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The Debate and the Myth of the Antiwar Democrat

On Tuesday, CNN hosted the first Democrat debate of the 2016 presidential election. Present and accounted for were former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, former Rhode Island Governor (but also Republican Senator) Lincoln Chafee, former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.

A lot of domestic issues were raised and debated. Sanders continued to feel most like the new Obama, in that he’d said some nice things about not going to war, but didn’t sound adamant about that. Nobody was very pro Edward Snowden except Chafee, and Clinton was the most adamantly opposed to the whistleblower’s actions.

The most heartening moment for antiwar principle might have been when Chafee and Sanders piled onto Clinton over her vote for the 2003 Iraq invasion and called her trustworthiness into question. Clinton, in true political style, responded more or less with but the president liked me enough to appoint me Secretary of State, which is not an answer. As Vox.com’s Zack Beauchamp noted, this evasion was not challenged by any of the other candidates.

Fundamentally, nobody on the debate stage sounded as overtly hawkish as nearly all GOP candidates do when they are running for the highest office in the land. Clinton has hawk credentials, but she plays a delicate game by not acting ashamed of them because they make her more “experienced” and therefore fit for office, while not exactly trumpeting them because they are not what Democrats like to think of themselves as (warmongering). This absurd balancing act makes Clinton appear even more of a weasel (to mix my animal metaphors).

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