Tag Archives: 2020

Democratic debate — 9/2019

Uh, I thought this started at 9 p.m.! Welcome. So far I hear less interruptions.

10:47 p.m. Time to refill my water glass and read Elizabeth Taylor’s A Game of Hide and Seek. ‘Night!

10:44 p.m. Should Trump choose to “debate” Joe Biden in September 2020, he’ll destroy Biden. I can’t believe this is a point of discussion.

10:36 p.m. “Let me share the secrets of entrepreneurship…” No, don’t.

10:34 p.m. The crowd may have been too exhausted to hear Buttigieg’s Mike Pence burn.

10:30 p.m. And Warren’s lapses into autobiography (dollies?) don’t become her. She turns garrulous — to Warren watchers a sign that she’s running on reflexes.

10:28 p.m. Kierkegaard and his dad mentioned in one hundred-twenty minutes. The deaths in Biden’s family have given him purpose as a candidate. That’s his pitch.

10:24 p.m. Another half hour?! I may return to watching the Shawn Mendes-Camila Cabello kiss another six dozen times.

10:20 p.m. Please note the time. Not a single mention about abortion rights.

10:15 p.m. Biden babbles and corrects himself about record players and the number of words kids don’t learn (“Make sure you have the record player on at night”). Glad Biden’s aware of the spike in vinyl sales.

10:13 p.m. I admire how Sanders doesn’t shilly-shally: no bullshit lachrymose anecdote about Ms. McGillicuddy in the third grade.

10:07 p.m. “My kid’s school was so good that I didn’t need to be there for my son’s first day — I was running for president!” *applause*

10:06 p.m. Andrew Yang: “I am ‘pro good schools.'” About good schools….But he’s right about the perfidy of tests.


10:01. The Day After Tomorrow — an example of terrible art being more influential than good art.

10 p.m. …but Ramos compensates with a fucking question — at last — about the effect of climate change.

9:54 p.m. Ramos asks Bernie Sanders what’s the difference between his socialism and Venezuela and Cuba. He asks Booker whether we should follow his, Booker’s, lead and go vegan. Is he this dense or is he talking to putative conservative Dems?

9:53 p.m. Yang had a simple mission: say, “The Iraq War was bullshit.” He didn’t.

9:49 p.m. Biden on surge: “What I said at the beginning was that the fact that they were there, which we predicted, was predicated on what we said later.” Or some such nonsense. A salad with croutons, shaved cheese, and pepper.

9:45 p.m. We must stop assuming military service gives one a unique experience into government.

9:44 p.m. UGH. Warren mentions John McCain.

9:43 p.m. Warren’s Afghanistan answer is a weasel’s response. Pull out, sure. “We need a foreign policy that is about our security and about leading on our values,” in large part by consulting “all” our allies. Okay.

9:41 p.m. Helluva law firm, Senator Booker: “Merkel & Macron.”

9:40 p.m. Harris and Warren’s trade policy ideas weren’t bad, but the truth is, no one understands this shit.

9:37 p.m. “That guy in The Wizard of Oz?” Uh, the Wizard, Senator Harris? A joke by someone who never cracks jokes.

9:36 p.m. Warren: “I wouldn’t negotiate trade deals by myself. I’d negotiate deals for America with small farmers at the table, with human rights activists at the table, with small businesses and entrepreneurs at the table…”

9:34 p.m. As readers know, I like plans, especially Warren’s, as much as anyone, but to assume that these candidates have answers about China tariff policy right now is folly.

9:31 p.m. When Amy Klobuchar speaks about tariffs, she sounds like Andrew Yang applying for a job as a host at Seasons 52.

9:29 p.m. When Andrew Yang gets passionate, he sounds like the guy in Mulholland Drive describing the nightmare to his friend at a Winkies.

9:24 p.m. Commercial break. Unless the Warren and Sanders camps said pax with ABC News’ people, this is a debate surrendered to the second-tier candidates and The Gaping Cotton Ball Known as Joe Biden. Andrew Yang exists, like Jon Huntsman on the GOP side in 2012, to remind primary voters that their parties have fringe centrist voters who believe in common sense. Yang is too sane for politics. So is Pete Buttigieg. Amy Klobuchar is not: she’ll punch you for not seeing the wisdom in her addled moderateness.

