Oh, no! Is that three-hour ‘debate’ ordeal TONIGHT?


On the radio this morning, a passing reference sort of ruined my day: It was mentioned that the three-hour Democratic “debate” is tonight.

And I don’t feel like I can’t watch it, and I probably won’t be able to avoid commenting on it, at least on social media, and there goes another perfectly good evening.

So you’ll probably find me on Twitter tonight. Unless ennui overtakes me, and I sit it out.

Top Five things I’d rather be doing tonight:

  1. Sleeping.
  2. Watching an episode of “Shetland” on Britbox.
  3. Reading a book I’ve read before.
  4. Reorganizing my sock drawer.
  5. Getting a root canal.

I’m not kidding. As I’ve said before, sometime back, I’m SO ready for this to be over. I’m only asking one thing of the Democratic Party: Nominate Joe Biden, and don’t damage him along the way (there are a number of ways they might do this, chief among them pressuring him to overcommit himself to the left wing). As I said in July:

I just want to fast-forward through this time in our history. I want to skim ahead to a time when Joe Biden has secured the Democratic nomination (and if the future holds something else, let me skim past the next four years of politics as well). No more enduring absurd “debates” with Joe on stage with a score of people, each of whom knows his or her way to victory lies through tearing Joe down, and not one of whom holds out much hope of doing what I think Joe can do — beat Trump.

But I guess I have to watch this thing. I guess…

41 thoughts on “Oh, no! Is that three-hour ‘debate’ ordeal TONIGHT?

  1. bud

    It’s debate night! Yeah! Not sure what all this hang wringing about the debates is about. I’ve enjoyed them and will continue to watch. They are an important part of our faux democracy in learning about the various candidates. Here’s what I’ll be watching for:

    1. Will Joe Biden offer anything to ease my mind about his candidacy if he’s the nominee? So far my opinion of him has only declined with each passing day. I’ve long ago ruled out voting for him in the primary. It’s actually to the point where I’ve even toyed with the idea of not voting in the general election if he is the nominee. But I’ll watch tonight to see if he can ease this queasy feeling I have about him.
    2. Can Elizabeth Warren deliver a knockout blow to Bernie Sanders and thus propel her into a one on one battle with Biden? Voters need to coalesce around her as the most pragmatic candidates so that the Dems will have a true binary choice. I love Bernie be he is just too old and that is important.
    3. My other favorite in this race is Cory Booker. He comes across as such a sensible, energetic candidate with some good ideas. His baby bond proposal is a very promising way forward to level the playing field for those kids who come from disadvantaged homes. This is probably his last chance to turn it around.
    4. Will Bernie Sanders flailing result in someone getting a black eye. Seriously I love Bernie and the ad hominem attacks against him by this blog’s host are reprehensible. But he does have a knack for theatrics.
    5. One of early favorites was Amy Klobuchar. She has never really caught on. The whole eating with a comb thing was probably a factor. (I bet if a man had done that it would not have been such a factor.) But people just can’t see this as lady like. Life is unfair.
    6. Can Andrew Yang continue to shine? The no tie look is the future. And about time. I’d really love to see him run for congress. A few years in the House and he should try again for POTUS.
    7. Who will fumble the ball and thus end their last chance. Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg and Beto’s stars have fallen, with each having some good moments along the way. But I predict Julian Castro will be the next to quit the race (not counting the candidates not on stage). He should have run for senate in Texas instead. But maybe it’s not too late.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      The “debates” put me in mind of what a character in LeCarre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy had to say after a particularly absurd senior staff meeting at the Circus, which is what LeCarre called MI6: “Stupid bloody cabaret.”

      Of course, SPOILER ALERT!, that character turned out to be a particularly odious traitor, so… I guess we should take anything he said with a grain of salt…

  2. Doug Ross

    I will be on a plane so I will probably miss it unless they offer live TV.

    At some point, Biden has to PROVE he is worthy of the nomination rather than just expect it. He hasn’t had a good day yet this summer. Three hours is a LONG time for him to stay coherent… With the way the polls are going, he won’t have an opportunity to even declare himself the frontrunner until after next February when he loses in Iowa and NH. His campaign will die the death of a 1000 cuts over the next 180 days.

