Post-Town Hall CNN Panel Hail ‘Slam Dunk Contest’; ‘Amazed’ at the ‘Energy’ On-Stage

Eager to chime in after Monday night’s CNN Iowa Democratic presidential town hall, the cast assembled on CNN Tonight gushed over how it was “like a slam dunk contest” for the three candidates as Bernie Sanders “did a helluva job” while Hillary Clinton “knocked it completely out of the park,” and continued addressing critics who’ve disliked her since the 1990s because she’s “a figure of cultural change.”

Host Don Lemon admitted to the panel from the beginning that it was “very interesting” and told chief political analyst Gloria Borger that “Hillary Clinton showed up” to which Borger repeated that sentiment and hyped that Clinton, Sanders, and Martin O’Malley “had to stand up because they had so much energy.”

Lemon noted that CNN political commentator Van Jones was “chomping at the bit” to give his thoughts and thus, when given the chance, Jones ruled that all three did well with Clinton being “probably the best prepared person to be commander in chief maybe in the history of the country”:

All three of them were at their very best. This was the best I've seen all three of them. Hillary Clinton demonstrated that she is probably the best prepared person to be commander in chief maybe in the history of the country, but Bernie Sanders, if you are curious, how can this weird guy be surging? You saw tonight why. This guy has taken on the mantle of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, and unapologetically, she's done it with humor and warmth.

Atlantic writer and fellow political commentator Peter Beinart followed by quipping that Clinton and Sanders “were both good” in what “was a little bit like a slam dunk contest” because “[t]here was no opponent on the field.”

Clinton supporter and CNN contributor Bakari Sellers jumped in next to circle back to the feeling from Borger and Lemon about the “energy” on-stage with the addition that, as a Clinton supporter, “she knocked it completely out of the park, but I also recognize that Bernie Sanders did a helluva job.”

While affirming that she’s officially neutral in the race due to her role as a Vice Chair in the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Donna Brazile fawned over how “proud” she was “to be a Democrat tonight” with “three distinguished candidates who understand the issues, understand what keeps Americans up at night.”

Later on in the program, Beinart ignored any mentioning of Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct and cover up to instead complain about critics of Hillary Clinton having gone after her in the 1990s and how they’re similar to those criticizing her over Benghazi and the e-mail server: 

[S]he was saying yeah, people have thrown stuff at me, but you know what? I'm tough, I can take it. And then her answer at the end, why did they do that? They do it because they fear me because in fact I'm going to bring progressive change. That's an answer that Democrats like to hear....Do I believe that's a big part of the reason people have gone after her for so long? Yeah, I think, and I also think frankly a lot to do with the fact that she's been — she’s a woman. You look at what happened to her in the 1990s, a lot was because she was a figure of cultural change that a lot of people had a lot of trouble with. 

The relevant portions of the transcript from January 25's CNN Tonight can be found below.

CNN Tonight
January 25, 2016
11:06 p.m. Eastern

DON LEMON: All of them showed up, Hillary Clinton showed up. 

GLORIA BORGER: She showed up. 

LEMON: How did they do, Gloria? 

BORGER: These were candidate out on the campaign trail. I don't think they would have been as good in this kind of a venue, six months ago. 

VAN JONES: Six weeks ago. 

BORGER: Six weeks ago. Right. Hillary — they all had to stand up because they had so much energy. They couldn't kind of talk sitting down. Hillary Clinton came to play. Bernie Sanders came to play. You had a 74-year-old revolutionary there on stage, taking it right to Hillary Clinton, not in the personal way, but saying these are the areas I disagree with you on.

(....)

LEMON: You were chomping at the bit. What were you saying, Van? Going ahead. 

VAN JONES: All three of them were at their very best. This was the best I've seen all three of them. Hillary Clinton demonstrated that she is probably the best prepared person to be commander in chief maybe in the history of the country, but Bernie Sanders, if you are curious, how can this weird guy be surging? You saw tonight why. This guy has taken on the mantle of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, and unapologetically, she's done it with humor and warmth. Usually he’s on stage, you see him yelling and yelling, you can see now the charm. You can see now why he's rising and I think he's done the Democrats a favor. He has done what Republicans have done for a long time, moving the needle to the right. He has made it very, very safe to be a strong liberal, he is unapologetic progressive. 

LEMON: Alright, I want to stick with this side of the room, any standout moments for you? What did you make of it?

PETER BEINART: I thought they were both good. It was a little bit like a slam dunk contest. There was no opponent on the field, right? I mean, basically you had this space to yourself.

(....)

BAKARI SELLERS: Well, I was just amazed by - how much energy was on the stage. We hear about this — we hear about an energy deficit in the Democratic Party and what we saw tonight was that it was not there. I'm a Hillary Clinton supporter, and she came out tonight and I think she came out tonight and I think she knocked it completely out of the park, but I also recognize that Bernie Sanders did a hell of a job. He really did a great job in coalescing his supporters. That is why they support Bernie Sanders. You saw it there. He talked — every now and then — or not every now and then every question, he pivoted back to the billionaire class, income inequality. He is the most on-message candidate that I have ever seen in my entire career.

(....)

DONNA BRAZILE: Well, first of all, I’m neutral, so let me just start with that, but more importantly, I was proud to be a Democrat tonight. 

SELLERS: Exactly. Amen.

BRAZILE: I was proud to hear from three distinguished candidates who understand the issues, understand what keeps Americans up at night, and they were able to answer those questions.

(....)

BEINART: And then her answer at the end, why did they do that? They do it because they fear me because in fact I'm going to bring progressive change. That's an answer that Democrats like to hear. 

LEMON: Did you believe her? Did you believe her? 

BEINART: I believe that that's what she really believes. Do I believe that's a big part of the reason people have gone after her for so long? Yeah, I think, and I also think frankly a lot to do with the fact that she's been — she’s a woman. You look at what happened to her in the 1990s, a lot was because she was a figure of cultural change that a lot of people had a lot of trouble with. 

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is the Managing Editor of NewsBusters for the Media Research Center