Here’s a link for the transcript.
Perhaps the debate was overshadowed by the impeachment hearings or Americans are getting tired of these debates, but in any case viewership was relatively light. Debate ratings the lowest so far, Colby Hall, medialite.com, 11/21/19.
According to early Nielsen numbers, more than 6.5 million viewers tuned in to watch the November 20th debate in Atlanta, including 1.6 million in the advertiser coveted 25-54 demo. That’s a lot of viewers. But it’s a marked downturn from the 8.5 million viewers that CNN earned from the October 15th debate, with 2.4 million from the target 25-54 demo.
Several points about the debate struck us as noteworthy, notably an unquestioning acceptance of the impeachment inquiry and a shortage of policy substance. Discussion follows.
A. Questions asked – The moderators were Rachel Maddow, Andrea Mitchell, Kristen Welker, and Ashley Parker (of the Washington Post). They performed their role in a polished manner, but for the most part reinforced the leftist tone of the conversation versus questioning it. MSNBC debate moderators challenge Dems from left, urge GOP attacks, Tom Elliott, Newsgrabien.com, 11/20/19.
Whatever Rachel Maddow’s merits, enlisting her to moderate a presidential debate is no different than enlisting Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh. So it was no surprise that much of Wednesday night’s MSNBC debate featured the primetime host baiting Democrats’ already left-wing 2020 presidential candidates even further to the left.
This being said, the candidates remained responsible for their responses – including challenging the premise of any questions with which they disagreed.
B. Partisan gridlock– If any of the candidates had qualms about impeachment, they didn’t say so. The president had done bad things, according to them, and it was the constitutional responsibility of Congress to hold him accountable. Never mind whether his purported offenses rose to the level of impeachable acts, whether it was wise to proceed with zero GOP support, or what the consequences would be if the Senate predictably failed to convict him by the required 2/3 margin.
The basic premise seemed to be that regaining power was job one. Impeachment charges were fine if they would help to win the presidential election. Other changes (e.g., stop alleged voter suppression, abolish the electoral college, lower the voting age to 18 in all states, and reverse Citizens United to supposedly take money out of politics) were advocated to ensure that Democrats would not only win back the White House but also dominate both houses of Congress and recapture state governments.
While these positions seem understandable from a partisan standpoint, one might have expected better answers to follow-up questions re bridging the partisan divide and reunifying the country. Most of the stress seemed to be placed on providing payoffs for various factions of the population versus growing the economic pie or empowering Americans to get ahead through their own efforts. Thus, the candidates turned a famous Ronald Reagan saying (“government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem”) on its head by painting big government as a cure-all solution.
•Bernie Sanders, transcript, p. 4: Right now, you've got 87 million people who have no health insurance or are underinsured. We're facing the great existential crisis of our time in terms of climate change. You've got 500,000 people sleeping out on the street and you've got 18 million people paying half of their limited incomes for housing. *** We also have to stand up to the fact that our political system is corrupt, dominated by a handful of billionaires, and that our economy is rigged with three people owning more wealth than the bottom half of America. We can do it all when we rally the American people in the cause of justice.
•Elizabeth Warren, transcript, pp. 6-7: I have proposed a two cent wealth tax. That is a tax for everybody who has more than $50 billion in assets, your first $50 billion is free and clear. But your 50 billionth and first dollar, you've got to pitch in 2 cents. And when you hit a billion dollars [of tax by virtue of having $100 billion in wealth], you've got to pinch in a few pennies more. *** That's something that Democrats care about, independents care about, and Republicans care about, because regardless of party affiliation, people understand across this country, our government is working better and better for the billionaires, for the rich, for the well-connected, and worse and worse for everyone else. We come together when we acknowledge that and say we're going to make real change.
So let me just tell you what we can do with that two cent wealth tax. Universal child care for every baby in this country ages zero to five - universal pre-K for every 3-year-old and 4-year-old in America - raise the wages of every childcare worker and pre-schoolteacher in America - put $800 billion new federal dollars into all of our public schools - make college tuition-free for every kid - put $50 billion into historically black colleges and universities - cancel student loan debt for 95 percent of the folks who've got it. [All that from a wealth tax on personal wealth of over $50B? Sounds implausible!]
