Seven Ethics Observations On The Chaotic South Carolina Democratic Candidates Debate.

CBS hosted the debate, and its transcript is here.

1. Well that was embarrassing. I tried to find a YouTube clip of all the candidates simultaneously shouting,  talking over each other and waving their arms; I couldn’t, but I’m sure there are several, and I’m sure they will be used in Republican campaign ads. This group is objectively horrible even when they are coherent and well-behaved, but as I watched this debacle, I thought, “Boy, Facebook is really going to be cranky tomorrow.”

2. It’s not just the candidates who are to blame, of course. The story of the night was just how incompetent the CBS moderators were: timid, unprofessional, passive. In a situation like that, you have to blow a whistle, stop and warn everyone. You tell the group that if they don’t behave, there won’t be any more questions. You cut their mics if necessary. The moderators have a duty to do whatever is necessary to keep order, because the debate, which is supposed to help voters decide who our next President should be, is literally useless unless there can be an orderly and audible exchange of ideas.

Once again, the inept Gayle King was at the center of a televised mess. Oprah Winfrey’s “gal pal” <cough> has her job for one reason, and it’s her connections <cough>what is this in my throat?–and no other good reason. She’s a local TV news mediocrity elevated  beyond her merits, an example of the Peter Principle in action with a the ugly element of unethical influence added.

Usually the impact of King’s  glaring lack of ability is minimal, but in a case like this it does actual damage. Ann Althouse picked up on one example last night that annoyed me as well. Late in the debate, the moderators again asked the seven candidates to take a break from shouting over each other, and Joe Biden said, “Why am I stopping? No one else stops. It’s my Catholic school training.”

…Gayle King responds, “Vice President Biden, you’re a gentleman. Good home training. Thank you, sir.” But Joe Biden doesn’t want to be Gayle King’s good little boy. He says, “Yeah, gentlemen don’t get very well treated up here.”

 Good home training. Ridiculous. Biden was making a criticism — “Why am I stopping? No one else stops. It’s my Catholic school training” — a justified criticism, and Gayle King understood or pretended to understand that to be supportive of her and justifying her bonding with Biden, like the 2 of them are well bred and polite, but he cut her off.

“Gentlemen don’t get very well treated up here” — that’s superficially polite, not telling King she’s not doing her job, but the treatment in question is from the moderators.

He’s saying: I have been polite and gracious, but you’ve presided over an event where rudeness wins. Catholic school may have taught me good behavior, but you, Gayle King, are teaching bad behavior.

… it’s interesting that King changed “Catholic school training” to “home training.” She cleaned the religion out of it for him. She erased his Catholic identity. And if it’s home training, the implication is domestication by a woman.

3. CBS allowing the audience to applaud and cheer was also incompetent as well as irresponsible. A judge would have cleared the court. Audience theatrics add literally nothing to the debates, and do considerable damage. There should be no audience. The crowd interruptions waste time and distort the TV viewers’ perception: this is why sitcoms had laugh tracks for all those years, and why TV productions with live audiences still have “applause” signs.

4. Why was Tom Steyer back on the stage? I don’t care what the technical rules  are; the Democrats already proved that they can change them at will when they waived the small donor requirements to get Bloomberg into the debates.  The more jabbering candidates on stage, the less time there is for the plausible candidates to reveal their assets or lack of them. Steyer is a wealthy anti-Trump fanatic who has been claiming that the President should be impeached for more than a year.  He has no qualifications, no relevant experience, no appeal, and no chance. What he has is lots of money to influence people with: yesterday it was revealed that Steyer rents his campaign headquarters in South Carolina from the daughter of Representative James Clyburn, the state’s most powerful Democrat  whose endorsement before this weekend’s primary all the candidates are desperately seeking.

A coincidence, I’m sure.

Not that it matters, but Steyer also said, “I believe I’m the only person on this stage who believes in reparations for slavery,’ as if that’s a good thing. It also misrepresented the facts:  Senator Warren also supports reparations or says she does. With Liz, you never know.

