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Tue, Feb. 25

Editorial: Notes from the Democrats' debate

There wasn't a lot to hang one's hat on when the Democratic presidential candidates debated Nov. 14 in Iowa. I learned a little more about Martin O'Malley, the former Baltimore mayor and Maryland governor, but overall the candidates didn't do much to positively distinguish themselves from one another.

From what I heard, they agree with President Obama's approach to dealing with ISIS, generally support the Affordable Care Act, think the minimum wage should be increased, and back the standard Democratic call of closing tax loopholes and imposing more levies on the wealthy in order to pay for a host of things, perhaps most notably cutting or eliminating tuition for higher education.

Where they differed, they differed by degree, so Democrats pretty much know what issues their candidates will support, whoever gets the nod. But the front-runner, Hillary Clinton, has been rightly pilloried for some of her comments that night.

She was criticized for taking donations from the Wall Street finance sector. If she's in their pocket, the reasoning went, how could she support tougher regulations on them, or push for high taxes?

Her response: "I represented New York [in the Senate]. And I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked. Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is. I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild."

That's rich. Wrapping yourself in the 9/11 flag to justify campaign donations? Wall Street supported her because she helped them "rebuild" after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks?

If her campaign does go the way of her 2008 effort, opportunistic and insulting statements like this will be the cause, and Clinton will have only herself to blame. Someone with her political experience and resources, who has been first lady, a U.S. senator, and U.S. secretary of State, should know better.

On another note, I was pleased to hear the candidates separate ISIS, the Paris gunmen, and terrorists in general from the millions of Muslims around the world who have nothing to do with such barbarity and, in fact, are often the victims of it.

We should keep that in mind as we debate new restrictions on immigration and travel. Islam is not the enemy; the thugs who do violence in its name are.

Many of the proposed restrictions have merit, such as re-instituting border checks in Europe and re-evaluating how open we should be in continuing to allow some travelers to visit the U.S. without visas. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., has said he will work with Senate Democrats on that last issue, so we'll see what develops.

Then there's the irresponsible and revolting rhetoric on Syrian refugees. Everyone wants a thorough vetting process - and one is in place - but this is lapsing from reasoned concern to fearmongering that does disservice to America's values.

At the Democratic debate, I thought O'Malley said it best: "We are going to be able to defeat ISIS on the ground there as well as in the world because of the Muslim-Americans in our country and throughout the world who understand that this brutal and barbaric group is perverting the name of a great world religion.

"Our symbol is the Statue of Liberty. It is not a barbed-wire fence."

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