FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Great Clinton-Obama Debate

 

It was billed as the great debate that, in the words of moderator Wolf Blitzer, “could change the course of this presidential race and the nation.”

Situated at the packed Kodak Theatre — site of the Hollywood Oscar awards — thousands of people, including anti-war protesters, were outside, where tickets were being scalped for $1,000.

The burgeoning excitement swept up Mr. Blitzer into an introduction reminiscent of a heavyweight boxing title fight. Referring to the “glamour on this stage_one of the great stages of all time,” he declared that “this will be the first time that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will be debating face to face, just the two of them, one-on-one.” The crowd roared!

When it was over two hours later, here is how the reporters, not the columnists, of the New York Times described the showdown: “Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama sat side by side here Thursday, sharing a night of smiles, friendly eye-catching and gentle banter_It was almost as if the battle was to see which of them could outnice the other.”

Since neither scored a knockout, a knockdown, and neither stumbled, the audience left without many feeling the pain of their champion being bested. Even the Times’ critic, Alessandra Stanley, she of the usual barbed pen, could only marvel at the smooth harmony ideology both candidates decided to adopt. She wrote: “They let their eyes make nice. As they stood in front of the audience before the debate, Mr. Obama leaned down to Mrs. Clinton and whispered a few words in her ear, as if continuing the fun chat they had just shared backstage.”

The two candidates were unperturbed by any questions from the reporters that they had not answered before or they were soft balls they could hit out of the ball park.

As in all debates involving presidential candidates, the reporters were unwilling or incapable of asking questions reflecting situations and conditions widely reported or investigated by their own colleagues.

This phenomenon of invincible reluctance should be studied by anthropologists or psychologists. Examples follow:

I called up Chris Hedges, former New York Times Middle East bureau chief and author for a question he would have asked. He offered this one.

“The Israeli government is imposing severe and continual collective punishment on the 1.5 million people of tiny Gaza, which includes restricting or cutting off food, fuel, electricity, medicines and other necessities. Malnutrition rates among many children resemble the worst of sub-Saharan Africa. Israel’s leading newspaper, Ha’aretz, has reporters and columnists describing these horrific conditions and concluding that the ferocity of the blockade is detrimental to Israel as well as the Palestinians.

“Collective punishment is clearly a violation of established international law. Prominent, former military, security and political leaders in Israel are speaking out against this punishment and calling for negotiations with Hamas. Do you, Senator Clinton and Senator Obama, agree with these Israelis or do you continue to support the policy of collective punishment against innocent men, women and children in Gaza?”

Alexander Cockburn, CounterPunch coeditor, suggested this question:

“Senator Clinton, in all your previous debates, you have not criticized the bloated military budget.The Soviet Union is gone. Yet military spending now consumes half of the federal government’s operating expenditures.

“What would you do to reduce the tens of billions of wasted dollars and eliminate redundant weapons systems?

“And, further, would you abolish the missile defense project, now universally conceded to be useless for the purpose it was originally designed, downing incoming ICBM. It costs about $10 billion a year with a total expenditure of over $150 billion since Ronald Reagan kicked off the program.”

Here are a few questions of my own. “Senator Obama, you have taught Constitutional law. Has President Bush violated the Constitution, federal statutes and international treaties during his two terms of office? If so, please elaborate and tell the American people what you think should be done about holding the self-described “responsibility” President accountable under the impeachment authority of Congress and other laws of the land?”

“Senator Clinton, you represent New York, which includes the large banking, brokerage and investment firms colloquially called Wall Street. Eliot Spitzer became governor of your state largely on his widely reported reputation for prosecuting corporate crooks who fleeced investors, pensioners and workers of hundreds of billions of dollars. He often remarked that the federal criminal laws were too weak and the Securities and Exchange Commission was too lenient.

“As the Senator from New York, what specifically have you done to advance a strong crackdown on corporate crime with tougher laws and larger enforcement budgets? And, specifically, what do you intend to do as President?”

“Senator Obama, you have often spoken about your health insurance plan as a way to reduce costs. Yet you do not discuss three major cost reduction opportunities. The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, estimates that ten per cent of the entire health expenditures in this country go down the drain due to computerized billing fraud and abuse. This year, that amounts to $220 billion.

