The 3 Best and Worst Moments of the First Democratic Presidential Debate

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We watched the first Democratic Presidential debate with wide eyes and open minds and picked out the best and the worst moments of the night. These are the 3 Best and 3 Worst Moments of the first Democratic Presidential Debate.

Third Best Moment: Cannabis Legalization

Anderson Cooper: “Some of the candidates have tried marijuana, as have pretty much probably everybody in this room.”

Just as quickly as public opinion on pot has shifted, these politicians have suddenly mellowed to the idea. Some of them have even admitted to inhaling. And Bernie Sanders thinks we’re ruining too many young people’s lives just for feeling the burn.

But one candidate seemed a bit confused. Hillary doesn’t like the mass incarceration aspect, but she also won’t advocate for an end to federal prohibition. Also, we need more research on cannabis—but we also need more evidence before we ditch the federal regulations that all but ban research on cannabis, which even ardent drug warriors are beginning to oppose.

Third Worst Moment: “Common Sense” Gun Control

Bernie Sanders: “The views on gun control in rural states are different than in urban states, whether we like it or not.”

On the flip side was the Dems’ almost uniformly uninformed take on violent crime and gun control. Bernie Sanders tip-toed his way around his un-Democratic past, pointing to his support for a federal assault weapons ban (probably because it worked so well last time). Hillary thinks it’s fine to make responsible dealers liable for any crimes customers may commit with guns they sold legally. And Martin O’Malley touted the fantastic record of his gun safety legislation in Maryland in solving the problem of gun violence. Why, just take a look at Baltimore!

Only one candidate, Jim Webb, recognized that DC politicians aren’t alone in their desire or their right to bear arms for self-protection. Echoing a Rand Paul argument, he pointed out the uncomfortable fact that many gun warriors inside the Beltway bubble employ armed guards for their own families’ protection.

Second Best Moment: Foreign Interventionism

Bernie Sanders: “You’re talking about a quagmire in a quagmire.”

Most of the candidates didn’t hold back from criticizing the interventionist foreign policy that defined the Bush administration and continued through the Obama years. Sanders criticized the “quagmire in a quagmire” in Syria and both Sanders and Martin O’Malley got after Hillary for wanting a no-fly zone there, which could lead to the type of mission creep last seen in another of Hillary’s greatest foreign policy disasters, the Libyan intervention.

As for Hillary, she thinks you just have to accept a certain level of risk.

Second Worst Moment: What Classified Emails?

Hillary Clinton: “I’m as transparent as I know to be.”

Clinton’s fellow candidates weren’t shy about criticizing her role in botched Middle East foreign policy initiatives, but even Bernie Sanders was quick to jump to her defense when the topic turned to her email problems.

The crowd may have loved her unapologetic posture, but the standing ovation they delivered doesn’t change the fact that Clinton is still under federal investigation for compromising classified information while serving as Secretary of State. There’s nothing partisan about it.

The Best Moment: Edward Snowden, Whistleblower

Unlike Hillary Clinton, Edward Snowden intentionally made classified information public as a whistleblower calling attention to the unconstitutional surveillance of the NSA. A rousing defense of Snowden and civil liberties from Sanders and Lincoln Chaffee provided the night’s best moments.

But once again, Clinton found herself on the wrong side of the debate, insisting that Snowden should return to “face the music”—or, put another way, to face charges under the notoriously draconian Espionage Act—and defending nearly every obfuscation and expansion in federal voyeurism since the Patriot Act.

The Worst Moment: What National Debt?

The candidates never once mentioned the federal debt and seemed to believe that soaking the rich for tax money will fund all of their wildest dreams. From “free” college to “free” medical care to paid parental leave to indefinite energy and pension spending, the parade of ill-conceived federal initiatives trotted out by the candidates provided the worst moments of the night.