Category Archive : Politics

Winners and losers from the first night of the CNN debate

Winners and losers from the first night of the CNN debate

I watched — from the debate site in Detroit — and jotted down some of the best and worst performances from the 10 candidates on stage. My picks of the winners and losers from Tuesday night’s debate (in no particular order) are below.


*Bernie Sanders: The Vermont senator clearly got the message that he wasn’t lively or active enough in the first debate of the cycle. He came out feisty — and stayed that way. Asked about former Maryland Rep. John Delaney’s criticism of his health care plan, Sanders responded bluntly, “You’re wrong.” Questioned about his single-payer “Medicare for All” plan, Sanders snapped, “I wrote the damn bill.” Sure, Sanders probably came across to some people as irascible and scoldy. But for liberals looking for Sanders to stand up proudly and unapologetically for the need for huge structural change in our politics and our culture got exactly what they wanted. And not for nothing, Sanders clearly outshone Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in this debate.

*Steve Bullock: The Montana governor, to his immense credit, understood that this debate was his one big chance to make an impression with voters — and move from the third tier upward. I’m not sure if his numbers will move in a major way, but Bullock went for it — from his opening statement on. He made clear, time and time again, that he did not believe that the liberal views of Warren and Sanders were grounded in reality and did believe that those views would cost Democrats the election. He blasted “wish-list economics” and talked about the need to solve the “here and now” problems rather than offering what he views as unworkable pie-in-the-sky policies. If moderates were looking for someone other than former Vice President Joe Biden to support in this primary, Bullock offered himself as a viable alternative.

* Pete Buttigieg: As in the first debate, the South Bend, Indiana mayor played it (relatively) safe. But unlike the first debate, there was a clear message: I am young, yes, but the older people on stage with me haven’t fixed any of these problems, so it’s time for something different. I think it’s smart for Buttigieg to a) own his age (he’s 37) and b) try to turn it from a perceived weakness into a strength. The idea that politics (and politicians in both parties) have failed and it’s time to give a whole new generation of politicians a chance has always been a powerful one — especially in a time where people on all sides of the political spectrum hate politics. That said, there were moments in this debate where Buttigieg leaned too far into his own mystique; “The racial divide lives within me,” he said at one point. Dude, what?CNN Democratic debate: Night one by the numbers

*John Delaney: Before this debate, no one knew who Delaney was or what he believed. If you watched this debate, both of those questions were answered. That doesn’t mean you necessarily loved Delaney, as he quite clearly embraced a moderate view on almost everything. But Delaney’s repeated clashes with Sanders and Warren were a win for the former Maryland congressman in the very fact that they existed. Yes, Warren dunked on Delaney over what she insisted was his emphasis on what Democrats can’t or shouldn’t do, but all in all, this was a very good debate for him.

* Elizabeth Warren: Her retort to Delaney was the line of the night — and encapsulates for a lot of Democrats why it’s so important to nominate someone who is willing to take on big fights, unapologetically. And her answer on electability — that no one thought Donald Trump could win — was pitch-perfect.

*Donald Trump: An extended conversation about eliminating all private insurance. A top-tier candidate — Warren — fully embracing decriminalizing illegal immigration. All of that is music to the President’s ears. Remember that his poll numbers — job approval that has never broken 50%, etc. — suggest that there is no positive message that wins Trump a second term. Which means he needs as much fodder as possible to cast Democrats as deeply out of touch and representative of a creeping socialism. He got plenty on Tuesday night.

*Opening statements: I really liked the fact that each of the candidate got a chance, right at the top of the debate, to lay out who they are and what they believe. It felt like a policy-centric and abundantly fair way of starting off a debate for president, and each candidate used the time well to make their case.*”Emotional turbulence” and “dark psychic forces:” God bless Marianne Williamson. We’ll miss you in future debates.


*Beto O’Rourke: The former Texas congressman needed a good debate. A much better one than he had last month. While he was mildly more energetic than in the first debate — his answer on Trump’s weaponizing of race was O’Rourke’s best moment in either debate — there were large swaths of the debate where he simply disappeared from the conversation. And too many times when he did have a chance to speak, he sounded too rehearsed and wooden, a problem that plagued him in the first debate. O’Rourke has already qualified for the third and fourth debates this fall, so he won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. But if this was seen by his campaign as a chance to change the downward narrative (and spiral) surrounding his bid, I don’t think they got it.

*Amy Klobuchar: Ask yourself this: If you watched, what do you remember about the Minnesota senator’s debate performance? Maybe it’s her emphasis in her opening statement on her unblemished record of victory in campaigns? Maybe? That’s a problem for Klobuchar, who seems to be treading water in search of a moment or a surge. She didn’t get one tonight. And candidly, she didn’t really come close.

