A fun SNL skit to look back at as debates loom

First, this is just plain hilarious, so enjoy.

Second, it’s relevant. As brilliant as Tina Fey’s impersonation of Sarah Palin was, it’s easy to forget how good a job Jason Sudeikis did with Joe Biden. And the Joe Biden that he was making fun of in 2008 is the same Joe Biden we see today.

It seems particularly relevant in light of Joe’s statements last week about working with everyone who will agree to help (even segregationists). What he was trying to say (which I understood perfectly, as did John Lewis and Jim Clyburn, although some people claim to be confused) last week was a lot like what Sudeikis’ Biden is saying about John McCain. I mean that in the sense of Joe’s ability to happily and cheerfully “hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

Or in the sense of his willingness to disagree vehemently with someone, but still regard him as a fellow human.

It’s a message that’s counterintuitive for people who believe that left is left and right is right and never the twain shall (or should) meet. And that’s where the humor comes from in these lines:

Well, I would do what I have done my whole career, whether it’s been dealing with violence against women or putting 100,000 police officers in the streets. I would reach across the aisle. Like I’ve done with so many members of the other party. Members like John McCain. Because, look, I LOVE John McCain. He is one of my dearest friends. But, at the same time, he’s also dangerously unbalanced. I mean, let’s be frank, John McCain — and again, this is a man I would take a bullet for — is bad at his job and is mentally unstable. As my mother would say, “God love him, but he’s a raging maniac…” and a dear, dear friend….

In order to be hilarious, it’s exaggerated. But it also expresses something about who Joe Biden is. And America knows Joe Biden is this way, which is one of the reasons he’s been leading in the polls.

But whether you love or hate the way he is, whether you think it makes him a better candidate or disqualifies him, I thought you might get a laugh out of this look back.

So enjoy…

"As my mother would say, 'God love him, but he’s a raging maniac…' and a dear, dear friend."

“As my mother would say, ‘God love him, but he’s a raging maniac…’ and a dear, dear friend.”

45 thoughts on “A fun SNL skit to look back at as debates loom

  1. Mr. Smith

    The clip reminds me of the bullet we dodged in McCain’s horrific pick for VP running mate.
    AND that his choice tilled the political soil for the current president.

    On Biden, there’s this from a recent Elizabeth Bruenig op-ed:

    “Biden’s campaign is premised on a promise he can’t keep: that the problems plaguing Washington are mainly aesthetic and can be reversed with the good attitude, deep experience and folksy charm of a man such as him.”

    Biden is by all accounts a nice fella. But he’s selling a bill of goods by offering up the idea that what the country needs is a big dose of his niceness to fix all our problems. As Bruenig suggest, this ignores the fact that many if not most of our problems are systemic and cultural in nature and cannot be resolved by good will and a garrulous personality.

    1. Scout

      I have a new motto to help me deal with my own perfectionism. Better than it was. I usually can’t get things as perfect as I like, but I have learned to at least try for Better than it was.

      That works here.

      1. Mr. Smith

        Hm, I infer that Biden is good’nuff – and everybody else is perfection.
        Good to know.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      “aesthetic?” I’d say it’s a matter of character. That, and the way we (I say “we,” because it’s not just the parties and interest groups; news media have contributed greatly to the problem as it’s developed over the last three decades or so) have chosen to frame everything in black-white, left-right, binary terms, which has led to people in one camp treating people in another camp like something other than humans.

      And I don’t see anyone but Joe as REMOTELY positioned to do anything about that. Oh, and for Doug and anyone else who thinks I like Joe because he’s “old,” the other two septuagenarians (Warren turned 70 three days ago) are probably the LEAST likely to lead us to a better place.

      Why is Bernie a (sort of) contender? Not because HE is any different from what he was decades ago, but because polarization is such that a guy who once would have been seen as an angry, off-putting crank can now be a contender….

      Niceness? Yeah, we could do with some of that. I could, anyway…

      1. Bob Amundson

        What is it about “cranky” northerners attracting voters on both left and right extremes? As a cranky northerner, I just don’t get it; oh, wait, I’m neither a right leaning nor a left leaning cranky,northern, POPULIST!

      2. David T

        Has there ever been a video taken of Sander where it looked like his blood pressure wasn’t in the danger range? He reminds me of the Dana Carvey skits where he’d play the angry old man, “Why in my day…. and we liked it!!!”.

      3. Mr. Smith

        “I’d say it’s a matter of character.”

        The suggestion here is that all the others are lacking in character or “niceness,” only Biden has it.
        Wow, talk about putting things in terms of black and white!