    I hope Mayor Pete does well. Since Tulsi did not qualify, I’ll go for the next best young candidate who is intelligent and seemingly ethical. That’s the best qualifications right there. Untainted by Washington politics… not a grandstanding egoist…

    I’ll probably mute Warren as she would be my worst nightmare as President and I can’t bear to listen to her shrill hectoring any more. She’s got a plan for every issue and those plans are misguided and unimplementable.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Joe Biden has nothing, zip, nada to prove.

      He’s been proving himself in public life for 50 years.

      It’s all the others who have to prove why they should be considered, even for a moment, as alternatives to Joe…

      1. Doug Ross

        Yeah, that 50 years is why he has to prove he is still capable. He hasn’t given any indication this summer that he’s ready for a long campaign nor the four years that would follow.

        Let’s hope his eye doesn’t start bleeding again like at last week’s climate debate. That would probably be a nail in the coffin type moment now.

      2. bud

        There’s an old sports adage that basically says you’re only as good as your last game. So yes Biden, and the others, most assuredly have something to prove. Every. Single. Day.

  3. Doug Ross

    Yeah, that 50 years is why he has to prove he is still capable. He hasn’t given any indication this summer that he’s ready for a long campaign nor the four years that would follow.

    Let’s hope his eye doesn’t start bleeding again like at last week’s climate debate. That would probably be a nail in the coffin type moment now.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      “he has to prove he is still capable”

      Again, not to me. I was with him on the campaign trail for much of a day back during the campaign. I have zero doubts about his energy and stamina. He can campaign any normal guy half his age into the ground…

      Joe campaigning

      1. bud

        I guess Biden is kind of a Rorschach test. Compared to Warren and Sanders he comes across as a man who wants to be retired. His performance on the trail is flat and uninspiring. Many voters find that reassuring. Not me. I want a bold, innovative leader with good ideas and a history to show her heart and soul are committed to the cause. Given Doug’s ridiculous libertarian views of the world his nonsensical comments reassure me that Elizabeth Warren is the right person to lead the Democrats in 2020. That is how I’m leaning right now.

        1. Doug Ross

          Tell me bud, which of the libertarian principles do you find abhorrent?

          The freedom part? The personal responsibility? Or just that we aren’t in favor of paying for bloated inefficient government agencies that wouldn’t survive if they had competition? The DOT would be DOA in a libertarian world.. and John Hardee would have been in jail years ago.

          1. Doug Ross

            And Hardee wouldn’t be in jail for paying for sex. No matter how many times he did it or even if he did it the day after pretending to be remorseful in front of a judge. Thats between consenting adults.. it would be for being corrupt and taking bribes for years.. but he’s a “good guy”.

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            It’s impossible to explain to a libertarian what’s wrong with libertarianism. Believe me, I’ve tried every which way.

            It’s because the words don’t mean the same thing. You say “freedom,” and it means something different to a libertarian. They see things as encroachments on freedom that make little sense to the rest of us.

            But the real problem is the word “responsibility,” another one that you just used.

            If you ask me to explain to the average person what’s wrong with libertarianism, I say, “because they believe in freedom without responsibility.”

            But the libertarian will loudly protest that he is all ABOUT responsibility. By which he means responsibility to himself (or as you just said, personal responsibility), not to others. This tends to translate as “I’ll take care of me, and you take care of you, and don’t bother me with your needs or those of the community as a whole.”

            So the whole conversation breaks down…

            To someone like me, libertarianism is based on a complete misunderstanding about what it means to be a responsible citizen. And to the libertarian, something I accept instinctively, like the truism “We are all in this together,” is babbling nonsense, to be mocked at every opportunity…

            1. Doug Ross

              I’ll take care of you. I just don’t care to use the government as the middleman..or to think that there is some honor or morality in expecting others to pay for what you want. That’s lazy altruism. The lie of communitarianism and socialism is that those who believe in it expect someone else to do the heavy lifting while most everyone else stands around pattng themselves on the back for how virtuous they are.

              We have far too many people rich and poor who rely on the government as a tool to further their own interests. Meanwhile I will continue to overpay into a system that has yet to return the favor to me in 40 adult years.

                1. Doug Ross

                  It’s not an impasse unless you admit that you are also unwilling to listen to any arguments that disagree with your views. Youre as set in your world view as I am.. The difference is in don’t expect to convince you that you are wrong.

        2. Doug Ross

          Trump will destroy Warren. she can’t drive minority voters to the ballot box and her class warfare as a millionaire herself will expose her hypocrisy.

