The PJ Tatler

Dems' South Carolina Non-Debate Pits Clinton Against Sanders -- Sorta

Asked tonight which Republican presidential hopeful she would pick for her vice president, Hillary Clinton admitted that “the fact is I am dodging” the question.

“Whoever I name will really get hurt in the Republican Party. And, so, I don’t know if want to do that,” she chuckled during the MSNBC forum. “There are Republicans I could pick, just none of them.”

There was actually one who crashed the event: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

The Winthrop University forum in South Carolina wasn’t on the limited schedule of debates scheduled by the Democratic National Committee — and it wasn’t a debate format. DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) did attend and take photographs on the stage afterward with the last three standing: Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Though Sanders’ supporters were vocal, the auditorium seemed stacked with Clinton supporters.

O’Malley went first, questioned for about half an hour by Rachel Maddow, after which Sanders and Clinton took their turns.

The governor insisted that his low poll numbers weren’t indicative of how he’ll perform at the polls.

“When I talk to young people, I rarely ever find young people that deny that climate change is real, or that want to bash new American immigrants, or deny rights to gay couples or their children,” O’Malley said. “And that tells me that we are moving to a much more connected and generous place. But sometimes as Democrats, we are reluctant to talk about things like that, those values that unite us.”

He said the party, for one, needs to “wrap the challenge of climate change in the opportunity of more jobs” because “we’re the party that actually believes in science, we rush to connect the dots, but it draws us in — all in a straight line to hell.”

Asked about the jobs lost and areas devastated through conversions to green energy, O’Malley advocated “things that a great nation does in order not to leave people behind, and that’s what we need to do.”

O’Malley agreed with an audience question that there should be a “war tax” because he thinks “there needs to be some more truth in what it means to be an American citizen.”

Sanders made a gentle dig at Clinton without naming names: “Now to me, as opposed to maybe some other unnamed candidates, the issue of Keystone was kind of a no-brainer.” Clinton previously said she was withholding her opinion because she used to be secretary of State.

But even though he acknowledged that he disagrees with Clinton on “virtually everything” — including how she doesn’t “walk the walk” on campaign finance reform — he refrained from taking big shots at his challenger and instead took a shot at the media.

“Media drives me nuts, right?” Sanders said. “It’s always gotcha stuff. And I can’t walk down a hallway in the nation’s capital without people begging me to beat up on Hillary Clinton, attack Hillary Clinton. Tell me why she’s the worst person in the world.”

“And I resist it and I resist it and I resist it, all right? Because I think unlike our Republican friends there who think that politics is about attacking each other in incredibly stupid and destructive ways, I think what we are trying to do is have a sensible debate on important issues facing America.”

When asked what his dream job would be instead of politics, the self-described socialist replied: “President of CNN. And if I was president of CNN, trust me, the way media deals with politics would radically change. Maybe NBC. That’s OK, too.”

The senator pushed back on criticism of his gun-rights votes in Congress. When Maddow noted he voted five times against the Brady Bill, Sanders retorted, “Oh, that was one bill that comes up several times, right?”

“I believe that I am in a very good position coming from a rural state that has virtually no gun control to put together a consensus of the American people, which I think exists, which says we are going to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them,” he said.

“…Very strong gun control advocates may not get everything they want. And people who think they should have a missile launcher in their backyard as a constitutional right may not have that.”

The first question fielded to Hillary was why she launched herself out of Arkansas never to return. “Should southern voters read anything into that?” Maddow asked.

“When we got out of the White House, we did move to New York,” Clinton replied, insisting that she loves Arkansas. “But my husband’s library and the Clinton School of Public Service, all of that is in Arkansas, in Little Rock.”

Asked what she’d say to African-American voters looking at a Dem primary with solely white candidates, Clinton said she was “committed” to helping “people who feel and are left out, left behind, marginalized” — “and I feel very strongly that President Obama doesn’t get the credit he deserves for the great job he’s done.”

Asked about her cozy relationships on Wall Street, Clinton said it was natural because she represented New York in the Senate.

“But anybody who thinks that they can influence what I will do doesn’t know me very well,” she insisted.

On her recent remarks supporting the use of the death penalty in some instances, Clinton told the crowd that she was talking about federal crimes, not the application of the death penalty on a state level.

“A number of states, again, predominantly but not exclusively in the South, have moved much too quickly to try people for capital offenses that carry the death penalty. And the death rows in a number of Southern states are still quite populated, even though people go through their judicial remedies. And I don’t think that you can make a case that all that needed to be done to protect against discrimination and unfairness and lack of due process has been done,” she said.

“What I was talking about, though, in my remarks recently was the federal system, where the numbers are much smaller because there’s not that much federal jurisdiction. It’s more focused.”

She gave as examples for “some really heinous crimes that are, in my view, still arguably ones that should potentially have the death penalty” terrorists such as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

Asked if she should have run for president before Bill Clinton, Hillary said no.

“I had a very full plate of things I loved to do. And I did not ever seriously think about running for office until 1998 when I got — or 1999, 1999 until I got convinced to run for the Senate,” she said.

Maddow asked what language Clinton would choose if she had time to learn a new language.

“Spanish,” Hillary replied. “Because we have a lot of Spanish-speaking people in our country.”

The next Democratic primary debate is Nov. 14 in Iowa and will be aired on CBS.