“Under a single payer plan, administrative expenses would be cut by about two-thirds. That would amount to hundreds of billions of dollars a year in savings. And the Harvard School of Public Health study estimates about 80,000 people die every year from medical malpractice in hospitals, estimating costs years ago of $60 billion a year. These are large savings in a $2.2 trillion a year health care industry.

“Do you agree and, if so, why have you ignored proposing practical actions in these areas?”

“Senator Clinton, you have long urged more money for children’s programs. One way to make this possible is to end or diminish the complex system of corporate welfare-subsidies, handouts, giveaways and bailouts of business corporations. These amount to hundreds of billions of dollars a year, directly and through tax loopholes. Why have you not moved against such spending so that some of the money may go to help needy children? And specifically, what would you do as President to develop standards curtailing runaway corporate welfare programs pushed by corporate lobbyists?”

Is reportorial self-censorship limiting the questions presented to the Presidential candidates? You decide.

RALPH NADER is the author of The Seventeen Traditions

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
September 20, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Unipolar Governance of the Multipolar World
Rob Urie
Strike for the Environment, Strike for Social Justice, Strike!
Miguel Gutierrez
El Desmadre: The Colonial Roots of Anti-Mexican Violence
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Pompeo and Circumstance
Andrew Levine
Why Democrats Really Should Not All Get Along But Sometimes Must Anyway
Louis Proyect
A Rebellion for the Wild West
T.J. Coles
A Taste of Their Own Medicine: the Politicians Who Robbed Iranians and Libyans Fear the Same for Brexit Britain
H. Bruce Franklin
How We Launched Our Forever War in the Middle East
Lee Hall
Mayor Obedience Training, From the Pet Products Industry
Louis Yako
Working in America: Paychecks for Silence
Michael D. Yates
Radical Education
Jonathan Cook
Israelis Have Shown Netanyahu the Door. Can He Inflict More Damage Before He Exits?
Valerie Reynoso
The Rising Monopoly of Monsanto-Bayer
John Steppling
American Psychopathy
Ralph Nader
25 Ways the Canadian Health Care System is Better than Obamacare for the 2020 Elections
Ramzy Baroud
Apartheid Made Official: Deal of the Century is a Ploy and Annexation is the New Reality
Vincent Emanuele
Small Town Values
John Feffer
The Threat of Bolton Has Retreated, But Not the Threat of War
David Rosen
Evangelicals, Abstinence, Abortion and the Mainstreaming of Sex
Judy Rohrer
“Make ‘America’ White Again”: White Resentment Under the Obama & Trump Presidencies
John W. Whitehead
The Police State’s Language of Force
Kathleen Wallace
Noblesse the Sleaze
Farzana Versey
Why Should Kashmiris be Indian?
Nyla Ali Khan
Why Are Modi and His Cohort Paranoid About Diversity?
Shawn Fremstad
The Official U.S. Poverty Rate is Based on a Hopelessly Out-of-Date Metric
Mel Gurtov
No War for Saudi Oil!
Robert Koehler
‘I’m Afraid You Have Humans’
David Swanson
Every Peace Group and Activist Should Join Strike DC for the Earth’s Climate
Scott Owen
In Defense of Non-violent Actions in Revolutionary Times
Jesse Jackson
Can America Break Its Gun Addiction?
Priti Gulati Cox
Sidewalk Museum of Congress: Who Says Kansas is Flat?
Mohamad Shaaf
The Current Political Crisis: Its Roots in Concentrated Capital with the Resulting Concentrated Political Power
Max Moran
Revolving Door Project Probes Thiel’s White House Connection
Arshad Khan
Unhappy India
Nick Pemberton
Norman Fucking Rockwell! and 24 Other Favorite Albums
Nicky Reid
The Bigotry of ‘Hate Speech’ and Facebook Fascism
Paul Armentano
To Make Vaping Safer, Legalize Cannabis
Jill Richardson
Punching Through Bad Headlines
Jessicah Pierre
What the Felicity Huffman Scandal Says About America
John Kendall Hawkins
Draining the Swamp, From the Beginning of Time
Julian Rose
Four Funerals and a Wedding: A Brief History of the War on Humanity
Victor Grossman
Film, Music and Elections in Germany
Charles R. Larson
Review: Ahmet Altan’s “I Will Never See the World Again”
David Yearsley
Jazz is Activism
Elliot Sperber
Captains of Industry 
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail