Come Join Lambert for the Democratic Presidential Debate

Since some of you will no doubt be watching the first Democratic presidential debate tonight, Lambert has graciously agreed to host a special feature to allow readers to come and discuss the fracas in real time. He’s said live blogging is not that stressful (personally, I’m of the opposite school, but he is a very fast typist, and I suspect that makes a big difference). But what I thought instead might be as fun for readers was for him to curate tweets, with him putting up some of the best-pre-debate takes, to put up a fe that really were colorful and apt as the exchanges are underway, and then to do a wrap of the best summations. In other words, we’re hoping this format will encourage our incisive and often funny readers to chat among themselves, particularly since debate is a form of sports for thinking people.

One of the things to watch out for is pundits moving the goalposts for expectations after the debates, particularly if Bernie or any of the other Clinton challengers make a dent, or if she goes more wobbly than she ought to on the matter of those e-mails or WTF exactly was State thinking re Syria? Even if the underlying facts are terrible, a pro of her seasoning should have several levels of well-honed deflection to get her past these obvious points of vulnerability.

Despite Clinton being in a much weaker position than any of the experts expected her to be now, she is still the front-runner and still far more practiced at big spotlight events than any of the other candidates. So if she merely holds up, or if Bernie fights her to a draw, she’s effectively continuing to lose ground, because she should perform better than that. I’m bothered by the subtext of a Bob Kuttner article at Huffington Post on the debates, in that it’s almost entirely advice to Clinton, meaning she’s the Democratic Party product that needs to be protected. For instance:

Clinton needs to get out of a self-infecting cycle of bad publicity, in which everything she does is dismissed as calculating and contrived, even when it represents creative movement on issues. Sanders merely needs to take care to come across as fighting for the forgotten American on the issues, as he nearly always does, but not too radical in his personal style.

I hope Sanders does well, because it helps move the Overton Window in our direction and it will put the punditocracy in a difficult position. They’ve tried ignoring Sanders. It will be hard to continue to do that, and implicitly dismiss the demands of that endangered species, the American middle class, if he comes out of the debates with an uptick in his poll ratings. It would be instructive to see what the next minimization strategy turns out to be.

Suggestions re drinking games also encouraged.

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  1. John Zelnicker

    This is a great idea. It might be enough to get me to actually watch the debate. With the regular crew of NC commenters, this should be great fun.

  2. Ranger Rick

    Drink every time Sanders makes a populist appeal, take two drinks every time Clinton offers an establishment rebuttal as to why that expectation is unrealistic.

      1. rjs

        reading the headline, i thought you were inviting everyone to Maine…the drinks would have cost you a fortune…

      2. JR

        Drink every time Bernie says: “let me be clear”. Also, every time Hillary does a me too bit. We gonna get tore up!

  3. readerOfTeaLeaves

    Re: Kuttner’s:

    Sanders merely needs to take care to come across as fighting for the forgotten American on the issues, as he nearly always does, but not too radical in his personal style.

    Shorter Kuttner: Ignore the incredible achievement of Sanders, who has attracted tens of thousands of people to his speeches; those are ‘merely huge crowds of forgotten Americans. The Borg has designated a 40-yard playing field for Hillary, and we think y’all won’t notice that we’re moving the posts for Bernie to Mile 202, because The Borg Must Prevail.

    Hillary’s desktop
    Bernie’s a guy for the smartphone era (which is delightfully ironic, given his chronological age)

    I hope that Lambert puts Lessig on his Twitter feed, because I’ve put Lessig on mine. (Lessig also ‘gets’ the smartphone era. Hell, Lessig’s work helped create the smartphone era!)

  4. Zach Braff

    Of note for anyone that missed it, Lessig is excluded from the debate because the DNC has refused to recognize his candidacy — since they won’t recognize him, he isn’t on most polls, so he doesn’t qualify for the CNN debate. Wasserman-Schultz won’t even meet with him, apparently.


    Side effect, mocking press coverage in the likes of NYT & Vox. Now, I think his campaign idea IS fairly deride-able (I have an inclination to be derisive tbh, since he passed over my wife in final round of interviews @ Rootstrikers), but CHAFFEE and WEBB make the cut and he doesn’t!? Who even knew Webb was running?