*Elizabeth Warren: Yes, she made both lists. She had moments, without question (See: Winners). But Sanders seemed to better and more strongly articulate the liberal positions that define both of their campaigns, repeatedly. And Warren’s high-profile embrace of decriminalizing illegal immigration will add fuel to the fire for the already existing concerns among some Democrats that she is taking positions that could make her unelectable in a general election.

*Anecdotes: Some consultant somewhere some time ago told a candidate that the best way to “connect with voters” is to tell a story about “Bill from Buffalo,” who has had some sort of terrible misfortune and was done wrong by the government. Can we all agree that this anecdote-driven empathy needs to end? It’s not effective. It feels totally pre-planned and scripted. It tells us zero about what a candidate would do for the country as a whole. Enough!

Malala Would Have To Remove Her Headscarf To Teach In Quebec: Education Minister

Malala Would Have To Remove Her Headscarf To Teach In Quebec: Education Minister

Quebec’s education minister is facing criticism for tweeting a photo of himself with Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai after his government banned public employees from wearing headscarves like hers.

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Dan Gainor Debate drama Marianne Williamson scores with attacks on 'dark psychic forces,' Google goes nuts

Dan Gainor: Debate drama — Marianne Williamson scores with attacks on ‘dark psychic forces,’ Google goes nuts

It wasn’t the debate result many in the media wanted. Author Marianne Williamson was the surprise star of a debate where she had very little time compared to her opponents – less than half that of the big-name candidates.

Williamson’s debate strategy was to push for “radical truth-telling.” This included a call for up to $500 billion in reparations for African-Americans and some tough talk about the Flint, Michigan, water crisis that won her loud support in the Detroit audience.

New York Times reporter Katie Benner pointed out how Williamson used Flint “to tackle the issue of racism head on.”


Los Angeles Times National Correspondent Matt Pearce described Williamson as “often a much more skilled communicator than most of the other politicians on the stage.”

It showed.

Williamson scored big online as a result. She was only the top-searched candidate in two states before the debate, according to Google Trends. Afterward, she was the top Googled candidate in all but Montana. That’s about a 2,450 percent increase.

Williamson’s most memorable line of the night talked about the failure of “this wonkiness” to combat “this dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this president is bringing up in this country.” While the comment was mocked by some on Twitter, it also resonated.


Vanity Fair reporter Tina Nguyen joked: “Next debate: ‘Show of hands, who pledges on this stage to be against dark psychic forces.’”

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat criticized CNN’s handling of Williamson. “CNN obviously spooked by the ‘oops, we made Trump president’ experience into not giving Williamson the space and air she deserves,” he commented.

Comedian Sarah Silverman summed up a lot of the positive and negative comments at once, noting of Williamson: “She may be granola whacky but she’s right.”

Not everyone was happy about Williamson’s success. Vox Senior Correspondent Zack Beauchamp said she “is funny in isolation but when you think about it for more than two seconds her presence on this stage is genuinely disturbing.”

New York Times White House Correspondent Annie Karni retweeted Breitbart Senior Editor-at-Large Joel Pollak’s comment about Williamson having a “strong night.” She added: “Trump supporters eager to keep Marianne-mentum going.”

And New York Daily News Opinion Editor Josh Greenman added: “Williamson should have revealed her heat vision and mind control superpowers.”

The Drudge Report ran it as “CLASH OF THE LIBS!” But unlike its major media competitors, Drudge also highlighted the rise of Williamson.

“WILLIAMSON WARNS OF ‘DARK DAYS’ FOR DEMS,” ran a Drudge headline. The site linked to two separate Williamson stories. And though it was a simple push poll, she also won the Drudge poll with 47 percent of online voters.


Tim Ryan brushes off national-anthem backlash

Tim Ryan called out for not placing a hand on heart for the national anthem at Dem debate

Democratic presidential contender Tim Ryan stood out as the only candidate who didn’t put his hand on his heart during a performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the opening of Tuesday night’s debate in Detroit,  prompting commentators to zing the marginal candidate even before opening statements began.

Ryan, D-Ohio, stood alongside South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, author Marianne Williamson, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.

As the national anthem played, Ryan was the only candidate to stand with his hands clasped in front of his body, rather than at his chest.

“Rep. Tim Ryan didn’t put his hand over his heart during the national anthem,” wrote former George W. Bush press secretary and Fox News contributor Ari Fleischer. “I guess he’s appealing to the Kaepernick wing of the Democratic Party.”

Others speculated that Ryan had simply forgotten to place his hand on his heart.

A similar episode is possible at Wednesday night’s debate when another batch of Democratic candidates will take the stage. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee reportedly inquired last week whether “The Star-Spangled Banner” would be played at the debate, prompting speculation as to his plans for the performance.

Ryan, who challenged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the role of minority leader in 2016, has struggled to gain momentum. He has sought to appeal primarily to blue-collar voters in the Midwest.

Speaking to Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” last month, Ryan said the real problem at the southern border is that so many people feel the need to flee their home countries in the first place.