Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Live-blogging the November debate of the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries

I'll be live-blogging tonight's debate here. Keep reloading this post for more updates!

As always, I'll be doing this without being able to pause or rewind, so the quotes I write down might not be verbatim, but I'll try to keep them reasonably accurate (and I might go back later and correct some of them).

9:03 - Rachel Maddow lobs a softball to Elizabeth Warren: if President Trump is impeached, would she try to convince other Senators to convict him? "Of course!"

9:05 - Amy Klobuchar says Trump engaged in "impeachable conduct," but sounds more circumspect about how she'd proceed as a Senator if Trump is impeached.

9:06 - Bernie Sanders: "We cannot simply be consumed by Donald Trump, because if we are, you know what? We're gonna lose the election!"

9:08 - Pete Buttigieg on Trump's impeachable conduct: "The president's already confessed to it on television!"

9:10 - Joe Biden is asked about the impeachment investigation's focus on him and his son, Hunter Biden. He tries to turn this to advantage: "Donald Trump doesn't want me to be the nominee," and "Vladimir Putin doesn't want me to be president."

9:13 - Warren is asked how she'll bring people together, and she claims she'd somehow do that with a "2 cent" wealth tax. She oddly uses the word "cent" to mean "percent."

9:14 - Cory Booker is asked what he thinks of Warren's wealth tax, which he disagrees with. Instead he'd raise the estate tax and capital gains taxes. This gives Warren the right to give a long answer defending her policy. This seems like a setup by MSNBC to give extra time to Warren: the moderator's question essentially invited Booker to attack Warren by name. Then Booker has a right to respond to Warren, and that gives Warren a chance to talk for the 4th time tonight, while other candidates haven't gotten to speak at all.

9:19 - Buttigieg says his "Medicare for all who want it" plan would "unify the American people" in a way some of the other candidates' more extreme plans would not.

9:23 - Biden argues that "Medicare for all" (which is a misnomer — the Warren/Sanders plan would go much further than giving everyone Medicare) isn't even popular with Democrats — it couldn't pass the Democratic House. Biden points to Warren and Sanders and says if they get their way, "you have to give up your private insurance. 160 million people like their private insurance."

9:27 - After Tulsi Gabbard gives her standard line about being against "regime-change wars," Kamala Harris excoriates Gabbard at length, saying that Gabbard "buddied up to Steve Bannon to get a meeting with Donald Trump in Trump Tower." Gabbard responds that Harris is "continuing to traffic in lies … which makes me guess that as president, she will continue the status quo." Harris was apparently getting revenge on Gabbard for Gabbard's attack against Harris in the July debate (see 9:27 of my live-blog, including video). So, I'm not predicting that the Democratic ticket will be Harris/Gabbard or Gabbard/Harris 2020. [VIDEO.]

9:32 - Klobuchar quips about one of her Senate campaigns: "I raised $17,000 from ex-boyfriends … and it is not an expanding base!"

9:34 - Buttigieg boasts that according to Forbes magazine, he's "the least wealthy person on this stage." [VIDEO.]

9:36 - Amy Klobuchar stands by her past statement that a woman with Buttigieg's experience wouldn't be on the debate stage. Klobuchar broadens the questions by saying the president doesn't need to be "the tallest person on this stage, the skinniest person on this stage, or have the loudest voice on this stage." (Thought experiment: If a woman with Buttigieg's executive and military experience were running, would anyone be saying she didn't belong on the debate stage?)

9:40 - Sanders is asked about his supporters at his rallies chanting: "Lock him up!" Sanders says: "If in fact this president did break the law, he should be prosecuted like any other person who breaks the law." [VIDEO.]

9:42 - Maddow asks Biden if he'd prosecute former President Trump "even if it would further inflame the country." Biden: "I would not direct my Justice Department, like this president does.… I would not dictate who should be prosecuted or who should be exonerated.… I don't think it's a good idea that we model ourselves after Donald Trump and say: lock him up!" Then he starts a thought but, as usual, interrupts himself: "The next president who starts tweeting — anyway!"

9:45 - Yang: "There are only 2 countries that don't have paid family leave for new moms, and those are the United States and Papua New Guinea.… We need to get off that list as soon as possible!" Yang brings up the importance of young children hearing a large number of words, but he doesn't say whether he'd support Biden's proposal to address that need with record players.

9:50 - Kamala Harris repeats the old canards that "women are not paid equal pay for equal work," and "women are paid 80 cents on the dollar." (This 2013 article from the liberal Slate is one of the countless articles that's debunked that statistical misunderstanding over the years.)

9:55 - There's a fairly dry and brief discussion of housing policy among just 3 of the candidates. Warren calls out the old government policy of "redlining" to benefit white homeowners, excluding blacks. (It's also been used to exclude Jews, but you won't hear that in this debate!) Booker says if you rent an apartment, you should get a tax credit for any of your rent that exceeds a third of your income.

10:08 - Bernie Sanders says fossil-fuel industry executives have "lied and lied" about the harm their companies were doing — "maybe we should think about prosecuting them."

10:11 - Kamala Harris has a good if obvious line on Trump and North Korea: "He has traded a photo op for nothing!"

10:12 - Biden reminds us that Kim Jong Un of North Korea called Biden "a rabid dog who needs to be beaten by a stick." Sanders playfully jumps in: "But other than that, you like him!"

10:13 - Bernie Sanders is asked if he'd pull out of Afghanistan, and before answering that, he goes on a tangent to attack Biden: "He supported the terrible war in Iraq, and I helped lead the opposition against it."

10:15 - Yang is asked what he'd say in his first phone call to Putin. "I'd say: I'm sorry I beat your guy! And second, I'd say the days of meddling in American elections are over."

