By Barry Rascovar
October 15, 2015 – What a contrast between the two recent Republican presidential alley fights and the polite, wonkish policy discussions at the Democratic presidential debate Tuesday night in, of all places, a luxurious Las Vegas casino-hotel.
Just as Donald Trump seized the spotlight, and kept it, during the raucous GOP debates, Hillary Clinton clearly took center stage and never relinquished her dominance of the five-candidate Democratic field.
There was no doubt who was the most competent and compelling candidate on stage, the only one you could picture sitting in the Oval Office negotiating the fate of the world with Vladimir Putin.
Wimpy Lincoln Chafee made it embarrassingly clear he would be a lost ball in high grass as president. Jim Webb seemed to have trouble explaining himself. Martin O’Malley (oh, Martin!) too often sounded rehearsed and not-yet-ready for prime time.
Then there was Bernie.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of tiny, rural Vermont, the socialist who turned Democrat at the last minute so he could launch a fervently emotional crusade to rally support for his far-left-of-center utopian ideals.
To Sanders, capitalism belongs in the waste bin of history. Let’s make the U.S. of A. like Denmark!
Similar to Trump, Sanders is capitalizing on public anger over the gridlocked mess in Washington, the dangerously intractable foreign policy quagmires, and the strong dislike people have toward politicians in power. (Sanders may be a U.S. senator but he isn’t allowed to play an influential role.)
Bernie was wonderfully entertaining Tuesday night. He’s a riveting speaker, full of fire and brimstone and loud anger that brought cheers from his fanatical loyalists.
But he was woefully short of proposals that stand any chance of becoming reality. Free college education? Free health care for all? All his ideas would require $19 trillion in new tax revenue. Even Sanders’ relentless demands to tax and prosecute billionaires to the hilt won’t come within a continent of paying for his programs.
Sanders is a dreamer and a provocateur. He isn’t going to be president. He’s way too extreme in his notions and way too vague as to how he’d accomplish anything in a Congress that could be controlled by radical Republicans. But his anger and his impossible dreams are perfect foils for the pragmatic front-runner.
Only Clinton stood out as an accomplished presidential candidate who understands the complexities of Washington and recognizes incremental reforms are the only steps that might be possible at the moment.
She came through Tuesday night as someone in command of her facts and her goals — improve life for the middle and lower classes of American society. She is, at this point, the star of a very weak presidential class.
But be aware, we still are over a year away from the general election and over three months from the first primary. It’s a long, long road to the White House and surprises are certain to emerge.
For now, though, the Democratic presidential picture has come into sharp focus. As for the Republicans, we’re still waiting for the three-ring circus to end and real policy discussions to begin.