Democrats Imitate Donald Trump in Latest Debate
The gloves came off towards Joe Biden in the third Democratic debate, which featured a group of 10 candidates who qualified based on polling and unique donor numbers. Personally, I missed the antics of New Age guru Marianne Williamson and the rational former Congressman John Delaney — for different reasons. But with Senator Kamala Harris of California seeming less like the tough prosecutor she did in the first two debates, and Bernie Sanders seeming more muppet-like than ever, I wasn’t thoroughly bored.
That said, at moments such as when Beto O’Rourke blamed President Trump for the actions of a crazed mass murderer, saying the El Paso shooter was “inspired to kill” by the President, which the shooter himself did not claim, in fact stating in his manifesto that his beliefs pre-dated Trump’s election, I found this debate hard to stomach. Ditto for Kamala Harris: “He may not have pulled the trigger, but he’s Tweetin’ the ammunition.”
There was no mention that the recent Dayton shooter was an extreme leftist and Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren supporter. Should Trump-supporters, or conservatives generally, start blaming him or her for the deaths and injuries of innocent people? No. But doing so would be the equivalent of what Harris and O’Rourke are doing. The irony is, by refusing to see that the “climate” of hate in this country is not unique to one side, and by engaging in demagoguery, they are helping to create what they purport to deplore.
In a society where rates of overdose, crime, and general dysfunction are rising, and where violence is normalized and even romanticized in mass media and entertainment, there is a lot of blame to go around. Do politicians truly care about the victims of mass shootings, and about our safety, or do they want to score cheap political points? If it’s the former, they should cease the knee jerk blaming of other public figures and call for a serious examination of the problem.
Despite being upset over O’Rourke’s and Harris’ demagoguery (and since, as a conservative-leaning Independent, I don’t have a dog in this fight), I tried to enjoy the debate as much as I could. It is, after all, a part of our democracy.
In an answer to a question about trade policy, Senator Harris concluded, “The bottom line is this: Donald Trump, in office, on trade policy … he reminds me of that guy in the Wizard of Oz. Y’know, when you pull back the curtain, it’s a really small dude.” In response, moderator George Stephanopoulos grinned, “I’m not even going to take the bait, Senator Harris.”
If this was a profane reference to the President’s anatomy, it’s hypocritical coming from a candidate of the far left, whose members generally insisted the President’s crude remarks about women’s private parts should have disqualified him from winning the presidency.
Reflecting on Harris’ jab, it struck me that perhaps she, as well as Julian Castro, who later in the debate made repeated, apparently ageist, attacks against Biden, could be auditioning to be the Democrats’ Donald Trump — an outrageous, outspoken figure who can offer a pugnacious antidote to the grasping, plastic, drone-like Hillary Clinton.
What I think they’re missing, though, is that Trump can actually be funny.
Another attempt to be politically incorrect was Andrew Yang’s clunky statement: “I’m Asian, so I know a lot of doctors.” Huh?
Trade policy discussion was not the last of Harris’ antics. Discussing the Constitutionality of trying to ban assault weapons (a subject that anyone on either side of the issue views as gravely serious), Harris, grinning, attempted eye contact with Biden and said in what sounded like a very flirtatious voice, “Hey Joe! Instead of sayin’ ‘No we can’t,’ how ‘bout sayin’ ‘Yes we can’?”
A few additional points on the debate’s substance: Harris struck a moderate tone on trade, describing our relationship with China as “complicated,” and saying that while we need to sell them our goods, we also need to hold them accountable for stealing our products, including our “intellectual property.”
Biden came across on the whole as reasonable in contrast to the others.
Cory Booker, whose bridge-building efforts with the American Jewish community go way back, came across as earnest and intelligent. He was right to show up at this year’s AIPAC Policy Conference despite MoveOn.org’s attempt to urge a Democratic boycott. It’s unfortunate that Booker’s recent voting record regarding Israel has been a huge disappointment. Of particular note was his inexplicable failure to support the Taylor Force Act. Let’s hope he soon returns to supporting the Jewish-American community in ways that are more concrete and vital than his occasional use of Hebrew.
Overall, I felt like I was watching the class flirt and various nerds try to imitate the class clown. It was only funny when at times they themselves became the joke.
Advice for the next debate: If it doesn’t come naturally, don’t force it.
Heather Robinson is a regular contributor to The New York Post. Twitter:@HE_Robinson.