BfAZ Authors React to the First Democratic Debate

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By Michael Bryan, Larry Bodine, Pam Powers Hannley and David Gordon.

First of all, if you missed it and want to recap in prose: here’s the debate transcript. Here’s the full video:

Comments by Michael Bryan: If you ask me, the debate accomplished a few things:

It moved forward the debate on immigration and refugees. Julian Castro dragged the rest of the field to the idea of repealing section 1325, thereby decriminalizing simple crossing of the border without authorization. In a single blow that would take away the legal basis for detaining immigrants and refugees until their status hearings.

Elizabeth Warren made a brilliant case for Medicare for All. Made the others, except DeBlasio, look like nervous nellies with limited policy imaginations. She came out of the debate appearing to well-deserved her place in the polls at the moment. She dominated the time, the message, and the medium.

It knocked the gilding off golden boy Beto O’Roarke. Between his being constantly talked over and singled out for criticism, he looked out of his depth and unprepared. His charisma can only carry him so far.

Corey Booker stood out as an effective communicator and a force to be reckoned with. He made an overall impression of great empathy and laid out his theory of election well: only by calling people to their better natures can we win against Trump.

Bill DeBlasio stood out as both rude and an effective tribune of the plebs. He mostly got to speak when he was interrupting someone, but he still managed to be effective at communicating a call for party purpose as a servant of the working class. He’s going to have to own that statement about all the money being in the wrong hands. That will be his Trump nickname: Wrong-Hands Bill.

Julian Castro made a great impression. He was articulate and charming, prepared and sharp. Unfortunately, he’s also tiny. Exact same size as Warren. Can such a diminutive man be President in this image-obsessed age?

Tim Ryan, I’m sorry to say, despite an important message about addressing the working class and winning the industrial heartland back, is really just too goofy-looking to be President. Sorry, but his eyes bug when he’s thinking hard and he looks completely befuddled. He is really there to build his leadership cred in the caucus as an alternative to Pelosi. Job not accomplished.

Jay Inslee made a brave, but ultimately overshadowed, showing. He was supposed to be the herald of climate change, but Beto stole his thunder on that critical question. He did not have a breakout moment in my view, though he made his standard pitch, I still think it weak. Climate change doesn’t just ‘sting’, Jay; it kills.

Tulsi Gabbard presented her bio well and held her own, but did not hit out of the park the question regarding her past opposition to gay rights. She should have been readier for it.

Amy Klobuchar stunk up the place a bit, in my view. She did not explain well the policy differences that led her to that stage, or explain why she is the centrists’ best choice. Her answers sounded canned and unfocused, but she might have saved herself with a few good zingers.

John Delaney tried to make a lane for himself of wealthy centrist tycoon representing the little people that Howard Schultz already found did not exist. He came across as some dick who crashed the party only to tell everyone they are wrong, because he’s rich.

The name chirons were the loser of the night. Nobody knew who half these people were and they kept taking down the name chirons instead of leaving them up the whole time someone was solo on camera. The point is to get to know these people, which you can’t do if you don’t even know their names.

Surprisingly, no one seemed to take swipes much at current front-runners Warren, Sanders, and Biden. Everyone seemed pretty focused on policy and introducing themselves to the people. It was a good, civilized debate.

Comments by Larry Bodine:

I agree with the New York Times that Elizabeth Warren Aced the First Democratic Debate. She came across as a real fighter who will be an intimidating candidate against Donald Trump. I can see her shredding him alive in a one-to-one debate. She was smart to stay out of the various bickering. I just wish she were on the second debate to see her with Bernie and Biden.

It’s clear why Warren is the progressive’s choice, with statements like:

  • “Who is this economy really working for?” Ms. Warren said, “It’s doing great for a thinner and thinner slice at the top.”
  • Gun violence is a national health emergency in this country, and we need to treat it like that.”
  • It has been far too long that the monopolies have been making the campaign contributions, have been funding the super PACs, have been out there making sure that their influence is heard and felt in every single decision that gets made in Washington.
  • So we’ve had an industrial policy in the United States for decades now, and it’s basically been let giant corporations do whatever they want to do.”
  • Health care is a basic human right, and I will fight for basic human rights.”
  • “The insurance companies last year alone sucked $23 billion in profits out of the health care system, $23 billion. And that doesn’t count the money that was paid to executives, the money that was spent lobbying Washington.”

