Over a 10-minute stretch in Tuesday's Democratic presidential debate, Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—with an assist from former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley—threw down over gun control, a subject that Clinton has made a central part of her campaign over the last few weeks.
CNN moderator Anderson Cooper got things started by asking Sanders about his previous support from the National Rifle Association, and votes he cast against gun control legislation. Sanders pushed back hard:
Let's begin, Anderson, by understanding that Bernie Sanders has a D-minus voting record from the NRA. Let's also understand that back in 1988 when I first ran for the United States Congress—way back then—I told the gun owners of the people of Vermont and I told the people of Vermont, a state that has virtually no gun control, that I supported a ban on assault weapons. And over the years, I have strongly supported instant background checks, doing away with this terrible gun show loophole, and I think we've got to move aggressively at the federal level in dealing with straw-man purchases. Also, I believe, and I've fought for, to understand that there are thousands of people in this country today who are suicidal, who are homicidal, and who can't get the health care they need, the mental health care, because they don't have insurance, or they're too poor. I believe that everybody in this country who has a mental crisis has got to get mental counseling immediately.
But Cooper followed it up: "Do you want to shield gun companies from lawsuits?"
"Of course not," Sanders said.
This was a large and complicated bill. There were provisions in it that I think make sense. For example, do I think that a gun show in the state of Vermont that sells legally a gun to somebody, and that somebody goes out and does something crazy, that that gun shop owner should be held responsible? I don't. On the other hand, where you have manufacturers and where you have gun shops knowingly giving guns to criminals or aiding and abetting, of course we should take action.
Cooper then asked Clinton if Sanders was being tough enough on guns. She replied:
No, not at all. I think we have to look at the fact that we lose 90 people a day from gun violence. This has gone on too long, and it's time the entire country stood up against the NRA. The majority of our country supports background checks, and even the majority of gun owners do. Senator Sanders did vote five times against the Brady bill. Since it was passed, nearly 2 million illegal purchases have been prevented. He also did, as he said, vote for this immunity provision. I voted against it. I was in the Senate the same time. It wasn’t that complicated to me. It was pretty straightforward to me that he was going to give immunity to the only industry in America—everybody else has to be accountable, but not the gun manufacturers, and we need to be able to stand up and say enough of that, we're not gonna let it continue.
As the senator from a rural state, what I can tell Secretary Clinton is that all the shouting in the world is not gonna do what I would hope all of us want, which is to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have those guns, and end this horrible violence that we are seeing. I believe that there is a consensus in this country. A consensus that says we need to strengthen and expand instant background checks, do away with this gun show loophole, that we have to address the issue of mental health, that we have to deal with the straw-man purchasing issue, and that when we develop that consensus we can finally do something.
Forty-three years ago, moments before the final debate of his first ever political campaign, Bernie Sanders turned to one of his rivals for Vermont's governorship, Fred Hackett, and made an unusual proposal: What if they switched outfits? The Republican could take off his tie, don Sanders' ratty blazer, and mess up his hair. Bernie could borrow Hackett's suit. "I tried to convince Fred that a great historical moment was at hand—that tens of thousands of people would turn on their TV sets and there, right before their uncomprehending eyes, would be a new Fred Hackett," he recalled in an essay a few months later. "Fred didn't take my advice—which is probably why he lost the election." (Sanders, who was running on the third-party Liberty Union ticket, also lost the election.)
That scenario is unlikely to repeat itself on Tuesday, when Sanders faces off against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the rest of the Democratic presidential field at the Wynn hotel and casino in Las Vegas. After four decades in politics, Sanders is as veteran a debater as they come—but is he any good at it?
Ohio Governor John Kasich told reporters in New Hampshire on Friday that he considers the death penalty and long prison sentences a better approach than gun control when it comes to reducing the number of mass shootings.
Kasich, who voted for a federal assault weapons ban as a Republican congressman two decades ago, demurred when asked what steps Washington should take in the wake of the Thursday massacre at Umpquah Community College in Oregon that left 10 people dead. "I don’t believe that gun control would stop this," he told a scrum of journalists after a town hall in Goffstown, during which the subject did not come up.
I think they have very tough gun laws in that state. The fact is that more and more people believe that they should be able to defend themselves. And if take guns away from people who are law-abiding the people who are going to cause these horrible things are still gonna have them. I don’t agree with that. That is not—you know I favor, in Ohio, the death penalty. I favor long prison sentences.That’s the way I would go.
When a reporter asked him what specifically he would do to curb mass shootings as president, Kasich said it wouldn't be his responsibility. "I don’t think any president can stop mass shootings," he said. "And again I think that all of these places that are soft targets need to be hardened. My own state, as I’ve said, it’s frustrating to see some school districts not taking it seriously. These are terrible tragedies and we need to find out more about who this person is. If this person’s had mental illness they should never have had a weapon. That’s the rules."
In an earlier interview with NBC News, Kasich offered a clearer idea of what he means by hardening "soft targets." He said he wants all schools, including universities, to implement warning systems that would allow them to go into "lockdown" mode if there is a campus threat.
Kasich's emphasis on the death penalty is curious given that more than half of the perpetrators of mass shootings over the last three decades took their own lives. The number goes up if you count "suicide by cop"—that is, those instances when a shooter was killed by law enforcement.
Moreover, Ohio's death penalty process is notoriously flawed. Last spring, a federal judge placed a seven-month moratorium on all executions in the state after a lethal injection left a convicted killer writhing on his deathbed for 25 minutes. On Thursday, an Ohio court struck down an inmate's death sentence, citing flaws in the state case.
Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign brought in $26 million in the third quarter of fundraising—just $2 million less than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination. For a candidate who's eschewed super-PACs and high-dollar fundraising, it's kind of an astounding figure. The New York Times's Nick Confessore puts it in perspective:
Mrs. Clinton has relied on the full force and reach of one of the most prominent Democratic politicians in the world, rousing small donors but also investing far more time and energy than Mr. Sanders in courting those who can give the maximum $2,700 for her primary campaign.
Mrs. Clinton attended at least 58 fund-raisers during the last three months, according to her campaign schedules, and sent her husband, former President Bill Clinton, or top aides to others.
Despite all of that, her overall haul was negligible. And Sanders' reliance on small-dollar donors means he can hit them up again and again if he needs to. Consider that on Wednesday, Sanders' presidential campaign also hit its one millionth individual donation—the most, by far, of any 2016 candidate. (By contrast, then-Sen. Barack Obama didn't reach 1 million contributions until February 2008.)
The national polls still point to a comfortable Clinton lead—and an overwhelming advantage with nonwhite voters—but Sanders just guaranteed he'll have plenty of money to get his message out in the first round of primaries and beyond.
Speaker of the House John Boehner is leaving Congress, and my boss David Corn says good riddance.
In November 2009, he and other GOP leaders hosted an anti-Obamacare rally at the Capitol, where enraged protesters chanted, "Nazis, Nazis," in reference to Democrats working to enact the Affordable Care Act. Boehner never tried to tamp down this sort of conservative anger. He did not tell the birthers to knock it off. He encouraged Obama hatred, allowing the Benghazistas to run free and filing a lawsuit against Obama to satisfy the Obama haters. Ultimately, he became a prisoner of these passions, and his speakership became mainly about one thing: preserving his own job.
This is all true enough. Allow me to present an alternative view: I kind of like John Boehner, and so should you.