9:21 p.m. Whenever O’Bourke speaks Spanish, he turns into Andrew Yang talking.

9:21 p.m. I don’t know how to rewrite the United States’ immigration laws. The moment is so charged.

9:17 p.m. “If you look at our history, over half of our Fortune 500 companies…” — Andrew Yang, interviewing for Publix’s director of IT.

9:12 p.m. Wow. In essence Ramos shrugged Biden off.

9:10 p.m. Biden is right to scoff at moderator Jorge Ramos’ comparison between Barack Obama and Donald Trump’s border policies. But few on this stage, Castro excepted, understand what the problem means in personal terms.

9:07 p.m. When asked about guns, Warren points to the Senate, corrupt beyond measure and protected by the filibuster. I’m not sure if she intends this, but this is the “systemic” problem stopping civil rights legislation outlined in Robert Caro’s Master of the Senate.

9:06 p.m. “So, Senator Warren…” Good morning!

9:04 p.m. Sure, Cory, “we have a crisis of empathy” in this country. But the paradox is you need a president to crack skulls. You ain’t winning by pleading.

9:01 p.m. I have not heard Elizabeth Warren so much as exhale in the last thirty-one minutes.

9 p.m. “Hell yes” Beto is going after your AR-15s and AK-47s!

8:57 p.m. Kamala Harris cracks an incoherent joke involving “Yes, We Can!”

8:51 p.m. Ageism, of course, but let me say again: Joe Biden looks tired. Exhausted. And no matter his “detailed plans” to “reform” the prison system, he wasn’t there in decades.

8:48 p.m. Whenever a candidate quotes his or her own press, they’re in trouble; it’s the equivalent of, “Visit my website electmartinomalley.com.

8:46 p.m. So far this debate has focused, almost desperately, on the candidates least likely to excite voters but most likely to excite assistant vice presidents of human resources at Target.

8:43 p.m. Cory Booker proposes a White House office when he’s president to deal with white supremacy.

8:42 p.m. Julian Castro has clever advisers. After praising O’Bourke for his passion after the El Paso shooters, he gently reminds the audience that the shooter targeted “people like me.” #shade

8:40 p.m. Beto O’Bourke signals that he’s aware of the NYT’s 1619 Project.

8:37 p.m. Why do we need someone “who has run a business” for expertise? Why do we still give a shit about this? Andrew Yang, without a tie, has swept in to save us all. Yet he talks as if he wore a tie.

8:35 p.m. Julian Castro, careful to give Barack Obama his props. “Barack Obama’s vision was not to live ten million people uncovered,” Castro said. The crowd boos. Gasps. Biden, querulous, leans into Bernie Sanders, who, in a gentlemanly fashion, throws him a life preserver.

Joe Biden and the Iraq War

In your weekly reminder that the GOP has suffered from brain tumors since January 1981, George W. Bush at this stage in his presidency had killed more foreigners than Donald Trump. Twenty-nine Democratic senators and eighty-one Dem representatives sided with Republican colleagues to give the president his permission slip. Among them: John Edwards, Bill Nelson, both long gone from the scene; Hillary Clinton, still the president of the United States, according to the GOP; and Joseph Biden. Continue reading

The persistence of the McGovern myth

As 2020 and the Iowa caucus get closer, expect to see Rahm Emmanuel and Claire McCaskill types bemoan the leftward lurch of the Democratic Party. Expect allusions to George McGovern, whom the Democratic candidate establishment despises more than the GOP as an Eeyore, a symbol of failure as profound as the substitution of Swanson’s English Style Fish ‘n’ Chops for edible cuisine. Continue reading

A reminder: Donald Trump is not invulnerable

I don’t often post poll numbers, but I have too many scaredy-cats in message groups and social media who need reminding that the president does not have anywhere near Ronald Reagan’s talent for projecting benignity. The opposite, according to Ed Kilgore:

There has been a lot of discussion in political circles about Donald Trump’s job-approval ratings, what they portend, and Trump’s Electoral College strategy for 2020, which doesn’t necessarily require a popular-vote plurality. But in the end, of course, the conjunction of the Electoral College with Trump’s state-by-state popularity is where the deal will go down….

