Some thoughts about ‘fight night’ in Las Vegas

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With voters in several states currently voting early in their presidential preference primaries, last night’s “debate” in Las Vegas was consequential to voters not just in Nevada but in the “Super Tuesday” states and beyond, including Arizona.

Note: The media needs to cease the pretense of calling these reality TV scripted conflicts for your entertainment shows a debate. The media is abusing the English language and the common understanding of the term by referring to what it is producing as a “debate.” Please, just stop.

Ladies and gentleman, let’s get ready to rumble!

From the opening round to the final round of this “fight night” in Las Vegas, I was reminded of an old children’s rhyme (with apologies):

Lizzie Warren took an axe
Gave Mike Bloomberg forty whacks
When she saw what she had done
She gave the others forty-one

Senator Elizabeth Warren came loaded for bear last night with the perfect foil by her side, billionaire former Republican mayor of New York City Mike Bloomberg, and she landed the haymakers she needed to land to revive her image among Democratic voters as a fighter for the people. She took some hard swings at her Democratic rivals as well.

The media has been engaging in the erasure of Elizabeth Warren from this Democratic primary, but last night like Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) in Fatal Attraction, she declared “I will not be ignored!

The only thing missing from last night’s fight was Howard Cosell making the ringside call: “Down goes Frazier Bloomberg!

Boston Globe columnist Michael Cohen captures last night perfectly. Fight night in Las Vegas:

On Wednesday evening, the Wikipedia page of Michael Bloomberg was updated to state that he had “died” on February 19, 2020, at the hands of Senator Elizabeth Warren.

I’m hard pressed to think of a more fitting, albeit hyperbolic, description of what happened at the Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas.

The first words out of Warren’s mouth landed like an uppercut to the jaw of the former New York City mayor. “I’d like to talk about who we’re running against,” said Warren. “A billionaire who calls women ‘fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced lesbians,’ and no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”

Bloomberg then proceeded to take body blow after body blow — and he couldn’t get his gloves up to defend himself.

Everyone knew Bloomberg would be asked about his support for the stop-and-frisk policy that targeted communities of color while he was mayor of New York City. Everyone except, it seemed, Bloomberg, who had no good answer when asked about it. Later, under withering criticism from Warren for his refusal to release the non-disclosure agreements from women who sued his company, his response included this bon mot, “none of [the women] accuse me of doing anything other than maybe they didn’t like a joke I told.”

If it was a sexist joke … that’s the problem.

Former vice president Joe Biden, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont got their licks in too, but Bloomberg was often his own worst enemy. He came across as arrogant, condescending, unprepared, and out-of-touch with the party he is seeking to lead. By the time the debate ended, his carcass had practically been picked clean.

Bloomberg’s poor showing seems likely to stall his momentum. But he’s not on the ballot in Nevada, so who will immediately benefit?

With the exception of Klobuchar, one could make the case that all the candidates will. They did what they needed to do.

Warren had a fantastic debate. She repeatedly showed her effectiveness at delivering a political attack as well as her vast policy chops. She didn’t attack only Bloomberg — she hit everyone. Even Sanders got a glancing blow from her. That could rub some voters the wrong way, but if they were looking for a fighter, she delivered. If her Hail Mary effort doesn’t restart her campaign, nothing will.

Biden had a surprisingly good night. He still gets tongue-tied and confuses shouting with passion, but he wasn’t afraid to mix it up, particularly with Bloomberg, whom he went after with apparent glee. It was an energetic performance that seems likely to reassure his supporters he is still alive in this race. If Bloomberg takes a hit from Wednesday, it stands to reason that Biden could benefit — since much of the former’s rise has come from the latter. In Nevada, if moderate Democrats are looking to stop Sanders’ momentum — and Bloomberg no longer looks like such a great option — Biden could reap the whirlwind.

Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Klobuchar were Wednesday night’s undercard fight. These two are fighting for moderate Democratic voters so it’s not surprising that they tangled. But the venom between them was remarkable.

The most revealing moment came late in the debate when Buttigieg hit Klobuchar for voting to confirm Kevin McAleenan, the former US Customs and Border Protection commissioner, as well as her support for legislation to make English the national language. It was a smarmy attack, but Klobuchar responded with high dudgeon. “I wish everyone was as perfect as you, Pete,” she said. You’ve “not been in the arena doing that work. You’ve memorized a bunch of talking points and a bunch of things.”

