September 13, 2019

Dems Debate

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Thursday night was the third Democratic primary debate, hosted by ABC News. YouTube

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From the Left

The left focused foremost on Joe Biden and gave mixed reviews.

“Former vice president Joe Biden, still the front-runner, needed to show that his shaky debate performance in June was a fluke and that he has the stamina to go for three hours. He started strongly, ably defending the public option and indignantly insisting his plan would protect anyone with cancer… His weakest moment ironically was on Afghanistan and Iraq, where he tried to explain his vote for the use of force in Iraq and suggested he was for a partition of Afghanistan. (His plan was to soft-partition Iraq.) But two hours into the debate, it’s not clear how many voters were watching or picked up on the point.”
Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post

“The moderator Linsey Davis noted that Biden had told a reporter in 1975 that he did not feel responsible for what people did 300 years ago. ‘As you stand here tonight, what responsibility do you think that Americans need to take to repair the legacy of slavery in our country?’ Davis asked. That phrasing was actually a gift—a chance for Biden to pivot away from the sticky specifics of busing and make a lofty statement about race. But Biden didn’t take it. Instead, he offered a bizarre, rambling, and incoherent answer that barely responded to Davis, mixing racial justice, education policy, and a healthy dose of who-knows-what… Each individual component made some sense in isolation, even the line about playing the radio or TV: Experts say it’s useful for children to hear spoken language to help them develop their own. But the way Biden phrased it, complete with an archaic mention of record players, just reinforced the overall incoherence and randomness of his response.”
David A. Graham, The Atlantic

Yet “through hours of sometimes exciting and sometimes tedious arguing, no candidate laid a real hand on the frontrunner. And what’s particularly striking is that barely anybody tried… Julián Castro [was] the exception that proves the rule… The dynamic is an eerie echo of the scenario that played out in the 2016 Republican primary. It seems absurd to compare a loudmouth reality television host to the former vice president. But in both cases a candidate with a base of older working class voters leapt out to an early lead. And today Biden’s main Democratic rivals — just like Trump’s four years ago — are acting like his campaign will collapse on its ownand they do not need to take him on… If these dynamics hold, Biden could easily cruise to victory.”
Matthew Yglesias, Vox

While “[Senator Elizabeth Warren] was not dominant, she had the best performance and, more importantly, the fewest tough moments. Warren seems to come into these debates with a clear game-plan, lots of ideas and — somewhat inexplicably — seems almost impossible for her opponents to attack. If that continues to be the case, she reaps the rewards from Biden and Bernie Sanders taking hits. She’s also the only candidate with sustained upward momentum in this race. It’s difficult to see how that doesn’t continue after this.”
Aaron Blake, Washington Post

Others note that “[Warren] has provided more detail on Medicare financing than Sanders has. She has also provided more overall policy detail, including on the taxes she would raise, than Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg. And her Medicare plan comes much, much closer to paying for itself than various Republican tax cuts. I wish the conservatives complaining about her plan applied the same rigor to their own ideas… The biggest weakness of Warren’s approach is that it tries to bulldoze through the sizable public anxiety about radical changes to the health care system. Warren would not let people opt into Medicare, a wildly popular idea. She would force them to join… she needs to come up with a reassuring transition plan soon.”
David Leonhardt, New York Times

“Trump’s defenders will say this evidence is all circumstantial. But circumstantial evidence is not weak evidence: it’s simply evidence based on the circumstances in which an act of wrongdoing is committed — such as the license plate of a car that speeds away from a bank just after that bank is robbed. Criminals are convicted on such evidence all the time. They will also say that there’s no explicit quid pro quo proposal here. But… ‘even when a corrupt deal is struck implicitly, the government can still prosecute extortion on a quid pro quo basis. Circumstantial evidence can be enough to prove a criminal exchange.’…

“In the absence of an explicit quid pro quo over restarting aid, the context and circumstances are what will become the focus of the investigation. There is enough here to support impeachment. Whether it is also enough to convince Republicans and lead to removal is another matter.”
Noah Feldman, Bloomberg

