Bill Curry and Rania Khalek predict that the debate will lead to a Clinton victory over the neo-fascist Trump, but also say that Clinton takes progressive positions “like chess pieces” – only to remove them from the table later
PAUL JAY, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore. 100 million people apparently watched the debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Monday night. Much anticipated. It was in my mind, mostly rehash of what we heard over the campaign. But now we saw them face to face say the things they’ve been saying throughout the campaign. Now joining us for their reaction to it all, first of all is Rania Khalek. Rania is an associate editor at the electronic Intifada and I believe she’s in Northern Virginia, am I right? Yes, and Bill Curry’s a columnist for Salon.com. He was a White House counselor to President Clinton. His latest article featured in the Daily Beast titled Hillary Clinton, Reform Candidate? Yes She Can–and Must. Really Bill? Did you really say that? Here we go. Now thanks for joining us. BILL CURRY: That was actually the headline writer but it was sort of the point of the article. JAY: Alright. Okay. Well first of all, Rania your impressions of this much ballyhooed debate? RANIA KHALEK: It’s strange as day but I found it a little bit boring. It was very light on substance. It was a lot of just jabs back and forth. Obviously Donald Trump was very incoherent. I actually don’t think Hillary Clinton did very well. I don’t think she was very–I think she has a big problem with getting anyone enthusiastic. I don’t think she got anyone enthusiastic. I mean just as somebody who was a former Sanders supporter, I wasn’t really excited about her. I think she really could have definitely said some exciting things but she didn’t. One thing in particular I noticed is Trump came after her for the NAFTA stuff. That’s one of his only good talking points is free trade and it’s something that he says over and over again and it’s really one of the main things that is the reason he has so many supporters aside from all the other stuff he says and her response to that was not great. She didn’t really come out hard against NAFTA and TPP. She just sort of, she was a little shit like iffy on it. So other than that on a foreign policy stuff or the national security stuff I was really disappointed in that. I felt like it wasn’t a conversation of substance at all. It was just Hillary Clinton giving out here hawkish [bonafides] and Trump trying to claim that he didn’t support wars that he did. And then it was a lot of anti-Russia stuff. So I just don’t feel like there was anything of substance that took place at all tonight. JAY: Bill? CURRY: I agree with everything that was just said. I think though in the role as political terms first of all, I think that Trump took the first half hour. Hillary took the second half hour and the last half hour by a lot. And it was therefore her night. Again as someone who doesn’t want Donald Trump to be president, I feel like America might have dodged a bullet tonight. It wasn’t a [rote] by any means of the kind that some pundits were talking about [inaud.]. But it was a solid win. Our entire political debate has been denatured. What I wrote today in the Daily Beast was that I really wanted to see some of the economic populism and political reform issues that Bernie raised in the primaries and that drove the primaries. In both parties, even Trump’s campaign when he wasn’t being a fascist or xenophobe, he was constantly talking about the rigged system and he had the kind of economic populism that went along with it. He was the only person on the republican side that was challenging both the political and economic status quo in some way. Bernie of course was the only person of course that was doing it in a real way. As soon as they got to the conventions all the talk of the rigged system just ended. I still think that just because the politicians stopped talking about it doesn’t mean that the people stopped caring about it. There is a global insurrection against global finance capitalism and pay to play politics. It is in every country and it is in this country. If she really wanted to put the election away tonight, she could’ve revived the themes of the primary. I’ve been thinking that the first candidate to do that would win the election. Although I left tonight’s debate thinking that under any circumstances it’s going to be harder than it looked this morning for Trump to win. JAY: But if Hillary did revive some of the more progressive rhetoric that she needed to use as she’s competing with Bernie Sanders, what do you believe of it? There’s not much in her history to suggest that she really is against TPP, that she’s really for single payer healthcare, all the things that she claimed that she wanted to get to. Especially on free trade, she certainly is not opposed to NAFTA. I don’t know how she would’ve taken a stronger stand against it because she was for it. CURRY: