I recorded the debate and fast-forwarded through to pretty much watch only the candidates I thought had a reasonable chance to win the nomination, or who I really liked. It was a great way to watch, since I was weary from the first night.
Though I wasn’t upset at the tone of what I saw – because it’s SO early in the campaign and most of this is meaningless, and I didn’t see it as “nasty” and divisive -- I nonetheless didn’t like it. I know people are trying to differentiate themselves on such a massive stage and bring attention to yourself, but so much of the attacking was unnecessary and counter-productive. I thought Kamala Harris risks coming across like Bernie Sanders – strong ideas but just angry. Criticize Biden if she wants to, but do it like a leader, like you disagree with him, not like you hate him, which is what it almost came across like to me (and which I’m near-certain is not the case). Happily, a few candidates did point out that we have disagreements, but Trump is the enemy. But it needed more of that.
By the way, the sense I got with Harris is that her advisers looked at the boost she got the time before and saw how her poll numbers then settled back down to where they were before, and said to her, “You did so well when you took it to Biden last time and with such passion, so keep doing it.” Unfortunately, the time before was over a specific issue that was very personal to her, and that came across. This time, it just seemed forced and unnecessarily angry. Tough and strong is good. But I think "always angry" is one of the hurdles Bernie Sandes has to get past, and she risks joining him.
I also think that Joe Biden has to come up with a way to deal with all the criticisms of some of his decisions in the distant past, not only so that he can explain them, but so so that he doesn't have to keep responding every single time. He should say something like -- "I think everyone on this stage is very talented, and can have a very long career in national politics. And it is my wish that you do. And when you do, when you are in national politics for several decades...I can assure you that you all will make decision that over time you change, regret and just simply grow from, because ultimately you change -- as everyone does -- and because the times and society will change. And, you know, I'll bet you all have decisions like that already in your careers that you've changed and grown from and gotten better."
It struck me as bizarre how almost all the candidates were trashing the Affordable Care Act, calling it broken. First of all, it's "broken" because Trump and the Republican Party, including state governments who have a lawsuit against it, have systematically been taking it apart. That is what Democrats should trash. And second, Obamacare is not only the signature achievement of the wildly-popular Obama Administration among Democrats, but also it's wildly popular among Democrats. And so popular enough in the country -- particularly for its protection of pre-existing conditions -- that it was the top policy reason that Democrats had a Blue Wave victory in the midterms and took back control of the House of Representatives. And this is what so many Democratic candidates are trashing?? Seriously?? They might want to rethink that "strategy," especially since they'll likely want to run on it in November to help show their contrast with Trump and Republicans wanting to get rid of it.
Speaking of health care, yesterday I wrote about how I thought the candidates should talk about their differences among one another over the subject. That they not attack each other over policy details that few in the public can follow, but explain how all Democrats are pushing for a good, all-encompassing healthcare program, while Trump and the Republicans want to get rid of the Affordable Care Act.
Later, after having now listened to much of the debate, I'll expand upon the thought even wider:
When asked about differences between one another, they shouldn't fight and attack and explain why they're right and their opponent is wrong. What they should say -- if I can once again write the script -- is something along the lines of --
"The issue here isn't that I have the only answer. Most every candidate here has a good solution to national healthcare. And immigration. And the environment. And foreign policy. I think my ideas are best, but whoever here gets elected will have a FAR better plan for all these things than Trump and the Republicans. In health care, they have NO plan -- they want to get rid of national health care. With immigration, the want to separate families and put children in cages. With the environment, they want to pretend Climate Change doesn't exist and leave the Paris Accord. In foreign policy they want to break our nuclear deals with Iran that has allowed them to pursue their nuclear program -- they want to be lovers with the despot Kim Jong Un and makes deals with him that allows North Korea to test two new missiles just yesterday -- they want to follow Putin's words and ignore ALL our national security agencies. And we have a president spouting racist cries that the Republican Party blissfully accepts. That's the issue. The question with our own plans here on this stage is not "Who's is best?",. but who can best convince the public of its strengths.and how -- because any of the plans here of good. What's horrible is that Trump and the Republican Party has been dismantling Obamacare and Climate Change protections and national security and human decency in immigration...and basic decency period. That's the issue. What each of us on this stage can do to defeat Trump and get him and the enabling, complicit Republican Party as far out of office as humanly possible."
I'm going to guess that that would get cheers. And agreement from every candidate.
And one final thought, separate from what was on stage, there's what came afterward on the news. As I've written several times in long articles about him, Chris Matthews has it in him to be an idiot. And watching his post-debate analysis, he confirmed why I rarely watch him, ever since he had Ann Counter on his show for a full hour..
It’s not that he’s an idiot about everything. He's bright and passionate. But no one should be an idiot as much as he is. Too often he just blurts out what's rumbling around in his head without a filter.
Last night, one of the first things he said was, “There was no clear winner tonight like last night, with Marianne Williamson.”
It made me sick.
Marianne Williamson is a waste of presidential campaign space. She made one or two comments that were thoughtful, but generic and kumbaya moments. Everyone else discussed policy and solutions and details. She didn’t “win” the debate – she shouldn’t have even been in the debate. This is serious business, defeating Trump. And the last thing we need is another person with zero experience trying to become president. To “win” a presidential debate means you showed why you should be the presidential nominee, period. Period. She didn’t do that, she made two endearing statements. And in 2-1/2 hours was only called on maybe three times. She didn’t “win the debate,” Chris. Hey, I could make a feel-good statement during a presidential debate like that, and I’d have no business being on the stage with the others, and I’d made a terrible president. But there is Chris Matthews not only saying she “won” the debate, but “won” it “clearly.”
He was an idiot for saying that.
And I hope that once the field narrows, Democrats realize they're running against Trump, not themselves. People want to know how they will beat him, and why. Not the details of how their plan for health care will work. As I believe Cory Booker said -- keep your eyes on the prize.