Wednesday February 20 saw the remaining Democrats running for President who qualified to debate in Las Vegas for the final Dem debate of 2020. It was a raucus affair that at time was laughable, at times contentious, but from start to finish put the impossible policy promises of the Democrat Party on full display.
It was billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s first debate in the 2020 campaign. And if I had to pick a loser of the night, it was “Mini Mike” as President Trump has tagged him.
Let’s take a look at the leading confrontations between candidates on the night. My use of the word “confrontation” is actually an insult to the word. A “verbal slugfest” is far more appropriate. They went nuts on each other!
Buttigieg vs. Klobuchar
Buttigieg and Klobuchar, who finished second and third in the New Hampshire primary, respectively, sparred throughout the night. Klobuchar was asked by moderator Vanessa Hauc how she planned to protect the DREAMers, and she responded that her plan was “to beat Donald Trump.”
Buttigieg countered, saying that Klobuchar needed to own her votes, and said that she voted to confirm the head of the Trump administration’s Customs and Border Protection who was one of the architects of the family separation policy, and that she voted to make English the national language. He then argued he had expertise fighting for immigrants as mayor of South Bend, and ended his answer in Spanish. Klobuchar fired back, “I’m sorry not everyone can be so perfect as you. Let me tell you what it’s like in the arena.”
She said that she has opposed two-thirds of Trump’s nominated judges and said the official she confirmed was supported by another Democrat in the room and was “highly recommended by the Obama Administration.” She added she did not support “one bit” of those “draconian” policies and would repeal them in her first 100 days. She also added that she worked on multiple immigration reform bills in the Senate.“You’ve not been in the arena doing that work, you’ve memorized talking points,” she said to Buttigieg. He responded that he has plenty of experience even though he’s never worked in Washington, and added that he’s used to “senators telling mayors that they don’t matter.”
Sanders defends himself on socialism
When asked about a recent NBC News/Wall Street poll showing that two-thirds of all voters were uncomfortable with a socialist candidate, Sanders responded by asking “what was the result of that poll,” pointing out that it also showed him in the lead.
Sanders said that America already is a socialist society, but that it’s only for the very rich and the poor are forced to deal with “rugged individualism.”“I believe in Democratic socialism for working people not billionaires,” Sanders said.
Bloomberg pushed back, saying Sanders is the “best known socialist” in the country, but also is a millionaire with three houses. Bloomberg did say that taxes should be raised on the rich and that he did that when he was mayor. Biden weighed in and said work needs to be rewarded and not just wealth. He said that the tax rate should be 28% for corporate America and added that the middle class is getting killed and the poor have no way of moving up.
Buttigieg was also asked about his previous praise of Sanders, and if he was now out of touch with other Millennials who accept Sanders’ version of socialism. Buttigieg said that he respects Sanders but was critical of the Vermont senator’s proposed healthcare plan that he said would raise taxes of anyone making over $29,000. Sanders countered saying that people will not have to pay premiums, deductibles or co-pays.
Bloomberg faces attacks over harassment allegations and NDAs
Michael Bloomberg was asked about how multiple former employees have said his company is a hostile workplace for women and the former mayor himself has admitted to making sexually explicit remarks. “Should Democrats expect better from the nominee?” he was asked by moderator Hallie Jackson.
Bloomberg has been the subject of multiple lawsuits and allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace. The Washington Post reported, citing witness interviews and court appearances, multiple instances of offensive and sexists comments made by Bloomberg toward women in the workplace. Bloomberg denied the majority of the allegations, which go back decades, in depositions cited by the Post.
When asked, about these allegations during the debate, Bloomberg responded that he “has no tolerance for the kind of behavior that the #MeToo movement has exposed” and highlighted the fact that his foundation is run by a woman and he has a long career of employing women.
Warren swiftly jumped on the report. “I hope you heard what his defense was,” she said. “I’ve been nice to some women.” The Massachusetts senator then mentioned the fact that multiple former Bloomberg employees have signed Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) after working for him, a tactic used by many powerful men who were exposed during the #MeToo movement. Then Warren asked Bloomberg if he would release those employees from their NDAs, and allow them to speak freely about their experiences if they wish too. Bloomberg responded that he had a “few” NDAs that didn’t accuse him of doing anything, except perhaps “disliking a joke [he] told.” Warren repeatedly asked Bloomberg how many NDAs there were, and he didn’t respond. She pressed him once again to release those women from their NDAs tonight, and he responded that those NDAs were an agreement made between two parties that wanted to keep the issue quiet, so he would keep it quiet.
Warren responded that it’s rather a situation of women being “muzzled” by the NDAs, and said the issue was not just an issue of Bloomberg’s “character” but is also an issue of electability. “We are not going to beat Donald Trump with a man who has who knows how many NDAs and the drip, drip, drip of stories of women who say they have been harassed,” she said.
Biden jumped in, and supported Warren by demanding Bloomberg release the women from their NDAs. He said it’s actually not an issue of women wanting the issue to remain private, but rather being paid by Bloomberg’s attorney to sign the NDA.
Bloomberg responded that he’s not going to “end the agreements because they were made consensually and they have every right to expect they will stay private.” “If they want to release it, then they should be able to release it,” Biden fired back.
Bloomberg responds to questions on “stop-and-frisk”
When asked about the 2015 audio that resurfaced of Bloomberg saying most murder suspects in New York fit the same M.O. “male minorities, 16 to 25,” Bloomberg during the debate continued to apologize for the way the controversial “stop-and-frisk” policy “turned out.”
He said that his goal was to lower the murder rate, and that since there were 650 murders a year, he wanted to make sure people had the right to live. Bloomberg said he thought stop-and-frisk would help curtail the killings.
“It got out control, and when we discovered, I discovered, that we were doing many, many, too many stop and frisks, we cut 95% of it,” Bloomberg said. He added that the crime rate did go down, but that they could not go out and stop people indiscriminately. Biden said that the reason stop-and-frisks slowed down was because then-President Barack Obama sent moderators there that said the practice must stop and that at the time, Bloomberg didn’t agree.
But in fact, the practice was scaled back after a federal judge in 2013 ruled stop-and-frisk violated the constitution, calling it “a form of racial profiling.” The NYPD in turn mandated that police officers have a justified reason to make a stop.
On stage, Bloomberg responded and said that he has apologized and that criminal justice as a whole needs to be fixed. “If we took everybody off this panel that was wrong about criminal justice at some time in their careers there would be nobody else up here,” Bloomberg said.
Warren noted that Bloomberg has only apologized for how stop-and-frisk “turned out” and not what it was designed to do in the first place.
“It targeted black and brown men from the beginning,” Warren said of the policy that disproportionately affected Black and Latino men. “The apology has to start with the intent of the plan as it was put together.”
Buttigieg and Sanders spar on electability
The former South Bend, IN mayor and New Hampshire senator were neck-and-neck in the first two primaries, and at the debate, they were quick to make the case that the other would be the wrong candidate for the Democratic Party. Buttigieg argued that many Americans don’t see themselves fitting into the party of Bloomberg or Sanders, and cautioned against polarizing the party in either the progressive or moderate direction, presenting himself as the alternative.
”Let’s put forward somebody who actually lives and works in a middle class neighborhood,” he said. “Let’s put forward somebody who is actually a Democrat,” he added, a clear jab at Sanders who was registered as an Independent until he ran in the 2016 primary.