Opening and closing statements in debates are a waste of time. Additionally, they are an insult to our intelligence, for the implication is that we're really impressed with the candidate as he/she pontificates and blows himself or herself out of proportion.
Further, the best probably are those which are least sincere. And so we are left to wonder whether Hillary Clinton's opening statement Saturday night (thanks, Debbie W. Schultz) was merely a shout-out to Democratic voters, generally supportive of President Obama and hostile toward the GOP, or indication she has learned before being elected what it took the incumbent roughly four years to learn. She stated (emphasis mine)
Well, thank you. And I'm delighted to be here in New Hampshire for this debate.
You know, the American president has to both keep our families safe and make the economy grow in a way that helps everyone, not just those at the top. That's the job. I have a strategy to combat and defeat ISIS without getting us involved in another ground war, and I have plans to raise incomes and deal with a lot of the problems that keep families up at night.
I'm very clear that we have a distinct difference between those of us on this stage tonight and all of our Republican counterparts. From my perspective, we have to prevent the Republicans from rolling back the progress that we've made. They would repeal the Affordable Care Act, not improve it. They would give more tax breaks to the super-wealthy and corporations, not to the middle class. And they would, despite all their tough talk about terrorism, continue to let people who are on the no-fly list buy guns.
So we have a lot of work to do in this campaign to make it clear where we stand in the Democratic Party, what we will do for our country, and I look forward to this evening's discussion of real issues that face the American people.
As the presumptive nominee, Clinton has the luxury neither Sanders nor O'Malley has. She does not have to- indeed, does not want to- emphasize the differences she has with her (in resources and support) over-matched rivals. Still, her harsh words for "all of our Republican counterparts" suggests that she understands that if she is elected, congressional Republicans- supported by the donor class and their popular base- will work to undermine her and her Party at every turn.
That would be in stark contrast with Obama, who in an interview in September, 2010 expressed to a New York Times reporter "optimism"
that he could make common cause with Republicans after the midterm elections. “It may be that regardless of what happens after this election, they feel more responsible,” he said, “either because they didn’t do as well as they anticipated, and so the strategy of just saying no to everything and sitting on the sidelines and throwing bombs didn’t work for them, or they did reasonably well, in which case the American people are going to be looking to them to offer serious proposals and work with me in a serious way.”
Nearly two years later the President would state
that if he wins a second term the GOP "fever" of opposition to tax hikes for deficit reduction may break.
He said the Republican Party would, in effect, be forced to embrace "cooperation" and "common sense" which, he suggested, John McCain embodied on some issues four years ago.
"A lot of the tussles that we've had over the last three and a half years have had to do with this difference in vision, and it will be coming to a head in this election. We're going to have as stark a contrast as we've seen in a very long time between the candidates. I mean, 2008 was a significant election, obviously. But John McCain believed in climate change. John believed in campaign finance reform. He believed in immigration reform. I mean, there were some areas where you saw some overlap," Obama told a group of donors in Minneapolis.
"In this election, the Republican Party has moved in a fundamentally different direction. The center of gravity for their party has shifted," he said.
He discussed Republican refusal to accept any revenue increases to reduce the debt and deficit as a case and point.
"I believe that if we're successful in this election - when we're successful in this election - that the fever may break, because there's a tradition in the Republican Party of more common sense than that," he said.
" My hope and my expectation is that after the election, now that it turns out the goal of beating Obama doesn't make much sense because I'm not running again, that we can start getting some cooperation again," Obama argued.
Three-and-a-half years later, the Donald Trump, the leading GOP presidential candidate, would say that Vladimir Putin is "running his country, and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country.”
This will not harm a Republican's chances of being nominated. However, if her opening statement Saturday was any indication, Hillary Clinton understands what she's in for if nominated and elected.
President Obama has served a vital public purpose, after all.