At that moment, every story from former staffers about her rage rang true. Klobuchar was flustered, and she lashed out in a way that clearly reflected the deep animus she feels toward the political upstart. It spoke volumes about the deep well of anger and resentment that resides under Klobuchar’s well-constructed facade of “Minnesota nice.”

It also demonstrated her political inadequacies. Buttigieg came prepared to get under Klobuchar’s skin. He clearly wanted to get a reaction out of her and it worked. Disciplined politicians don’t get so easily thrown off their game, but Klobuchar did. And Buttigieg stands to benefit if her response rubbed Nevada voters the wrong way.

Finally, a word on Sanders. Arguably, he had the best night of anyone. The other candidates were so busy attacking Bloomberg, they forgot to lay a punch on the nominal front-runner.

In fact, every time Buttigieg attacked him (and he was the only candidate who consistently did), Sanders interrupted and talked over him. While it neutralized Mayor Pete’s criticisms, to my ear, Sanders came across as arrogant and condescending. It wasn’t a great look, but then again he usually comes across as arrogant and condescending, and it never seems to hurt him with his core supporters. I doubt last night was any different.

It wasn’t a great debate performance for Sanders, but it didn’t need to be. He was on top of the polls going in, and he’s likely still in first place as the smoke has cleared. If you’re the front-runner, that’s a pretty good outcome.

As long as there are multiple candidates who remain in the race to divide up the vote, Senator Bernie Sanders stands to win primaries with a minority of the Democratic vote, compared to the combined total vote for his opponents. Is this a good thing? Probably not. It’s hard to claim a mandate for your candidacy with a minority of the vote. But this will likely be true for all of the candidates running this year.

Has Mike Bloomberg suffered a fatal knockout in his first debate performance? Probably not, considering he can spend billions of dollars to saturate the airwaves with advertising presenting an alternate reality (one would think he was Barack Obama’s vice president from his recent ads) and social media memes. Bloomberg’s immense spending gets him 30,000 online ads a minute, and a whole lot more.

Can a billionaire Republican hijack the Democratic Party nomination, the way that fake billionaire (and former Democrat) Donald Trump hijacked the Republican Party nomination in 2016? We are about to find out.

The most telling question came at the very end of the debate, when the candidates were asked the hypothetical question, “if no candidate has a majority of delegates going into the convention, should the candidate with the most delegates be deemed the nominee?” to prevent a brokered convention (there has not been a brokered convention since 1952). Every candidate, save one, answered “no, let the process play out” at the convention, i.e., a brokered convention with multiple ballots.

Senator Bernie Sanders, who at the moment stands to have the most delegates going into the convention, answered in the affirmative, because he stands to benefit. It is a hypocritical reversal of his position in 2016, however, when Hillary Clinton had the most delegates going into the convention. Bernie Sanders pushed for a contested convention in 2016. Now he wants to avoid one.

A lot can happen over the next few weeks. I suspect that this primary race is still fluid with a number of different result scenarios occurring across the “Super Tuesday” primaries with no clear favorite emerging. No one can say for certain. We shall have to wait and see.

UPDATE: Daily Kos reports that Senator Elizabeth Warren followed up her debate performance on Thursday by taking out a full-page ad in the The Las Vegas Review-Journal, the largest newspaper in Las Vegas, which GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson purchased in 2016:

In the ad, Elizabeth Warren made the case for her wealth tax, noting Adelson would have to pay $2.3 billion in taxes in the first year alone. Warren’s ad further notes how this money would be reinvested to help everyday Americans by canceling student loan debt, investing in childcare to help working parents, and much more.

Nevada reporter Jon Ralston, who was a panelist in Wednesday night’s debate, noted Warren’s “chutzpah” for taking aim at Adelson in his own hometown and in the pages of his own newspaper.




18 COMMENTS

  1. Ann, Thank you for your well informed reply. There are two issues at the debate they failed to separate. They trashed the billionaires rather than what caused it and what they would do to solve the decades long problem of unprecedented disparity.

    Rather than attacking billionaires and Bloomberg directly, Warren made a false equivalency comparing him to Trump. If billionaires are a concern, two words the panel of reporters and the candidates, failed to discuss — CITIZENS UNITED. Without repealing it, nothing will change. Why didn’t they discuss that?

    Bloomberg, should NOT be compared to Trump, a TV con-man, would-be dictator and fraud, who filed bankruptcies and lawsuits as a business strategy.

