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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 9/24/15

Democrats Must Go On Offense

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Democrats must go on offense.
Democrats must go on offense.
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This summer Republicans have garnered a huge amount of media attention. That was true at the September 16th Republican presidential debate where they spewed lie after lie. Now, Democrats must go on offense and counter the deluge of GOP falsehoods and misstatements.

Unfortunately, in modern politics, it's an accepted tactic to repeat a lie over and over until it is accepted as the truth. By now, the notion that Barack Obama is a Muslim should have been discredited; nonetheless, a recent poll found that 43 percent of Republicans believe this untruth. On September 17th, Donald Trump had an opportunity to set the record straight when he took questions from his audience and a participant began, "We know our current president is [a Muslim]." Trump didn't respond. Two days later he tweeted, "Am I morally obligated to defend the president every time somebody says something bad or controversial about him? I don't think so!" Trump's evasiveness is self-serving as 66 percent of Trump supporters believe Obama is a Muslim.

During the Republican debate the candidates spewed a torrent of misinformation. A record 23.1 million viewers watched the September 16 program and certain falsehoods were repeated over and over. Because there was no direct Democratic response, the possibility exists that some lies were accepted as truth. Here are some egregious examples:

1. Planned Parenthood: During a lengthy discussion about whether or not it is a worthwhile objective to shutdown the government in order to deny funding for Planned Parenthood, there were several notable Republican lies. Carly Fiorina said, "As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape" Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, it's heart beating, it's legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain." After the debate, numerous sources confirmed there is no such videotape. Moreover, even though this was the most discussed topic in the debate, no participant mentioned the obvious: it's illegal to use federal funds for abortions. There's no reason to block funding to Planned Parenthood unless Republicans want to deny access to health services to millions of women.

2. National Security: The GOP candidates spent more than a hour posturing over who would be strongest on national security. Most condemned the Iran nuclear deal. Mike Huckabee claimed, "This is really about the survival of Western civilization." Neither Huckabee nor the other candidates explained how Iran with a defense budget of $10 billion (a fraction of our $600+ billion defense budget) threatens the US.

There was an extended discussion of who would be toughest talking to Vladimir Putin. Trump said he would be because Putin would respect him: "I will get along -- I think -- with Putin" and we will have a much more" stable world."

Fiorina repeated stock phrases from her stump speech: "Having met Vladimir Putin, I wouldn't talk to him at all. We've talked way too much to him. What I would do, immediately, is begin rebuilding the Sixth Fleet, I would begin rebuilding the missile defense program in Poland, I would conduct regular, aggressive military exercises in the Baltic States. I'd probably send a few thousand more troops into Germany." In 2001, Fiorina was introduced to Putin at a trade conference; there's no indication they had an extended discussion. Her talking points make no sense: the Sixth Fleet is the largest in the world and has hundreds of nuclear weapons pointed at Russia; America is currently conducting exercises in the Baltic; and we've 40,000 troops in Germany.

3. The economy: In the course of three hours, the Republican candidates said very little about creating jobs and improving the economic wellbeing of average Americans. The closing comments of Donald Trump exemplify this: "If I become president, we will do something really special. We will make this country greater than ever before. We'll have more jobs. We'll have more of everything."

Other than Trump's bloviating, the closest the candidates got to specifics was a brief discussion of raising the minimum wage. There was no general discussion and no proposals for raising the standard of living for working Americans.

In addition, the Republican candidates spewed misinformation about global climate change, immigration, vaccines, and other topics. Democrats had no opportunity to set the record straight and the debate mediators didn't see this as their responsibility.

During the debate Bernie Sanders tweeted his observations. After the debate, MSNBC and other liberal outlets, discussed the debate primarily focusing on who won and lost.

Democrats must buy a 30-minute TV slot, immediately following the debates, where they can offer their rebuttal. There, an authoritative Democrat -- someone not currently running for office, such as Sherrod Brown, Dick Durbin, or Elizabeth Warren -- could offer a fact-filled response, avoiding the candidate personalities but instead focusing on the true facts. Dems have to go on offense.

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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.
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