Vegas Debate Thoughts

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The Democratic candidates debate in Las Vegas ended a little while ago. I watched it along with my friend Mark and while he had a mostly negative reaction to it, I found it . . . not a positive development, necessarily, but at least rather interesting.

One thing that was a slight improvement over last time was the nature of the questions, but they still kind of sucked. Asking Sen. Klobuchar "Why didn't you know the name of the Mexican president?" was a lame question and well deserved the rebuke that Elizabeth Warren gave the moderator for it.

In no particular order, some thoughts:

  • Sen. Warren didn't take my advice, but she did have a very strong performance. She opened by rightly bludgeoning Mike Bloomberg, who was vastly outclassed. Warren also jabbed at other candidates, some surprising (she name-checked Klobuchar a few times in criticisms) some not (Mayor Pete and his big-money donors), but more importantly showed her fire in championing Democratic principles.
  • Mayor Pete was the only one on stage that kept his cool the whole time. The fire worked for Warren, the calm worked for Pete. Even under attack he was cool and collected and parried reasonably well. That said, his centrist health-care talking points remain specious and his characterization of Sanders' policies as "burn the house down" did not help him.
  • Speaking of Mayor Pete, his heavy-mustache stubble made him look like a high school kid desperate to grow facial hair to look grown up.
  • Bernie was Bernie. As Mark and I talked about, say what you will about Bernie Sanders, there's never any ambiguity with him. He came under some fire for the actions of some of his purported supporters, reprehensible behavior, and I have some sympathy for Bernie there; a candidate simply cannot manage all that people do online, and even disowning those supporters isn't going to matter there. Plus, some of that abuse is probably being done in the name of his campaign but by people whose only goal is disruption. Pete went after him for a failure of leadership that allowed this awful behavior, and OK, he's got a point, but how much of it is really controllable?
  • The post-debate outcry over the truly inane question from Chuck Todd (WTF is Chuck Todd doing there anyway? He's a lousy interviewer) about whether or not the field should simply anoint the candidate with the most pledged delegates after the primaries are over even if they don't have a majority is maddening. You can't just have a simple blanket answer to that, the only reasonable answer is "it depends," which is essentially what all except Sanders said in response. That talking heads decry "it depends" as a shocking answer is absurd.
  • I'm really curious to see what kind of fallout, if any, there is for Sen. Klobuchar after this one. It seems to me that she didn't help herself at all tonight and did not react well to criticism. She even said to Buttigieg, "are you saying I'm dumb?" which was not at all what he was doing. The hostile defensiveness may not play well. I admit I don't know how much of that might amount to sexist double-standards. Dudes can be nasty and get away with it. But I think this was something else. I'll be surprised if she doesn't lose support.
  • There was not NEARLY enough talk about Trump. Especially in light of the continuing presidential crime spree and his spate of pardons this week, all of the candidates needed to direct their venom more in his direction and there just wasn't much there. This is on the moderators as much if not more than on the candidates themselves.
  • There was some back and forth on the "socialism" label that Sanders has made part of his identity. Most of what was said was stupid—especially from Bloomberg, who basically said anything other than unfettered capitalism was "communism"—and some opportunities for clarity were missed. Pete at one point invoked Denmark as the place in the world one is most likely to achieve "the American dream," but here was critical of the concept of socialism. That was a contradiction that begged to be highlighted and no one mentioned it.
  • Still way too much time spent on health-care policy. Yes, it's important, yes, some are better on this than others, but there are bigger fish to fry here and the moderate position always warns against "taking away" insurance plans that "people love." Well, if anyone really loves their insurance plan they probably don't love the premium. No one will shed a tear if they lose a private insurance plan that they don't like/pay a fortune for and in its place get simple universal coverage that covers them fully at lesser overall cost. Unless you have Bloomberg money, in which case it might cost you a little more, but you have Bloomberg money, so it won't bother you. The moderate argument is specious. If you want to restrict your argument against single-payer to Federal budget constraints, OK, that's valid, but don't bullshit us about being able to keep our shitty for-profit insurance.
  • Pete pointed out that neither Sanders nor Bloomberg are actually Democrats. Nice. That's a concern for me with Bernie; if he's President, will he be leading the party? He's running in the Democratic primary, but he's still an independent and will not become a Democrat. Bloomberg left the Republicans and good for him, but as Mark pointed out, he didn't change—his party left him, he still has the positions he had when he called himself a Republican.
  • At one point when discussing health insurance, Warren began telling an anecdote about being in Reno and for just a second I wondered if she was going to channel Johnny Cash and say she saw a man in Reno and watched him die. (She didn't.)

Some post-debate favorites from my Twitter feed...

Comments

  • Posted by Bill Harrison on February 20, 2020 (7 months ago)

    Great summation, Tim. I was glad to see Bloomberg challenged the way he was. We don't need/want a (real) billionaire who thinks he deserves his wealth because he "worked" so hard for it.

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