February 26, 2020

Democratic Debate

“Democrats unleashed a roaring assault against Bernie Sanders and seized on Mike Bloomberg’s past with women in the workplace during a contentious debate Tuesday night.” AP News

Read the full transcript of the debate here. CBS News

See past issues

From the Left

The left argues that Sanders successfully defended himself, and that the debate is unlikely to change many minds.

“I would not say that any of the candidates had a breakout moment or a great zinger, but none of them suffered a huge mistake either. I don’t expect that anyone will move up or down in the polls very much based on their performance tonight… [Sanders] took more hits than he did last time, but not as many as I thought he would. Warren still pulled her punches, saying only that she could get things done better than Bernie. Klobuchar said pretty much the same thing. Bloomberg hit Bernie hard early on, but I’m not sure anyone noticed.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

“[Compared to her treatment of Bloomberg] Warren treaded much more lightly with Sanders, although she did draw more of a contrast with him than she has in the past. ‘Bernie and I agree on a lot of things, but I think I would make a better president than Bernie,’ she said, explaining that she’s had more success in the fights she’s waged, such as pushing for the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She said their plans for Medicare for All were similar, but his ‘doesn't show enough about how we’re going to pay for it.’ ‘I dug in,’ Warren continued. ‘I did the work, and then Bernie's team trashed me for it. We need a president who is going to dig in, do the hard work, and actually get it done.’ It was a clear shot, but like so many of the attacks leveled against Sanders tonight, it was a glancing blow. For Warren, as for the others, it might have come too late.”
Russell Berman, The Atlantic

“By far Sanders’s most vulnerable moment came when Norah O’Donnell brought up Sanders’s kind words for Cuban literacy programs. Like many leftists, Sanders expressed heavily caveated solidarity for leftist regimes like Fidel Castro and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua in the 1980s, especially when those regimes were being threatened by right-wing authoritarian movements backed by the US…

“[Sanders gave] a satisfactory explanation of his comments on Cuba, situating them in the context of former President Barack Obama’s historic opening to the country. ‘Of course you have a dictatorship in Cuba. I said what Barack Obama said in terms of Cuba, that Cuba made progress on education,’ Sanders said. ‘Occasionally, it might be a good idea to be honest about American foreign policy, and that includes the fact that America has overthrown governments all over the world in Chile, in Guatemala, in Iran.’ ‘Being honest’ about topics that politicians aren’t typically honest about is at the core of Sanders’s appeal as a candidate, and he showed he could take the same approach when asked about Cuba. It was a good audition for the general, and crucially for a frontrunner, he did no harm to his standing in the primary.”
Dylan Matthews, Vox

Meanwhile, “Mayor Pete made a solid, regular case for just about every solid, regular subject. If this were a contest in sounding reasonable, then Buttigieg would run away with the contest. But the metronomic mayor regulates his beat a little too precisely to have a true pulse… Yes, he admitted, there was a progressive majority. ‘But, also, there’s a majority of the American people who I think right now just want to be able to turn on the TV, see their president, and actually feel their blood pressure go down a little bit, instead of up through the roof.’ It takes a peculiar love of reason to think you can campaign against passion by pushing for lower blood pressure. Don’t get too excited now.”
Richard Wolffe, The Guardian

Some argue that “The former South Bend, Indiana, mayor was at his absolute best in this debate. He found several occasions to make direct contrasts with Bernie Sanders -- most notably on the dangers for Democrats of nominating a democratic socialist and the differences in their health care plans -- which is a win in and of itself. Buttigieg also flashed a sense of humor when plugging his website to encourage donations, which was a welcome moment of levity in a debate defined by people shouting at one another at very close range. If voters were looking for a Sanders alternative who looked like he could be commander in chief in this debate, Buttigieg made a very good case for himself.”
Chris Cillizza, CNN

Finally, “By the metrics of shoring up his base, Biden did well. He was forceful and on message. He won much applause for his promise to appoint an African American woman to the Supreme Court. He kept alluding to his record as Obama’s vice president and his experience on the world stage. Biden made the case for himself as a tough, experienced, and trustworthy leader.”
Jeet Heer, The Nation

From the Right

The right argues that the attacks on Sanders were mostly ineffective, leaving him as the frontrunner.

