The transcript is here.
I usually review candidates debates by examining the transcript with a digital marker, highlighting the statements that raised ethical issues and problems. When I went over last week’s debate, I found that well over 50% of the text was highlighted. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the debate moderators (PBS “NewsHour” anchor Judy Woodruff, senior national correspondent Amna Nawaz, White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, and Politico’s Tim Alberta) were generally professional and competent, avoided pandering, and asked some genuinely tough questions. The problem lay in the answers, which were overwhelmingly dishonest, full of empty talking points, misrepresented reality, and either assumed that the audience was made up of gullible fools, or were delivered by fools. There are too many quotes to pull out.
Time after time, a candidate who was asked a tough question simply delivered another talking point and refused, even after being prodded by the moderator, to address what was asked. For example, here’s Joe Biden responding to a question about “confidential documents published last week by the Washington Post revealed that for years senior U.S. officials misled the public about the war in Afghanistan. “As vice president, what did you know about the state of the war? And do you believe that you were honest with the American people about it?”
Joe’ wanted none of it, answering, in part,
“Rebuilding that country as a whole nation is beyond our capacity. I argued from the very beginning that we should have a policy that was based on an antiterrorism policy with a very small footprint that, in fact, only had special forces to deal with potential threats from that territory to the United States of America. The first thing I would do as president of the United States of America is to make sure that we brought all combat troops home, entered into a negotiation with the Taliban. But I would leave behind special forces in small numbers to be able to deal with the potential threat unless we got a real good negotiation accomplished to deal with terrorism.”
The moderator tried again: “In that Washington Post report, there’s a senior national security official who said that there was constant pressure from the Obama White House to produce figures showing the troop surge was working, and I’m quoting from the report here, “despite hard evidence to the contrary.” What do you say to that?
Biden again ducked the question and said he was never in favor of the surge anyway.
Bernie Sanders’ approach was to ignore questions and blather on about climate change or the need for a socialist economy, and sometimes both at once. The candidates were asked (it was stupid question, admittedly, but an uncomfortable one for the Democratic Party):
The Democratic Party relies on black, Hispanic, and Asian voters, but you are the only candidate of color on the stage tonight, and the entire field remains overwhelmingly white. What message do you think this sends to voters of color?
(My answer, which would have had me brought down in a hail of bullets, would have been “It sends the message that in America, you don’t get special passes based on your color or ethnicity, and you still are governed by the same rules as anyone else. And that’s an important message that, shamefully, some on this stage are reluctant to endorse.”)
Here’s Bernie: “I will answer that question, but I wanted to get back to the issue of climate change for a moment, because I do believe this is the existential issue.”
No no no. The moderator tried again: ” Senator, with all respect, this question is about race. Can you answer the question as it was asked?”
I certainly can. Because people of color, in fact, are going to be the people suffering most if we do not deal with climate change. And by the way, we have an obligation up here, if there are not any of our African-American brothers and sisters up here, to speak about an economy in which African-Americans are exploited, where black women die three times at higher rates than white women, where we have a criminal justice system which is racist and broken, disproportionately made up of African-Americans and Latinos and Native Americans who are in jail. So we need an economy that focuses on the needs of oppressed, exploited people, and that is the African-American community.
The current economy is benefiting African Americans more than it has for many years, but this fact, and it is a fact, was not just denied but ignored during the entire debate. Indeed, the spectacle was one long recitation of Big Lie #5: “Everything is Terrible,” which will apparently be the theme of the actual Presidential campaign once it gets going in earnest. Everything is terrible, you see, because Trump is terrible. Oh, it isn’t terrible? Just wait: it’s secretly terrible, and will get worse, because, you know, Trump.
This is an alternate reality, and the candidates seem to think their audience is so, so stupid that they’ll not only accept this dream version of reality, but also still trust the people and party trying to con them with it. (Did you know Trump is a con man?) From CNN (CNN!);