The Corner

On the Debate Stage, Hillary Was Calm, Self-Assured, and a Master of Bluster

For all the talk about Hillary Clinton’s weakness as a candidate, Tuesday’s Democratic debate demonstrated that things could be worse. Hillary Clinton, with more than 25 presidential debates under her belt from the last cycle, was clearly the most assured and prepared. She was the best of the field, which is a bit like saying “the best Octoberfest in Orlando.” It’s a distinction, but not much of one.

Nonetheless, Clinton was calmer, more self-assured and facile than anyone else up there. She was also very gifted at bluster and bombast, knowing when and how to pivot to non sequiturs about Planned Parenthood and wave other bloody shirts that would arouse the applause from the audience and scare off the moderators from their follow-up questions. 

Former senator Jim Webb was by far the most politically intriguing character on the stage, but he was mostly that — a character. He was fighting a last-gasp battle for a party that no longer exists. His answers on foreign policy, affirmative action, and immigration demonstrated that he has actually thought through his positions rather focus-grouped them.

Bernie Sanders spent most of the evening shouting. His fans no doubt liked what they heard, but he didn’t do what he had to do to convince unpersuaded Democrats and donors that he could be a successful nominee. I can’t decide if it was shrewdness, naiveté, or something closer to cowardice that drove Sanders to bequeath unto Hillary the gift of saying, “The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails!” The calculation probably involved all three motivations: He will raise a lot of money from Democrats who hate Republicans more than they dislike Hillary. He honestly thinks that presidential campaigns are won with a Ron Paul-like focus on the issues, as he defines them. And, he’s simply afraid to go for the jugular.

The most memorable moment was probably when Lincoln Chafee, who began the evening by saying he’s a “block of granite on the issues,” slowly turned to mud as he had to explain some of his more problematic votes by virtue of the fact that he’d just gotten to the Senate when he made those mistakes. It was the Rick Perry “oops” moment of the night. Though that’s unfair to Perry. No one watching at home said, “Well, that ruined Lincoln Chaffee’s chances of being president.” That would be like saying Robert Reich’s sprained ankle ruined his chances of making the NBA all-star team. Still, it was painful to watch. 

Oh, and Martin O’Malley was on the stage, too.

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

Most Popular

White House

The Mueller Report Should Shock Our Conscience

I've finished reading the entire Mueller report, and I must confess that even as a longtime, quite open critic of Donald Trump, I was surprised at the sheer scope, scale, and brazenness of the lies, falsehoods, and misdirections detailed by the Special Counsel's Office. We've become accustomed to Trump making up ... Read More
Education

An Idea for Student Loans: Get Rid of Them

Here is a three-part plan for something practical the federal government could do to relieve college-loan debt. Step 1: The federal government should stop making college loans itself and cease guaranteeing any such loans. Step 2: It should prohibit educational lending by federally regulated financial institutions ... Read More
White House

The Problem with the Mueller Report

So much for collusion. The media conversation has now officially moved on from the obsession of the last two years to obstruction of justice. That’s because the first volume of the voluminous Mueller report, the half devoted to what was supposed to be the underlying crime of a Trump conspiracy with Russia, ... Read More
Sports

Screw York Yankees

You are dead to me. You are a collection of Fredos. The cock has crowed, you pathetic sniveling jerks. The team I have rooted for since 1965, when I first visited the House that Ruth Built, where I hawked peanuts and ice cream a lifetime ago, watched countless games (Guidry striking out 18!), has gotten so ... Read More
White House

MoveOn.GOP?

Some of you will be familiar with a lefty, partisan Democratic organization called MoveOn, formerly MoveOn.Org. It was founded during an investigation into President Bill Clinton’s shenanigans (which were not, Democratic mythology notwithstanding, strictly sexual in nature) and argued that it was time for the ... Read More