Mrs. GorT and GorT watched the entire Democrat Debate last night on NBC. I can’t tell you how many times one of us was snickering or outright laughing and making a comment like, “this is pure entertainment gold.” Keep in mind, this is the ninth of twelve Democrat Debates and, unless you avoid the media and social media, you’ve probably heard what a mess it was. Let me break it down from my perspective.
We need to put this in context – these are six candidates who are vying for the nomination to run for the office of the President. The debate was held on primetime television on NBC with five moderators. In the end, I think anyone objectively watching it will be unable to find a President in that group.
First, if I were any part of the Democrat National Committee, I’d ban future debates from the NBC family. The moderators, particularly Lester Holt and Chuck Todd could not control the format at all even given that all of the candidates couldn’t abide by the rules laid out. This, in itself, should be telling about the candidates that they couldn’t follow simple debate rules. Instead, we got multiple occasions with at least two or three of the candidates arguing at each other (yes, at not with) and no one could make out what was being said or discussed. Candidates veered way off course from the questions asked with little to no course correction by the moderators. And finally, the NBC moderator questions rarely, if at all, drew out a discussion on substantive topics but rather focused on some of the candidates’ potentially problematic histories. Glaringly missing were any prods into Warren’s abuse of race to benefit herself, Buttigieg’s relative lack of experience at scale, Biden’s Ukrainian dealings and riding of Obama’s coattails, and Klobuchar’s temperment. Instead, it was focused on Sander’s socialism and Bloomberg’s various problems (stop-and-frisk, his wealth, and his possible mistreatment of women). The debate completely lacked any foreign diplomacy discussion save for a discussion around Klobuchar’s failure to remember the name of the president of Mexico. The brief section on climate change lacked any real substance and no challenge by any of the moderators. For example, the disposal of aging wind turbine blades, the environmental impact of the materials needed to build wind and solar farms, the explicit exclusion of nuclear power from the New Green Deal – all would have been beneficial areas to explore. And there were more discussions around “passing” various laws – many from the Senators (past and present) on the stage who sit (or sat) in Congress were this actually gets done*
I’d offer a winners and losers section to this post but I don’t think any candidate won that debate. I don’t think any of them carried themselves in a presidential manner. None of the distinguished themselves. Let’s take a look:
Elizabeth Warren spoke the most during the debate and likely interrupted the most. This was a change and she was more active in her participation but not in a good way (at least to me) as she was stepping on opponent’s times and cluttering the discussion. She had about a full minute more than any other candidate** She went after every other candidate on a range of issues and had some obviously planned canned quips to use. When it came time for her to speak about her plans, she came off as the grade school kid vying for class president promising longer recess, free pizza lunches, and no-homework Fridays. She claims that her 2¢ wealth tax would pay for free college, preschool, etc. etc. with a serious pander to minority voters on this.
Joe Biden, as Mrs. GorT observed, basically had one answer last night: “I’m the only one on stage who has done [insert topic]” Seriously, at least four times he used that crutch. Apparently, the Obama administration achieved nothing without Joe Biden. Biden didn’t engage on a lot and when he did, I would argue, he didn’t look good. He appeared to be struggling to remember what he wanted or needed to say. Along with Bloomberg, he had one of the two lowest speaking times – more than 3 minutes less than Warren.
Pete Buttigieg was clam and forward-looking but continues to struggle with a lack of experience at scale. He tried defending against that line of attack by Sen Klobuchar saying that the debate stage and being a mayor in middle America is still “an arena” but he isn’t dealing with the complexities and scale that a Congressional member has had to navigate. While potentially inspiring, Buttigieg did not distinguish himself policy-wise or in other areas. And he needs to fire his stylist for allowing him to go out half-shaven for the debate. It’s not No-Shave-November anymore, Pete, and the facial
hair stubble isn’t working.
Amy Klobuchar tried really hard to make this about putting a woman in the White House. She was second to Warren in total talk time. Every reference to what a President could do was “she” and on multiple occasions was very defensively making the case that she has the experience and know-how to be the President. It didn’t feel inviting or genuine but rather like a petulant adolescent stomping their feet arguing with mom and dad as to why it isn’t fair that she can’t stay out past 11pm on a school night. Apparently, she’s been the lead senator on a crap-ton of bills but I’m not sure that any of them really did much to address the top issues like immigration reform, environmental policies, taxes, etc.
Bernie Sanders is back to the yelling with the weird, jabbing hand gestures – gives me the shivers. Bloomberg delivered a good shot at Bernie over being a millionaire and owning three homes. Let’s put this in context with some data: as of 2017, 9.26 million Americans live in a household that owns a second home. This is down from ten years prior. Another statistic puts it around 4% of the country owns a second home. I’d guess that the percentage of three-party owners is 1% or less. Sanders admitted that he would levy an additional payroll tax – a tax that hits any working American – to help pay for his Medicare For All plan. Buttigieg did get in a good dig on Bernie saying that “ordinary Americans [feel] like leaders [aren’t] speaking to them, then I think that turning to someone like Mayor Bloomberg, who thinks he can buy this election, is no better a way to succeed than turning to somebody like Senator Sanders who wants to burn the house down”
And then there was Mike Bloomberg. I don’t think Bloomberg fared very well in this outing. He’s avoided getting beat up in eight previous debates and took a beating last night by his opponents over his wealth, his past policies – again, specifically stop-and-frisk, and a new attack on his past treatment of women and the NDAs he has with some. I think he attempted to rise above those attacks but he couldn’t. NBC directly targeted him through their line of questions. And simplifying the office of the President to a “manager” didn’t help his case. He talked the least and I think came off as nervous and unprepared for the attacks.
Liberal friends and relatives are on social media almost begging for the Democrat candidates not to rip each other apart as they try to focus on one thing – get Trump out of office. I don’t think NBC or the six remaining candidates did anything to help that. In fact, they probably armed Trump’s campaign staff with plenty of material. As one of our followers on Twitter tweeted, “It’s clear that Trump won that debate”
* Holy crap, we need to really look at our Civics curriculum in our schools. Even one of the local news stations had the following in a “can you pass a civics test” segment: “Who was President during the Great Depression and WWII?” That’s a history question not a civics question.