I’m watching the Democratic debates right now and I think it’s a good debate. I’m a big fan of PBS News Hour and I think Politico and the PBS News Hour commentators asked good questions. I think Amna Nawaz especially did a good job of following up on questions and keep candidates accountable to answer specific questions and not duck them. I’m wondering though if this particular debate will be the victim of bad timing and will be overshadowed by the impeachment news of this week.
I’m supporting Warren, but I think she had a so-so debate. She wasn’t bad, but she didn’t stand out as much as she did in previous debates. I don’t think her attack on Buttigieg was as strong as Klobucher’s. When Warren talks about policy, she shines and is better than anyone else in the Democratic field. She just didn’t have enough chances to talk about policy in this particular debate.
Buttigieg spent much of the debate defending himself from attacks and I thought he did a good job. I think his answer to Warren’s criticism of his wealthy donations was right. As long as wealthy donators have such an outsized influence in our electoral process, candidates of modest means have no choice but to go wealthier donors to compete with wealthy political candidates. The presence of billionaire Tom Steyer on the debate stage while more qualified candidates like Cory Booker and Julian Castro were left off the stage proves Buttigieg’s point. I do think Warren had a good point about how our politicians are too beholden to the influence of wealthy donors and corporate contributions. I just don’t think this particular clash with Buttigieg did a good job of articulating her point. I kind of wish both Warren and Buttigieg would have pivoted to talk about the importance of campaign finance reform, the necessity of public campaign financing and the importance of overturning the Citziens United Supreme Court ruling.
From what I’m seeing, I think the stand out in this debate has been Amy Klobucher. She spoke with a passion that I saw in the last debate, but was missing from the first 2 debates. I thought she did a great job defending the importance of extensive government experience as a qualification for being President, citing her own experiences passing legislation in a very gridlocked Senate. When Klobucher cited Elizabeth Warren’s work to found the Consumer Protection Finance Bureau, Biden’s work to get $2 billion for cancer research, Sander’s bipartisan veteran’s bill and Klobucher’s own work to get 3 farm bills passed, it underscored Klobucher’s point that government experience is a good thing and not a bad thing that Buttigieg was trying to portray. Unlike Warren’s attacks on Buttigieg, I thought Klobucher’s attacks drew blood. If Warren and Sanders fall and I have to choose between the more moderate Democrats, I think Klobucher is the best of the moderates.
I thought this was Biden’s best debate. Every time that Biden was about to speak, I always held my breath for fear that he might put his foot in his mouth. In this debate, Biden looked relaxed and gave very articulate and good answers. The candidate who put his foot in his mouth was surprisingly, Bernie Sanders. He flubbed a few questions. But he also gave some good answers too, especially his comment that in order to win the Democratic candidate needs to be able to energize the electorate with a progressive message. I agree totally with that.
I respect the philanthropy work of Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer, especially Steyer’s work on combatting climate change. But it increasingly bothers me that amateur millionaire and billionaire politicians can make it to the debate stage while more qualified candidates like Cory Booker and Julian Castro can’t make it to the stage and promising political talents like Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand have to drop out due to lack of funds. I mentioned this to my wife and she asked me if I’m being a bit hypocritical considering my admiration for the Kennedys and the Roosevelts. I was dutifully chastened. I think the difference between millionaires John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt and today’s wealthy presidential candidates like Yang and Steyer was that the Kennedys and the Roosevelts had all extensive government experience before running for President. John F. Kennedy spent 6 years in the House and 7 years in the Senate. Robert F. Kennedy was a U.S. Attorney General and a Senator. Teddy Roosevelt was a member of the New York State Assembly, a member of the United States Civil Service Commission, a New York City Police Commissioner, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, New York governor and Vice President. Franklin Roosevelt was a New York state senator, Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Navy, and governor of New York. Billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s candidacy doesn’t bother me the way Steyer’s candidacy does because Bloomberg at least has experience as mayor.
I think the best part of the debate was when Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobucher had a heated policy debate on health care, on the strengths and weaknesses of Obamacare and Medicare For All. It was a substantial debate on an issue that is important to all Americans. Then Elizabeth Warren was asked about what to do to bring down drug prices and she got a chance to talk policy and I thought it was her best moment in the debate. I much prefer policy debates than personal attacks.