•Pete Buttigieg, transcript, p. 9: Q. The Republican Party never stopped fighting President Obama in his eight years in office. So what would you do that President Obama didn't do to change that? A. Positing that the country is now “in a different reality,” Mayor Pete suggested riding the wave of “an American majority that stands ready to tackle tough issues” like healthcare. Just don’t blow it by forcing people to sign up for Medicare for All if they aren’t ready to do so yet.
•Andrew Yang, transcript, p. 21: Studies have shown that two-thirds of our kids' educational outcomes are determined by what's happening to them at home. This is stress levels, number of words read to them as children, type of neighborhood, whether a parent has time to spend with them. So we need to have a freedom dividend in place from day one, $1,000 a month for every American adult, which would put in many cases $2,000 a month into families' pockets, so that they can either pay for childcare or if they want stay home with the child. We should not be pushing everyone to leave the home and go to the workforce. Many parents see that tradeoff and say if they leave the home and work, they're going to be spending all the money on childcare anyway. In many cases, it would be better if the parent stays home with the child.
•Amy Klobuchar, transcript, p. 22: By way of explanation as to why her paid family leave plan would provide 3 months of pay vs. 6 months for the Kamala Harris plan: I think that we have an obligation -- we have an obligation as a party to be, yes, fiscally responsible, yes, think big, but make sure we have people's backs and are honest with them about what we can pay for. And that is everything from sending rich kids to college for free, which I don't support, to kicking 149 million off their health insurance -- current health insurance in four years. [Sen. Klobuchar does not mention the need to reduce current budget deficits of some $1 trillion per year.]
•Cory Booker, transcript, p. 25: My plan is very simple. If you're a renter who pays more than a third of your income in rent, then you will get a refundable tax credit between the amount you're paying and the area median rent. That empowers people in the same way we empower homeowners. And what that does is it actually slashes poverty, 10 million people out. And by the way, for those people who are facing eviction, it is about time that the only people when they show up in rentals court that have a lawyer is not the landlord, it is also low-income families struggling to stay in their homes.
•Tulsi Gabbard, transcript, pp. 26-27: It is the hyper-partisanship in Washington, unfortunately, that has created this gridlock that has stood in the way of the kinds of progress that I would bring about as president, transitioning our country off of fossil fuels and ending the nearly $30 billion in subsidies that we as taxpayers are currently giving to the fossil fuel industry, instead investing in a green renewable energy economy that leads us into the 21st century with good-paying jobs, a sustainable economy, investing in infrastructure, and transitioning our agriculture -- that is a great contributor to the environmental threats we face -- towards an agriculture system that focuses on local and regional production of food, healthy food that will actually feed the health and well-being of our people, leading as a -- as a leader in the world to make the global change necessary to address these threats.
•Tom Steyer, transcript, p. 27: We can [fight climate change] and create literally millions of good-paying union jobs across this country. I would make sure that my climate policy was led by environmental justice and members of the communities where this society has chosen to put our air and water pollution, which are low-income black and brown communities. And when we ask, how are we going to pull this country together, how about this: We take on the biggest challenge in history, we save the world, and we do it together. Do you think that would pull America together? I do.
•Kamala Harris, transcript, p. 54: My entire career has been spent having one client and one client only: the people. I have never represented a corporation. I've never represented a special interest. And in this election, justice and the various injustices people are facing regardless of where they live or their race or gender are very much on the ballot, from economic justice to reproductive justice to health care justice to educational justice.
•Joe Biden, transcript p. 57: Excerpt from his closing statement. He was speaking after Sen. Elizabeth Warren and his comments came across as angry versus inspirational. “I'm so tired of everybody walking around like woe is me, what are we going to do? Let's remember, this is the United States of America. There has never, ever, ever been a time when we have set our mind to do something we've been unable to do it. Never. Never, never. So it's time to remember, get up, let's take back this country and lead the world again. It's within our power to do it. Get up and take it back.”
D. Investigating the investigators – To be complete, the impeachment inquiry is not the only investigation underway. Others are pending that would serve to discredit the president’s detractors and thereby support the president’s claim that their investigations (culminating in the impeachment inquiry) are a “witch hunt.”
