Brooklyn debate - further thoughts:
- Hillary suggested that the 'more intense spotlight' in New York exposed flaws in Bernie's proposals, and alleged that Bernie was unable to give specific details regarding how he would break up big banks.
First of all, to the extent that Hillary herself has succeeded in evading this intense spotlight (her Mafia-like influence on CNN and MSNBC notwithstanding) she has done so by e.g. talking in vague terms about 'breaking down barriers', or making deliberately ambiguous claims (e.g. yes I am in favor of a twelve/fifteen dollar minimum wage, depending on . . . (I'll fill in the blank later).
The word 'spotlight' has no doubt been carefully chosen for its subliminal resonance with New Yorkers' and their affiliation with Broadway. This in itself is somewhat cynical. However, the idea that there is more objective media scrutiny in the state of New York than elsewhere absurd; rather, there is perhaps more of a chance for Hillary to use the Corleone-esque corporate media (newspapers included) to mislead people about Bernie. (Incidentally, remember the way Hillary blatantly and cynically mislead voters in Michigan about Bernie's vote regarding the auto-bail out, and her distorting Bernie's record on fighting for civil rights, which helped her in southern states at the start of the campaign).
It has subsequently been shown that Bernie has perfectly reasonable proposals to break up the big banks (not that this is his 'core' issue, as Hillary likes to claim, falsely portraying Bernie as a one-issue candidate).
- Hillary claimed that the state of Vermont, per capita, had the most guns coming into New York and being used in violent crimes. This claim is extremely misleading, since only fifty five guns were traced from Vermont as having been connected with crime in the relevant period, and it was not clear whether these guns were used in violent crimes or were cases involving possession of an illegal fire-arm.
Needless to say, Hillary's response during the debate was to obfuscate, and distract one's attention from the issue by talking about matters irrelevant to the question. Her misleading reply was that most guns that are used in violent crimes in New York State come from out of state - nothing to do with the rhetorical point of her allegation that guns from Vermont are particularly problematic. Interestingly, neither Wolf Blitzer, Dana Bash, or post-debate 'experts' drew attention to this weak reply by Clinton.
- Hillary flaunted the rules of the debate (which she had apparently agreed to beforehand) throughout, by continuing to talk well past her allotted time - winding down the clock - talking over Bernie when it was his turn (as she did in the Michigan debate also). This looked like a deliberate dirty trick strategy on her part.
- Bernie was asked (by Dana Bash): "You have consistently criticized Secretary Clinton for accepting money from Wall Street. Can you name one decision that she made as Senator that shows she favored banks because of the money she received?"
Bernie went on to describe such a decision, regarding Clinton's failure to break up the big banks (most of which are bigger now than after ordinary people bailed them out). However, Bernie's point is more general - that campaign super-pacs accepting money from lobbyists, special interest groups etc. has a corrupting effect on democracy, such that wealthy corporations etc. can buy elections (not just those involving Hillary Clinton). Accepting money from Wall Street is just a part of a wider issue, which has arisen in previous debates.
The assumption underlying this broader question (which Hillary has explicitly railed against with her best attempt at righteous indignation in at least one previous debate) is that if Bernie can't prove that Hillary's political power has been bought in one way or other by financiers, contributors etc. then he should not continue to insinuate that Hillary is not above board. In other words, she conflates the issue of whether money corrupts generally with the issue of whether she herself has been corrupted.
The assumption in question is false, since even if Bernie could not describe an explicit instance in which Hillary had been bought, it would not follow that Hillary is clean. This is a matter of logic, not of being innocent until proven guilty. There is an implicit fallacious inference in Hillary's attempt to defend against the allegation that there is reason to believe that large campaign contributions to super-pacs in elections undermines democracy by making the recipients of such contributions beholden to their benefactors to at least some extent (remember, Hillary repeatedly claims that not only herself, but President Obama received contributions to a super-pac, and Obama was not influenced by that money).
The fallacious inference in question is well-known by undergraduate philosophy students as 'denying the antecedent'.
The formal statement of this fallacious form of inference is: if A then B, not A therefore not B. In other words, the fallacy is to think as follows:
if Bernie can provide an example of Hillary's having being bought, then he would have a point about how large campaign contributions from lobbyists and special interest groups etc. makes recipients (e.g. Hillary's campaign) of those contributions beholden to their donors;
Bernie can't provide such an example, therefore
he hasn't shown that large campaign contributions from lobbyists and special interest groups etc. make recipients (e.g. Hillary's campaign) of those contributions beholden to their donors.
The point is that the premiss of the inference can be true, yet the conclusion false - which can never happen in a valid inference. It might have been true that Bernie couldn't provide an example of Hillary having being bought, but it wouldn't follow that she is clean.
As Bernie has pointed suggested, special interest groups, lobbyists, billionaires etc. who pour millions of dollars into Hillary's super-pac don't do so for no reason. They want something in return for their money - it would be naive to think otherwise.
A standard reply to this by Hillary is: Obama super-pacs took money from wealthy contributors, and we can't disagree with anything about Obama can we? Well, actually Obama refused to prosecute those responsible for the economic crisis of 2008 - they were fined; no-one went to jail. Even aside from that, it would not follow from the idea that Obama was not corrupted by money from e.g. special interest groups, that no-one could be, in particular, Hillary.
Relatedly, Hillary claims that she is in favor of repealing the Citizen's United Supreme Court ruling which currently treats corporations like persons and money as free speech, so that such corporations can give as much money as they want to the super-pac of a politician. Hillary's advocacy of repealing Citizen's United is inconsistent with her view that money from wealthy donors does not unduly influence politicians. Putting the point differently, why get rid of Citizen's United, if it has no chance of having a corrupting influence on the democratic process?