Trust no one

The pundits make a bad call in favor of Hillary Clinton; and a columnist takes flight

After watching the first several presidential debates, both Republican and Democratic, I took a little break. It seemed redundant. But with the candidates heading further into the caucuses, I decided to check out their latest strategies and talking points—you know, the rhetoric.

On Sunday, I tuned in to CNN for the latest showdown between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. It was surprising to see the moderators—Anderson Cooper and even the typically underwhelming Don Lemon—ask questions about the environment, including climate change and fracking. Finally.

I have no doubt that emphasis had something to do with the debate being held in Flint, Mich., a city mired in an environmental crisis of poisoned water supplies.

When asked about hydraulic fracturing, a controversial method of natural-gas extraction, Sanders was unequivocal in his response. “No. I do not support fracking.” His comment followed Clinton’s nuanced answer calling for certain regulations. “By the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place,” Clinton said.

To me, that means Clinton supports fracking. However, the former secretary of state’s position is an about-face considering that, during her time with the State Department just four years ago, she championed fracking not only in the United States but also abroad.

Speaking of turnabouts, Clinton, as Sanders put it, has “discovered religion” on another issue: trade agreements. The Vermont senator called her out for supporting “disastrous” trade deals—including NAFTA during Bill Clinton’s administration and the recent TTP under President Obama—that have led to the outsourcing of millions of U.S. jobs and the collapse of the middle class. Sanders’ opposition spans decades.

Things definitely got a bit fiery during the debate. In my eyes, Sanders’ consistency over his political career and candor on today’s issues made him the better performer. Clinton got made for what she is: a flip-flopping establishment candidate with ties to Wall Street and corporate America.

That’s why I was confused by subsequent commentary on CNN and elsewhere giving Clinton the edge. One of the first stories I read was political correspondent James Hohmann’s The Daily 202 rundown in the venerable Washington Post. It’s headlined “Five reasons Bernie Sanders lost last night’s Democratic debate.” Not only was Hohmann off base on pretty much all five, but from a quick Google search of the Post’s work on the two candidates, it also appears the newspaper has its head shoved way up Clinton’s ass.

No. 2 on Hohmann’s list was that Sanders “seemed condescending when he cut off Clinton.” Um, try replaying the debate—Clinton interrupted Sanders. If anything, Sanders is interrupting her interruptions.

In short, dear readers, trust no one—especially the pundits—when it comes to following the debates. Watch them and decide for yourselves.

In other news, I want to give a quick shout out to Toni Scott. Toni started her journalism career as an intern with CN&R in 2007, and nearly two years ago, returned to write an excellent bi-weekly business column. She’s off on new adventures these days and is saying goodbye (see page 19), but I have a feeling this isn’t the last we’ll hear from her.