Sunday, March 15, 2020

Live-blogging the Democratic debate: coronavirus edition

I'll be live-blogging the debate in this post. Keep reloading for more updates.

Any quotations might not be word for word, since I'll be writing them down live.

8:05 — Bernie Sanders says that President Donald Trump needs to shut up, because he's "blabbering with unfactual information that is confusing the public." But Sanders praises Trump's decision to declare a national emergency. Sanders adds that we need to say: "If you lose your job, you will be made whole. You are not going to lose income."

8:08 — Joe Biden says "I agree with Bernie" that we need to provide new temporary hospitals.

8:09 — Sanders pivots to his general points about health care: "This coronavirus pandemic exposes the incredible weakness and dysfunctionality of our health care system.… We have a bunch of crooks running the pharmaceutical industry ripping us off every single day."

8:11 — Biden refutes Sanders: his Medicare for All plan wouldn't help — that's essentially what Italy has with their single-payer health system, and that hasn't seemed to help them. Biden keeps referring to what "we" did about Ebola in the Obama administration. That's a preview of how he'd present himself in the general election as more capable than Trump on this issue.

8:14 — Biden distinguishes between his plan to offer coronavirus treatment without charge in this "national emergency," vs. Sanders's Medicare for All plan, which of course isn't limited to this crisis.

8:17 — Biden tries to rise above the debate and act presidential: "This is a national crisis. I don't want to get into a back-and-forth… This is like we are being attacked from abroad.… This is like a war. And in a war, you do whatever is necessary to take care of your people."

8:20 — They're both asked if they'd use the military to respond to COVID-19. Sanders dodges the question by saying he'd use any "tools" we need. Biden is more decisive: "I would call up the military.… They did it in the Ebola crisis."

8:26 — Bernie Sanders is off his game. He repeats his exact words from before about how coronavirus "exposes the ... dysfunctionality of our health care system." Then he repeatedly calls the disease "Ebola," before finally correcting himself and blaming Biden: "You got Ebola in my head!"

8:28 — Biden sums up the lesson from the facts that he's been soundly beating Sanders: "People are looking for results, not a revolution."

8:29 — Sanders: "Half of the people are scared to death. Good!"

8:32 — Biden is having a stronger night than Sanders. Biden is clear and firm in his message about priorities: "First things first." Address the coronavirus emergency, and then make "profound" economic changes to address economic inequality. Sanders seems more vague, and more interested in talking about his general policies from before coronavirus emerged.

8:34 — Biden says if Sanders had gotten his way in the 2008 financial crisis, "we would have been in a great depression."

8:35 — When Biden is asked about immigration in the context of coronavirus, he slips and refers to an "undocumented alien," before correcting himself: "undocumented person."

8:37 — They're both asked what precautions they've personally taken, especially given their age. Sanders, 78, says he hasn't been shaking hands, including with Biden when they came onto the stage tonight. "I am using a lot of soap and hand sanitizers.… I do not have any symptoms." Biden, 77, says he hasn't been touching his face, and adds that he's "healthy."

8:39 — Biden elaborates on his earlier comment about results, not revolution: "We have problems we have to solve now. Now! What's a revolution going to do — disrupt everything in the meantime?"

8:42 — They start bickering over campaign finance, which feels off-key in the current moment. Biden bluntly sums up Super Tuesday: "I didn't have any money! I still won!" Biden says Sanders had anywhere from 2 to 6 times as much money as Biden.

8:46 — Sanders accuses Biden of going on the Senate floor and "talking about the need to cut Social Security, Medicare, and veterans' programs." Sanders repeatedly asks about Biden's support for "Bowles-Simpson," which included reductions in Social Security benefits.

8:56 — Sanders lists some wrong votes Biden cast in the Senate on numerous issues, including voting for the Defense of Marriage Act and the Iraq War. Instead of responding to any of those specifics, Biden brushes him off by simply saying: "We can argue about the past or the future."

9:09 — Biden promises to pick a woman as his running mate, and to nominate a black woman to the Supreme Court if there's a vacancy. The moderator follows up to clarify if he's saying his running mate will definitely be a woman, and he says: "Yes." What about Sanders? He leaves himself more wiggle room: "In all likelihood, I will.… My very strong tendency is to move in that direction."

9:16 — Somehow, they clash over whether or not Biden has supported "slavery"!

9:19 — "Should undocumented immigrants, arrested by local authorities, be turned over to federal immigration officials?" Biden says only one word in response — "No" — and lets it hang there before the moderator moves on to Sanders (who agrees).

9:22 — Biden talks about the initial meeting he and President Obama had with the Defense Department: "The single greatest threat to our national security, they said, is climate change."

9:26 — Sanders calls for criminal prosecuting ExxonMobil executives for lying about what they knew about the effects of fossil fuels on climate change.

9:27 — Biden tries to get an edge over Sanders on climate change by implicitly reminding us of his position in the Obama administration: "We need someone who can deal internationally. We need someone who can bring the world together."

