Look, Hillary Clinton won last night's debate. You can come up with all the really terrific and insightful things that Bernie Sanders said. You can pretend that dull Martin O'Malley had some kind of breakthrough. And, if you're really delusional, you can act like Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee are anything but the Dastardly and Muttley of this wacky race. Clinton not only won; she made it impossible for anyone else (like Joe Biden) to even think about getting the Democratic nomination.
Honestly, as the almost immovable frontrunner, it was relatively easy for her: All she had to do was not seem defensive and hold her ground. She blew past that low bar and moved into looking genuine and, unlike the other four on stage and every Republican, genuinely presidential. Last night, she delivered her best debate performance by far, including when she ran for Senate and certainly better than the battered, beleaguered, embittered figure she cut against Barack Obama. The reasons for that ought to be making Republicans shit blood.
See, after nearly three decades in the public spotlight, a good chunk of that spent in the cross-hairs of every scandal gun Republicans could load, nothing you can throw at Hillary Clinton is gonna dent her. She ran out of fucks sometime in 2008, and now, with no fucks to give, Clinton has become a loose, agile candidate who gives as good as she gets. When Chafee chided her on the private email server and moderator Anderson Cooper asked if she wanted to respond, her curt "No" was a goddamn brilliantly simple way to deny credibility to a bullshit topic. Once upon a time, Clinton would have overexplained herself for the millionth time. It would have seemed paranoid, as if she was cornered. It would have been boring. Instead, Clinton defused it by, more or less, brushing her shoulder. Imagine if her accuser was some Republican fuckwit like Trump or Marco Rubio, left sputtering about honesty and integrity while Clinton declined to engage. Imagine how small that Republican will look. Well, watch Chafee shrink in that moment and you get the idea.
You could look at the entire debate as a model for what the nation needs when it comes its political discussions. While the Republican debate stage was given over to petty personality conflicts, dick size comparisons, and whatever the fuck Donald Trump or Ben Carson just mouth-farted, in Las Vegas, at this debate, the focus was almost entirely on issues. The disagreements between the candidates were substantive, not what someone thought of someone's face. It might not be as fun as Mike Huckabee drawling his backwoods anal rape threats or Chris Christie desperately barking about how he gets shit done or Carly Fiorina lying like lies are air. But you could listen to the Democrats and think, "Yes, that is a rational position. I might not agree with Clinton on her approach to dealing with large financial institutions, but I don't believe that what she wants to do will turn the United States into a scorched-earth hellscape of groveling masses and fattened billionaires." Honestly, debates shouldn't need to have a moment where a candidate could turn to the audience and roar, "Are you not entertained?"
Republicans are shitting blood today for lots of reasons. Clinton gave the barest preview of the arrows she has in her quiver for whichever sacrificial lamb the GOP finally clusterfucks into being the nominee. Right-wingers are all howling over Clinton declaring that Republicans are enemies that she's made. Well, no shit. It would have been insulting to the GOP if she hadn't said they were her enemies. The raison d'etre of Republicanism for a good chunk of the last 25 years has been to be one or the other Clinton's bitter rival. So go fuck yourself with your sudden fainting couch act.
More importantly, though, Clinton tore shit up when she finally got to bring in women's health issues. Asked about how she'd respond when Republicans attack her for wanting to spend money on family leave, Clinton wrecked the room: "Well, look, you know, when people say that -- it's always the Republicans or their sympathizers who say, 'You can't have paid leave, you can't provide health care.' They don't mind having big government to interfere with a woman's right to choose and to try to take down Planned Parenthood. They're fine with big government when it comes to that. I'm sick of it." She continued on this passionate counteroffensive, "We should not be paralyzed -- we should not be paralyzed by the Republicans and their constant refrain, "big government this, big government that," that except for what they want to impose on the American people. I know we can afford it, because we're going to make the wealthy pay for it. That is the way to get it done." And not a single fuck was given.
Sure, Republicans are scared to death and trying to spin this all against the Democrats to make us believe one of their mental cripples or moral lepers is better. And there are fellow liberals out there who are whining about how quickly Clinton was declared the debate's victor. Give it the fuck up. She won on points in the old debate tournament sense. She won on speaking style. She won on approach. She just won. You can say you don't like that she won, but that doesn't change the fact that she won. She won because no one else stepped up. Sanders was great in that way that, if you like him, he'll always do great. But he didn't overcome Clinton.
The best thing about Sanders being in the race is that it has made Clinton have to do exactly what the Rude Pundit wanted from her: she is bringing progressives into the conversation. She is going back to the Hillary Clinton who didn't have to hide her liberal side for fear of offending right-wingers. She won because she has finally evolved into the perfect political animal, fearless, polished, prepared, relaxed, self-possessed. You might not like someone so obviously ready for the electoral games. But it's got its advantages.
Do you think that Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz or any of the other Republicans would have a flea fart's chance in a hurricane against her? And what do you wanna bet that Trey Gowdy is trying to come up with a way to stop her testimony before his worthless Benghazi committee?
(Note: Praising the shit out of Clinton's debate performance is not an endorsement. It's just an acknowledgment of the reality of the event. The election is still over a year away, the Rude Pundit's state's primary months from now. Let's see who is still standing.)