The so-called debates
The so-called debates Tuesday and Wednesday nights were entertaining to watch, but lacking in substance. First, they were “socalled” because they actually were not debates at all.
For several years, this format has been used. They were, and are, joint news conferences in which reporters and commentators ask questions of the candidates. That’s not a debate.
Second, they lacked substance because of nutty time restrictions. For example, how would the candidate fix immigration or healthcare. The candidate is expected to handle such weighty and complicated issues in 60 seconds. None of the candidates can do that, and it is unreasonable to expect them to.
So with that criticism, there were some good take-aways:
•The clear winner on Tuesday night was Elizabeth Warren. She has a command of complicated issues.
“I have a plan for that,” she often says. Warren has the ability to roll an explanation into plain English, unlike some of the other candidates. She has a populist appeal, but she’s not mad at anyone.
She won’t make the ticket, but look for her (as I noted previously) in a cabinet position — Secretary of the Treasury, perhaps.
•Tuesday nights biggest loser was Bernie Sanders.
It’s over for Bernie. The same old arguments of the old left just won’t work anymore. Everything is rigged. Wall Street is full of crooks who rig the system.
Sanders fails to acknowledge that Wall Street is also full of generous wealthy people who give millions of dollars to charitable causes. Sanders actually thinks that we, as a people, will embrace democratic socialism if given a chance. Not going to happen. It should also be noted that Sanders isn’t even a Democrat. Other than the presidential primaries, Sanders has never — not one time — ever been on the ballot as a Democrat. As a candidate for Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, as a candidate for the U. S. House of Representatives, and as a candidate for the U. S. Senate, he always ran as either an independent or as a socialist.
How he can be considered a Democrat is beyond me.
•The Wednesday night debate was a little more frisky.
Joe Biden was the target whom everyone seemed to want to knock off, but it didn’t happen. Biden handled himself well, with dignity and decorum. His problem arose when he attempted to revise history.
He worked hard for the crime bill of 1994, but an unintended consequence was massive incarcerations, particularly of African-american young men, that we are living with today. He should simply say, if we knew then what we know now, we would not have written the bill like we did.
•And speaking of revisionist history, Kamala Harris took a huge hit. She was asked about the fact that while she was the D.A. in the Bay area and later Attorney General, some 1,500 Californians were sent to prison for long periods of time for the offense of smoking marijuana.
And, when asked about that, and whether she ever used it herself, she simply laughed. It would have been far better to simply state that times and attitudes regarding pot have radically changed. If she had it to do over in 2019, she would not have prosecuted those cases.
It was also pointed out that while California Attorney General, she attempted to block the post-conviction uncovering of new and exculpatory evidence regarding a defendant on death row.
But she has preached “all my life” that she’s opposed to the death penalty. She tried to have it both ways and got caught.
•Finally, it appears that part of the conversation is going to be focused on healthcare. Biden and some others take the position that Obamacare can be improved, giving much more flexibility and options to Americans.
Warren and others are arguing for Medicare for all.
No one has yet been able to articulate a full explanation of his or her position, because it can’t be done in 60 seconds. As things move on and the field thins down, that may not be as much of a problem.
It will be interesting.
George D. Ellis is a Benton attorney. He can be contacted at gellisinben[email protected]