The democratic National Committee has been criticized because that scheduling its discussions at times as soon as few Americans are most likely to be tuning in, prefer last night: a Saturday before Christmas as soon as voters are out shopping, watching the brand-new “Star Wars,” or vacationing. Hiding the discussions is allegedly a plot to help the famous Hillary Clinton, who, choose all front-runners, isn’t eager to provide her opponents any kind of extra exposure. And indeed there to be at least one famous political junkie that didn’t bother to watch: Barack Obama.

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Hillary Clinton and also Martin O’Malley at Saturday’s autonomous debate.Photograph by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty
Obama to be on vacation in Hawaii, play a round at the Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course, if Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and also Martin O’Malley invested two hrs in brand-new Hampshire debating what each would execute as his replacement. If Obama to be conspicuously uninterested in what the 3 candidates had to say, the feeling was mutual. Astonishingly, Barack Obama, the first African-American President, one reëlected with a comfortable four-point margin and also whose approval rating among Democrats continues to be in the eighties, was discussed by the candidates just four times—once by O’Malley and also three time by Clinton.

When Obama to be mentioned, that was typically in passing. While delivering an strike on Clinton, O’Malley listed that she had a different position on weapons when she ran versus Obama, in 2008. When asked around a pledge no to raise count on americans making more than 2 hundred thousand dollars a year, Clinton claimed that Obama had made the same pledge. Her 2nd mention the Obama was fairly positive. “I think that we need to construct on the work-related of the policing commissioner the President Obama impanelled,” she said, after being asked about criminal-justice reform. Her final mention of the chairman was around how an essential it is the she change him. “I know how vital it is that we have actually a Democrat succeed chairman Obama in the White House,” Clinton said. “And i will carry out all that I deserve to in this campaign to reach out and also explain what i stand for and also what ns will perform as President.”

The White residence spent the last week before Obama left for vacation aggressively do the case that Obama’s 2nd term has been in history significant, and that 2015 was a year filled with accomplishments. White residence aides and also Obama himself hosted private briefings because that the push pushing this message, and also Obama capped that off v a push conference, on Friday afternoon, at which he bragged about his successes this year: the unemployment rate reduced to 5 per cent, salaries growing, a record number of Americans with wellness insurance, health-care inflation in check, a major climate commitment negotiated in Paris, a nuclear transaction made through Iran, improved relations with Cuba, marriage equality legalized in every state, and a bipartisan spending plan deal. ~ above his most complicated national-security issue, Obama insisted that America to be “squeezing ISIL’s heart,” in Syria and Iraq come “make the harder for them to pump your terror and propaganda to the remainder of the world.”

The Democrats running for President, especially Clinton, it seems to be ~ to have actually missed Obama’s press conference. Top top the economy, Clinton emphasize what to be wrong rather than what Obama had actually fixed. “At the center of my financial policy is elevating incomes,” she said, “because human being haven't to be able to get ahead, and also the price of everything, from college tuition come prescription drugs, has actually gone up.”

When asked about the Affordable care Act, Clinton quickly cited two facets of the regulation that to be successful, and also then moved on come the means she would improve it. She walk not mention that Obama had actually just signed into law a hold-up in the so-called Cadillac taxes on high-cost insurance money plans, a plan she had actually previously said was among the an essential ways in which she would amend the A.C.A.

On foreign policy, Clinton distanced herself even much more from Obama. As she has in the past, she noted that Obama rejected her advice top top what come do about Syria once the civil battle there an initial started. "I supported arming the middle opposition earlier in the day once I was still Secretary of State, because I worried we would finish up exactly where we room now," Clinton said. Her suggestion seemed to be that if Obama had actually listened come her, the current case would no be nearly as dire, an dispute Obama has actually said is a “fantasy.”

In another subtle rebuke to Obama, who has been greatly criticized because that stating earlier this month that ISIS had actually been “contained,” Clinton said, “I have a arrangement that I've placed forward to go after ISIS. Not to contain them, however to defeat them.” It to be a specifically uncharitable distinction to make, considering that the President’s comment about ISIS being “contained” was in the very certain context of the group’s geographic development in Iraq and Syria. Moreover, Clinton’s setup to loss ISIS is tiny different 보다 Obama’s, with the exception of her speak to for a no-fly zone, the useful benefits that which room dubious.

Finally, Clinton talked about American leadership in a method that had an awfully familiar ring if you’ve to be watching the Republican debates. Clinton strange took credit for a United countries Security council resolution on Syria, which Secretary that State man Kerry aided secure on Friday. "Now the Russia has actually joined us in the defense Council, has adopted an commitment that us hashed out a lengthy day in Geneva three years ago, currently I think we deserve to have those conversations," she said, without giving any credit come Obama or Kerry.

Later top top in the debate, she returned to the subject and also suggested, just as countless Republicans do, that Obama has failed to present American leadership. “And we finally have a U.N. Defense Council Resolution pass the civilization together to seek a political transition in Syria. If the United says does not lead, over there is not another leader. Over there is a vacuum. And we have to lead, if we're going to it is in successful.” probably this was simply a generic statement about American leadership and not actually an implicit criticism of Obama. But it seemed to have actually an accusatory tone, and also it accords with what is known around how Clinton and those around her privately assess Obama’s foreign-policy record.

Any candidate make the efforts to replace a member of her own party together President runs right into the issue of just how to grapple with the current occupant’s record. Over there is a organic tension between Obama’s attention in polishing his legacy and emphasizing every accomplishment in his final months in office and Clinton’s strategic should respond to the real difficulties that voter face. However if the balance gets too out of whack, Clinton threats running a project that seems an ext like a repudiation the Obama than one that defines her as his organic heir.

Perhaps things would be far better if the candidates watched Obama’s press conferences and Obama watched their debates.


Ryan Lizza was The new Yorker’s Washington correspondent indigenous 2007 come 2017.

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