By Dave Andrusko
I did not watch the Wednesday’s debate. I read the transcript after I got home last night and rewound the tape to see selected portions this morning. I think I have a pretty decent grasp. Here are my four takeaways.
1. It was not until the very end that abortion came up—and not because of a question a moderator asked but because Sen. Kamala Harris wanted to hammer former vice president Joe Biden. She criticized him for changing his position on the Hyde Amendment, which he had. Biden’s response was to argue that “Everybody on this stage has been in the Congress and the Senate or House has voted for the Hyde Amendment at some point.” But now he was right. When Harris asked him why it took so long (Biden didn’t change until last month!), Biden offered a lame excuse.
The fundamental dynamic of the 2020 presidential election is set. Whomever is the Democrats’ nominee he or she will be as far away from the position of pro-life President Donald Trump as the east is from the west. There will be clarity—real “choice,” if you will.
2. There were some real zingers last night, obviously all prepositioned, but effective nonetheless. This is, of course, why party officials and activists hate debates because the charges and cross-charges will come back to haunt whomever is the nominee next year. In the turnabout is fair play department, Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard tore into California Sen. Harris precisely the way Harris lit into Biden in the first debate.
3. The ten called President Trump every name in the book. But “politics ain’t bean bag,” to quote Mr. Dooley. More surprising is that the Democrats’ patron saint, the one whose name can only be revered, came in for criticism last night: former President Barack Obama. Here are the lead paragraphs from a story by the Washington Post’s Michael Scherer:
DETROIT — Democratic presidential contenders have opened a surprising new front in their effort to retake the White House — calling into question the legacy and leadership of former president Barack Obama, the party’s most beloved leader.
Like young adults seeking to break away from their father’s shadow, the candidates who gathered in Detroit to debate the party’s future this week repeatedly challenged Obama’s record, both directly and indirectly, as too timid, misguided or insufficient for the moral challenge of the moment.
The political messaging consensus that won Democrats control of the House in 2018 — defend Obamacare, oppose Republican policies and mostly avoid disruptive liberal ideas — has also faded over the last year as candidates try to placate this year’s crop of activists.
At the risk of stating the abundantly obvious, the policies favored by “this year’s crop of activists,” which most of the contenders are mimicking, is a recipe for general election disaster. It is of a piece with their unambiguous embrace of abortion on demand, paid for with tax payer dollars, and a softness (at best) on infanticide. And
4. The way the Democrat Party has established its guidelines for who gets to go onstage to debate assures that most of the 20 will be ineligible for the next debate which takes place September 12-13 in Houston.
“Candidates will need to have 130,000 unique donors and register at least 2 percent support in four polls,” the New York Times’ Maggie Astor reports.
“They have until Aug. 28 to reach those benchmarks.These criteria could easily halve the field: The first two sets of debates included 20 of the 24 candidates, but a New York Times analysis of polls and donor numbers shows that only 10 to 12 candidates are likely to make the third round.”
It can only get crazier, since (a) some/many of those who don’t make the cut will continue to campaign; and (b) if the frontrunners seem to be uninspiring, it opens the door to some late comers.