The transcript is here.
This was certainly the most entertaining of the debates so far, not that entertainment should be the purpose of such things. The substitution of Trump-obsessed billionaire Michael Bloomberg for Trump-obsessed billionaire Tom Steyer appeared to alter the chemistry of the entire group, rendering everyone nastier and antagonistic, and to each other, not President Trump. Steyer, after all, was always a pure vanity candidate, and like Stephen Yang, irrelevant, taking up space, and clogging the pipeline for voters to figure out who might be the best candidate. Bloomberg, incompetently and hypocritically, was considered a leading contender by “experts” (incompetently) and Democrats (hypocritically) as he entered his first debate.
1. Bloomberg, as I expected but far more spectacularly than I expected, proved that he isn’t a top contender no matter how much he spends. The former NYC mayor stood there with a perpetual ‘why do I have to put up with these peasants?’ look on his face, and though he had to know he would come under fire, appeared to be unprepared.
Elizabeth Warren’s (and to a lesser extent, Joe Biden’s) crushing attack on his (terrible) responses in defense of his stop-andfrisk policies in New York City (a utilitarian toss-up, but not for a party in which racial profiling is considered per se evil) and accusations of allowing a hostile work environment in his business reminded me of Chris Christie’s merciless humiliation of poor Marco Rubio in 2016. In particular, Bloomberg was a deer caught in the headlights when challenged on his transparency and asked to release women who had made complaints in his workplace from their non-disclosure agreements. His answer– “I’ve said we’re not going to get — to end these agreements because they were made consensually and they have every right to expect that they will stay private”—was nonsense of the sort I particularly detest. No one who understands what a non-disclosure agreement is could respond to that with anything but, “Huh? How stupid do you think I am?” Bloomberg, however, was counting on the ignorance of the public. Releasing women from the deals they made doesn’t affect their privacy: if they don’t want to talk, they don’t have to. All it means is that they get to keep their hush money, and not lose it if they don’t hush.
Competent moderators would have and should have pointed that out, but you know—Chuck Todd. NBC.
Bloomberg started out with deceit—“I knew what to do after 9/11 and brought the city back stronger than ever.” He didn’t become mayor of New York until four full months after 9/11. His performance went downhill from there. Anyone who got excited at the prospect of him being the nominee after last night needs to see a neurologist.
2. I still believe that the ethical and selfless thing for Joe Biden to do would be to withdraw from the race immediately, since he splits the more moderate vote and makes a Bernie Sanders disaster for Democrats more likely. However, this was Joe’s best debate performance so far. He seemed more energetic, focused, and avoided his usual descents into gibberish. That is not to say that his performance was especially good. It was repetitious, almost comically so.
I began to think about Mel Brooks’ “10,000-Year-Old Man” routines. What ever the topic, say, “stop and frisk,” Biden would jump in and say something like, ‘You know, I went after “stop and frisk” before anyone here had heard of “stop and frisk”!’
3. Bernie Sanders never says anything new, but it’s pretty clear that James Carville was right: he’s a communist. He really thinks it’s wrong that some people make and keep more money than other people, and also seems to have the economically bats ideas that billionaires make it harder for everyone else to make money, and that it is fair to take away money that A earned and give it to B, because B earned less.
Bloomberg’s single admirable moment in the debate was when Chuck Todd asked the classic idiot leftist question: “Have you earned too much — has it been an obscene amount of — should you have earned that much money?” Bloomberg answered, “Yes. I worked very hard for it.” (He immediately undermined his statement by saying “And I’m giving it all away.” That made it seem like making the money was something that required remedial action. It doesn’t. He was pandering to leftist class warfare.)
4. Elizabeth Warren was attacking everyone all night, but had the ethical moment of the debate when Telemundo’s senior correspondent Vanessa Hauc brought up Amy Klobuchar’s inability to name the President of Mexico in an interview, a non-issue that I wrote about here. After Klobuchar stumbled around trying to respond, Warren came to her rescue:
Can I just defend Senator Klobuchar for a minute? This is not right. I understand that she forgot a name. It happens. It happens to everybody on this stage. Look, you want to ask about whether or not you understand trade policy with Mexico? Have at it. And if you get it wrong, man, you ought to be held accountable for that. You want to ask about the economy and you get it wrong? You ought to be held accountable. You want to ask about a thousand different issues and you get it wrong? You ought to be held accountable. But let’s just be clear. Missing a name all by itself does not indicate that you do not understand what’s going on. And I just think this is unfair.
Then Biden went into his 10,000 Year-Old Man routine, saying, “I’m the only one who knows this man and met with him!” Yeah, that’s nice, Joe.
5. Pete Buttigieg—whom I have little enough respect for (more about that in an upcoming post) that I don’t care much what he says—did utter a statement that should disqualify him for office. He said, speaking of illegal immigrants,
“We created a municipal ID program so that Dreamers and others who were undocumented were able to navigate everyday life. We stood up for those rights and stood with members of our community with the message that they were as American as we are.”
Then he started babbling in Spanish. The man is shameless. His statement, however, is a proud admission that he created an incentive for illegal aliens to breach our laws. They have no “rights” to live here, and they are not Americans as a matter of law.
6. For once, Senator Klobuchar spoke the most words in the debate, though it was close. This was the fairest allotment time of all the debates, though I’m sure it was an accident. Much of the Minnesota Senator’s words were taken up in spats with Buttigieg over such deathless questions as who has been “in the arena.” At one point she said of the South Bend Mayor, “He’s basically saying that I don’t have the experience to be President of the United States. I have passed over 100 bills as the lead Democrat since being in the U.S. Senate. I am the one, not you, that has won statewide in congressional district after congressional district.”
Well, he’s right: a Senator with no executive experience doesn’t have the experience to be President. That’s why Senators don’t get elected President very often, and when they do, they have a very mixed record.
7. At the end, Todd asked,
“There’s a very good chance none of you are going to have enough delegates to the Democratic National Convention to clench this nomination…If that happens, should the person with the most delegates at the end of this primary season be the nominee, even if they are short of a majority?”
All of the candidates except Sanders answered that the Convention should follow the rules, which means that if no candidate has a majority, the leader isn’t guaranteed of the nomination. Sanders answered, “I think that the will of the people should prevail, yes. The person who has the most votes should become the nominee.”
Except that if that person doesn’t have a majority, his nomination isn’t “the will of the people.”