So, I watched most of the Democratic presidential debate last night. Why? I guess I like good political theater — and this latest debate hosted by CNN, just like the previous GOP debates, didn’t disappoint in that respect. It really was fun to watch.
Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t help but to view all the candidates as if they were characters in a play. Before I talk about their position on guns, here was my impression of the tone and temperament of each contender.
Bernie Sanders, the old codger, was as loud and as angry as an old man trying to return soup at a deli.
“The middle class of this country for the last 40 years has been disappearing,” shouted Sanders in his opening introduction. “Millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages, and yet almost all of the new income and wealth being created is going to the top one percent.”
Martin O’Malley, the snake-oil salesman, played to the crowd’s emotions at every turn; smiling and laughing one minute while on the verge of tears the next.
“I did not make our city immune to setbacks,” explained a mawkish O’Malley when Anderson Cooper asked him specifically about his failed policies to curb violence. “But I attended a lot of funerals, including one for a family of seven who were firebombed in their sleep for picking up the phone in a poor African-American neighborhood and calling the police because of drug dealers on their corner.”
Jim Webb, the buttoned up and stiff former Marine, appeared imperious and proud, like a predatory bird. Maybe a a hawk.
“I will say this, coming from the position that I’ve come from, from a military family, with my brother a marine, my son was a marine in Iraq, I served as a marine, spending five years in the Pentagon, I am comfortable that I am the most qualified person standing up here today to be your commander-in-chief,” said Webb, in a declaratory manner.
Lincoln Chafee, the guy that was just happy to be there. Chafee was all smiles, especially when touting his impeccable record which he compared to “granite.”
“Time and time again, I have never changed,” said Chafee. “You’re looking at a block of granite when it comes to the issues. So I have not changed.”
But apparently it’s “soft granite” that Chafee is made of because as Cooper pointed out later, Chafee flip-flopped on Glass-Steagal, a bill regulating banks.
COOPER: Governor Chafee, you have attacked Secretary Clinton for being too close to Wall Street banks. In 1999 you voted for the very bill that made banks bigger.
CHAFEE: The Glass-Steagall was my very first vote, I’d just arrived, my dad had died in office, I was appointed to the office, it was my very first vote.
COOPER: Are you saying you didn’t know what you were voting for?
CHAFEE: I’d just arrived at the Senate. I think we’d get some takeovers, and that was one. It was my very first vote, and it was 92-5. It was the…
Hillary Clinton, her majesty, the frontrunner, the lioness of the Democratic Party. Clinton was smug and strident and even awkward at times, proving once again that she lacks the presidential charm and charisma that her husband had in spades (I’d argue it’s why she lost the primary to Obama in 2008). When debating, she’s all prose and no poetry. She must of mentioned her “plan” for this or that at least a dozen times.
“I have a five point economic plan, because this inequality challenge we face, we have faced it at other points,” said Clinton. “It’s absolutely right.”
“I’ve traveled across our country over the last months listening and learning, and I’ve put forward specific plans about how we’re going to create more good-paying jobs…” said Clinton.
“During the course of the evening tonight, I’ll have a chance to lay out all of my plans and the work that I’ve done behind them,” she said, and on and on and on about the plan.
Ranking Candidates on Guns
This ranking is based off of the debate and their answers to specific gun-related questions. I think their answers, and in some cases, non-answers, were very telling and indicative of the enthusiasm with which they’ll try to enact gun control if elected to office.
5. Jim Webb — If you’re a Democrat and you’re pro-gun, Webb is the guy for you. Unlike most Democrats, he is moderately pro-gun. When asked about gun control, he acknowledge that “we do need background checks” but was very adamant that the right of the people to protect themselves should not be overlooked.
“There are people at high levels in this government who have bodyguards 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” explained Webb. “The average American does not have that, and deserves the right to be able to protect their family.”
4. Bernie Sanders — Coming from the rural state of Vermont, Bernie seems to understand that gun ownership is important to millions of Americans. Yet, because the party’s leadership is so fervently anti-gun, Sanders finds himself on the defensive in these debates because he is not a rabid gun-grabber. Yes, he foolishly supports a ban on certain semiautomatic rifles, but I don’t get the sense that he would make it a priority to confiscate firearms from law-abiding citizens.
“I believe that there is a consensus in this country,” explained Sanders. “A consensus has said we need to strengthen and expand instant background checks, do away with this gun show loophole, that we have to address the issue of mental health, that we have to deal with the strawman purchasing issue, and that when we develop that consensus, we can finally, finally do something to address this issue.”
3. Lincoln Chafee — To the extent that Chafee has an opinion on anything is almost irrelevant because he has zero chance of becoming the nominee. That said, he has an “F” rating from the NRA. And at the debate, instead of talking about taking on the NRA, he spoke about bringing them to the table to “find common ground.” I suppose that makes him anti-gun, but with an open mind?
“I would bring the gun lobby in and say we’ve got to change this. Where can we find common ground? Wayne Lapierre from the NRA, whoever it is, the leaders,” said Chafee. “Come one, we’ve go to change this. We’re not coming to take away your guns, we believe in the Second Amendment, but let’s find common ground here.”
2. Hillary Clinton — She is anti-gun. But believe it or not, she’s not the most anti-gun candidate in the race (that distinct honor goes to O’Malley, as I’m sure you’ve figured out). During the debate, she called out Sanders for being too soft on guns.
“Senator Sanders did vote five times against the Brady bill. Since it was passed, more than 2 million prohibited purchases have been prevented,” said Clinton.
“He also did vote, as he said, for this immunity provision. I voted against it. I was in the Senate at the same time. It wasn’t that complicated to me,” she continued. “It was pretty straightforward to me that he was going to give immunity to the only industry in America. Everybody else has to be accountable, but not the gun manufacturers. And we need to stand up and say: Enough of that. We’re not going to let it continue.”
1. Martin O’Malley — Well, let’s put it this way, he believes that the Second Amendment is there to preserve the rights of hunters. And in his own state of Maryland, as governor, he was the architect of a draconian bill that gutted the Second Amendment rights of residents. Simply put, O’Malley is our worst nightmare.
“Anderson, when the NRA wrote to everyone in our state — when the NRA wrote to members in our state and told people with hunting traditions lies about what our comprehensive gun safety legislation is, I wrote right back to them and laid out what it actually did,” exclaimed O’Malley. “And that’s why, not only did we pass it, but the NRA didn’t…dare to petition a referendum.”
So, there you have it. O’Malley and Clinton are rabid anti-gunners. Chafee is anti-gun but a non-factor. Sanders is confused, but leans anti-gun. And Webb is moderately pro-gun.
I don’t plan on voting for a Democrat in 2016. As I’ve said, I’m not sure who I’m voting for in 2016. But I’m going to give Jim Webb a look. Not likely he’ll get the nomination, but I have to say I was intrigued by what he had to say on the issues.
(Quotes were pulled from a transcript published by The Washington Post.)