By Robert A. Vella
CNN moderated part-1 of the second Democratic Party presidential debate last night, and it was much more effective than the embarrassing first debate debacle moderated by NBC/MSNBC last month. Part-2 will be held tonight. Although I wish the candidates were given more time for their responses, voters were much better informed about the positions and styles of the 10 presidential hopefuls on stage. The pace was good, the moderators limited their involvement, and there were no disruptive melees.
The cast of candidates included two true progressives (Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, and Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren), three moderates (Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar, former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, and South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg), three centrists (Ohio congressman Tim Ryan, former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, and former Maryland congressman John Delaney), one populist red-state Democrat (Montana governor Steve Bullock), and one liberal (author Marianne Williamson).
Topics included healthcare, economics and trade specifically regarding the plight of American workers, education and student loan debt, immigration, foreign relations and the prospect of nuclear war, climate change, and race relations focused on the rise of white supremacy and possible slavery reparations. President Trump’s name frequently came up, as did Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s to a lesser degree, but former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s did not. I did not hear the word “impeachment” at all, and the centrists’ rhetorical attacks against “socialism” – which plagued the first debate – barely resurfaced this time.
By far, the greatest disagreement between the candidates was over the issue of universal government-run healthcare. In particular, Sanders and Delaney got into a vigorous debate. Bernie asserted that the runaway costs of healthcare in the U.S. was due primarily to profiteering by private insurers, and Delaney countered that Sanders’ Medicare for all plan would bankrupt hospitals. Sanders then pointed to the successful Canadian universal healthcare system which is far less costly and which did not result in hospitals going bankrupt. While Warren supported Bernie’s plan and rationale, the centrists and moderates generally preferred adding a public option to the existing Affordable Care Act (ACA) and cited the potential political problem of angering union workers (by eliminating their collectively bargained private insurance) as their rationale against the Sanders plan. From my point of view, this disagreement is counterproductive to the goal of defeating Trump in 2020. Yes, universal healthcare would be the best choice for the nation; but, I would gladly support a public option if that was the only politically feasible way to improve our healthcare system.
The other debate topics were far less contentious, although the Green New Deal proposal to mitigate the looming specter of catastrophic climate change by restructuring the economy got some pushback from centrists and moderates.
From a debate performance perspective, I thought all the candidates did as well or better than they did in June. Sanders was much stronger. Warren and Buttigieg were powerful and convincing figures. Klobuchar and Ryan were solid if not spectacular. O’Rourke and Hickenlooper were somewhat lackluster. Bullock was quirky but compelling. Delaney, although forceful, seems at odds with the Democratic Party base. Williamson again looked out of place, especially with her peculiar “love” message, even though she spoke quite effectively.
See also: Fact check: CNN’s Democratic debate
Today’s other news:
Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron officially signed into law a bill that allows the French government to levy special taxes on certain revenues that large American tech companies such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple earn in France.
That incensed President Trump, who immediately threatened a trade war of sorts, by imposing retaliatory tariffs on French wines.