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          What? Where on Earth do you get that?

          Here is the line I was reacting to: “the problems plaguing Washington are mainly aesthetic.”

          And I said the issue was character, not aesthetics. What does that have to do “the others?”

          So are we now at the point where, if I fail to say something that makes you indignant, you object to something I did NOT say?

          1. Mr. Smith

            Indignant? Who’s the one being indignant here? I’m just pointing out how someone so totally in the bag for Biden may lack proper judgment and objectivity about the other candidates and the race.

            In any case, I think you need to read more thoughtfully, because Bruenig’s description of Biden is apt in that he runs largely on personality (= appearances = “aesthetics”) rather than policy substance.

            But none of the others lack character, as far as I’m aware. So let’s move on to where they do differ.

  2. Doug Ross

    I suppose many Americans wants to go back to a time years ago when it didn’t think Joe Biden was a legitimate candidate for President. He’s done so much since then. Aged.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, I always thought he was a legitimate candidate. The reason I asked Fritz to arrange a meeting with Joe with the editorial board in the early ’00s is that I was hoping he would run, and wanted to get to know him.

      And in 2007, he’s the guy I wanted. But when his candidacy fizzled, we went with Obama. And of course by then we’d seen a lot more of Obama and really liked him. Not sure what the board would have done had Joe still been in it.

      Oh, and it’s not just me. Obama thought he was pretty good presidential material as well. And he’s a pretty smart guy…

  3. Doug Ross

    One question that should be asked of every candidate in the debates is: how would you have responded to the news that Iran shot down one of our drones? What would you have specifically done differently than what Trump did?

    I think debates should be about about what they would do different in real life situations, not slalloeing them to just present pie in the sky promises that will never happen.

    Give us the name of someone they think should be considered for the Supreme Court. That’s a good way to judge their judgment.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I thought Merrick Garland seemed fine.

      About Iran — I wouldn’t have yanked the US out of the nuclear deal unilaterally (and to the dismay of our allies, except for Israel), and our relationship with Iran wouldn’t have been on the ragged edge. It’s unlikely they would have shot down a drone, or mined those tankers. They liked the deal, and wouldn’t have wanted to endanger it.

      Maintaining normal international arrangements would be the minimum, the very most basic thing, in terms of improving our relationships with allies and antagonists. I would build upon that to have a more peaceful and prosperous future.

      Yeah, that’s right — Attila the Brad DOES think about promoting and maintaining peace…

      1. Barry


        If we are still in the deal, the drone is fine and the tankers are fine. So this was easily avoided in the first place.

        I’d do like a Florida Republican suggested over the weekend that Trump should have done- we should have destroyed an unmanned military target of Iran’s AND increased the sanctions as we did. We should have done both.

      2. Barry

        “I thought Merrick Garland seemed fine.“

        So did Brett Kavenaugh. He called Garland a “great judge” during his own confirmation.

  4. bud

    The longer the campaign drags on the less I like Joe Biden. Early on my only real concern was his age. Apparently with good reason as he continues to shoot himself in the foot. Heck the only time Biden isn’t shooting himself in the foot is when he’s reloading. We really don’t need someone who doesn’t understand the nature of the political world we will face in 2021. Does Biden really think all we need is a bit more niceness and the Republicans will come around? Let’s not pretend any more that the GOP is somehow a rational group. They are nothing but a bunch of shameless crooks. That is a sad truth but it is what it is.

  5. Doug Ross

    Just saw that during the 2 hour debates, there will be 4 commercial breaks ranging from 1.5 to 4 minutes.

    That captures in a microcosm what the past 2.5 years have been about. Ratings and commercials. Can’t get millions of dollars unless you generate enough outrage to keep people glued to the TVs instead of Netflix.

    120 (now 110) minutes for 10 candidates minus the time the MSBC talking heads pontificate in the form of questions means each candidate will likely get around 7-8 minutes of actual speaking time.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Doug’s Unified Field Theory: It’s all about the money.

      It explains black holes: They’re motivated to be super-dense because they want to suck up all the money…

      1. Doug Ross

        So why isn’t this debate on CSPAN with a single moderator? MONEY. Why are there ads? MONEY. Why are there multiple moderators from MSNBC prime time shows? MONEY.

        This is a TV show with ads that will help MSNBC’s bottom line and the branding of talking heads like Rachel Maddow. This is as much about them as it is the candidates.

