The Morning Jolt

Sometimes, Debate Nights Clear Up a Lot. Last Night Sure Did.

Are you ready for Hillary . . . to be the Democratic nominee? Unless Joe Biden jumps in soon, that looks like a much safer bet than just a few days ago.

Observations I didn’t get to add last night . . .

First, we saw pretty good questions from Anderson Cooper overall. He stood his ground as the candidates, and barking-seal audience, contended no one cared about Hillary Clinton’s insecure e-mail server.

One exception: Did the candidates discuss ISIS at all? There was a little bit of back-and-forth on a Syria no-fly zone, but did anyone on that stage have anything resembling a concrete plan to deal with the growing mass of maniacs who are beheading, immolating, raping, torturing and mass-murdering their way across the Middle East? The Democratic party’s grassroots is fundamentally pacifist and isolationist, and thus they aren’t interested in discussions about that. They’re more interested in discussions about Hillary’s vote for the Iraq War and how terrible that was, and who did what during the Vietnam War.

This is what really endangers us as a country; we have one of our two major political parties, the one with some built-in electoral-college advantages, that simply doesn’t want to think about certain major issues.

Yes, CNN gave a lot more attention to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders than Lincoln Chafee. Did anyone mind?

The observations I did make last night . . .

Sure, this batch of candidates sounded like a bunch of loons. They contended socialism is mostly about standing up to the richest one percent and promoting entrepreneurialism and small business; climate change is the biggest national-security threat facing the nation; college education should be free for everyone; all lives don’t matter, black lives do; and Obama is simultaneously an enormously successful president in managing the economy and the middle class is collapsing and there’s a need for a “New New Deal” which is in fact an Old Old Idea, considering how FDR called for a Second New Deal in 1935. The audience in Nevada applauded higher taxes, believes that Hillary Clinton doesn’t need to answer any more questions about her server, that we need a complete shutdown of the NSA domestic surveillance program, and that Obamacare benefits should be extended to illegal immigrants. There are kindergarten classes with more realistic assessments of cost-benefit tradeoffs than the crowd watching this debate at the Wynn Las Vegas.

So yes, the candidates sounded like hard-left, pie-in-the-sky, free-ice-cream-for-everyone, socialist pander bears. But they do so because that is what Democratic party’s primary voters demand. Don’t blame them; blame the party rank-and-file that demand these promises, rhetoric, and worldview.

With that in mind, Hillary Clinton is the class of the field on that stage, and the only real obstacle to the nomination that remains is a potential Joe Biden bid. Compared to everyone else, she’s polished and knows what she’s doing. Even when she’s being robotic and inauthentic, she’s remembering her talking points, pivoting to her preferred issues. The software upgrades to her personality may look awkward when she’s alone, but she’s still a much, much better candidate than anybody else on that stage.

Sure, she was duplicitous, but she’s a Clinton; that’s baked in the cake — for example Hillary said during the debate she had hoped that the Trans-Pacific Partnership would be the gold standard; in her book, she said it was the gold standard.

In one of the few surprises of the night, Bernie Sanders did his best to try to save her on her personal e-mail server issues. He’s an old fool if he thinks Hillary will return the favor when he needs it. Martin O’Malley, who sounded tough in cable-news interviews, wimped out in the end once he saw the audience’s roaring applause to Sanders’ declaration that the issue was settled and nobody needed to hear any more about “her damn e-mails.”

Sanders may rock the arenas when they’re filled with progressive grassroots activists, but his style doesn’t transfer well to a broader audience. He’s the party guest who you instinctively don’t want to talk to, who begins shouting immediately, who grabs your lapel and spits a bit as he jabs his finger into your chest for emphasis. He’s Senator Larry David. You want to get away from his perpetually irritated (and irritating) ranting, but just won’t stop talking, and he won’t let you gently back away or escape the conversation. Every two-minute answer felt like ten minutes of shouting — and he had the audacity to give Hillary grief about shouting.

Beyond his giant wimp-out on Hillary’s e-mails, O’Malley was more pleasant to listen to but is ultimately going to be a non-factor in this race. When Sanders finished his call for a revolution, O’Malley turned to the camera and said with a big smile, “What we need is a green energy revolution!” And for a moment, he waited for applause that didn’t come. The Democratic audience wasn’t in a mood for innovation. They are in a mood for populist revenge against people who have more than they do. Sanders shouts, O’Malley whispers.

Jim Webb pointed out how affirmative action disadvantages poor whites, the need to respect the rights of gun owners, and the seriousness of foreign policy threats that Democrats rarely acknowledge — like cyber threats, hacking (ahem), and China. He was the lone voice of reality saying, “With all due respect to Senator Sanders, I don’t think the revolution is going to come, and I don’t think the Congress is going to pay for all this.”

