[I’m reviewing last night’s debate first, and will catch up on Debate 2A later today. The candidates on the stage were Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Tulsi Gabbard, Julián Castro, Bill de Blasio, Michael Bennet, Jay Inslee and Andrew Yang]
1. The most obvious point is that having 10 participant televised “debates” is no way to pick a President. It’s incompetent, it is unfair to all the candidates, the audience, and even the moderators, who have to make their priority trying to allocate time fairly among the ten rather than guaranteeing an enlightening discussion. and it highlights skills, or the lack of them, that have a dubious relationship to leadership and being an effective President.
2. If Joe Biden gets the nomination, it will only highlight how mind-numbing;y awful the alternatives were. Because his first debate performance was so dreadful, the spinners are trying to term this one a success because it was better, a non-ethical adaptation of Rationalization #22, “There are worse things.” Biden was as verbally chaotic as ever, but looked shockingly tired, enervated, and unenthusiastic, as well as just plain old. He reminded me of Fred Thompson’s regrettable run in 2011, when it was so clear that his heart wasn’t in it, and that his vigor had fled. Biden shouldn’t be running.
3. Biden still managed to utter one of the most unethical sentences of the night:
“I have the only plan that limits the ability of insurance companies to charge unreasonable prices, flat out, number one. Number two, we should put some of these insurance executives who totally oppose my plan in jail, for the 9 billion opioids they sell out there.”
Intentionally vague, misleading, careless and faintly totalitarian! Good job, Joe!…
- What’s an “unreasonable price” to a group that thinks that its fair to make insurance companies agree to pay for medical expenses that they know are coming because the insured already has the problem when he or she bought the insurance?
- As the New York Times detailed here, it is hardly just the big drug companies who have fed the opioid crisis. Major drugstore chains and Walmart, contending they distributed billions of painkillers. Unscrupulous doctors wrote dangerous prescriptions. There is also no supply without demand: many opioid addicts share responsibility, perhaps the major share, for their plight. Joe, however, with a blunt mind and blunt rhetoric, deceptively reduces a complex issue to “Drug companies BAD!” to pander, to inflame, and to keep the public in the dark. Or maybe he believes its that simple.
- [Update] My mind just assumed that Joe wanted to jail pharmaceutical executives for selling opioids, and I still think that’s what he meant, but who knows with Joe? Joe is such a muddled fool that my auto-correct failed me. He was saying that insurance companies are breaking the law by fulfilling their obligations? What IS he saying? Thanks to commenter William Reese for flagging this.
- Did he really mean “we should put some of these insurance executives who totally oppose my plan in jail”? I assume not, but since the party he belongs to is tilting more toward liberal fascism every day, this is a dangerous phrasing, because a lot of progressives would be happy to jail political opponents.
4. Of course, the competition for the most unethical or incompetent statement of the night was a fierce one. Ann Althouse, in her debate review, was especially annoyed by the reliably ridiculous Kirsten Gillibrand, who shot off this bizarre response to a question about how the Green New Deal (“which includes the guarantee of a job with medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security for everyone in America”) is realistic: “So the first thing that I’m going to do when I’m President is I’m going to Clorox the Oval Office.”
It was a non-sequitur, leading Ann to conclude that the line was a pre-scripted joke and she just stuck it in, even though in context the line made no sense. I bet Althouse is right. Althouse also highlights some other howlers from the gender-baiting New York Senator:
- “The second thing I’m going to do is I will reengage on global climate change. And I will not only sign the Paris global climate accords, but I will lead a worldwide conversation about the urgency of this crisis.”
Oooo, she’s going to lead a conversation, and sign the meaningless Paris accords, while “reengaging.” This could be used as a template for all Democratic virtue-signaling and grandstanding on climate change. It means nothing, there is no substance there, and Gillibrand still didn’t explain how we pay for guaranteed jobs with medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security for everyone in America, because she can’t. Nobody can, but maybe if these candidates keep the public sufficiently ignorant, it won’t matter. That appears to be the plan.
- Case in point: this Gillibrand statement…
“The greatest threat to humanity is global climate change. I visited a family in Iowa who — water spewed into her home, Fran Parr, it tossed her refrigerator upend, all the furniture was broken, all the dishes were broken, and mud was everywhere. That is the impact of severe weather right now on families’ lives.”
…thus continuing the false and repeatedly debunked narrative that catastrophic weather events are evidence of climate change. Anyone who makes such an argument is either lying or is too gullible and scientifically ignorant to participate in debates on the topic.
5. Then there are the outright lies that surfaced last night. Andrew Yang stated that Amazon is closing 30% of America’s stores and malls. Nobody challenged him, including CNN moderators Don Lemon and Jake Tapper. It’s not true. The number of stores in the US is rising, not falling. Malls are closing, but at a rate that is nowhere near 30%
Digression: Yang’s big idea is to give a thousand dollars each month to every man, woman and child in the U.S. This is a more grandiose version of George McGovern’s big idea when he ran in 1972, when he proposed a one time grant of $1000 to the same group. At the time, I regarded his embrace of such an irresponsible policy as proof that he was a pandering, leftist fool. I’m amazed that any candidate from the same party that let McGovern get crushed by Richard Nixon would evoke poor George in 2019.
6. Michael Bennet (D-Co.) wins some kind of award for demagoguery with his “Mr. President, kids belong in classrooms, not cages.”
Senator Bennet, Mexican and Guatemalan kids belong in their own country’s classrooms, not ours.
7. Another favorite meaningless sound bite from Cory Booker: “We have treated issues of race and poverty and addiction by locking people up rather than lifting people up.”
8. Biden had some admirable moments. Alone among the declared candidates, he was unequivocal about illegal immigration, saying, “The fact of the matter is, you should be able to, if you cross the border illegally, you should be able to be sent back. It’s a crime.” In another statement that appeared to support the traditional U.S. approach to immigration, Biden said approvingly that “we’ve been able to cherry-pick the best from every culture.” That indicates that he does not support the “let immigrants choose themselves whether they should live here,” which is the current Democratic Party position.
Biden also defended the Obama deportations, and had a strong, ethical, pro-trust, pro-loyalty and pro-confidentiality rebuttal when de Blasio said that Biden should have challenged the President. “I was Vice President,” Biden said. “I am not the President. I keep my recommendation in private. Unlike you, I expect you would go ahead and say whatever was said privately with him. That is not what I do.”
9. Ugh. Kamala Harris repeated the Dracula lie that women are paid only about 80 cents on the dollar compared to men. Nobody challenged this apparently unkillable fake statistic, that as been warping public discourse for decades. It was raised in a 1988 Presidential debate, and had been refuted then!
She also stooped to this bit of shameful evasion: when Biden correctly estimated the costs of Harris’s health care plan as $30 trillion, Harris said, “The cost of doing nothing is far too expensive.” What does that mean? What’s more “expensive” than bankrupting the country?
10. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a fringe player who, if she lasts that long, can be counted on to have to defend her long-time advocacy against gays, making her unacceptable to a core Democratic constituency, issued a powerful attack on the hypocrisy of Kamala Harris:
Now Senator Harris says she’s proud of her record as a prosecutor and that she’ll be a prosecutor president. But I’m deeply concerned about this record. There are too many examples to cite but she put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana. She blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row until the courts forced her to do so. She kept people in prison beyond their sentences to use them as cheap labor for the state of California. And she fought to keep a bail system in place that impacts poor people in the worst kind of way.
Harris had no rebuttal. She just defaulted to general statements that she was proud of her accomplishments as Attorney General.
The transcript is here.