Julián Castro came in second. To me, he scored big points for:

  • “I would do several things, starting with something we should have done a long time ago, which is to pass the Equal Rights Amendment finally in this country.”
  • “I don’t believe only in reproductive freedom, I believe in reproductive justice.”
  • “If I were president today, I would sign an executive order that would get rid of Trump’s zero-tolerance policy, the remain-in-Mexico policy, and the metering policy.”
  • “We need a Marshall Plan for Honduras and Guatemala and El Salvador.”
  • “My plan also includes getting rid of Section 1325 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, to go back to the way we used to treat this when somebody comes across the border, not to criminalize desperation, to treat that as a civil violation.”
  • “I am the dad of a 10-year-old girl, Carina, who’s here tonight. And the worst thing is knowing that your child might be worried about what could happen at school, a place that’s supposed to be safe. The answer to your question is no. We don’t have to accept that.”
  • “When I was mayor of San Antonio, we moved our local public utility, we began to shift it from coal-fired plants to solar and other renewables, and also created more than 800 jobs doing that. … And if I’m elected president, the first thing that I would do is sign an executive order recommitting us to the Paris Climate Accord.”

While it impressed me to see the breadth of the Democratic field, I don’t remember much about any of the other candidates.

The loser of the night was NBC, which did a terrible job of broadcasting the debate. The nausea-inducing moving background was a terrible distraction. The microphone glitch in the middle of the debate was a disgrace. And Chuck Todd was an annoying and cloying interviewer. C-Span would have done a better broadcasting job.

Comments by Pamela Powers Hannley:

I jumped into the June 26 Democratic Party Presidential Debate at 7 p.m., since I was at an event earlier in the evening. Here are some of my random observations from the Chuck Todd hour…

First of all, I was surprised how random the questioning was and how candidates just jumped in and interrupted each other. The second hour moderators Todd and Rachel Maddow didn’t try to hold decorum. According to one news article, Todd talked more than several of the candidates.

The amount of time allotted to candidates seemed very uneven, and the news reports today have backed up our impressions. They said that Corey Booker, Beto O’Rourke and Elizabeth Warren were the top three in terms of speaking time. One report gave Warren kudos for not interrupting others to get more time– unlike Booker and O’Rourke.

As Mike Bryan noted above, many of these candidates don’t have national name recognition. For example, I had to look up Tim Ryan, when I heard he was from Ohio. My impression of him is that he is trying to be the Democratic Party’s version of 2016’s folksy Ohioan Republican Presidential Candidate Governor John Kasich. Frankly, I prefer folksy Ohioan Senator Sherrod Brown to either Ryan or Kasich. I grew up Northern Ohio, known as the “industrial north” until all if the factories closed. Ohio is now one of the states with the worst opioid addiction problems. Who is speaking for those disaffected former factory workers and unemployed coal miners in the Midwest and Appalachia? Ryan mentioned hard times in Youngstown, but he’s not going to make it to the finish line.

On a lighter note, Bill DeBlasio and Corey Booker need to work on their resting bitch faces. The way they looked at their neighbors Ryan and Warren, when they were speaking, was … interesting.

On gun violence prevention, there was a lot of dodging and deflecting when Todd tried hard to get someone to say they would take people’s guns away in order to reduce the supply of weapons in circulation. Tough luck, Chuck, nobody took that bait.

Todd said that Booker had suggested a national gun buy-back program to reduce the number of guns in circulation. I think gun buy-backs are a great idea. Why did Booker dodge Todd’s question when he asked him to explain how it would work? After my Dad died, my Mom had to figure out what to do with his hunting rifles. I think there are a lot of widows out there who would gladly dispose of unwanted weapons through a buy-back program.

