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OpinionColumnistsMichael Dobie

What you missed during latest Democrat debate and Saturday Night Live

Bernie Sanders, left, Hillary Rodham Clinton, center, and

Bernie Sanders, left, Hillary Rodham Clinton, center, and Martin O'Malley at the Democratic presidential primary debate Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. One of the debate moderators, Martha Raddatz, is seen seated at the table. Credit: AP / Jim Cole

Hillary Clinton was looking to the future. And "Saturday Night Live" dragged her right back to the past.
A wonderful piece of TV juxtaposition took place Saturday night on two networks in two states barely an hour apart. It started with the Democratic frontrunner spending much of her party’s presidential debate in New Hampshire acting and talking like the nominee, stressing the importance of defeating Republicans next fall, and invoking Donald Trump.
It ended in NBC's Studio 8H in Rockefeller Center with Kate McKinnon’s Hillary singing “I’m Dreaming of a White House” on Christmas Eve — only to be interrupted by Amy Poehler’s Ghost of Hillary’s Past, who reminds present-day Hillary that old Hillary sang the same song on Christmas Eve 2007 before Barack Obama crashed her dreams. Old Hillary warns against hubris, before collapsing on the floor when told the Republican opponent “they” might have to beat is none other than Trump.
“Oh my God,” old Hillary exclaims, “we’re going to be president!”
But in the midst of a two-Hillary celebration, Tina Fey’s Ghost of Sarah Palin Past materializes with a barbed-wire jab: “I should be the one giving advice because I got a heck of a lot closer than this gal did.”
It’s a tad unfair to compare presidential debates with skit comedy shows for their entertainment value but we live in a celebrity culture that includes politicians and comedians, so let’s just say SNL’s spot-on skewering was the can’t-miss TV moment last night.
If you missed the debate at St. Anselm College, you didn’t miss much. Bernie Sanders is a little angrier, Martin O’Malley is begging a little more shrilly to be noticed, Clinton is still leading and still stolid, and there’s no essential difference between them when you compare them with Republicans.
The best moment probably came when ABC News moderator David Muir asked Clinton whether corporate America should love her. “Everybody should,” she quipped, which drew wild applause.
If you missed SNL, you also missed the cold opener mocking the Republican debate four days earlier. It was filled with swift surgical strikes, from SNL’s Wolf Blitzer noting that everyone on the undercard lost, to his introduction of “poor, sweet Jeb Bush,” to Bush trying to mix it up with Trump, who revealed that Bush’s real name is Jeborah.
Bobby Moynihan’s version of apocalypse-now Chris Christie asked Blizter if he can answer a question “with a series of fear-mongering statements.” When the cast’s Rand Paul tries to complain from his last-man-on-the-right position, as he did in Las Vegas, Blitzer cut him off with a curt, “Sorry, no comments from the audience yet.”
The putdowns continued with Pete Davidson’s Marco Rubio, who was asked whether his fourth-place standing in the polls means he’s not resonating. Rubio smarmily observed that he is by far the most attractive person on the stage.
And when Bush tried one more time to go after Trump, by telling him he’s never going to be president, Trump responded acidly, “No kidding, none of us are, genius."
Because it all does come back to Hillary.
It was quite a week at the entertainment-political intersection, with ABC's Barbara Walters putting both Trump and Sanders on her most fascinating list, and eliciting from Trump the heretofore unimaginable concession that if he does not win the Republican nomination he will indeed be a loser. And the week ended with SNL’s brilliant dissection.
My only regret about the show is that, unless we sought it out online, none of us in New York got to see the parody commercial done by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. Yes, Cruz. The guy with the best pre-debate game face on those CNN commercials. The guy who smiles when he walks onto the stage, then banishes it.
Cruz bought ad time in Iowa during SNL and fake-touted an album of him reading Christmas tales. The titles included “Rudolph the Underemployed Reindeer,” “How Obamacare Stole Christmas,” “The Senator Who Saved Christmas” with Cruz himself pictured in the title role, and Auditing St. Nick (read in the cadence of “Green Eggs and Ham” — I will audit him here or there, I will audit him anywhere).
And, oh yes, one more title you just knew was coming: “The Grinch Who Lost Her Emails.”
Clinton is not the only one looking to November.