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October 14, 2015

POST-DEBATE REPORT CARD: Bernie Rambles! Hillary Stumbles! Jim Webb Crushes It!

Carl “The Dig” Diggler has covered national politics for 30 years, and is the author of “Think-ocracy: The Rise Of The Brainy Congressman”. He currently resides in New York, but also spends time in Washington DC and Los Angeles (but most of all, airports!). 

Bernie vs. Hillary! Webb vs. O’Malley! Chafee vs. Everyone! The sparks flew and the battle lines were sharpened at the first Democratic Presidential debate last night in glitzy Las Vegas. How did the candidates do? Pop some aspirins, pour yourself a hair of the dog to work off that debate drinking game hangover, and tuck in to the Dig’s official Debate Report Card.

Sen. Jim Webb

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Style Grit Physique Virility T-Levels Substance FINAL GRADE
B- A+ A- A+ A+ C- A-


Jim Webb came out of the gate giving the solid performance he needed last night. His opening statement played up his virility by referencing all five of his children by name, by far the largest brood of any of his opponents (plus, like most men with high T levels, most of his kids are daughters, which won’t hurt him with the woman vote). Then Webb put a healthy spin on the major issue of racism by talking up “reverse racism” against whites, a major problem a lot of folks living in places like Bushwick and Harlem can relate to.

While the other candidates got into a slapfight over who hated guns the most, Webb swam upstream like a muscular salmon, and stood up for firearm rights. He also repeatedly brought up his combat experience in Vietnam, a favorite war of Millennial voters. Indeed, Webb projected so much raw masculinity that the other candidates struggled to keep up with the decorated war hero.

Sadly, Webb directed a lot of his vigor at the wrong target. He got into a testy exchange with Anderson Cooper, bullying the delicate moderator into backing down so this hulking genius had the time he deserved to talk about cyberwars and the taxi situation at the Tripoli airport.

In his highest point of the evening, the steadfast Marine refused to be bullied into repeating the mantra “Black Lives Matter.”  A man who won’t bow to a hashtag won’t bow to Putin. His frequent complaints about the lack of stage time showed Americans a politician who won’t just lie down and take it. Plus he made sure to let everyone know that he and Hillary are the only candidates to have killed people. 

Nevertheless, the much-hyped Webb lost the expectation game that pegged him at an A+ performance.  A-


Sen. Bernie Sanders

Style Appearance Fashion Posture Chutzpah Substance FINAL GRADE
D+ C- D F B+ A- D

Bernie Sanders started the night with a tantrum. Screaming and stomping may get you “Likes,” but it’s not going to fly when you’re facing down the Ayatollahs, the Speaker of the House, or Wolf Blitzer, Bernie! After that it was all downhill, with gaffe after gaffe after gaffe coming from his yellowed teeth: 

  • Failing to disavow Socialism and endorse laissez-faire Capitalism.
  • Wasting a lot of time rambling about the “top one percent.” What about the other 99% of voters? Get your math right: you need a majority to win an election, Senator.
  • Saying the greatest security threat to America is “climate change.” Has this guy even heard of ISIS, Putin, or cyberwar? Voters are going to be turned off by such a shameful lack of strength. They’re electing a commander-in-chief, not a gardener-in-chief.

Then in the night’s biggest gaffe, Sanders told Clinton, “Nobody cares about your d**n e-mails!” First off, cussing? Respect the process, Senator. Second, nobody cares? Clearly you haven’t read any of my explosive articles about Server-Gate. Sign up for my Twitter feed (@carl_diggler) if you want to learn something about why this matters so much.

After this, Sanders bored everyone to tears by giving a completely unrequested history of Syria. When he’s not screaming, he’s giving a lecture. “When I was a young man–I’m not a young man now,” Sanders said in yet another gaffe, reminding voters of his advanced age and diminishing mental faculties. His endorsement of a $15/hour minimum wage was curious, as poor people don’t vote. Does Bernie want to win, or does he just love the sound of his own voice?

Finally, doing the entire debate in a bad Larry David impression? Newsflash, Bernie: this isn’t SNL. D

Secretary Hillary Clinton

Style Hair Clothes Physique Emails Substance FINAL GRADE
C+ B C D+ F A C+

We’ll start with the biggest issue tonight: that dark blue pantsuit. As a veteran Clinton-watcher, I can tell you that Hillary’s conservative choice of apparel was a clear tell that her campaign is going to keep playing it safe.

Hillary started with a stumble when she refused to acknowledge the private email server scandal that has captured the nation’s imagination at the start of the debate. However, she overcame it, and her smooth, relaxed style was a welcome contrast to Bernie Sanders’ nonstop emotional tirade. She showed off her Executive Branch credentials by referencing her responsibilities in the Situation Room (note: not the must-watch CNN newsmagazine but a room in the White House where the President’s team handles situations and such). She cut through all the grandstanding about Wall Street and brought up the time she told bankers to “cut it out,” showing voters she can be authoritative and get results.

Still, Hillary can’t overcome the coolness that’s hurting her among male voters. You saw it when Anderson Cooper pressed her on issues, and the candidate responded with a cold, terse answer. Look, perfectly decent divorced men hate this when it happens to us on, and they hate it even more in the voting booth. Not to mention her frequent flip flops, which will sting in the minds of men sick of being hit with the infamous “I forgot I had a thing, I can’t go out” excuse. C+

former Gov. Lincoln Chafee

Style Physique Head Shape Posture Voice Substance FINAL GRADE
D+ F F F F F F-

“Soft block of granite.” That’s what Anderson Cooper called the night’s biggest washout. As a radical moderate who could appeal to lunchpail Democrats, Chafee collapsed under the weight of the high expectations placed on his brittle, bird-like shoulders. This grotesque whimper of a man was a punctuation in the action throughout the night.

Senator Weakling brought up how the NRA successfully bullied him. Yeah, that’ll get the base excited. When asked about his criticism of Hillary’s 2002 vote to authorize the Iraq War, Chafee stammered and begged the moderator to ask Sanders instead. When he feebly tried to throw a punch at Jim Webb, the he-man Senator dismissed him with a cold stare. And when he brought up Hillary’s e-mail scandal, Clinton simply ignored him like so many young women on eHarmony who won’t even reply to an otherwise full-package guy just because he’s divorced.

If he wants to stay in the race, Chafee is going to have to explain this flop to his major donors, Michael Pierot, DDS, and his wife Lucille of Newport, RI. F-

Gov. Martin O’Malley

Style Determination Pizzazz Genetic Hardiness Core Strength Substance FINAL GRADE
B- C+ B- A+ A- D+ B-

Martin O’Malley’s start to the debate was shaky, but he regained his footing by showing the audience his attractive family (a wife and lovely daughter). His ability to create such a photogenic child showed planning and good genetics, which is an “intangible” factor in elections. After this week’s depressing Playboy news, a lot of viewers had to tip their hat to the Governor.

Unfortunately, besides an exciting graphic description of a shooting, this was O’Malley’s only “moment”. The governor was little more than a pretty face, offering pallid policy stances, and most offensively of all, interrupting Senator Jim Webb. O’Malley was lucky there were cameras there and he didn’t catch a magazine full of Marine justice. On that level, he exceeded expectations. B-