I was glad to see that Beto O’Rourke memorized the March for Our Lives demands before the debate. It seemed as if he was reciting bullet points. Seriously, I liked that he and DeBlasio rattled off the standard list of gun violence prevention reforms like universal background checks. I also liked DeBlasio’s weapons license idea. Why not require licenses for weapons, as we do with vehicles?

Klobuchar’s gun stance seems similar to mine (on the surface anyway). She said there are reforms we can make, while still protecting hunting traditions. For many rural Americans, meat from hunting is an important part of their diets; it’s not simply sport. My Dad was a hunter and outdoorsman, but he didn’t own survivalist’s arsenal always stored his two hunting rifles and antique musket locked on a rack and unloaded. Safe storage, universal background checks, licenses or some type of registration, gun buy-backs, keeping guns out of the hands if domestic violence perpetrators, banning military assault weapons– these are all good ideas to reduce unnecessary gun violence and premature death. None of these ideas infringe upon the 2nd amendment or the hunting tradition.

For several minutes after we tuned in at 7 p.m., the people to the far right weren’t being asked any questions. My husband Jim and I kept wondering who the three on that end of the stage were and why they were ignored. John Delaney finally shouted from the edge of the stage enough times that the moderators called on him.

Tulsi Gabbard was another of the candidates on the right who didn’t get much air time during the debate. Her five minutes of fame came when she gave another candidate a feisty smack down about war and the difference between the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Woot.

The question about the biggest threat to the US garnered interesting and varied answers. The moderator asked the candidates to answer with two words. Well, that directive was pretty much ignored. Climate change, China, corporations, Russians hacking our elections, and Trump popped up as being dangerous.

I liked that Warren is going to sick the grassroots on Senator Mitch McConnell. Good idea but what else?

My overall impression of the first night is: There were some good Vice Presidential picks and cabinet members on stage.

Klobuchar and Warren came across as sincere to me. Booker, DeBlasio, and Inslee were pushy. Castro was meek and underwhelming, but in all fairness, I missed some of the debate and some of the comments reported by my colleagues above. Ryan was the aw shucks Midwesterner. I still like Warren the best, but I was surprised how much I also liked DeBlasio and Klobuchar.

Comments by David Gordon:

I watched the debate on Wednesday, sponsored by the Maricopa County Democratic Party, at the Harkins Theaters at Tempe Marketplace. The attending crowd, was pretty much a Warren crowd although they seemed to like everything everyone said. The first group of “impartial moderators” seemed to favor Warren too and gave her most of the attention the first half of the debate. She did well but the other candidates had views and opinions to offer as well. Fortunately, the second group (Maddows and Todd) seemed to even things out.

All the candidates gave good and thoughtful responses with some nice zingers here and there. The best performers in terms of style were probably Castro, Booker, Ryan, and DeBlasio although De Blasio was a rude prima donna and Ryan looked like an angry white guy when he was not giving answers. In terms of substance, it would have to be Warren, Kloubacher, Inslee, O’ Rourke, and Delaney although surprisingly O’Rourke always seemed to need to warm up before finishing strong at every response he gave. Gabbard gave good answers but appeared too rehearsed.

Overall, no one did anything that would kick them out of the sandbox tomorrow.

Was at the Tempe Harkins for the second night. It was a Harris, Yang, and Sanders crowd. I think the people that presented the best were Harris, Buttigieg, Bennett (who was the only one out of 20 to get the McConnell question right, and Gillibrand. Hickenlooper, Biden (who accomplished his mission by not gaffing despite what the day after commentators are saying), and Sanders were respectable. I would have liked to have heard more from Yang. Willamson surprisingly gave some interesting answers. Swallwell, with his idiotic attacks on Biden and Sanders (it was funny seeing both of them give him an FU stare in unison) as well as his attacks on Buttigieg, is the candidate that should be kicked off the island.

Why did not any of the candidates or moderators point out that this President is a popular vote loser?

Some more perspective on the debates from the last two days:

1) Most candidates want to build on Obamacare with a Public Option not do Medicare for All.