          Never mind that every time she speaks, she looks like she just sucked on a lemon. Zero charisma, no optimism.. she’s the female version of Michael Dukakis.

          By the way, do you hate the Obamas now for buying a $15 million beach house in Martha’s vineyard? Or is that the type of multi millionaire you admire? One who makes it through politics?

        3. Brad Warthen Post author

          When you talk that way about Sen. Warren, I shudder.

          I’m looking for Restoration. If Joe weren’t available, I might settle for Charles II.

          Yes, I kid, but there’s a commonality. In the English system, traditionally a monarchy, only the rightful Stuart king had the legitimacy to set the country back on a normal course after the Cromwell madness.

          In our situation, Joe is the only person available who has “ruled” to any degree before our republic was disgraced in 2016. He’s the guy with the credentials.

          All you people who want the country to march off in a new direction — we’ve had a new direction. It was horrible, still IS horrible. We need to go back to normal. Then, once things have settled down, I’ll be willing to entertain suggestions for this or that change. Not until then.

          And the last thing we need is Enthusiasts who believe that if they can get 50 percent plus one in an election, they should get to cram their agenda down the country’s throat.

          Joe knows better than that. He’s running to lead the WHOLE country, not just the ideologues on the left…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            And it’s because I know all these things that a debate holds out no hope of providing me with additional info that I need. It’s a distraction — and, as always, a minefield for the front-runner. And since there are no viable alternatives to the frontrunner, and since it is so critically important that this nomination process produce a general election winner, debates can add nothing constructive to the process…

            I don’t enjoy these things for the entertainment value, which is the only way I can imagine enjoying them. They’re not informative in any relevant way. They don’t demonstrate any qualifications that are relevant to the job of president, except in a very basic sense of “can this person speak in public.”

            They may be valued by low-information voters, but to me they are tedious affairs in which the best candidate — whether it’s Obama or whomever (remember how he “blew it” in his first debate with Romney?) — can be damaged by some perceived slip-up that bears no relation to how he or she will perform in office. I always know more relevant information about the candidates than I can learn in a “debate,” so they don’t add any value for me — in this, or other elections…

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              I’m thinking back, and I can’t recall any time when I’ve decided on a candidate, or against a candidate, based on a debate. Maybe it happened sometime in my life, but I’m not remembering it.

              And it’s distressing to think others WILL do that — or worse, decide on the basis of TV ads. And yet we know millions do…

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Wait! I thought of one. It’s the first presidential campaign I can remember: 1960. I formed a very negative impression of Kennedy. I was 7 years old, and the son of a career naval officer. JFK was trying to talk tough on Cold War matters, and I got the distinct impression that he would be more likely than Nixon to send my Daddy to war.

                So I chose Nixon, and was quite upset when Kennedy won.

                Do you think I made my decision on a sound basis? Probably not, but I will say this: Seven years later, my Dad was sent to Vietnam. So, I wasn’t completely wrong about Kennedy and Johnson…

          2. Mr. Smith

            “We need to go back to normal.”

            There is no going back.

            And folks who want to go back are basically echoing the tea party line about “taking our country back” — which shares political DNA with “Make America Great Again.”

  4. Harry Harris

    I read most of what you wrote in this thread, Brad, and I’m surprised at how closed your mind seems to be. In a political climate loaded with attack ads and bumper-sticker talking points, any real information a “boring” debate might add is welcome to me.
    I don’t think you have to worry much about damage the other Democrats might do to him – he’s doing a pretty good job of it on his own. I’m a B&B guy still (Booker and Biden), but I think Joe needs to seriously sharpen his game and know when to get away the story-telling schtick and clarify his messages. Why is blanket student debt forgiveness a bridge too far – not what did your old uncle say about money?

  5. bud

    My initial ranking of the candidates at the debate without any influence by the punditry:

    1. Mayor Pete (Really sharp, great delivery. This type of event is his strong suit)
    2. Cory Booker (Looked presidential)
    3. Kamala Harris (Not snarky like she can be)
    4. Beto Orourke (Decent night especially discussing gun violence)
    5. Amy Klobuchar (Did ok. No major blunders)
    6. Andrew Yang (Good moments but not really exciting as I had hoped)
    7. Elizabeth Warren (A bit disappointing night. Never answered the medical cost question satisfactorily)
    8. Julian Castro (Way too snarky. Did have a few good moments to keep him off the bottom)
    9. Joe Biden (Didn’t help his cause. Later in the evening he was clearly having trouble focusing)
    10. Bernie Sanders (Debates of this type are not his strong suit. Hard to watch Bernie tonight)

    Did this change anything? I can only speak for myself. I really like Cory Booker.

