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.