    At a time of crisis in NYC, Bloomberg, as a three-term mayor, restored the city to greatest and worked to find solutions for its many problems and challenges. He has been generous with his billions generously giving to good causes. I believe, Bloomberg will dismantle the broken racist criminal justice system that has failed America, its society and people. If he cannot do it, no one can. We are at a crossroads in our democracy.

    Read the following books, then decide who has the money and the power to oust the corrupt Trump/GOP machine which threatens our democracy and any hope of positive change for the people. Factual/non-fiction books on Trump: “Everything Trump Touched Dies” by Rick Wilson, “The Making of Donald Trump” by David Cay Johnson, “The Plot to Betray America” by Malcolm Nance, “The Very Stable Genius” by Phillip Rucker and Carol Leaning, “Trump and His Generals” by Peter Bergen, among others.

    So now with Bernie, who the panel and candidates failed to ask him any hard questions and gave HIM a pass, now socialism is our choice? The Dems split even more ushering in a dictatorship.

    Putin is very happy Dems while infighting on the stage for the world to see.

  2. Priority #1 — Get Trump out of office. Our democracy is at stake! Why was that not discussed?

    Who can beat Trump?: Bloomberg is the only one whose experience as Mayor of NYC and the money committed to the end to remove Trump!!

    Weak questions: We were disappointed in the panel’s weak questions that failed to focus on the crises in the last two weeks since Trump’s acquittal, as we watch him emerging as a dictator — with the demise of the rule of law and our democracy on the brink.

    Culture wars: Set aside the culture wars and purity tests! The GOP lowered that bar.

    We believe, this is no time for gender wars! After “MeToo”, the male backlash will never vote for a woman for President this time around. Still a vicious obsession with Hillary.

    Last night was a reminder of the Congresswomen, en masse, going after Senator Al Franken, forcing him out of the Senate. Let this sink in. If Franken was still a senator would that have been enough to convict Trump?

    The growing “MeToo” movement has created a backlash of hatred from the men, and the growing trend of white male supremacists, who would NEVER vote for a woman for President.

    Behavior: From the opening question, the candidates were rude and obnoxious to Bloomberg. They did not even thank him or acknowledge his contribution of millions of dollars to the Dem candidates who won in 2018. Bloomberg conducted himself in a professional manner, while the arm waving self-destruction was taking place.

    Billionaires: If billionaires are a concern, why didn’t Warren or any of the candidates state they would end CITIZENS UNITED?

    Kids in Cages: The panel/candidates failed to discuss the growing crises at the border with kids in cages which impacts many Nevada families. A stain on America.

    Stop and frisk: The panel/candidates focused on “stop and frisk” never mentioning Giuliani who started it, and gave a pass to Biden by failing to question him on the Crime Bill Act that ushered in mass incarceration and the prison growth profiteering. And failed to mention AEDPA which destroyed the Writ of Habeas. REPEAL AEDPA.

    NRA/gun violence: The panel/candidates failed to question Bernie on his NRA relationship, failed to acknowledge the victims of the Nevada Massacre and the growing domestic white terrorists gun violence.

    Read: ON TYRANNY by Timothy Snyder. We are here, the most critical period in our lifetime.

    As a former Republican, turned Democrat since living in Arizona, we’ll be signing our early ballots immediately for BLOOMBERG!!.

    • Man, you need to dunk your head in a vat of cold water and do a re-boot.

      Oh, where to start?

      First of all, Bloomberg has been a Democrat for about ten minutes. He is a Republican billionaire who is vested in protecting the wealth of the wealthy. Period. He is an entitled, arrogant, pompous prick who lives in his own bubble where he rules and can buy anything he wants. He is now trying to buy the presidency. He believes that someone must stop BERNIE SANDERS and he is the right guy to do that.

      And if you do not understand the cruel and inhumane Stop and Frisk policy that he “inherited” and escalated in NYC and the damage it has done to young POC then I suggest you do some research. And if you agree this was a good, well-intended policy then your racism is showing, amigo.

      As for his treatment of women, yes, this matters. And isn’t it looking like he is just another rich guy who has had this problem with women and has paid them off to keep their mouths shut? During the debate, where he was rightfully questioned, he blew it off as “maybe they din’t like a joke I told.” Quite dismissive I would say.