#WHO DEALT THIS MESS? – There are many unanswered questions about the counterintelligence investigation that was launched against then candidate Donald Trump in 2016, and possible abuses of the investigatory process such as submission of unconfirmed evidence (the Steele dossier) to obtain FISA warrants.
A long-awaited assessment by Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz will be published on December 9, and Mr. Horowitz is scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee (chaired by Sen. Lindsey Graham) on December 11. The scope of the IG review is limited to the Department of Justice/FBI, and Horowitz is not empowered to pursue criminal charges.
US Attorney John Durham of the Department of Justice with the backing of Attorney General William Barr is pursuing a related investigation. The Barr-Durham probe is of broader scope (includes personnel in US intelligence agencies as well as the DOJ/FBI), and the scope was recently expanded to include criminal charges. Durham's investigation into possible FBI misconduct is now criminal probe, sources say, Greg Re & Ed Henry, foxnews.com, 10/25/19.
What matters will be brought to light by these investigations remains to be seen, but there seems to be far too much supporting evidence to dismiss them as “a conspiracy theory” or an improper attempt by the Department of Justice to defend the president.
#IMPEACHMENT TRIAL – If the House passes articles of impeachment, the action will shift to the Senate where Republicans are in the majority. At that point, witnesses could be called and evidence introduced that were unavailable or deemed off limits in the House proceedings. Desired witnesses might include Rep. Adam Schiff (to explain his contacts with and statements about the Whistleblower, which arguably made him a “fact witness”), the whistleblower, Hunter Biden, etc.
As a preview of coming attractions, Sen. Graham has requested transcripts of any phone-calls between then-Vice President Joe Biden and then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in February 2016. These calls might arguably shed light on the motivation of Biden’s subsequent threat to withhold US aid unless a top Ukrainian prosecutor was fired. Lindsey Graham seeks transcripts of Biden calls with Ukraine leader, Daniel Chaitin & Jerry Dunleavy, Washington Examiner, 11/20/19.
The current Democratic front runner for 2020 was reportedly none too happy about this request. Biden says Graham will “regret” investigating his [Biden’s] family’s Ukraine ties, Ellie Bufkin, Washington Examiner, 11/22/19.
#These are only outward manifestations of an all-out push to destroy the US and any embodiment of free-enterprise life. My name for this effort: worldwide socialism.
China and Russia live in horrible, dehumanizing conditions. Europe is rushing to get into it. Latin America is very much into it. Africa is pretty much a total mess. Islam is a misguided way of life (e.g., by devaluing women). So who is there left on our side, except maybe India? – SAFE member (DE)
SAFE can’t solve all the world’s problems, but it’s logical to begin by working on our own thinking and behavior. By the way, see this editorial that powerfully describes the Chinese (and to a lesser extent Russian) threat. Hong Kong and Xinjiang show what Xi Jinping wants to do to the whole world, Washington Examiner, 11/26/19.
#Some commentators are calling the impeachment inquiry an inquisition. – SAFE member (DE)
# Political revenge sounds correct to me. Happy Thanksgiving! – College classmate (SC)
# The notion that political parties tend to support ideas and procedures that benefit them in future elections is nonsense. We have had decades of single-issue voters who will not budge on their favorite notion and will bawl as their party loses power. We should celebrate the hammerheads on the left. – SAFE director
They may be harming their own cause, but in the end no one will come out ahead.
# The more I think about it the more concerned I am. The economy is growing and jobs have grown. And yet we have thousands of stores closing (probably related to Amazon) – weakening housing market – unsolved problems like healthcare, gun control, and skyrocketing cost of education – and the deficit continues to get worse every year.
How did Clinton balance the budget? See: A conversation about the fiscal problem [with Sen. Tom Carper], Section C, 10/28/19.
In the end, I think taxes will rise especially for the wealthy and businesses. Maybe so, but tax increases aren’t the best option available to balance the budget. Not only do they slow economic growth, but they won’t even reduce the deficit unless the proceeds are strictly earmarked for deficit reduction vs. new spending initiatives.
I think we have a challenging road ahead regardless of who is president. One thing for sure though.....some creative thinking is needed to help reduce the deficit. – Retired finance manager
Amen, which is why SAFE has been urging all serious presidential candidates to present their plans for balancing the budget within five years, i.e., basically during the term of the office that they are running for. Letter to the editor, News Journal, 5/28/19.