Tim Donner: As sure as summer turns to fall, so do presidential primary debates eventually transform from polite discussion of issues to carefully planned offensives on their chosen targets, whether they be their brothers or sisters on stage or the incumbent President, especially the incumbent President.
Kamala Harris: You spent the last two and a half years full time trying to sow hate and division among us.
Beto O’Rourke: We have a white supremacist in the White House.
Amy Klobuchar: And he is treating our farmers and our workers like poker chips in one of his bankrupt casinos.
Kamala Harris: And now, President Trump, you can go back to watching Fox News.
Tim: Sure, we got the usual railing against the deplorable President, but what else is new? The real news coming out of round three of democratic debates in Houston was the heated exchanges over healthcare right out of the gate that set a decidedly more contentious tone than in the first two rounds. Senator Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders defended “the damn bill” (Bernie’s own words) that Bernie authored, which would end private health insurance in favor of a single payer government run system, Medicare for all. Front runner Joe Biden repeated his pledge to protect and expand Obamacare and drew a sharp distinction between his plan and single payer and may have had a moment when he continued to fend off Bernie’s aggressive defensive government-controlled healthcare like in many other countries.
Joe Biden: My plan for healthcare costs a lot of money. It costs $740 billion. It doesn’t cost $30 trillion. How are we going to pay for it?
Bernie Sanders: In the United States of America, we are spending twice as much per capita on healthcare as the Canadians or any other major country on earth.
Joe Biden: This is America.
Tim: This is America. Old Joe sounded almost like Trump there for a moment, and you can bet the rank and file Democrats out there getting scared to death of all the socialist programs certainly noticed. Now, Biden later actually called Sanders a socialist, as opposed to Bernie’s own moniker of democratic socialist, but the front running former vice president continued to be a punching bag for much of the evening as you’d expect, clinging to his affiliation with the nation’s first black president to fend off the attacks of lower tier candidates like Julian Castro.
Julian Castro: He wants to take credit for Obama’s work but not have to answer to any questions.
Joe Biden: I stand with Barack Obama all eight years. Good, bad, and indifferent. That’s where I stand.
Tim: And you know, Biden was hardly alone in praising his former boss. Evidently stung by criticism of their tepid defense or complaints about President Obama’s policies in the previous debates, many of the candidates poured on the praise for Obama this particular night almost as often as they attack President Trump for being a racist and white supremacist. Senator Kamala Harris even attempted to revive the 2008 slogan, Yes We Can. But there’s also the matter of Joe Biden’s age, 76, and in one of the nastiest, most personal attacks of the night, Mr. Castro took dead aim at the target.
Joe Biden: I qualify for …
Julian Castro: Are you forgetting what you just said – are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?
Tim: Now, if you thought that naked attempted to depict Biden as a doddering old fool was bad, consider the words of one Beto “Don’t call me Robert Francis” O’Rourke, former congressmen and child of privilege who’s been renouncing that privilege throughout the campaign. He was once thought to be the next big thing before fading badly in the previous debates, and after declaring that Trump is a white supremacist who inspired the mass shooter in El Paso, Beto went on a diatribe about gun control concluding with this not soon to be forgotten promise:
Beto O’Rourke: Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.
Tim: Yup, President O’Rourke is coming for your guns. What could go wrong? There were few, very few, memorable new ideas put forward in this third debate, but you got to hand it to Andrew Yang, the tech entrepreneur who proposes to give every American over 18 a thousand dollars a month in what he calls a freedom dividend. And Yang said he’s putting his money where his mouth is right now.
Andrew Yang: My campaign will now give a freedom dividend of $1,000 a month for an entire year to ten American families.
Tim: So Yang can get another burst of publicity in a year when the results of his experiment come back. Pretty clever.
So, what’s the upshot of this third debate? Biden often smiled at the wrong time and, as is his wont, stumbled frequently but seemingly without much consequence. He continues to stand by himself in this field as the lone non-progressive, hard as he tries to sound like one at times. His lead would appear to be safe for the time being.
But in delivering a third consecutive strong and at times commanding performance, Elizabeth Warren could be on the verge of expanding her advantage over the perpetually infuriated Bernie Sanders, and establishing herself as the undisputed leader among the fields many progress. And if you missed the show, worry not. There’s nine more debates scheduled before the Democratic nomination is settled.
And one more clip for you, and it’s serious food for thought. A statement by the respected veteran Congressmen and third ranking Democrat in the house, James Clyburn, decrying the many in his party looking to tear things down instead of building them up. And then listen to how he concludes.
James Clyburn: I do not agree with pulling things up by the root. You go and try to build upon what you’ve done … You know what? I really believe sincerely the climate that we’re in today, if the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments of the United States Constitution were put before the public today, I’m not too sure that we will hold onto the Bill of Rights.
Tim: I want you to ponder that question as you go about your lives this week. If the Bill of Rights was up for a vote today, would it actually pass? This is a question we have to ask circa 2019.