August 1, 2019

Debate Night II

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

In the second night of the Democratic primary debate, “the ideological divisions gripping the Democratic Party intensified on Wednesday as presidential candidates waged an acrimonious battle over health care, immigration and race that tested the strength of early front-runner Joe Biden’s candidacy.” AP News

See past issues

From the Left

The left argues that Booker did well, Biden cleared a low bar, and Harris did not rise to meet expectations.

“The New Jersey senator had a very good debate. Aside from his dumb derision directed at so-called ‘Republican talking points’… Booker was a happy warrior -- balancing attacks (primarily against former Vice President Joe Biden) with an optimistic demeanor. Booker spoke powerfully about criminal justice reform and immigration. And he made a very good point when he noted that Biden was trying to have it both ways when it came to former President Barack Obama -- taking credit when it works for him and distancing himself from the Obama legacy when that is more politically convenient. Booker has considerable natural gifts as a candidate -- and they shone through on Wednesday night.”
Chris Cillizza, CNN

“New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker made an uncomfortable but necessary point during the second Democratic primary debate: The bar for action on climate change is higher than it used to be, and pledging to rejoin the Paris climate agreement is too low of a bar for presidential candidates… It’s high time to acknowledge that the goal posts on climate change have moved and the US will have to take more ambitious actions on a more aggressive time scale to meet its already tepid climate change goals.”
Umair Irfan, Vox

Regarding the Biden-Harris healthcare debate, “this is not an issue where either candidate is entirely comfortable. Harris has struggled throughout the campaign to give clear answers on key questions, like whether private plans should be permitted under Medicare-for-all, and her campaign’s new proposal seemed to be designed to settle those doubts once and for all. Biden, on the other hand, appeared to casually mix up copays with deductibles in one of his debate answers… The core disagreement between the two leading candidates on the stage remained the same from beginning to end: Harris wants to fundamentally overhaul the system to cover everyone and Biden wants to build on the system we have to cover many more, but not all, people.”
Dylan Scott, Vox

“Harris, for her part, was unable to replicate her dominating star turn of the first debate… She seemed more hesitant, and her answers on health care continue to sound unclear, though she recovered in the second half of the debate. Harris and Booker have the same problem: they need Joe Biden to collapse, and for the moment, that isn’t happening.”
Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine

Biden was . . . perfectly adequate. He wasn’t the most eloquent or stylish debater on the stage. He struggled to find words at times, he seemed over-rehearsed, he seemed not to grasp how texting works (‘Go to Joe 30330’), he cut himself off when his allotted time expired and, at times, he seemed stunned by the ferocity of the barrage — which, in fairness, was stunning. But in contrast to his lifeless performance at the first debate, Biden was energetic and prepared. He returned fire with fire and, for the most part, he held his own.”
Dana Milbank, Washington Post

“Biden isn’t the only one trying to have it both ways on Obama… The candidates were all quick to praise Obama the man even as they seemed to be running against certain Obama policies…

It’s surprising to see Obama almost discarded as a party asset, given that it’s been less than three years since he left office, and that he remains very popular—63 percent of Americans approve of him, Gallup found in 2018. More to the point, almost nine in 10 Democrats approve of Obama. The Democratic Party is moving leftward, and there’s a vocal faction in the primary in favor of more progressive policies. But it’s probably not a coincidence that the candidate who is tying himself most closely to the former president—Joe Biden—continues to lead the polls. To borrow a phrase, it may be that Obama is still likable enough.”
David A. Graham, The Atlantic

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right argues that Biden did well, and that Harris’s performance was underwhelming.

From the Right

The right argues that Biden did well, and that Harris’s performance was underwhelming.

The former vice president delivered his message compellingly and convincingly… On health care, in particular, Biden displaying his in-depth policy knowledge while also rebutting repeated attacks from Harris. Biden gave a strong defense of his pragmatic plan to strengthen ObamaCare, while the confusion and lack of clarity around Harris’ plan hindered her position… [But] despite Biden’s strong performance and solid frontrunner status, it is clear that the party has seismically shifted away from the centrist Democratic Party of the 1990’s, making his path to the nomination far from certain.”
Doug Schoen, Fox News

“While Biden was the go-to punching bag of candidates during the debate, he was not left speechless or stuttering to defend himself like in the NBC debate. And by ganging up on Biden, the progressives on stage further solidified his role as the front-runner.”
Amber Athey, Daily Caller

“The weirdest aspect of the attacks on Biden was the suggestion that the Obama presidency was some sort of right-wing nightmare, full of draconian deportation enforcement, Americans desperately yearning for health care and having no way to get it, a Department of Justice that shrugged at police abuses… almost everyone assumes that Barack Obama will remain on the sidelines during this primary process. But if Biden is the lone defender of the Obama legacy, and every other upstart is painting the previous presidency as a failure, maybe Obama will come out and formally endorse his old wingman.”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

Biden “has decided that you cannot beat Donald Trump with a program of open borders and killing private health insurance. And he is going to risk losing the primaries in order to win the general. Which, by the by, will strengthen his hand if he faces Trump, because he’ll be able to point to the real fight he had with the progressive wing of his party on this issue. He’ll say that he faced them down and won. ‘Open borders’ would come off the table as a serious Republican weapon…

“Harris got positively slaughtered on healthcare, because she now occupies a No Man’s Land where she wants to kill private insurance, but not for ten years. So if you’re the type of Democrat who really wants to kill the insurance companies, why would you settle for her? And if you’re the type of Democrat who thinks that maybe we should keep private insurance around as a fail-safe, then you don’t want what she’s selling.”
Jonathan V. Last, The Bulwark

Harris was thrown off balance by a newly invigorated Joe Biden. She was challenged over her immigration plan to effectively decriminalize illegal immigrant border crossings. She was challenged over her record as California attorney general. There, Tulsi Gabbard went for the jugular on Harris' record with regards to drug crimes and sentence length… Repeatedly challenged over her plan's removal of the right to employer based healthcare coverage, Harris was uncertain. She tried to change the subject, but it didn't work. And it didn't work for a simple reason: because Harris knows she cannot pretend her healthcare plan is anything other than what it is: a slightly milder version of Bernie Sanders' socialist plan.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

Trump won tonight… Biden looked old and disconnected. Harris looked nervous and unprepared. And all of [the candidates] moved further to the left in their positions… Over the past two nights, almost every one of these candidates has been so blindly focused on winning the nomination that they have completely ignored what general-election voters will think of the positions they’re taking. Most of them are staking out very liberal positions, well out of the mainstream, that could cost them the general election.”
Terry Sullivan, Politico

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“After adding in the ultra-millionaire’s tax and factoring in the other capital taxes Warren wants to levy — on financial transactions, on unrealized capital gains, on corporations — we’d be asking every billionaire to hand over more than two-thirds of their total wealth over a 10-year period. If the government actually managed to collect it, their fortunes would rapidly erode — and so would tax collections. The plan might be a good way to smash wealth, but it’s a terrible way to fund the nation’s health-care system…

“If Warren makes it to the White House, and tries to pass a plan, the Congressional Budget Office will eventually attach more reasonable numbers, with more defensible assumptions, sparking an even more spectacular political blowback than the one that greeted Friday’s announcement. Outside of the progressive Twitterati, there isn’t necessarily an enormous constituency for spending $20.5 trillion to herd every American into a national health insurance program; there would be even less support for spending what Warren’s plan would actually cost.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

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