Some suggest that Congress “remove Trump from office, so that he cannot abuse incumbency to subvert the electoral process, but let the American people make the judgment on whether or not he gets a second term… Removing Trump from office for the remainder of his term would disable him from abusing presidential power again and protect the integrity of the electoral process from inappropriate interference. At the same time, letting him run for a second term would permit the American electorate to decide whether Trump, despite his attempt to subvert the system, should have another chance… Decoupling removal from disqualification lowers the stakes and changes the constitutional calculus. As long as Trump can run again, Republicans cannot hide behind a claim that they are [the] ones protecting voter choice by opposing impeachment.”
Edward B. Foley, Politico

From the Right

The right believes the debate is unlikely to change many voters’ minds.

From the Right

The right believes the debate is unlikely to change many voters’ minds.

“I don’t think this #DemDebate will change a single primary vote – so, it was a Biden victory as he gets another month as the clear frontrunner.”
Frank Luntz, Twitter

“There’s an old joke often expressed well into banquets and conferences, where a speaker says, ‘We’re at the point where everything that needs to be said has been said, but not everyone has said it.’ We’re already at that point with the Democratic primary debates. Tonight was a three-hour ordeal, and candidates largely repeated the arguments they made in the previous two debates.There’s not much reason to expect tonight will generate any dramatic swings in the polling in the coming days or weeks…

“Reports of the dramatic reinvention or relaunch of Beto O’Rourke are greatly exaggerated. Everything he says sounds like a pander, including ‘good evening.’ He is still clumsily answering in Spanish. His pledge, ‘Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15s’ ensures he’ll never get elected statewide in Texas. For almost every issue, he shares an all-too-perfect anecdote about someone he met on the trail. This was the sort of rhetorical maneuver that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama did smoothly and convincingly. With O’Rourke, you can always see the strings.”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“It was easy to misunderstand Biden, whose undeniable energy was not matched by clarity. He gave an answer on Afghanistan and Iran that was so confusing Bernie Sanders accused him of opposing the surge in Iraq when he was talking about the surge in Afghanistan. Biden didn’t object to Sanders’ mischaracterization because he might have gotten lost in his own weeds. So did Elizabeth Warren, whose words, sentence by sentence, were perfectly clear but whose meaning was not. In a lengthy attack on Trump’s tariffs, she defended Trump’s tariffs. In another assault on Trump’s Afghanistan policy she basically said everything that Trump has said about Afghanistan…

“The best performance of the night was probably from Cory Booker, who made a couple of good jokes and seemed passionate and calm at the same time, which is what you want from a debate. But it wasn’t the kind of thing that changes the trajectory of a race.”
John Podhoretz, New York Post

“Based on what I saw tonight, it’s a two-horse race for the nomination, notwithstanding decent performances by several of the no-hopers — e.g. Cory Booker and Beto O’Rourke, whom everyone praised (a sure sign that he’s a no-hoper)… The race, almost surely, is between Biden and Warren. Biden, though his bizarre answer on Iraq could have gotten him into trouble, came through the first two hours tonight in good shape, I think. Warren was her usual polished, assured, articulate self. She has her script down. Corporate America is the cause of everything that ails the country. That’s her story and she’s sticking to it.”
Paul Mirengoff, Power Line Blog

It’s worth noting that “conservative ideas were much more popular when not associated with the Republican party. In Washington State, voters narrowly rejected bringing affirmative action back to state contracting and university admissions…

“In Seattle, the self-proclaimed socialist city-council member appears to have lost her seat to a pro-business challenger. In Colorado, voters gave fiscal conservatives a big win by rejecting letting the state keep any tax revenues above the state spending cap, money that the state Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights currently guarantees as refunds to taxpayers. In Sussex County, N.J., voters approved, by a 2-to-1 margin, a referendum directing the local freeholder board to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Washington, Colorado, New Jersey — notice these are places where Republican candidates have had no luck lately.)”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

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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