CNN Democratic Presidential Town Hall: Insipid Exchanges

Richard E. Vatz


Imagine in the Lincoln-Douglas senatorial debates if there were only individual speeches with no follow-ups by candidates or moderators.

Trending: Candidate Survey: Chris Chaffee for US Senate

Okay, that’s exactly what happened, but their eloquence and straight-spokenness have not been sustained over the many years since they spoke.

In tonight’s CNN Presidential Town Hall, Anderson Cooper hosted but seriously challenged no one.  Too bad; he has the talent to do so.

First up was Bernie Sanders, and he revealed his characteristic ingenuousness and self-deprecating humor.  He also stated some of his well-known policies, but there was no contesting any of his points: free tuition for public colleges and universities and elimination of college debt; single payer health insurance; crushing ISIS; too many people incarcerated; the mistake President George W. Bush made by going into Iraq; more monies and availability for mental health needed; and billionaires can buy elections.

No one, including Cooper, asked any material follow-ups: nothing about how free tuition could be afforded beyond a vague “tax Wall Street” directive; nothing about paying the costs of the far left single-payer plan; nothing about whether President Bush and the Iraq surge were scuttled by the precipitous withdrawal; nothing about where more money spent on mental health has been effective; and nothing about, as POLITICO describes it, “The 100 biggest donors of 2014 gave nearly $174 million to Democrats, compared to more than $140 million to Republicans,” including billionaire Tom Steyer who contributed over $74 million to Democratic candidates.

Mrs. Clinton was at least asked — and pushed — by Cooper about her Wall Street ties and speeches for large financial interests in view of her attacks on such.

But, like Sanders, Hillary was not challenged on the other matters on which she expounded.  Asked by Cooper if she still believed she was a victim of a right- wing conspiracy, she retorted to the effect of “of course, don’t you?”  A long peroration on how she has courageously dealt with false attacks was not engaged by either the moderator or audience.  No one asked about Mrs. Clinton’s Benghazi contradictions in her representations to its victim’s relatives in contrast to e-mails to her children and others.  When she said in this meeting that she was untouched in House testimony on the issue, no one contested it.  In addition no one asked about her growing e-mail questions or the threat of indictment.  It just didn’t come up.

There was no extensive examination of our inability thus far to defeat ISIS, and there was not even a mention of Mideast politics or difficulties in dealing with Vladimir Putin

How is this a valuable town hall meeting with a competent and savvy but largely inert moderator?

It was nice to watch an all-holds-barred get-together with the remaining Democratic candidates.


Professor Vatz teaches political persuasion at Towson University



Send this to a friend