        Just because you don’t care about money doesn’t mean the world doesn’t. Media is about money. Newspapers are about money. Politics is about money. People work at jobs for money. People buy things and sell things… we’re all not like you and Lloyd Dobler.

        ” I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed”.

          1. Doug Ross

            Empty and artificial? From a guy whose world view can only be expressed with random deep cuts from obscure artists? Okay.

            Bill: “How do I feel today? Siri, play a bootleg session tape of Nowhere Man”

    2. bud

      Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg address in about 2 minutes. The candidates definitely need to make the most of the time they have but it is possible to stand out in that amount of time.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Bottom line: It will be a circus. These things are always a circus until you get down to a couple of candidates.

        Come to think of it, they can be a circus then, too…

        Tonight and tomorrow night will be an extremely high-stakes circus for everyone. For Biden, it’s a matter of either holding his ground or losing some of his advantage. For all the others, a chance to move up.

        This is why front-runners don’t like doing them.

        I was just thinking a couple of days ago that I suppose we should thank Henry for agreeing to two debates last year. It meant taking the chance of losing ground, and an opportunity for us.

        We made the most of it — it was generally agreed that James won both debates. But it wasn’t enough to overcome that “most-white-people-voting-Republican-no-matter-what” thing…

        1. Doug Ross

          “We made the most of it — it was generally agreed that James won both debates. But it wasn’t enough to overcome that “most-white-people-voting-Republican-no-matter-what” thing…”

          Or that James didn’t offer anything of substance to convince people to do something different. Running the same tired Democrat campaign on schools, Medicaid, and..and.. and.. now even I forget what he else he was running on. .. guarantees a 5-8 point loss. He could have done something different (legalized sports gambling, legal pot, flat tax, anything…) but went the Sheheen 3.0 route.

          But Mandy might see a different outcome in a few years… She’s got the “it” factor that might attract some crossover votes.

  6. Doug Ross

    I’m sure Brad will have a debate post soon… My takes:

    I liked Gabbard going into the debate and I love Gabbard after. Her message on endless wars won the night and is what real Democrats (and adults) should embrace. She actually won the Drudgereport poll (which is no small thing considering Drudge gets a BILLION page views a month. She was forceful, direct, never stumbled once on her words. Chuck Todd tried to sandbag her with a question on LBGTQ views from when she was much younger and she brushed it aside. She had a “Nikki Haley” feel about her in terms of presentation.

    I came in disliking Warren and she did everything possible to help me reaffirm that belief. As I’ve said before, I will vote for Trump over her. She is so strident, wagging a finger, shaking her head, expressing outrage over and over… and if her demeanor didn’t turn me off completely, her policies surely will. She had by far the dumbest moment of the night when she almost screamed that the gun issue in the U.S. is a RESEARCH problem.

    Beto started off badly. Opening in Spanish may win Miami but it’s not going to win Ohio. There was far too much Spanish pandering (including from the Hispanic MSNBC moderator who apparently got the memo from his bosses that he needed to pump up the outrage and pump up his ratings). But I think Beto did better in the second half. Castro and de Blasio went after him in order to help their campaigns but I thought Beto held his own. Castro was almost as annoying as Warren — he kept referring to Section 1325 of the Immigration Act like some policy wonl. His views on illegal immigration are the furthest out there and will not go over well in the Rust Belt.

    Booker was too intense. He’s a doppelganger for the Keegan Michael Key in his Substitute Teacher skit.

    Klobucher was fine. Senatorial in demeanor. But she lacks the personality to win votes. Plus I can’t get past that story of her eating salad with a comb when a fork was not available (whether true or not).

    de Blasio did his best to try and jump into the conversation. I think he sugarcoats how great things are in NYC. There’s a reason people are leaving his city and a lot has to do with the thing he likes the most: raising taxes. But he certainly got more TV time than he deserved with his rough and tumble style.

    Some of the others are definitely done. Ryan always had this deer in the headlights look even when just standing around hoping someone would call on him. Inslee was pretty good but being a one issue candidate (climate) from a far west state isn’t going to get it done. Delaney was fine also but we aren’t electing a short bald guy to be President. Optics mattes — which also hurts Castro. He’s like another little Marco Rubio. Maybe 5’6″ barely as tall as Warren. It shouldn’t matter but it does matter. Jimmy Carter was the last President under 6′ tall and he was 5’10”.

    I donated again this morning to Gabbard and hope others will too. We need to keep her on the debate stage.