      And as for Elizabeth Warren, she is not Kirsten Gillibrand. She is a completely separate person. Please try to remember that. She did not run Al Franken out of the Senate. And what she said about Bloomberg is true. It wasn’t a question. Bloomberg is being revealed for the RACIST MISOGYNIST that he is using his own words and his own record.

      • Here we are now — Major dysfunction. A President hell-bent on revenge. Trump’s war on intel only helps Putin. PANDEMIC. PUTIN SEES TRUMP VICTORY AGAIN.

        Our DEMOCRACY IS ON THE BRINK! Who has the money to beat corrupt Trump/GOP machine? BLOOMBERG and the top people he will bring to solve major issues.

        At this critical time, we believe it is more important to oust Trump and his corrupt enablers — traitors to our country, then anything else. None of the other issues will be resolved if Trump is re-elected. Our country would be forever changed.

        BLOOMBERG’S GOAL IS TO OUST TRUMP AND RESTORE OUR DEMOCRACY, which has been gravely threatened in the last two weeks since Trump was acquitted and the GOP Senators betrayed America and our democracy.

        None of the panel’s questions or candidates addressed the seriousness of our democracy on the brink, in the hands of a would-be dictator. Are you listening to today’s news and reading about it in depth?

        At the debate: As the leading candidate, Bernie should have been targeted with tough questions. Instead, he got a pass.

        Biden was given a pass, as well. He was not asked about his devastating 1994 Crime Bill Act that ushered in mass incarceration, private prison building and profiteering, that many in the black community have not held that against him and are staying with Biden.

        Instead, the panel and candidates spent the whole time attacking Bloomberg on his past, decades ago. New York City thrived under three-term Bloomberg. I witnessed the positive transformations. The criminal justice system across America has been neglected by all across the country, except those of us who have fought for decades for meaningful reforms. Today there are many more voices and that will force change. We hope the white males who have controlled the power will emerge and listen to our voices for reforms.

        After decades, we see this possibility. Going forward, both Bloomberg and Biden appear willing to listen and address serious criminal justice reforms, reparations, etc. This has been a growing national movement starting from the bottom up!

        Bloomberg, as former New York City mayor of the largest city, and a self-made business man and billionaire has the MONEY that it takes to fight to the end, while contributing to other Democrats around the country!

        Single candidate supporters, such as yourself, appear to not seeing the larger picture.

        Today, a new crisis. Russian is interfering in the 2020 election and Trump fired McGuire, his acting director of national intelligence replaced with a political shill with NO experience or knowledge of national intelligence. Now politicized.

        A national crisis is in the making! Meanwhile the candidates are stuck battling the gender/culture wars in the media wasting precious coverage. Serious distraction from our past and current crises!

        Adam Schiff warned us.

        • Bloomberg is a racist. Bloomberg is a misogynist. Bloomberg is an oligarch.

          Stop and Frisk is ENOUGH to disqualify him and there is plenty more.

          Quite frankly, I think that Trump’s birther campaign against Obama and any one of his many scams would be enough to disqualify him. Well, a lot of folks (63 million) did not agree and look at us now.

          Yes, a candidate can do one thing in his/her career that is so bad, that is so defining of who they are that they should not be allowed another chance. Bloomberg should not be allowed to be president any more than Trump.

          I agree that Biden is getting a pass on the 1994 Crime Bill. Apparently his eight years with Obama as a loyalist and a good VP have earned him some redemption and forgiveness.

          I don’t know where you get the idea that Bloomberg is going to do all these things to save democracy. It must be faith, a belief in something for which there is no evidence.

          All of the candidates at the debate other than Bloomberg have been fairly well scrutinized. Bloomberg’s baggage is not quite so well known and since he is trying to BUY THE DEMOCRATIC NOMINATION, it was necessary for the candidates and moderators to expose him.

          Maybe you like a country with extreme income inequality where billionaires can just outright buy anything including the presidency.

          But I will say this. Unless you’re an extremely wealthy person, Bloomberg doesn’t give a damn about you or anyone like you regardless of your being white. And if you don’t see that you’re a fool and you’ll vote like a fool, but that’s not unusual in these times, apparently.

  3. I’ve been a steadfast Warren fan since I discovered her in 2008, in the course of trying to understand the financial meltdown that wiped out a big chunk of my retirement savings. She’s the real deal with great policy chops. Lord knows, we need a fighter and she just came through for us big time. Go Lizzie!

