Saturday night saw the three Democratic presidential candidates face off for the third time. The debate, cleverly scheduled on the opening weekend of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (which this columnist saw earlier in the day), possibly to keep eyes off of the debate, allowing Hillary Clinton’s coronation to move forward unabated.
The candidates quickly glossed over the Democratic National Committee breach that resulted in the firing of one Bernie Sanders staffer and an internal investigation and moved on to foreign policy and domestic issues. And with that, let’s take a look at where each candidate did well and poorly.
Where she floundered: Her answer about partnering the government with tech companies to fight the Islamic state was embarrassing. It sounded like she tried to read Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina’s plan she mentioned on Tuesday night, but didn’t understand it and couldn’t remember it clearly.
It’s not surprising, given the number of emails from Clinton revealing she doesn’t have much of a grasp of technology.
She also took a hit when it came to the disaster in Libya, which was supposed to be her greatest achievement as secretary of state but became one of the Obama administration’s biggest blunders.
Even worse, she claimed the Islamic State was using Republican Candidate Donald Trump’s rhetoric as a recruiting tactic. She provided no evidence for such a claim, and Factcheck.org’s attempt to find evidence came up with nothing.
Where she excelled: She handled the presidential spouse question quite well. There was a moment where we thought ABC debate host Martha Raddatz was going to ask if Ms. Clinton would decorate the White House if she were president in place of her husband Bill. Luckily, this was not the question Ms. Raddatz asked. And Ms. Clinton answered the actual question well, saying that each presidential spouse should be able to define the role for themselves.
Her closing line, “Thank you, good night, and may the force be with you,” was the only Star Wars reference of the night. It may have gotten the biggest applause as well.
Where he floundered: He really needs to show that there is more to his campaign than wealth inequality and climate change. His admission that he would raise taxes on the middle class in order to pay for health care probably won’t go over well with middle-class voters. The other two candidates said they would absolutely not raise taxes on the middle class. Ms. Clinton said her plan would require the wealthiest to pay.
Where he excelled: He powerfully noted the “unintended consequences” of Ms. Clinton’s foreign policy of regime change.
“Yes, we could get rid of Saddam Hussein, but that destabilized the entire region. Yes, we could get rid of Gadhafi, a terrible dictator, but that created a vacuum for ISIS. Yes, we could get rid of Assad tomorrow, but that would create another political vacuum that would benefit ISIS,” Mr. Sanders said.
Where he floundered: He continued to remind viewers that he has actually implemented the policies that Mr. Sanders and Ms. Clinton have been proposing for the country. He has actually done what Democrats only dream of, and yet he can’t break into the election and prove a formidable candidate. It really doesn’t matter how many times he points this out, it’s just not working and nobody seems to care.
Where he excelled: His opening statement about the Statue of Liberty being America’s symbol and not “a barbed-wire fence” was both a dig at some Republicans’ immigration statements and a memorable line. Mr. O’Malley definitely came out swinging in this debate against his opponents, but he’s still polling at less than 3 percent and shows no hope of gaining.