10:20 - Amy Klobuchar calls out Trump for failing to condemn Saudi Arabia for torturing and killing Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident who worked for "an American newspaper" (which she doesn't name — it was the Washington Post). "That sent a signal to the world that that was OK."

10:31 - Yang makes a powerful statement about the need to reach out to alienated young men so they don't turn to hate and violence.

10:34 - Biden talks about reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act: "We need to change the culture.… No man has a right to raise a hand to a woman in anger, except in self-defense.… And we have to keep punching at it, and punching at it, and punching at it!" I'm not sure that violent metaphor was the best choice of words to make his point about changing the culture.

10:36 - Harris reminds us of the Buttigieg campaign's gaffe of using a stock photo of a black woman and child who were actually in Kenya, and suggests that candidates like Buttigieg opportunistically show up at black churches shortly before Election Day. Buttigieg responds graciously: "I welcome the challenge of connecting with black voters in America who don't yet know me."

10:43 - Booker goes after Biden: "This week I heard him say we shouldn't legalize marijuana. I thought you might have been high when you said it! Marijuana is already legal for privileged people.… There are people in Congress who admit to smoking marijuana." Biden responds: "I think we should decriminalize marijuana, period." Biden doesn't explain why he wants to "decriminalize" it but not legalize it.

10:53 - Sanders says he's tired of Republicans who say, "Get the government off our backs," but want government to stop women from getting abortions. But as is often the case, the charge of hypocrisy is a double-edged sword: if Sanders wants government to get off our backs when it comes to abortion, why isn't he more skeptical about government intervening in our decision-making on other issues?

10:57 - Amy Klobuchar again compares her experience with that of Pete Buttigieg, who has a sharp response: "Washington experience is not the only experience that matters. There's more than 100 years of Washington experience on this stage — and where are we?"

10:58 -  Tulsi Gabbard says Buttigieg recently showed that he's "careless" on national security when he said he "would be willing to send our troops to Mexico to fight the cartels." Buttigieg scoffs: "That is outlandish, even by the standards of US politics! … I was talking about US/Mexican cooperation.… Do you seriously think anybody on this stage is talking about invading Mexico?!" After defending himself, Buttigieg also counterattacks by saying he wouldn't have done what Gabbard did when she met with Bashar al-Assad, the "murderous dictator" of Syria. Gabbard suggests that she was being "like Reagan, who met with Gorbachev."

11:06 - Booker uses his closing statement to give a very personal tribute to John Lewis, the House Representative who 50 years ago was beaten for his civil rights activism. Lewis is shown sitting in the audience. "I will cause what John Lewis says is 'good trouble.'"

11:15 - In his closing statement, Buttigieg reaches out to "moderates" and "future former Republicans."

11:16 - Bernie Sanders talks about his parents coming to the US without a nickel, and also remembers the time he spent a night in jail.

11:18 — Elizabeth Warren says near the end of the debate: "We should have talked about gun violence." But it's a problem if the moderators of every debate feel pressured to spend a long time talking about all the issues that are considered the most important. Then those issues are redundantly covered over and over, while other important issues get marginalized.


• Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden didn't seem as dominant as they were in past debates.

• Two candidates tried to attack Pete Buttigieg, but I don't think any of that will stick. The attacks just highlighted that Buttigieg is now one of the frontrunners.

According to Mediaite, Cory Booker had the best night; Klobuchar and Buttigieg also did well; and the worst was Biden.

Biden’s answer about “punching at” violence against women (10:34) has got to be parodied on the next Saturday Night Live.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

President Bloomberg?

Hide your soda… Hide your salt shakers

Mike Bloomberg is seriously considering running for the Democratic nomination for president.

Bloomberg was a Democrat before he got elected Mayor of New York City as a Republican. After being mayor, he rejected the whole idea of partisan labels, but then last year he registered as a Democrat.

Bloomberg would be the first Jewish president.

If he wins, Bloomberg will turn 79 years old less than a month after being inaugurated; he was born on Valentine's Day 1942. So if he served a full 4-year term, he'd spend most of his presidency in his 80s. No sitting president has ever been in his 80s, and the oldest president ever when first inaugurated was just 70.

President Bloomberg would beat the record set by his predecessor, Donald Trump, as the richest president ever. Bloomberg's net worth has been estimated to be around $50 billion.

And I'm certainly looking forward to fair and balanced coverage of the Bloomberg campaign by Bloomberg

(Photo of Bloomberg from Wikimedia Commons.)

Friday, November 1, 2019

Beto O'Rourke drops out

Beto says:

Our campaign has always been about seeing clearly, speaking honestly, and acting decisively. In that spirit: I am announcing that my service to the country will not be as a candidate or as the nominee.
This is a good thing for Democrats. Beto was abysmal in the debates.

It seemed like he wasn't thinking through what he was saying about issues like gun bans and tax exemptions for churches. Once the consequences of his statements were pointed out to him, he seemed weak and confused.

From my live-blog of the last debate:
9:31 - Anderson Cooper asks Beto how he'd enforce his promise from the last debate that he'll confiscate Americans' AR-15s and AK-47s, given that he's admitted the government isn't going to be "going door to door" looking for these guns. So … what's Beto's response? He'd ban guns and … hope everyone follows the law? Is that supposed to be based on the honor system or what? Buttigieg points out that Beto just admitted he doesn't know how his promise can be put into action. This leads to an extended, heated back and forth between Buttigieg and Beto. Buttigieg stares at Beto and tells him: "I don't need lessons from you on courage — political or personal." [VIDEO.]
Beto will join Scott Walker, the Republican former governor of Wisconsin, in showing that a politician who makes a big splash in their own state can't necessarily transplant their local star power onto the national stage.