….Civiqs shows the president’s net approval ratios being underwater (i.e., negative) in 10 states he carried in 2016: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin. If that were to represent how the 2020 elections turn out, Trump would have a booming 119 electoral votes. And it’s not as though he’s on a knife’s edge between victory and defeat in all these Trump 2016 states where he’s doing poorly: He’s underwater by 12 points in Pennsylvania, 11 in Michigan, and nine in Arizona, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. And there’s virtually no indication that states that narrowly went for Clinton in 2016 are trending in Trump’s direction: His approval ratios are minus 18 in Colorado, minus 15 in Minnesota, minus 12 in Nevada, and minus 27 in New Hampshire. These are, by the way, polls of registered voters, not just “adults,” so they should be a relatively sound reflection of the views of the electorate.

Which is why the meek coalescing around Joe Biden strikes me as a load of codswallop. Donald Trump is so loathed by suburbanites that no one on the left will repel them; at worst they’ll stay home, and these people — white affluent women — accounted for only a chunk of the electorate that mobilized against the president in November. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and, to a far lesser extent, Kamala Harris, have the policy and the charisma to chip away at the president’s feeble support. If Trump sees an uptick, blame white evangelical who distrusted him in 2016 but embraced him with open arms in 2018.

Just don’t underestimate the strength of social media psy-ops and voter disenfranchisement.

The media’s fascination with Trump voters

“But the press isn’t hyper-solicitous of the views of black voters,” Jamelle Bouie writes, proving what a tonic he is in a New York Times editorial page that publishes The Venerable Brooks and Bret Stephens. “Cable news doesn’t constantly turn to swing-state focus groups of black Democrats to gauge their opposition to the president. And Democrats in Congress aren’t worried about demobilizing a group that may determine the next election. Just the opposite.” Continue reading

Democratic debate #2 – Miami

11:06 p.m. Not a single question about today’s monumental Supreme Court decisions.

11:05 p.m. Harris, a better prosecutor than candidate. In June 2019, seven months before Iowa, maybe that’s what matters. Good night.

10:57 p.m. Buttigieg shouldn’t make such a big deal about his service. No doubt it was harrowing. But he ain’t wooing swing voters.

10:56 p.m. Is Harris the favorite of former Clinton people? She gives the tough centrist answers that Clinton was okay but not great at delivering.

10:49 p.m. “When I’m not changing diapers I’m changing Washington.” Swalwell’s line is the kind of execrable laugh line that his team batted around for days.

10:44 p.m. Biden should not boast about his Iraq War votes.

10:39 p.m. No debate should be more than an hour, and everyone on stage — everyone — is flailing about guns. Goddamn Biden said the NRA wasn’t the problem: the “gun manufacturers” were. But the gun manufactures and NRA work together. #smartguns

10:32 p.m. The biggest refutation of Biden’s racism: his constant referral to the Obama administration’s accomplishments. What he doesn’t realize: he’s taking credit for them at Obama’s expense while defending comity with Southern neo-Confederates in the seventies.

10:25 p.m. Williamson, claiming a career “harnessing” the dreams of people, cites JFK as an example of a politician exciting people. She isn’t interesting in elections, to her credit — she wants to sell books.

10:23 p.m. Harris’ embrace of the Intelligence Community is the worst answer of the night, just behind Hickenlooper’s lamentations against #socialism!

10:19 p.m. Bizarre. Every time Harris follows her script and attacks, she’s marvelous; when she follows her scripted applause lines, they clang. But they’re going down well. And what the hell do Korea, The Word of the Intelligence Community have to do with the Climate Crisis?

10:15 p.m. Wait what? Sanders doesn’t believe in court packing but DOES believe in “rotating” judges? What?

10:10 p.m. Outside Senate committees I haven’t seen Harris’ so-called prosecutorial skills until tonight.

10:05 p.m. Harris identifies herself as a victim of busing; Biden claims he “ran on civil rights.” I can’t make sense of his answer. Harris presses: “Do you agree that you were wrong to oppose busing?” Spooked, Biden has to cut himself off, citing time.

10:02 p.m. However, Swalwell, a congressman, got away with schooling Buttigieg and the latter blinked.

10 p.m. I’m not sure any white man can answer this question about the Wall of Mistrust at South Bend without causing offense.