The right argues that the attacks on Sanders were mostly ineffective, leaving him as the frontrunner.

“The Democratic contenders finally realized that they need to aim their fire at Bernie Sanders, rather than on their fellow trailers. Even Buttigieg and Kloubuchar were able to resist skewering each other. Only Elizabeth Warren seems not to have received the memo. She continued to savage Michael Bloomberg. Why she thinks this will help salvage her failing campaign is beyond me…

“As for the attacks on Sanders, I question whether they will set him back much. For one thing, most of the attacks centered on electability. The argument wasn’t so much that Sanders is wrong on policy, but rather that the boldness of his proposals make him unelectable and will bring down Democratic congressional candidates. Sanders deflected this line of attack by citing polls that show him running ahead of President Trump. Moreover, many Democrats admire Sanders for his boldness, just as they did in 2016.”
Paul Mirengoff, Power Line Blog

“Another reason Sanders made it through the night: the nature of the criticisms of him. Attacking him from the left, as Biden did on guns, may score a debate point but isn’t going to convince people that Biden is the more committed progressive. Sanders owns that territory. While Biden’s attack on Sanders over his praise for the Cuban government was correct in its gist — he has been an apologist and contextualizer for left-wing dictators — the details were mistaken and won’t hold up as the argument is litigated in coming days. Like Donald Trump in 2016, Sanders is also in the enviable position of being able to tell the voters he’s courting that all the attacks on him are just proof that he is upsetting the establishment…

“For the most part, Sanders was able to avoid getting stuck defending himself. He answered nearly every criticism by returning to a familiar riff about billionaires. (He’s against them.) That tack won’t work if he’s the nominee. Voters at large are much more hostile to socialism, at home and abroad, than Democratic voters are. But it was enough to keep him just as secure in the front-runner position as he was [at] the start of the night.”
Ramesh Ponnuru, Bloomberg

“Pete Buttigieg got off the best line when he said Sanders has ‘nostalgia for the revolution politics of the ’60s.’ He was the only candidate on the stage who had a strategy to try and derail Sanders’s momentum. He did what he could. But everybody else was just so lousy at it. Or, in the case of Warren, too wrapped up in her misty water-colored memories of her triumph over Bloomberg last week to pay attention to the guy who is actually eating her lunch — the guy who has every reason to think (no matter what happens in South Carolina) that he is heading inexorably for the center stage in Milwaukee.”
John Podhoretz, New York Post

“There were three moments over the course of the night when Sanders and Buttigieg clashed in a serious, sustained way. In the first two, Buttigieg tried to make his point with the sort of rational ‘Let’s talk about that’ lines that are his hallmark. And Sanders shouted at him—over and over. Until Buttigieg eventually gave up and let Sanders have the floor. The third time this happened, Buttigieg forged ahead and didn’t back down. But because he wasn’t willing to raise his voice, Sanders shouted over him and drowned him out. This is Bernie’s move. It’s how he deals with being challenged… But ask yourself: Do you think Sanders is going to be better at dominance politics than Trump is? Because I’m not sure I’d like his chances in that matchup…

“Biden was feisty and sharp. He showed voters that he’s a fighter and emphasized over and over the idea of getting things done. He hit Bernie early for having wanted to primary Barack Obama in 2012 and had a great line when asked about his support from African-Americans: ‘I don’t expect anything. I’m here to earn the vote.’… At this point, Biden is a clear underdog. But he sure looks like the strongest challenger to Sanders.”
Jonathan V. Last, The Bulwark

Finally, “Mike Bloomberg cleared the exceptionally low bar of, ‘better than last week.’ He had some painfully unfunny planned jokes that landed with a thud, and when the topics turned to his weaknesses like stop-and-frisk and nondisclosure agreements with former employees, he looked tense. But Bloomberg had some good moments, and he’s getting a bit more comfortable as the capitalist defender of charter schools and skeptic on marijuana legalization. The mood of the rest of the field is forcing Bloomberg to be the contrarian, which fits him… Bloomberg has few problems that can’t be mitigated by another couple hundred million in television ads.”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

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