There were no defining moments in tonight’s debate – except for this:
Once again, Joe Biden looked terrible.
He couldn’t explain his health care plan, which doesn’t seem to be much of a plan at all.
He totally fell apart when the debate turned to immigration. NY Mayor Bill DeBlasio asked him whether he supported the Obama-era deportations. Biden: “I wasn’t the president, and my advice to him is confidential.”
Worse: Biden said that crossing the border is a crime – although “anyone with a Ph.D should be allowed in.”
It just went further downhill when the issue of criminal justice took center stage. There’s no excuse for Biden’s long history of “tough on crime” laws that created the massive incarceration crisis. And yet, the former VP never said he did anything wrong.
Instead, he tried to attack Harris and her record as a San Francisco DA (although he didn’t mention San Francisco, he just said “she was there and had a police department.”) There’s plenty of reason to criticize Harris and her record as DA and attorney general, but Biden’s stumbling approach and his refusal to acknowledge the mistakes of the past were embarrassing.
When Harris asked Biden why he supported the Hyde Amendment, he said that a lot of people in Congress voted for it.
The only thing he ever said to explain his past votes – and he said it several times on several issues – is “that was a long time ago.”
The Democrats need to do a better job selling the idea of universal health care.
They fought and squabbled on stage tonight, and Sen. Kamala Harris probably did the best at explaining why Medicare for All would work, but even she didn’t do that well. Her plan – which is still linked to private insurance companies, so it’s not really Medicare for All – came under attack from former VP Joe Biden who said it would cost $30 trillion. Sen. Bennett of Colorado (why is he even in this race and debate?) said it would raise everyone’s taxes.
Harris said that her plan would, eventually, sever the connection between employment and insurance. That’s the right approach, but she either didn’t have time or didn’t know how to make it clear:
We are already paying those trillions of dollars for health care. We’re either paying out of pocket through Obamacare (which is way, way too expensive to be effective, trust me I’ve been there) or we are paying because our employers are putting money into the insurance industry instead of into our paychecks.
Julian Castro was the only candidate who even mentioned the housing issues that are the defining problem in most of the country. He said: “The rent is going through the roof.” That was about it.
DeBlasio, who is not going to make it to the next round, tried to be the Bernie Sanders of tonight’s debate: He started off by saying “We will restructure society and tax the hell out of the rich.” In his closing statement, he said that Trump represents “socialism for the rich.”
That, however, was about all the discussion that there was about taxation and economic inequality. The moderators pretty much ignored the issue. And the fact that only DiBlasio made it a serious issue is a major concern: The Democrats aren’t going to win unless the can present a clear economic agenda that appeals to the working class.
I didn’t see it with these candidates tonight.