But Steyer’s statement was not false, as several of the factcheckers claimed last night. He only said he believed he was the only supporter of reparations. I assume that is true.

4. And speaking of “all he has is money”: Michael Bloomberg was marginally better than he was in last week’s debate, but that’s only because he couldn’t have been worse. You know , there’s a lot money can’t buy, like happiness, and one of the things it can’t buy is a personality. Bloomberg has a flat delivery and an annoying voice. His eyes dart around while he’s talking. They used to say that George H.W. Bush was uncomfortable speaking and in personal experiences; Bloomberg makes him seem like Tony Orlando.

Last night, Bloomberg seemed to accept what his only virtue is, and he seems to think it will be enough for Democrats. As the candidates argued about their impact on Congressional races in November, the message being that Sanders’ nomination would hurt Democrats running for the Senate and the House, Bloomberg boasted that of the 40 net Democratic seats the party picked up in 2018, “21 of those were people that I spent $100 million to help elect….All of the new Democrats who came in, who put Nancy Pelosi in charge and gave the Congress the ability to control this presidency, I bought– I, I got them.”


5. No, Joe Biden did not have a “good” debate. This was the dishonest spin coming out of much of the news media last night, because good Democrats that all the journalists are, they want Joe to win the primary and stop Sanders’ momentum. “He looked Presidential,” said one hack. No, he looked like he’s looked for a long time: old, worn out, and weak. He didn’t babble much, but his reflex response to almost every exchange was to fall back on his resume and his connection to the Obama administration, which, it should be noted, wasn’t anything to be proud of, and its leader has ostentatiously refused to endorse him.

Some of Biden’s Obama-pumping was also false. I shouted at the TV when he said that  the Obama administration didn’t know about Russia’s election meddling “until after the election was over.” That’s a flat out lie. President Obama was  briefed in June 2016, when CrowdStrike, a private firm, concluded that two Russian spy agencies had infiltrated social media and other systems. By  July,  the CIA concluded a disinformation effort  by Russia was underway,  that Putin had approved it. Yet  Obama, as was his wont, did nothing.  A Senate bi-partisan Intelligence Committee investigation concluded that the Obama administration had been negligent.

And though it somehow was ignored by many of the reports, including the New York Times factcheck, Biden made the most ridiculous statement of the night, at least of those that could be heard over the din. While trying to blame Bernie Sanders’ various past pro-Second Amendment votes for incidents of gun violence (which is an idiotic thing to claim), Biden uttered this gem:

“A hundred and fifty million people have been killed since 2007 when Bernie voted to exempt the gun manufacturers from liability. More than all the wars, including Vietnam.”

Wow! That IS a national crisis, since the population is only about twice that figure. Biden’s spin-staff—what a job that must be!—quickly said that he meant  to say 150 thousand (itself a misleading statistic), but that can’t be right. Joe obviously believed the figure he quoted was correct, or he wouldn’t have said “More than all the wars, including Vietnam.”

6. As for Sanders, he just continued to spout his misleading propaganda, because that’s what Marxists like him do. Then they count on “useful idiots” like my deluded Facebook friends to spread the lies, like…

“What every study out there, conservative or progressive says: ‘Medicare for all’ will save money.”

No, Bernie, a single, much criticized study  published in the medical journal The Lancet showed that his plan would cost $450 billion less in a year than the current health care system. More  studies have concluded that spending would increase as his plan expands coverage to more Americans, and provides them with expensive new benefit  like long-term care.

It should also be noted that this kind of fudge, where a single study is called “every study,” is exactly the kind of misrepresentation that President Trump is addicted to.

500,000 people tonight are sleeping out on the street, including 30,000 veterans.”

The Washington Post flagged this one (the New York Times did not), but spun for Bernie (Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias!), saying that “the way he frames it is exaggerated.” No, THAT is a misrepresentation. Sanders’ statement is unequivocally false, by the Post’s own analysis:

His number came from a single-night survey done by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to measure the number of homeless people. For a single night in January 2019, the estimate was that 568,000 people are homeless.But the report also says that two-thirds — nearly 360,000 — were in emergency shelters or transitional housing programs; the other 210,000 were “unsheltered” — i.e., on the street, as Sanders put it. The number has been trending down over the past decade. It was 650,000 in 2007. As for veterans, the report says the number of veterans experiencing homelessness has been cut in half since 2009. Fewer than 15,000 veterans were unsheltered.