No, let me just say first of all it’s a problem for Clinton. She’s taken so many progressive positions over the last year after years of not taking them. But when she takes a position she does it in the sense that someone takes a chess piece on the board. She takes it just to take it off the table of the opponent. One of the ways that you can tell that’s happening is that once she takes the position, she never mentions it again without prompting. That’s true of the TPP. She never raises it. She never raises campaign finance reform. She never raises the public option. At the same time, there is a working document here. I do believe there’s a difference. If she is elected president and we are able to build a strong independent progressive reform movement, stronger and more independent of the democratic party basically than it has been, they can keep pressure. I think those things–single payer? Not in a million years. TPP? I don’t question she’s secretly for it. But a public option which I think could lead you to single payer in 5 years? On the table she said she’s for it. At 8:01 on election night, everything changes. We’re 45 days away from everybody’s attention going to how we pressured this system in a new and more effective way. JAY: Rania, if Trump actually does what he says which number one, rip up the Iran agreement, what might that lead to if Netanyahu has his way and Trump seems wanting to please Netanyahu. He got 25 million dollars from Sheldon Adelson. Number two, law and order means someone like or maybe even the actual Rudy Giuliani as head of Homeland Security or maybe the FBI or at least that kind of politics, running those institutions. Does that enough to make you think that if you were living in a swing state you would vote for Clinton in spite of what you make of her? KHALEK: You know, I don’t know and I don’t feel like I should tell anybody else what to do. I don’t feel comfortable doing that. I will say that I think domestically Trump would be a bigger disaster than Hillary Clinton by far. I think that he is definitely stirring some really scary sentiments. I was even shocked a month ago when he came out after he went to Mexico, came out on stage with a bunch of mothers who lost their children to undocumented people and went one after another. It was like a minutemen rally on TV. That was really scary to see. So he’s got this close relationship with some of the most far right wing police like unions in the country. That’s really scary as well. The law and order talk is really alarming. Tonight he said racial profiling was not unconstitutional. So yea he would be really scary domestically. But I can’t pretend that Hillary Clinton is that much of a–we can’t pretend that Clinton’s great on foreign policy. Especially, I don’t know if she drew up the Iran deal but Hillary Clinton promises she’s going to be a great friend to Netanyahu. In fact, she says she’s going to take the relationship with Netanyahu to the next level. She’s someone who’s very close to Saudi Arabia. She’s someone who wants to institute a no fly zone in Syria which is one of the most dangerous conflicts in the world at the moment and its kind of shocking that that was not spoken of at all tonight. I mean that’s what I mean about the substance. I think that–you guys talked earlier about other issues, economic issues. You know the single payers, people are really hurting across the country and you didn’t hear any of that. But I really do think that a lot of people—yes Hillary Clinton did win the debate tonight. Because Donald Trump was an incoherent clown. But that said, there were a lot of people that are just completely disillusioned at the moment because they’re looking at the two candidates that we have to choose from and it’s just that nothing looks promising to a lot of people. JAY: Bill, Rania I think makes an important point that I’m kind of adding mine to hers. If in fact Donald did rip up the Iran deal, it would be dangerous but this no fly zone policy of Hillary’s in Syria is rife with terrible potential consequences. Not the least of a major confrontation with Russia. There’s a lot of back and forth right now amongst progressives who actually is the more dangerous character here? CURRY: Trump’s the more dangerous character and there isn’t any question in my mind about that. Again I read what Noam Chomsky wrote recently that he was voting for Jill Stein because he lived in Massachusetts but if he lived in a swing state he’d might have to vote for Hillary. I don’t know many democrats who wrote more critically of her that I have in the last year. This is not the happiest choice of my adult life but it may be the clearest. My feeling is that when you see fascism you have to kill it in its crib. I don’t want the country to have a memory, a collective memory of a proto-fascist even coming close. Having said that, again I agree with almost everything that’s been said here. Foreign policy is her worst suit. I wanted to say this, no one in the major