Mon, Oct 19, 2015 - Page 7 News List

Obama consensus rules Democrat debate

AP, WASHINGTON

If the debates between US Republican presidential hopefuls revealed hobbling divisions within the party, the Democrats’ first political X-ray showed a couple of hairline fractures.

The five Democratic presidential hopefuls on the debate stage last week in Las Vegas offered a relatively unified front on the issues at the forefront of the campaign.

On solutions, the differences tended to be a matter of degree. On US President Barack Obama — at times a source of considerable Democratic discontent — the candidates’ positions ranged from warm embrace to polite disagreement.

The sense of respect and courtesy was in sharp contrast to the public bickering on the Republican side and the recent history of how parties have dealt with passing control of the White House.

Democrats showed they are willing to embrace Obama’s legacy, whatever the risks. Republicans continue to struggle with the fallout from former US president’s George W. Bush’s tenure, with years of public soul-searching and animosity toward their leadership.

Under their first national spotlight, leading Democrats put forward no drastic reimaging of Obama’s signature policies.

The candidates largely pledged to build on Obama’s healthcare overhaul, preserve or expand his immigration orders and continue global climate change talks.

They indirectly criticized his handling of issues that the party considers to be failings of his tenure: Comprehensive immigration reform, gun control, spurring middle-class wage growth, cracking down on Wall Street.

Opposition to a Pacific Rim trade pact supported by Obama was the most prominent area of disagreement.

Obama noted the trend on Friday, saying he found it “interesting” how few differences emerged.

“I think everybody on that stage at the debate affirmed what I have said in the past, which is we agree on 95 percent of stuff and on the basic vision of a country,” Obama told reporters.

The candidates’ cohesion around Obama is as much political calculation as a spontaneous exercise.

Obama is popular with Latinos, blacks, young people and unmarried women — the core coalition that any Democrat needs to win the nomination and the White House. His approval rating hovers at about 80 percent among Democrats in recent Gallup polls. Among liberal Democrats, that number moves toward 90 percent.

Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton has started to pull away from Obama, making critical comments about his immigration record and his policy in Syria.

However, when given the biggest audience of her campaign, she promised to “build on the successes of President Obama” and “go beyond.”

She not only embraced Obama but also used his endorsement of her to deflect criticism.

The two once debated her vote on the Iraq War, and “after the election, he asked me to become secretary of state. He valued my judgment, and I spent a lot of time with him,” she said.

Clinton’s rivals also went easy on the president, even the one whose campaign is built on a harsh critique of his economic policy.

“I have a lot of respect for President Obama. I have worked with him time and time again on many, many issues,” US Senator Bernie Sanders said.

It was a softer introduction to his call for “political revolution” to unlock the government from what he contends is the control of Wall Street and corporate media.

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