How is that a “framing” problem? Sanders said that 500,000 were sleeping on the streets, and the number is, at most, about 40% of that. He said 30,000 veterans were sleeping on the streets, and the real number is probably fewer than half.

There were other Sanders whoppers, as there always are.

7. In a useless segment at the end, the debaters were asked to name a misconception about them, and Amy Klobuchar said that it was that she was boring. This debate proved once again how boring she is, as well as vague and mealy-mouthed. With sane Democrats desperate for a more moderate candidate who isn’t Joe Biden to break from the pack, Klobuchar defaulted to lazy generalities like her explanation of how she could handle the Coronavirus:

And I think the answers, as president, what would I do, I would better coordinate throughout my presidency to be ready for the next pandemic and to prepare for this one… I would have better relations with our allies and I would support, because I know the vaccine is out there in the head of some kid right now in school, in Columbia, South Carolina, or Houston, Texas, and it’s investing in education, so we are ready to lead, again, in the world.

You know: better. Amy would just be better.  And if the vaccine is only in the head of some school kid (which I seriously doubt), then we’re all in trouble.



31 thoughts on “Seven Ethics Observations On The Chaotic South Carolina Democratic Candidates Debate.

  1. I’m wait for Bernie to come up with a 5 year plan that will transform the nation. I think Amy did nail him once good about the cost of all his programs which would be three times that of the GDP.

  2. I caught the comment that annoyed our Humble Ethicist and Anne Althouse. The whole exchange was astonishing. She unceremoniously emasculated and decatholiced him in one fell swoop. Nice, Gayle. Go home to Oprah.

    The other annoying this was the post-debate discussions with analysts and the candidates. Why, oh why, was a Democrat strategist on the panel of analysts asking “what can we do to secure the presidency in 2020?” Doesn’t that impugn CBS’s impartiality?


  3. Biden’s 150 Million comment made me laugh (I figured he would explain that it is a world-wide number, but his spin doctors had something else in mind.

    Klobuchar, on the other hand, gave me a conniption with her comments on how the boyfriend loophole allows abusers to go out and get an AK-47. She repeated something about AK-47’s in her post-debate interview.

    Okay, someone please reassure me that I am not deluded because they keep bringing up AK-47’s. AK-47s are illegal, right? It’s a machine gun, right? There is no loophole for machine guns, right? (except there is some kind of permit that allows museums, etc to have them, but definitely not the boyfriend loophole). Klobuchar might be the only one on that stage I would consider voting for, but that was just such a stupid comment, even worse that she repeated it later when not in the heat of the moment.


    • She may have meant AR-15 and just made a couple of mistakes. We could be understanding and chalk it up to accidentally messing up the letters and numbers.

      On the other hand, Democrats and their allies don’t seem to understand what different types of guns are, considering that everything from a slingshot to a Winchester .73 is identified as an “assault-type” rifle in news stories (kinda like tiny dogs with pointed ears always being mistaken for pit bulls), so it is possible that Amy just assumes the AR-15 and the AK-47 are the same thing.

      • messing up AR-15 up in the debate is bad but forgivable; messing it up in the after interview (with no one even bringing it up) shows that they do not know what they are talking about.

        And, when they are talking about specific legislation, they should know what they are talking about. On this issue, she should know what an AK-47 is.


        • No argument here, but, as the interviewer likely has the same anti-gun agenda, there was no motivation to correct the error. And I doubt the interviewer knows the difference anyway. Which, of course, leads to your correct opinion that people running for President should know what they are talking about (and, by extention, people interviewing them should, too).