leadership of either party outside of Bernie who has put across an alternative and even Bernie didn’t do this with much detail. But the fact of the matter is that what we’ve seen in the last decade is the complete moral impractical exhaustion of American military unilateral interventionism and we’ve seen without a doubt in the Middle East and across the globe that it’s time for us to stop being the policemen of the world which we talked about tonight and that means investing in multilateral conflict resolution making. That means strengthening the United Nations. That means trusting not in armaments but in the rule of law. I pine for the day that there is a major democrat or any major progressive leader with a real megaphone to get up and to make that case. I’ll point out one other thing. There are two major issues that we need in the progressive side. One is the public integrity movement. The other is a peace movement. We need those both strengthen. The other thing that wasn’t in tonight’s debate really was climate change except for the one thing question about whether Trump thought it was a Chinese hoax. And he lied and said he never said it. Again my democratic friends talk all about the Supreme Court and they’re right, it is enough of a reason–. JAY: Bill why doesn’t Hillary make an issue out of climate change, whether she’d really do something about it or not, in terms of significance. Bill can you hear me? I said why didn’t Hillary make a much bigger issue out of climate change? If 70% of Americans think that global warming is real at least 53% think it’s human caused and most people, consider it at least serious. Why doesn’t she make more of an issue out of his denial? CURRY: The reason 90% of American don’t think it–one reason is that in his first term as president, President Obama instructed all of his major appointees not to bring the subject up because he thought it was a political loser. Midway through his second term he became more of a believer. He finally figured out–I think he learned more about the threat and he certainly began to see the part of his legacy that people would judge as being the most important so he began to work on it. But if you look at his actual energy policies, all of the above energy–the development, [natural gas as a bridge], opening up the Arctic. The fact that we’d made zero progress on miles per gallon standards for our American automobile fleet in 8 years. All of its promises down the road. So I’m unhappy about all of that. But I also know that if Trump wins, not only does the Supreme Court go and there are two or three other basic questions, fewer poor kids eat when a Republican is president. That’s just a fact. But the greatest threat of our time, I really do believe is climate change. Also the greatest opportunity by moving to a sustainable economics based on conservation and renewable energy and the only way we can make that happen I think in the next four years which unfortunately may be the last four years in which we can act, is to have a president who at least cares about the pressure we’re bringing. That goes to the question about how the Tea Party’s working public [inaud.] with such effect and how the left hasn’t worked with such effect. You get up the next morning after this election if Hillary wins, and you begin a real movement. Starting with climate change, going on to the questions of public integrity [inaud.]. All the areas in which she’s weakest. The left has to make clear at last that it has a bottom line and that if candidates and office holders are not going to meet it. We’re not going to support them. In fact, we’re going to oppose them regardless of party. JAY: Rania? What do you make of that? KHALEK: I mean I think he just put forth a really great plan and I don’t disagree with it. I understand. I understand that side. I understand that people feel that they have to vote for Hillary Clinton and I get the other side too where people don’t want to. I guess for me; I think that what’s most important is what happens after the election. I got to say that since the democrat convention, I myself have just sort of almost just stepped away from the election and I’m just kind of waiting till the election happens so that it can be over and so that we can move on. I predict that Hillary Clinton’s going to win. I do think that it would be far easier under a Hillary Clinton presidency for the left to have some room, maybe not to purge her directly but to organize and be able to do things that do push her. Then be able to run people at lower levels and be able to create something independent that is outside of the democratic structure. But yea right now it’s like the clown show of Donald Trump running against Hillary Clinton and I’m just kind of waiting for it to be over and I think a lot of people probably are as well. JAY: Alright thank you both for joining us tonight. CURRY: My pleasure. KHALEK: Thanks for having me. JAY: Thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.