% pro-Israel,” Sanders began, “in the long run, if we are ever going to bring peace to that region … we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity.”
Sanders made a point of attacking Clinton on her unwillingness to accept that Israeli response to Palestinian aggression has been “disproportionate.” He also singled out her speech at AIPAC, which said very little about the plight of the Palestinians.
Missing a potentially injurious attack on Sanders, Clinton failed to mention that Sanders did not attend AIPAC.
CNN's Van Jones noted after the debate that the position Sanders takes on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as a presidential candidate, has never been espoused by someone at his level. Whether his opinion offends or is commendable, a new discussion is opening up in the highest ranks of the American political class.
Differences between the candidates, where they exist, are stark.
Democratic voters are split along age and race demographic lines. Considering the “civil war food fight” going on in the GOP, however, Sanders seemed confident post-debate, saying he doesn’t “know of any Democrats … who would desert the party for a GOP nominee.”
In general terms, Clinton believes that Sanders is great at finding problems, but inept at actually solving them. Sanders blames Clinton for taking a slow and sedate approach to the immediate issues facing our nation. He is convinced we need a political revolution to get on the right track.