    • AK-47 is a blanket colloquial term that can cover all types of rifles that have lineage with the Russian Avtomat Kalashikova. A military spec AKM or AK-74 (diffirent calibers), which have automatic fire, would be illegal to buy, if you don’t have a Class 3 license (that’s a federal license) and they were not registered before 1986 (year the law came out pertaining to this). What you can easily buy is an AK style rifle, that has only semi-automatic fire, akin to an AR-15 (as opposed to the M-16/M-4 military equivalent, that has automatic fire). And you can only buy that if you have the proper gun license in your state, and your state doesn’t have an “assault weapons” ban. Basically, if you don’t know much about guns, assume politicians talking about them know just as much as you do, if not less, and are fearmongering to whip up emotion.

      • You don’t need an ATF license to deal in Class III weapons to own one. You just need to fill out forms, go through a background check (that may take 10+ months), pay the US government $200 for the transfer of the title to the item (all NFA items have titles), agree to storage requirements, supervision requirements, paperwork requirements, and agree to let the ATF inspect your house, how you store the weapon, and your paperwork at a moment’s notice. The Class III weapon must have been on the ATF’s NFA registry before 1986 because machine guns made before 1986 were much less dangerous than those made since (sarcasm alert). So, see, it is super easy, barely and inconvenience. Oh, the cheapest ones I can find are about $10,000…or more than both my cars combined….not that I have been looking.

    • AK-47s

      If I remember right an AK-47 can be semi-automatic (legal) and fully-automatic (highly illegal).

      It is legal to have n AK-47.

      But for self-protection I prefer the mantra om mani padmi om. 🙂

      • She wants to expand the prohibited persons language blocking firearm ownership by misdemeanor domestic violence convictions to also cover dating relationships, not just domestic relationships.

        It’s where ‘believe all women’ interests with ‘guns bad’, and ‘people will look evil if they oppose me’.

      • Certain people think it’s wrong that “domestic violence” charges cover only domestic relationships – typically people who live together, are married, share a child, or at least used to have such a connection. Our society holds that such relationships involve special duties of loyalty, trust, and protection, and therefore violence within a domestic relationship not only merits enhanced punishment, but is more predictive of future violence.

        They want to get rid of that distinction. Or at least, they want to expand gun control and they’re willing to get rid of that distinction to do it.

    • You can buy AK-47’s in the US. However, they have all been converted to semi-auto. This requires a different trigger group and a different receiver (without the scary and dreaded ‘third hole’). This means you buy a parts kit from a Com-Bloc country (with the proper FFL licenses), remove the trigger group and receiver, make a new receiver (that cannot accept a full-auto trigger group) insert a semi-auto trigger group, make sure it has enough US parts in it for satisfy the ATF, and ‘boom’ a legal Class II AK-47. You can also make a complete, ATF legal AK-47 from scratch with an approved receiver design and semi-auto trigger group.

      Don’t ask me how I know…I just know these things. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

      • So, Michael R., is this what you inferred Ms. Klobuchar to mean?

        Good to know that she resisted the urge to talk down to her audience and presumed they were aware she meant a Class II AK-47.

        Of course that would mean she presumed I understood all of this too. Now, doesn’t she look foolish!


        • Honestly, I presumed that she meant she was on-board with the total disarming of the US population, the elimination of the second amendment, and the end to individual rights as citizens so we can better be dictated and controlled by our ‘leaders’. That appears to be the official Democratic Party position.

          There is no rational argument for banning guns from law-abiding citizens in this country. There is less than no argument that we need to ban ‘assault rifles’. Long guns (all rifles and shotguns) are used in less than 300 murders each year, putting them lower in number than hammers and other blunt objects. Over 80% of our murders are gang related. Less than 5% with legally owned weapons. All gun control is focused ONLY on legally owned weapons. If you actually had a problem, why would you focus all your energy on 5% (actually less) of the problem and ignore the other 95%? If your roof was leaking, why would you spend tens of thousands of dollars on fans and dehumidifiers for your carpet while ignoring the leak in the roof? If 1 million people are 95% of your problem, why would you instead focus on over 100 million people and 400 million guns and intentionally ignore those 1 million people? So, all these ‘gun control’ people are lying about what they want. They don’t care about murders, look at Chicago murders with great gun control. They want control.

