Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Fight Night 7: It's all about the She Said, He Said


Tuesday's debate in Des Moines, Iowa, will consist of the smallest group of candidates so far, as six Democrats qualified: former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and billionaire Tom Steyer. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang didn't make the cut, meaning the debate stage will lack any people of color, NBC News notes.

Pundits are keeping a close eye on Sanders and Warren, whose feud escalated Monday after a report that Sanders told Warren during a private 2018 meeting that a woman couldn't win the presidency in 2020. Sanders denied it, and his campaign manager called it a "lie," but Warren subsequently made the claim on the record. How will the candidates address this dispute?

"Given her recent struggle for momentum and Sanders' rise, this is a fight that Warren wants and needs," The Associated Press observes, suggesting this may be Sanders' "turn for the front-runner treatment." Indeed, Politico writes that the debate "could be a doozy," as Democrats "reluctance to brawl is now a vestige of the past."

Expect plenty of foreign policy questions amid tensions with Iran, as well. During this discussion, Biden's vote for the Iraq war "could receive more scrutiny," especially from Sanders, The New York Times writes.

The debate, CNN notes, is also particularly important for the senators on the stage, who could soon be forced off the campaign trail for President Trump's impeachment trial. That's especially true of Klobuchar, who CNN notes "needs a breakout night." The debate is also Buttigieg's "last chance to stop" slipping poll numbers in Iowa before the caucuses, CNN points out.

In a strange turn, CNN's neoliberal establishment pundits made some sense this morning.

Karen Finney said she expected an "interesting dynamic" play out between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, but she said what she thought most voters were looking for: who's the most presidential.

She said people will want to see a president on the stage, someone who can pass the commander in chief test, "given what's been happening in Iran, given the polls we've seen, people are still very concerned. They'll be saying is this someone that can take on Iran, do they have a plan? How do we revive America's relationships around the world?"

Paul Begala said candidates should not try to reinvent their Iraq war vote. He said aides should tell Biden not to look in the rear view mirror, but to look forward. "The most important way to conclude every answer is, 'And that's why I can beat Donald Trump.'"

Joe Lockhart said the person who wins the debate will be the one who rises above and sees the real fight is about keeping Obamacare and protecting Social Security. "The real fight is Trump."

I have no desire to rehash or examine yesterday's "media blowup" between Bernie and Liz for those who may have missed it.  It's manufacturing heaps of outrage for everyone who cares. This Tweet sums up the difference in interpretation pretty well (for me):

(If you get the 'image hidden due to sensitive content' warning, don't be concerned; it's just screenshots of the NYT and CNN stories the Tweeter mentions, and is completely SFW.)

CNN's MJ Lee, the reporter who "broke" this story, has created a reason for ratings to get a nice bump (the audiences for debates have been in the toilet).  It would be far better for all concerned if the debaters took the advice offered above to heart, as well as directing the moderators to ask questions about the climate crisis, Medicare for All, the Iran almost-war, and the host of issues that beg for discussion and go missing every time these meetings happen.

We'll watch and see if that happens.  Either Bernie gets the front-runner punching bag treatment from Warren  -- and everybody else -- or it goes kumbaya between them, with some other friction points serving as the backdrop.  Old Joe's war votes should be a hot topic.

In debate flotsam on the periphery:

-- Michael Bloomberg to guest on live, post-debate ‘Late Show With Stephen Colbert

Bloomey will also run a $10 million ad during the Super Bowl, countering Trump's own.  He's hired 800 staffers and spent $100 million on teevee as of a week ago.

-- BootEdgeEdge is going on Fox in a couple of weeks.

Fox News will host a town hall with former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg on Jan. 26 from Des Moines, Iowa.

The town hall, which will be moderated by "Fox News Sunday" anchor Chris Wallace, comes one week before the Iowa caucuses.

-- Tom Perez said last week he would reschedule this debate if it conflicted with the Senate impeachment trial.  Since the next debate is on the calendar for February 7 -- three weeks -- it will be mindful to watch how Mitch McConnell reacts this week (and next week, and the week after) and then see what the DNC's response is.

-- Oh yeah, Cory Booker dropped out.  As Egberto wrote, neoliberalism can destroy even the best.

-- Joe Biden really doesn't deserve the support of Black Americans.  He's tried to cut Social Security for forty years.  He keeps lying about his votes for war.  That's presuming his oatmeal brain can remember them, and that it's not creating a convenient new truth for his own comfort.

-- One thing that is true is that the neoliberals -- Biden, Pete, and Klobuchar, along with their sycophants in the corporate media -- see plenty of benefits from a fight between Bernie and Liz.

At last, mainstream journalists could begin to report the kind of conflict that many had long been yearning for. As Politico mentioned in the same article, Sanders and Warren “have largely abstained from attacking one another despite regular prodding from reporters.”

That 'regular prodding from reporters' should be understood in an ideological context. Overall, far-reaching progressive proposals like Medicare for All have received negative coverage from corporate media. Yet during debates, Sanders and Warren have been an effective tag team while defending such proposals. The media establishment would love to see Sanders and Warren clashing instead of cooperating.

There are scads of Berners taking down Warren this morning under the hashtag #RefundWarren, and earning much enmity for it from Warren's camp.  (It might be noted that infamous conservative smear merchant James O'Keefe has launched his own Red-baiting attack, #Expose2020, helpfully filling in the blanks in our neo-McCarthyist era.)  The author of the piece excerpted above argues against the tactic of Democratic progressives squaring off against each other.

I don't agree.  Primaries are for blood-letting of this type, as distasteful as it may be to hyper-partisans (of which I am no longer one).  Bernie Sanders cannot get fucked out the nomination again based on lies, manipulation of vote totals, mischaracterizations of his policies or any of the horseshit that seems to be the only tool at hand for his detractors.  Further, he won't be as successful as he was in 2016 in sheep-dogging his flock back under the blue tent if he does get fucked like that again.

Just my opinion.  I could be wrong.  Lemme finish up.

-- Tom Steyer had a bad time with the NYT's ed board.

There are many ways to describe Tom Steyer's interview with The New York Times --  the same interview every presidential candidate is going through in hopes of receiving the paper's 2020 endorsement. And with the billionaire ending his interview admittedly "upset," well, 'rough' might just be an understatement.

Steyer, the oft-donor to Democratic politicians, starts the interview on a less-than-perfect note. He's asked about "policy breakdowns that have led to there still being Americans who are hungry today," and meets it with an "um." It's an admittedly tough question, and Steyer says he'll start by discussing "where people are living" before stumbling to "young people." He eventually recovers to discuss the charitable program he built with his wife.

Things get a little snippy when Steyer is asked if "running for president is the best use of your wealth?", given that the money he's planning to spend on his campaign could fund an estimated five Senate campaigns. "As I'm sure you know since you work for The New York Times and have done your research," Steyer testily begins before describing his voter registration effort NextGen America.

By the end of the interview, Steyer is admittedly "upset" after being asked what he'll likely "fail at as president." He says he's trying to "make sure I keep my temper" and "keep my self-discipline because otherwise I'm going to get very mad," but then calls the Times a "fancy newspaper" that talks to "fancy people," suggesting it's out of touch with what's happening "around this country." Steyer then declares "I'm not sitting here just running my mouth," and the interview ends before the Times can even ask about his tie.

Might post some updates to this post today as developments warrant.

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