9:38 — Why would Cuban-Americans in Florida (which has its primary on Tuesday) vote for Bernie Sanders when he's praised Fidel Castro? Sanders blandly says he's always been opposed to authoritarianism in Cuba and any other countries. When the moderator presses him on this, Sanders argues that China is also an authoritarian country but we can still praise it for reducing poverty. Biden comes back: "Words matter! These are flat-out dictators!" Biden points out that Sanders has also praised the Soviet Union, and voted against sanctions on Russia for interference with our 2016 election.

9:43 — Now some more redundant debating about why Biden voted for the Iraq War and regretted it. If you've seen him talk about this in any of the many debates when it's come up (or when Hillary Clinton had to deal with the same problem in 2016), you know what Biden's going to say: his mistake was to trust President Bush.

My verdict: Biden won. Sanders is so far behind that in order to make any real progress in turning things around, he would have needed to have a fantastic performance while Biden stumbled badly. That didn't happen.


David Begley said...

“Biden promises to pick a woman as his running mate, and to nominate a black woman to the Supreme Court if there's a vacancy.”

What about the qualifications of this black woman SCOTUS nominee? A Dane County court judge? Pure identity politics.

And the correct legal term is “illegal alien.”

And, of course, climate change is a complete scam.

Richard Dolan said...

It was an odd exercise.

The response to the c-virus from both of them was mostly a proposal that the Feds will pay for anyone's lost income, cover missed rent or mortgage payments and the like if caused by the spreading shut-downs. They did not address lost income suffered by businesses-- your local restaurant, theater, private day care centers, or any other establishment where people necessarily congregate. Biden thinks the Ebola respond provides a blueprint. I don't recall anything approaching the coming national shut-down during the Ebola scare, which was far more localized and small scale. Calling out the military (to do what, exactly?) was thrown out. Other than the proposal for the taxpayers to pay for any lost income, etc., there was not much 'there there.'

On medical care generally, Biden wants a 'public option' as part of Obamacare, more subsidies to cover O-care's costs and automatic coverage for illegal aliens. Sanders is more extreme. In essence it's more of the 'free stuff' approach -- except that nothing is free, and the taxpayer have to pick up the tab.

The student debt and bankruptcy stuff was similar-- college should be free for almost everyone ($125,000 in family income as the cutoff means almost everyone), and making student debt dischargable in bankruptcy makes any cutoff pointless. The reason is that almost every student borrowing the money to attend college will be insolvent by definition on the day after graduation -- perfect time to dump the debt by a bankruptcy filing. Biden's position that everyone should get a college degree (very different from getting an education) is highly dubious as a matter of national policy.

Immigration was more of the same. Biden says that the only deportations should be for felonies committed in the US, and that any alien claiming asylum should be admitted pending a immigration judge's review of the claim. Both are opposed to having local and state law enforcement cooperate with ICE. How that is operationally different from an open border is hard to see, yet both insist that it is.

On energy, both were unserious. Biden was for no more drilling for oil, no more fracking, punitive measures against the fossil fuel industry, criminal charges against their executives, 'high speed rail', and on and on. Sanders, here as elsewhere, was more extreme. They evidently think that, by being elected, they will have a magic wand that will transform our current fossil fuel based economy into a green nervana. And when they talk about renewables, they both leave out the only one that could conceivably work on a national level -- nuclear power. The cost of their proposals, to say nothing about the impact on the national economy, would be stupendous.

The more general discussion of climate change was similarly unserious. Biden thinks he can push China, India and similarly developing countries to sacrifice national development based on fossil fuels to achieve climate change goals. Meanwhile, Germany and Japan have closed their nuclear plants, Macron wants to do the same, and are turning to the only realistic alternative (it's not windmills and solar panels). Their discussion takes as its starting point the most extreme projections about the impact of rising CO2 levels on climate.

I don't see how anyone, let alone someone with Biden's baggage, can sell those proposals to the American public.

The Minnow Wrangler said...

Richard Dolan, I didn't see this part of the debate regarding climate change,

"Germany and Japan have closed their nuclear plants, Macron wants to do the same, and are turning to the only realistic alternative (it's not windmills and solar panels)"

If it's not windmills and solar panels, what is it? Natural gas? Shutting down nuclear plants sounds like a really bad idea, maybe some of them need to be modernized, but that is the cleanest form of energy we have right now. And if the alternative is natural gas, then banning fracking is a really, really bad idea. Where is the energy supposed to come from? Or are we just supposed to freeze in the dark?

Richard Dolan said...

Neither of them mentioned the realities in Europe (or elsewhere) impacting grandiose climate change proposals in the debate. The sentence you quote was my editorial comment in support of the statement that neither of them was offering anything serious on the topic. Germany has turned to coal as an interim measure (wind and solar farms are both expensive and unpopular, and generate lots of NIMBY objections), and is trying to finish negotiations on the Nordstream 2 pipeline (over US objections) to bring more Russian gas to their market. France has been stymied since the 'gilets jaunes' uprising of some months ago. The new crisis over coronavirus, and its huge impact on Italy will just make the EU's position on all this more difficult. Something will have to give; there is not enough money to do it all; and it looks like the 'green economy' will be getting mostly lip service even in Europe for some time.

The Minnow Wrangler said...

"Germany has turned to coal as an interim measure " Really? For some reason I thought coal was evil LOL.