          In Virginia, the legislature thought they were going to completely eliminate firearms from the state. They were planning on cutting power and communications county by county to facilitate a house-by-house confiscation effort. The next bill in the pipe after the gun-control measures was a bill to make criticizing elected officials illegal. That last bill gave the Virginia Capitol Police statewide jurisdiction to investigate and arrest people under the act. That is the kind of thing I assumed she is trying to implement.

  4. One thing I noticed about the crowd applause was that they were boo-ing Warren and Sanders, and cheering for Bloomberg and Biden. Now…. Let’s be real, when you’re shelling out $2000 for a ticket, you probably aren’t actively cheering for the socialist or the socialist-lite, but the crowd cheered loudest for Bloomberg… Bloomberg, who, as you noted, looks *really* weak on these stages. The conspiracy is that Bloomberg paid the audience, and I have to admit, I think there’s something to it. I doubt they actually will receive a paycheque for it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Bloomberg bought a good chunk of the tickets for the event and seeded the audience with friendlies.

  5. #5: Knowing Joe, it’s impossible to tell if his claim that Bernie supported a law that gave “absolute immunity” to firearms manufacturers was a deliberate lie or just more confusion on his part. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act did nothing of the sort, of course, just put an end to the misuse of the courts by the dishonest anti-gun crowd trying to force companies they didn’t like out of existence with unfounded nuisance lawsuits.

  6. Norm MacDonald had the best line about Klobuchar’s idiotic non-answer on the coronovirus question:

    “Klobuchar said the vaccine for the corona Virus is in some kid’s head in West Virgina. Find this goddam kid. NOW!!!!!!!!”

    Question for the commentariat: can any of you recall a field of presidential hopefuls, from either party, that was as bad as this crew has been at basic political campaigning? They are just uniformly terrible at this stuff, despite many of them having decades of experience playing this game. This crowd is just painful to watch – each candidate is more off-putting and uninspiring than the next.

      • Why is this the case? Why is there such a dearth of leadership in the country? Did Baby Boomers not want to go into politics? Why Nancy Pelosi, the Clintons, the Bushes (certainly W), Jesse Jackson and his entire generation of race envy mongers? The next generation doesn’t look too enticing either. I’m guessing people went into other things, like business or tech of various and sundry types. Things that don’t require you to grovel for votes and campaign funds. It’s really a problem.

        • I think that the nastiness of today’s politics drives away all but the most damaged people. The only people willing to put up with the bullshit are those whose desire for power over others overrides their distaste of the ugliness of the business.

          Another factor is the selfishness of those involved – the older politicians can’t bring themselves to step away and make room for younger people to move up. They cling to power long past their ability to wield it responsibly, closing off avenues for younger candidates to rise. Term limits would help with this, though term limits wouldn’t be enough to fix the system on their own.

          This time around, it’s been especially horrifying to see how awful and unprepared the “younger” candidates have been. Buttigieg, O’Rourke, Swalwell, Castro, Yang, Booker – if that’s the future of the Democratic party, the Democratic party has no future. The only moves that any of those candidates have seem to be to pander, pander, and pander some more. One expects politicians at the end of their careers, like Sanders and Biden, to be terrible people, but when those at the beginning arc of their careers are this terrible, what will they be like when they’re long past retirement age and still clinging like grim death to whatever power and influence they’ve managed to amass?

          • What is it about Baby Boomers that they refuse to retire? It’s a constant question I have. Why don’t they want to go fishing? Read books they never read in high school? Hang out with their grand kids? Spend time with their spouses? They still want to increase their 401Ks? Even when they’re over seventy and have to start taking mandatory withdrawals? Maybe Congress people are exempt from IRS rules? It’s just awful. An embarrassment. They’re still looking for praise and adulation? A few more thousand dollars?

            • In related news, I just read today that Hillary Clinton is going to start doing her own podcast. Why can’t any of these people ever just go away?

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