    1. David T

      There is little difference between Always Angry Bernie and Fauxahontas other than gender. One is a crazy old man who can’t talk without screaming, one is a crazy old librarian neither of which anyone takes seriously other than to mock them.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        This is my take on Booker…

  7. bud

    My extremely subjective ranking of the first debate based on first impression. I’ll say more when Brad posts something:

    1. Julian Castro
    2. Corey Booker
    3. Jay Inslee
    4. Amy Klobuchar
    5. Elizabeth Warren
    6. Beto O’Rourke
    7. Tulsi Gabbard
    8. Tim Ryan
    9. John Delaney
    10. Bill de Blasio

    1. Scout

      Here are my very quick impressions. It’s a lot harder to choose the tops than the bottoms. The top 3-4 on my list could be interchangable. I like what alot of them say. They all mostly seem reasonable and decent. The only one I really got a negative feeling for was de Blasio, and I think I could be reacting to style as much as anything. I want to like O’Rourke more because he feels like a good guy, but his answers were kind of rambly and not focused – I don’t think he communicated well last night.

      1. Amy Klobuchar
      2. Elizabeth Warren
      3. Julian Castro
      4. Jay Inslee
      5. Corey Booker
      6. John Delaney
      7. Beto O’Rourke
      8. Tulsi Gabbard
      9. Tim Ryan
      10. Bill de Blasio

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Y’all, I’ll try to post something this morning. Not only was I tired last night, but my jaw was acting up. Had to resort to an opioid to get to sleep…

      2. Doug Ross

        I’m interested to hear what people didn’t like about Tulsi Gabbard. What did she say specifically that did not resonate with Democrats?

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Here’s what Aaron Blake at the Washington Post said:

          Tulsi Gabbard: Gabbard was lost for much of the debate. That may not have been her fault — she wasn’t asked many questions — but fellow cellar-dwellers Delaney and de Blasio were able to work their way in by piggybacking on others’ answers. Toward the end, Gabbard was asked a question: About her past opposition to gay rights, which she has apologized for. Her answer about personal evolution and coming from a socially conservative family was perfectly fine. But then Booker swooped in and argued she should have also talked about transgender rights, making her answer suddenly seem insufficient.

          I read something else more critical than that, but I’m having trouble finding it now…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Ah! I found it. It was Jennifer Rubin:

            Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii) has the weirdest profile of any Democrat in the race: portraying herself as a progressive, but infamous for flattering Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and flip-flopping on gay rights and abortion. Candidly, she never had much of a chance. She insisted that the war in Afghanistan could end, winning the crowd but not fully explaining how we’d prevent terrorism from taking root. Her delivery was shaky, and at times she blatantly ignored the question posed.

            1. Doug Ross

              Jennifer Rubin should explain how our presence in Afghanistan has stopped terrorism from taking root.

              Every candidate ignored the questions asked, especially their first question. Warren did it right off the bat. Booker did it so badly that the moderator had to go back to him and ask him the simple question again.

              I’m not sure what debate Rubin was watching but she was the exact opposite of shaky. She was clear and direct. “Shaky” was Ryan. He looked overmatched from the start and Tulsi destroyed him on his attempt to tie Afghanistan to 9/11.

          2. Doug Ross

            If Democrats think their path to victory in the White House is playing up transgender issues, speaking Spanish, abolishing private insurance, and confiscating guns, then more power to them. Should win exactly the same number of electoral votes as 2016.

            What messages came out last night that will win Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, Ohio? The few candidates who targeted messages at those states: Ryan and Delaney especially, will be gone shortly.

        2. Scout

          I didn’t hate her at all. As I said I think they mostly were all decent and reasonable, and I include her in that. I think she had some strong moments. I put her toward the bottom of my list I think because the exchange at the end where she kept talking over and trying to correct Ryan struck me as not helpful or relevant.

  8. Doug Ross

    According to an analysis by Nate Silver’s team at 538, Chuck Todd spoke more words than 7 of the candidates. Rachel Maddow spoke more than 3 of them.

    The five moderator format was awful and basically caused the technical glitch on the audio when they switched. We don’t need moderators to inject their opinions, we need them to ask questions and control the flow of the debate (something they also didn’t do a great job with either).

    I know they won’t change the format tonight but the next debate should have at most two moderators and shut off the mikes of anyone who is not supposed to talk. Layout the order of question and follow ups ahead of time. Or if you want to have an actual debate pick pairs of candidates on stage and have them go back and forth on a topic for 3-4 minutes.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Doug, that could be because Gabbard made a good impression.

      It could also be because a lot of people had never seen her before, and she’s young and pretty.

      It’s hard to say…

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