early and often

What You Missed in the 4th Democratic Debate

Things got a lot less jolly post-photo op. Photo: TIMOTHY A. CLARY

Did you forget the Democratic debate was on last night? We’ll assume so, as the party inexplicably scheduled it for Sunday at 9 p.m., in the middle of a holiday weekend. It’s a shame more people weren’t tuning in because it was a pretty lively discussion (for an event that did not involve Donald Trump). With Sanders gaining on her in Iowa and New Hampshire, Clinton tried to portray him as unreliable on issues like gun control and health care. Sanders mostly stuck to his message, and slightly too loud volume, but he threw in a few jabs at Clinton for being “disingenuous” and beholden to Wall Street. Martin O’Malley was there too, making everyone uncomfortable with his attempts to get the moderators to pay attention to him. Here are the highs and lows.

Weirdest Introduction:
In their opening statements, Sanders and Clinton referenced the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. O’Malley took the opportunity to explain who he is and note that he isn’t old, saying, “My name is Martin O’Malley, I was born the year Dr. King delivered his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech.”

Most-Fawning Obama Compliments:
O’MALLEY: “Eight years ago, you brought forward a new leader in Barack Obama to save our country from the second Great Depression. And that’s what he’s done. Our country’s doing better, we’re creating jobs again.”

CLINTON: “We have the Affordable Care Act. That is one of the greatest accomplishments of President Obama, of the Democratic Party, and of our country.”

Least-Fawning Obama Compliment:
SANDERS: “In 2006 when I ran for the Senate, Senator Barack Obama was kind enough to campaign for me; 2008, I did my best to see that he was elected; and in 2012, I worked as hard as I could to see that he was reelected. He and I are friends. We’ve worked together on many issues. We have some differences of opinion.”

Fuzziest Math:
None of the candidates could say what three things they’d focus on in their first 100 days in office, but Clinton was the worst offender. She mentioned “creating more good jobs in manufacturing, infrastructure, clean and renewable energy, raising the minimum wage … equal pay for women’s work,” capping prescription drug costs, and “working, in every way that I know, to bring our country together,” because “there’s a lot we have to do on immigration reform, on voting rights, on campaign-finance reform.”

Candidate Proudest to Receive a D-Minus:
Sanders, who called Clinton’s attacks on his gun-control stance “very disingenuous,” noted that he has a “D-minus voting record from the NRA.”

Questions Least Likely to Appear in a GOP Debate:
LESTER HOLT: “We won’t forget the video of Walter Scott being shot in the back while running from police. We understand that a jury will decide whether that police officer was justified, but it plays straight to the fears of many African-American men that their lives are cheap. Is that perception, or in your view, is it reality?”

The Walter Scott shooting didn’t come up when the GOP held its debate in North Charleston last week.

Least Negative Trump-Related Moment
SANDERS: “As Secretary Clinton well knows, when this campaign began she was 50 points ahead of me. We were all of 3 percentage points. Guess what? In Iowa, New Hampshire, the race is very, very close. Maybe we’re ahead in New Hampshire. In terms of polling, guess what? We are running ahead of Secretary Clinton. In terms of taking on my good friend Donald Trump, beating him by 19 points in New Hampshire, 13 points in the last national poll, that we saw.”

Sanders and Trump are pals! And apparently he’s been coaching him on how to work poll numbers into any conversation.

Most Regrettable Technical Difficulty:
Sanders bolstered O’Malley’s argument that he is not young when he admitted that he couldn’t hear a question on police violence submitted via YouTube, and had Holt read it back to him.

He salvaged the flub with a solid response on how to handle incidents of police brutality. “This is a responsibility for the U.S. Justice Department to get involved,” he said. “Whenever anybody in this country is killed while in police custody, it should automatically trigger a U.S. attorney general’s investigation.”

Saddest Attempt to Get a Word In:
O’Malley pleading, “Lester, just ten seconds,” as NBC cut to commercial.

Worst Only Question Asked in the Form of a Cartoon:
This climate-change question from the team of scientists at YouTube’s MinuteEarth channel.

Most Problematic Anecdote:
Sanders responding to a question on climate change with, “I was home in Burlington, Vermont, on Christmas Eve, the temperature was 65 degrees.”
Don’t make Jim Inhofe dust off his Senate-floor snowball.

Line Most Likely to Appear on a Middle-School Social-Studies Test
O’MALLEY: “Governors have led us to victory in two world wars by doing what America does best.” Anyone who can name the governors, and the states they led, gets a “check plus.”

Best Euphemism for a World Leader You’ve Compared to Hitler:
When asked about Vladimir Putin, Clinton said, “Well, my relationship with him, it’s — it’s interesting,” and later called him a “bully.”

Sanders’s Meanest Clinton Attack:
“Well, the first difference is I don’t take money from big banks. I don’t get personal speaking fees from Goldman Sachs.”

Clinton’s Meanest Sanders Attack:
“Where we disagree is the comments that Senator Sanders has made that don’t just affect me, I can take that, but he’s criticized President Obama for taking donations from Wall Street, and President Obama has led our country out of the Great Recession. Senator Sanders called him weak, disappointing. He even, in 2011, publicly sought someone to run in a primary against President Obama.”

Cue Sanders’s epic side-eye:

Sanders’s Nicest Clinton Attack:
When asked about his recent comment that Bill Clinton’s behavior during the Lewinsky ordeal was “totally, totally, totally disgraceful and unacceptable,” Sanders said he’s basically been badgered into criticizing the former president. “That question annoys me,” he said. “I cannot walk down the street — Secretary Clinton knows this — without being told how much I have to attack Secretary Clinton, want to get me on the front pages of the paper, I’d make some vicious attack. I have avoided doing that. Trying to run an issue-oriented campaign.”

Most Demonized Financial Institution:
Goldman Sachs. In addition to complaining that Clinton and other politicians have received high speaking fees from the bank, Sanders said its CEO “is a billionaire who comes to Congress and tells us we should cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.” He also pointed to the bank to illustrate “how corrupt the system is,” saying, “Goldman Sachs [was] recently fined $5 billion. Goldman Sachs has given this country two secretaries of Treasury, one on the Republicans, one under Democrats.” You get one guess at whether Bernie wants to continue this practice.

What You Missed in the 4th Democratic Debate