9:55 p.m. Watch out, America: Chuck Todd is coming along to relieve Diaz-Balart, Savanna Guthrie, and Lester Holt of the responsibility of being sober, terse interlocutors.

9:53 p.m. THE CHINA CHALLENGE. “The perfection of dictatorship” — Buttigieg is coming up with wonderful Foreign Affairs articles.

9:49 p.m. The only candidates worth paying attention to this evening are Harris, Sanders, and Buttigieg.

9:46 p.m. Oooh. Biden flops around addressing Jose Diaz-Balart’s question about the Obama administration’s deportation policy (“Should a person without documents be deported?”).

9:43 p.m. Buttigieg has his best moment denouncing the hypocrisy of Bible thumpers on the right.

9:37 p.m. On Jan. 21, 2021, Harris promises to close detention centers, offer citizenship to DACA recipients, and would throttle GOP opposition. At least she creates this impression. Harris has been fiercer than I expected even when I don’t know what motivates her fierceness.

9:34 p.m. I’m….not sure what Biden said about health insurance other than agreeing with Buttigieg.

9:31 p.m. Well — I’m impressed. Every candidate says they’d offer health insurance to undocumented immigrants.

9:28 p.m. Marianne Williamson, author, understands the strength of the rhetorical flourish. That’s why she’s here. Can I trade places?

9:26 p.m. “We will have Medicare when tens of millions of people when they tell the insurance companies and drug companies” that “health care is a human right.” I hope so.

9:24 p.m. “The fact of the matter is” — Biden loves the phrase like a priest does his rosary.

9:22 p.m. “Relying on the tender mercies” of the health care system — Buttigieg offers the first lovely phrase of the evening. But his answer is technocratic gibberish.

9:21 p.m. Only Harris, Sanders, and Gillibrand raise their hands about abolishing their private health care.

9:19 p.m. Harris, caught in a crossfire, remarks, “Hey, guys, the American people don’t wanna see a food fight, they wanna see food on the table.” APPLAUSE.

9:18 p.m. It’s a maladroit rhetorical trick to segue from speechifying to policy data.

9:16 p.m. Well. Swalwell twists the fork into Biden by sticking the Pass the Torch line he heard thirty years ago into his back.

9:14 p.m. Rep. Eric Swalwell looks like the actor cast as Hugh Sloan in All the President’s Men: a conservative desperate to resist the hippie tide changing fashion. I like him on MSNBC though.

9:13 p.m. Pete Buttigieg pivots from not paying for college to raising the minimum wage.


9:09. Kirsten Gillibrand tries to distinguish between capitalism and the people who depend on rapine. She did it by injecting herself. I would too as a political stunt.

9:07 p.m. “The bottom line” is a dreadful capitalism-drenched statement. That’s John Hickenlooper’s platform. He worries about Donald Trump’s calling the Dems socialists. He’ll call YOU a socialist, buddy.

9:06 p.m. Senator Kamala Harris wonders why the GOP wasn’t asked about paying for their goddamn tax cuts. She didn’t say “goddamn.” Her expression and vehemence imply it.

9:05 p.m. “A job is about dignity and respect,” Joe Biden says Papa Biden said. To return dignity to the middle class, insurance must be affordable. He goes into a tangent about pure air and dirty water (Flint?). First gauntlet thrown against Biden.

9:03 p.m. “It is time for change. Real change.” Health care is a human right, Bernie Sanders declares in his usual stentorian manner. No one claps — a pity. Maybe they’re waiting for him to finish. He also mentions free tuition and eliminating student debt. Now this gets a response.

9:01 p.m. I’m proud that Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts could afford this fluorescent blue recreation of the White House even with the DNC’s help.

8:57 p.m. A refugee from the Bush II administration, Nicole Wallace admits to reading self-help Yoda, the honorable Marianne Williamson, whose books I remember selling during my three-year stint as a bookstore clerk.

8:55 p.m. Brian Williams picks on Andrew Yang’s refusal to wear a tie — for the second time. That’s the trend, you serial fictionalist. And it’s Miami.

8:53 p.m. Chris Matthews says — twice, in case you missed it — that Joe Biden must “knock out” the “socialist.”