    • I wholeheartedly agree. She’s smart, ethical, decent, feisty and doesn’t forget where she came from. Not to mention wise. Doesn’t hide from her mistakes, instead strives to correct them. Proud to support & vote for her. In fact, my Presidential Preference mail-in ballot arrived today. Gee, wonder which oval gets filled in?

    • I have also followed Elizabeth Warren and her work as a senator years before the 2007/2008 financial crisis. With the money that it will take in this Presidential campaign to beat Trump and his corrupt GOP cult, I, now, believe only Bloomberg can help the Democratic Party win the Presidency, unless the Dems self-destruct themselves. Warren, is an amazing woman but she is needed in the Senate where she can continue to make reforms and changes needed.

      Our democracy is on the brink. A big city mayor like Bloomberg who has face major challenges and has the money to go up against the Trump/corrupt GOP machine is what is needed now with our growing daily crises. If Trump wins our country as we’ve known it will be forever altered. This fight is bigger than all the candidates issues put together, which will never go forward if Trump is re-elected. It’s dire.

      • You may be right–that Elizabeth can’t win because the tsunami of money pouring into Trump’s campaign would sweep her away and that only a superrich guy like Bloomberg has the resources to defeat him. But I hope to heaven you’re wrong. You see, I believe that wealth inequality, exacerbated by obscenely rich men like Buffett, Bloomberg, Bezos and Gates, is the root cause of almost all the intractable problems we face–climate change, our crumbling infrastructure, our failing educational system, generational poverty, immigration, institutional racism and on and on ad infinitum. Justice Louis Brandeis said it best: “We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

  4. Whatever, wake me up after the media has destroyed Bernie and let me know who they picked to run.

    I’m just hanging around waiting to vote for Stacey Abrams in 2024.

      • You don’t know a hell of a lot about Stacey Abrams.

        Do you really think she would be on the ticket with a white racist /misognynist/ oligarch?

        Maybe if she had it confirmed with a CT Scan that he had a large aneurysm in his brain that was ready to rupture. Maybe then. Maybe.

        • Stacey Abrams announced she is available for a VP spot. She did NOT say she would not run if a white man was the candidate for President.

          Your snarky comment shows you lack credibility.

          • Well, it would have to be a white man because there are no other races of men involved at this point. The only other possibility is a white woman.

            I think she would have difficulty with the racist / misogynist / oligarch being at the top of the ticket. Even if Bloomberg somehow manages to buy his way in, do you really think that a person who holds POC in such contempt would choose her?

            Learn the readily available truth about Mayor Stop and Frisk. Dig deeper than his wonderful anti-Trump ads that you seem to like so well.

            #KaliefBrowder

          • Liza, I have over 18 years of digging deep and deeper, along with first hand experience and activism in the related areas of injustice, mass incarceration, and fighting to free the innocent and wrongfully convicted across America.

            You mention Kalief Browder. I closely followed Rikers jail issues and the heartbreaking Kalief Browder story. Among other NY cases, I also followed for decades the Central Park Five, and had the honor of meeting the Central Park exonerees in Atlanta at Innocence Network Conference 2019.

            As a social justice activist since 9/11, I have met and supported many New York exonerees and other across the country and their work in changing legislation and growing public awareness of the injustice and harm people face encountering our justice system.

            The US is #1 jailer in the world. A shameful statistic for America “land of the free” and “home of the brave”.

            I believe, before there will be meaningful reforms, the entrenched racist white male culture, who ushered in the Trump era is ousted at all levels in our government — NOTHING.WILL.CHANGE.

            Until our true history is acknowledged, nothing will change. The mask has been torn off during the racist Trump era.

            NEEDED: A public figure greater than Trump to oust him and his corrupt GOP machine. That is Michael Bloomberg.

            Plain and simple, the other candidates do not have the money it will take to go the whole way to oust the Trump/corruptGOP machine (witnessed the impeachment hearings).

            From my years of direct contact and experience with the broken criminal justice system — those in it, those driving it and those I worked to get out of office — I believe, it will take a white male reform-minded leader to dismantle the hell they created — wiping out all they did not like or want in society — making the US #1 jailer in the world. A shameful statistic for America “land of the free”.

            I believe Bloomberg has the extensive experience and leadership skills necessary to dismantle this apparatus. He’s been working on much a positive trajectory in his goals.

            #BLOOMBERG2020

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