2) Making crossing the border illegally a civil rather than criminal offense is NOT going to fly well even with legal immigrants who did everything right in entering the country.

3) Giving illegal immigrants access to health care that they pay for makes sense for the reasons the candidates said but they will need to explain it quicker for the people who will have a knee jerk negative reaction.

11 COMMENTS

  1. Height correlates with electability. I don’t make the voters, I just notice what they tend to do. They vote for tall men. Sorry, you all don’t like that I called it out. And, yes, Mayor Pete may be too diminutive, as well.

    • Then Bill de Blasio at 6’5″ is the obvious nominee. Biden and Sanders are both 6′ but geriatric which means they could have osteoporosis and lose an inch of height before the election. Worse yet, they could get the dreaded “dowager’s hump.”

      We’ve still got Booker at 6’2″ but he shaves his head. I’ve got serious reservations about that because being bald might cancel out being tall with the voters. Any stats on the electability of bald men? I suspect that short, bald men have zero electability.

      One more issue we may as well get out there. What if the short man is really handsome, has a great face and appears to be physically fit? Probably no stats on that yet.

      • I don’t think the data supports the conclusion that the tallest candidate will capture the nomination, just that taller candidates tend to be favored.

  2. Thoughtful well informed voters don’t care who is tall and who is not.

    The problematic voters are the ones who don’t understand that The Apprentice was fake and that Trump is not a billionaire or a great business person .

    They are the voters who fear caravans of tired hungry scared people and want a daddy to protect them .

    You are not that voter.

    • True, I’m not that voter. But I’m shallow in other ways. And I deeply regret my earlier fascination with tall, handsome men. I warn others but to no avail. 🙂

  3. For those needing the exact height of Julian Castro and Pete Buttigeig to decide whether or not to support their candidacies, I am unable to find either. I even checked Joaquin Castro figuring it would be about the same as Julian. One source estimated Pete’s height at 5’8″.

  4. Kamala Harris or the tallest dude.

    The tallest dude usually wins. Remember those pics of Jeb! trying to stand on his tippy toes when they did the GOP debate lineup?

    Kamala Harris would give Trump a fatal meltdown in a debate and expose him for the lightweight he is. I will give all the money to see this. All the money.

    Biden will give Trump another term.

    Harris, maybe with Mayor Pete as VP.

    The rest of the best who are not already in the Senate should drop out now and run for Senate.

    • Michael Bryan! I had to stop reading just to comment, but I will return perhaps with more comments.

      Julian Castro is TINY?

      Well, yes, it does appear that taller men have had an advantage in being elected to the presidency. At some primitive level, taller is perhaps associated with being stronger and more powerful. But truthfully, I believe that voters might be getting past that given that an older woman who is not tall won the popular vote in 2016.

      I was leaning toward supporting Julian Castro before the debates and I like him more every time I see him. Unless someone produces pictures of him stomping on puppies, he’s my guy.

      I will admit that in my personal life I have preferred taller men. Looking back, I think it might have been a mistake.

      • I have first hand knowledge on this one.

        I’m 6’4″ tall. I’ve been complimented on my height all my life, from childhood on, I’ve been told that being tall is good, and saying it never hurt with women is an understatement. i’m pretty sure it’s helped me at work, too.

        But being tall is not an achievement, I get credit for something I had nothing to do with. I’m certainly not complaining but I am aware that I am benefitting from something I had no control over.

        It won’t matter for a smart tough woman, like Warren or Harris, and pretty much everyone running on the Dem side is 1000 times smarter than Trump, but if Trump towers over a Democratic man on a debate stage, that guy will have to have a walk off home run to win.

        It’s grossly unfair and stupendously stupid and a terrible way to pick a leader, but it’s a real thing, the taller guy, or at least one of the tall guys, usually wins in Presidential elections.

        https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/caveman-politics/201210/it-s-weird-candidate-height-matters-in-elections

      • Hmmm. Well, what if the tall candidate is also geriatric, has a butt-ugly face, orange skin, weird hair and an obese body that looks like about 400 lbs? Plus he’s an idiot. And, he’s set the country on fire.

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