    1. Mark Stewart

      I only caught the last two rounds of questions. I agree with Bud’s list, surprisingly (to me anyway).

      Kristin Gillibrand would have done well on that stage, had she made it in. Castro hit his wall; Yang should exit, too, if he is wiser than his post-debate hamming it for the camera shtick.

  6. Doug Ross

    Well Joe’s eye didn’t bleed but his teeth nearly fell out while answering a question… He was stammering frequently and even called Bernie president one time.

    He is not going to be in better shape a year from now. The decline is the normal aging process.

  7. Doug Ross

    A real transcript of Bidens answer on the question about the legacy of slavery. This is brutally bad.. ending with incoherence.

    Biden: “Well, they have to deal with—look, there’s institutional segregation in this country. And from the time I got involved, I started dealing with that. Red lining, banks, making sure we are in a position where — look, you talk about education. I propose that what we take is those very poor schools, the Title I schools, triple the amount of money we spend from $15 to $45 billion a year. Give every single teacher a raise to the equal raise of, getting out—the $60,000 level. Number two, make sure that we bring in to help the teachers deal with the problems that come from home. The problems that come from home, we need — we have one school psychologist for every 1,500 kids in America today. It’s crazy. The teachers are — I’m married to a teacher, my deceased wife is a teacher. They have every problem coming to them. We have to make sure that every single child does, in fact, have 3, 4 and 5-year-olds go to school. School. Not day care, school. We bring social workers in to homes and parents, to help them deal with how to raise their children. It’s not that they don’t want to help, they don’t know quite what to do. Play the radio, make sure the television — excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night, the phone — make sure that kids hear words, a kid coming from a very poor school — a very poor background will hear 4 million words fewer spoken by the time they get there. There’s so much –“

    Moderator: “Thank you, Mr. Vice president. “

    Biden: “No, I’m going to go like the rest of them do, twice over. Okay? Because here’s the deal. The deal is that we’ve got this a little backwards. And by the way, in Venezuela, we should be allowing people to come here from Venezuela. I know Maduro. I’ve confronted Maduro. Number two, you talk about the need to do something in Latin America. I’m the guy that came up with $740 million, to see to it those three countries, in fact, changed their system so people don’t have a chance to leave. You’re all acting like we just discovered this yesterday. Thank you very much.”

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I understood him. I would just put it, “Education is the best form of reparation.”

      Not that I’m saying Joe needs me to be his communications director, but he could do worse… 🙂

  8. bud

    These debates have been highly informative for me and I find all this negativity toward them misplaced. Last night demonstrated that the two oldest candidates really aren’t fit to be commander in chief. Age really is an important consideration even if people are uncomfortable talking about it. The younger candidates looked sharp and vigorous, qualities essential to a good leader. Warren was disappointing but not disastrously so. I’m leaning toward Cory Booker right now. Mayor Pete would make an outstanding VP or perhaps another solid cabinet post. Elizabeth Warren would also be a great addition to a Booker administration, perhaps commerce, labor or treasury secretary.

    1. Doug Ross

      A Mayor Pete / Klobuchar ticket would be interesting. He continues to impress with his intelligence and demeanor.

      1. Doug Ross

        The weirdest performance last night was Harris. Her speech patterns came across like a tipsy aunt at Thanksgiving… sort of rambling, glassy eyed. She’s lost all momentum she had and actually gone in reverse. Booker has shot past her.

        My rankings:

        Gabbard (but won’t happen)
        Mayor Pete
        Bernie (like it or not he sticks to his principles)
        —- Would not vote for any of these

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          You’re always going to put Joe at or near the bottom, right?

          But let’s talk Warren… Neither you nor I like her much, but the consensus out there is that she was the big winner last night…

        1. Doug Ross

          Tell us what you thought of his response on legacy of slavery. If Trump said what Joe said, you would have freaked out.

          1. Doug Ross

            The debate format does not work well for someone who is calm and thoughtful. It’s made for politicians used to yelling and lying.

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