The Democrats’ Oct. 13 presidential debate raised more questions than it answered, opened the door for Vice President Joe Biden to join the fray, and offered Hillary Clinton a chance to prove she’s the Muhammad Ali of politics.
To paraphrase The Greatest: She can dance like a butterfly and sting like a bee.
Clinton rarely gave a direct answer to a question but showed she can use any topic to launch a speech about her background, platform, and service to her country.
If she made a mistake, it was her raucous laughter when Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said no one cares about her private emails being used for sensitive government information.
That issue is not over. Voters are telling pollsters it’s important to them and casts doubt on her judgment.
Clinton was the best of the five presidential candidates in the debate but like the title of Frank Deford’s wonderful collection of his sportswriting, it was as if she was the “tallest midget.”
Sanders landed his punches by bashing Wall Street greed and the ugly side of capitalism, the growing gap between rich and poor.
But neither Sanders nor Clinton showed the leadership needed to beat any of the top GOP contenders.
That’s why the door is open for Biden. His biggest difficulty will be distancing himself from President Barack Obama’s many blunders and ill-advised policies. Biden may simply be too loyal to place political expediency over his allegiance to the current president.
But Biden is potentially a more appealing candidate than Clinton, Sanders and the others – more electric, more candid and far more capable of showing honest emotion. Voters love his authenticity.
The worst thing about the debate was the candidates’ insistence on pandering to their party’s most liberal elements rather than offering any hint of independent thinking and fresh ideas.
The one exception was former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb. He received low marks for his performance but I, for one, thought he was impressive in what he said if not in how he said it.
He was the contrarian of the group and showed himself to be an independent and forceful thinker. Consider his answer to a question about the controversial “black lives matter” protests: “As a president of the United States” Webb said, “every life in this country matters.”
It was the most thoughtful and sensible response to that question offered by any of the candidates.
Webb came off as wooden and detached but candid and fearless – as fearless as he was as a Marine Corps platoon commander in Vietnam, where he earned the Navy Cross, Silver Star, two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts for his service. He has undergone 48 surgeries for wounds he suffered when he threw himself between a fellow Marine and a grenade.
There was a time when voters saw such heroism as a prime qualification for a presidential candidate. Presidents John F. Kennedy and George H.W. Bush were both decorated veterans of World War II; more recent war-hero candidates have not fared as well, and Webb’s low standing in the polls seems to continue the trend.
Maybe men who have seen and survived real battle find political jousting silly, even demeaning. Perhaps their disdain for the process breeds an aloofness that renders them unappealing to the public.
It’s shameful that voters no longer value real-life war heroes. And maybe it’s one of the reasons Webb says he loves public service but dislikes politics.
Richard Connor is chairman of the parent company of Fort Worth Business, DRC Media. Contact him at email@example.com.