Webb has a good chance of winning the Democratic nomination in 1948. You almost have to wonder how Webb would be doing in the GOP presidential primary, but at a key moment, Webb flinched, saying he wouldn’t have a problem with extending Obamacare benefits to illegal immigrants. But give him style points for his declaration that his biggest enemy was the man who tried to kill him with a grenade . . . a man who’s not around any more.

It seemed like Webb complained he wasn’t getting enough time or enough questions every single time he was called on by Anderson Cooper.

Lincoln Chafee was there, and he thought Cooper was hard on him when he asked about one of the first votes he took in the Senate.

Can Americans Cope With This Kind of a Global Economy?

Maybe I’m being too harsh on the Democratic base. Here’s a fascinating assessment from Kevin Williamson, out in Las Vegas for debate coverage:

The nurses all told basically the same story: They are doing fine for the moment, with a good union that secures for them good paychecks and good benefits. But they worry that the day after tomorrow something could suddenly change, that their hospitals and clinics will go under or be sold to evil hedge funds and that the terms of their employment will change radically for the worse, that their houses will for some reason be foreclosed on even though they’re current on all their payments, that college tuition will triple between now and the time their kids finish up at UNLV, that something bad is going to happen.

That’s the Sanders voter, and, I think, the Democrat at large: terrified. It isn’t just them. I was speaking with Sanders supporters almost literally in the shadow of a giant gold tower bearing the name “TRUMP” on the side—it is something of an achievement to create one of the tackiest things in Las Vegas — and the Trumpkins, like the Sandersnistas, are terrified: The big Mexican is gonna come and get them, the scheming Chinaman is gonna take their jobs . . .

At both ends of the spectrum, we see terrified – terrified — Americans praying that Big Daddy will provide for them and smite their enemies. With sometime messiah Barack Obama having failed to deliver the goods, they’re turning to Government As God the Father Himself.

Over and over again: Sanders is on our side, Sanders will make them pay. Sanders hates who we hate.

The United States isn’t really a winner-take-all society. Life’s actually pretty easy in the middle here, and nobody is sleeping in the street or going hungry because of economic failure. (Failure of the mental-health-care system, yes, economic failure, no.) But, as I have been arguing for a while now, not everybody is temperamentally cut out to be a clever, constantly adapting player in the 21st century economy. Those old factory jobs in the 1950s that everybody is so nostalgic about paid crap in real terms and were dreary and soul-crushing. But they were — or they seemed — stable. Those nurses for Bernie are living well. But they’re afraid that their good times will come to a sudden end.

We May Only Have a Few Centuries to Save This Planet!

A classic example of climate change hype, from Agence France-Presse:

Say goodbye to Miami and New Orleans. No matter what we do to curb global warming, these and other beloved US cities will sink below rising seas, according to a study Monday.

AIIIEE!! Panic! Panic! The Saints and Dolphins will be forced to relocate!

Then you read further…

Scientists have already established that if we do nothing to reduce our burning of fossil fuel up to the year 2100, the planet will face sea level rise of 14-32 feet (4.3–9.9 meters), said lead author Ben Strauss, vice president for sea level and climate impacts at Climate Central.

Wait, the year 2100? Eighty-five years from now? What are the odds that absolutely nothing changes in our fossil fuel use for the next 85 years? How likely is it that we will go the next 85 years without any improvements or innovations or breakthroughs in energy production and use? Wouldn’t you like to think that by the year 2100, we were on to Mars and maybe beyond? For perspective, the original series of Star Trek is set in 2265 or so.

Eighty-five years ago, we had no nuclear power, no computers, solar, wind, geothermal . . . only the most basic hydropower . . . radar, ballistic missiles, jet aircraft — they were all a few years away. Heck, wouldn’t you like to think that by, say, 2030, we would have made a significant stride or two?

The article continues:

The big uncertainty is the issue of when.

“Some of this could happen as early as next century,” Strauss told AFP.

“But it might also take many centuries,” he added.

Wait, so you’re saying the worst case scenario is that we only have 85 years to come up with a way of building levees, dams, sea walls, and other protective structures around those cities, or relocating people to higher ground? That doesn’t quite sound like Mission: Impossible.

And the better case scenario is that it takes many centuries?

Call me crazy, but I say let the Americans of the year 2500 to solve it for themselves.

ADDENDA: Big doings coming up. The book hits stores at the end of the month; the National Review Institute has its annual Buckley Prize dinner in Dallas October 21; the good folks at the Heritage Foundation’s Legal Strategy Forum will have me to speak to them October 22; the America’s Future Foundation is asking me to speak about “How to be a columnist” at an event at the Reason Foundation October 28


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