Jack Ohman

Analyzing Dems from Chafee to Webb, minus Joe

From left, Jim Webb, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton await the start of the first Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas on Tuesday.
From left, Jim Webb, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton await the start of the first Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas on Tuesday. Bloomberg News

Watching the CNN Democratic debate the other night brought some clarity to the 2016 presidential race. For example, the need to keep Vice President Joe Biden’s lectern warm seems to have dissipated, and Hillary Clinton has lots of time to focus on who might be her secretary of transportation.

While the Dems avoided major bickering, there were stylistic similarities between them. For example, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee used the “dog ate my homework” excuse in explaining his vote on repealing the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999, and former Secretary of State Clinton used the “Kevin McCarthy ate my homework” in explaining Benghazi.

First, let’s analyze the Dem debaters’ stylistic performances.

Former Sen. Jim Webb: Apparently thinking it was the 1968 Democratic primary season, the former Virginia senator noted that he had killed and eaten a North Vietnamese soldier. Looking like he might have been wearing a size 14½ shirt for his 16½-inch neck, Webb’s annoying clicking of his stopwatch threw his opponents off-guard.

Lincoln Chafee: Describing himself as a piece of granite in explaining his membership in three political parties didn’t help his consistency argument. However, he did provide a refreshing contrast to the other candidates in that he was highly ethical in Rhode Island politics, which means that you haven’t personally put an opponent in cement shoes and dumped him into Narragansett Bay.

Former Gov. Martin O’Malley: Looking very much like a president in a 1990s movie about aliens invading Earth, O’Malley at times lapsed into the hushed, raspy whisper patented by former President Bill Clinton. Perhaps standing right next to Clinton’s wife brought his accurate impression to the forefront. O’Malley also explained his tenure as Baltimore’s mayor as something that he had simply forgotten.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: When you went to college, you knew Sanders as the intense 43-year-old Poli-Sci grad student who wore the same shirt every day over a slightly yellowed T-shirt while handing you a sweaty pamphlet about the stark social injustices perpetrated by the cafeteria at the student union.

Hillary Clinton: Employing the strategy of standing next to the other candidates while not throwing up on herself, Clinton clearly won the debate when she observed that she was a woman, a female, a mom, a mother, a grandmother, a lady, someone with XX chromosomes, and a mom. And a woman. Again.

Now let’s examine the candidates on the issues:

Webb: Supports arming all pets with military assault weapons, establishing a new Department of Guys and a federally subsidized Man Cave Development Agency. All presidential news conferences would be “carefully timed.”

Chafee: Favors gin and tonics on the veranda of the yacht club, wearing green wide-wale corduroy pants with a duck motif, and creating a tripartisan study commission on the country’s problems consisting solely of himself.

O’Malley: Would establish a new cabinet-level Department of Handsome People Who Everyone Agrees Should Be President Since Junior High. Also supports a vigorous foreign policy, such as erecting a wall on the Virginia-Maryland border to stem the flow of federal bureaucrats streaming into the suburban Baltimore real estate market.

Sanders: Would create a Nuremberg-style show trial for Wall Street executives earning more than $1 million per day, which everyone in the United States actually agrees with. Would create a special “1-percenters tax,” which he cautioned did not reflect the poll standings of Webb, Chafee and O’Malley.

Clinton: Would allow all Cabinet officers to legally own and operate vast personal server farms, which, she noted, would also benefit the Iowa agricultural community. Also, Clinton would keep a very close eye on Bill, meaning that the 101st Airborne would be stationed outside his bedroom door.

And, let us not forget Biden, which everyone did at 8:01 p.m., immediately after the debate.