    Hard to imagine it’s not an attempt to stifle his message, when – since he has truly no hope of being elected to this bizarre “referendum” presidency – airing an attack on plutocracy on the national stage, forcing the other candidates to respond was probably his ultimate win condition.

  5. capo regime

    Drinking Game: Down your drink every time Hillary says “you know”. By end of debate you should be immobilized you know….

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      One problem is O’Malley and Chaffee are non-entities. Webb went to speech class and stopped mumbling. Bernie’s arms are too flamboyant to be worthy of a game, and Hillary is too managed to have too many tics.

      I think the appropriate drinking game would revolve around CNN’s debate moderation. Drink for every asinine question (one word answer requests, secret service code name), question that makes bizarre assumptions (Don Lemon asks Bernie how many portraits of Stalin are in his house), repeats of the 2008 questions about the relevance of Hillary’s gender, and questions about how irrelevant the other candidates are.

      Interruptions with canned one liners always warrant a drink along with pleas to bipartisanship and Ronald Reagan.

      1. ambrit

        Since this is putatively the Democratic Party Debate, any appeals to Ronnie ‘Raygun’ Reagan should qualify for an hour in the taproom of your favourite local brewhouse. Any Democrat who uses Reagan as a ‘Touchstone’ is already loaded.

      2. Strangely Enough

        Is “bipartisanship” still a DNC/DLC approved term this go-round? I would think “middle class” is going to flogged for all its worth.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Team Blue is fairly out of touch especially at the elite level, and this will be fairly extemporaneous for national audiences. They will go to what sounds safe. Bipartisanship is safe. Obama praised Reagan repeatedly, so it’s still in play especially for Webb and Chafee.

    2. Daryl

      Take a shot if Webb excuses himself after he realizes this isn’t the Republican debate and he’s in the wrong room.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner


        Webb was around for the Allen collapse putting a seat and loyal voter in Team Blue’s column and spoke out against the Iraq War. He’s had greater positive impact on the American body politic than Hillary.

        1. cwaltz

          Webb may have spoken out about Iraq but he was pretty much a rubber stamp when it came to issues like FISA or the Patriot Act. Let’s not pretend the bar is or was particularly high when Webb was elected.

        2. Daryl

          It appears I had mixed him up with someone else, my bad. Now I’ll never remember who I was thinking of.

    1. ambrit

      This lot will need divine intercession; something along the lines of the Mandylion. So, yes, definitely “with a cloth.”

  6. susan the other

    With the exception of Bernie, no politician even begins to scrape the surface of our decay. Those “debates” should switch to an eye-hand-coordination contest. Like dart throwing. They are beyond meaningless.

    1. Daryl

      100m hurdle should at least provide some entertainment for the masses.

      100m and not 400m, because I’m not a monster.

  7. Peter Pan

    My recommendation for a drinking game is to getting totally blasted before the debate begins. That’s the only way a Presidential debate, Democrat or Republican, is even tolerable. Plus it will produce some rather wildly rude & off-the-wall tweets resulting in amusement & next day embarrassment.

  8. Solar Hero

    I’m sort-of a Twitter newbie, how exactly do we participate live with Lambert? Will there be a hashtag or something?

      1. Kim Kaufman

        Oh, so you’re going to do it here and not on twitter? I guess the answer is yes. I’ll follow you on twitter just in case. Even though I don’t really have a Twitter account – or I have two – but too long a story except I’m pissed off at Twitter and don’t really use it..

    1. ambrit

      What if Bernie starts a sing along with the “Internationale?” I will be humming along.
      I wonder what the physical placements of the candidates will be? Alphabetical order should be standard, but, with the DNC involved, who knows?

      1. Lambert Strether

        Come on. This is the Presidential debate. It’s important. The DNC would never game it, and especially not by screwing around with the podiums, or the mikes, or make-up, or lighting.

        1. RabidGandhi

          I knew it was important when i found out Cheryl Crow will be singing. If it’s super-duper-important they’ll have Cirque de Soliel act out Hilary’s TPP position.

        1. optimader

          Each candidate will be limited to 30 seconds if they are actually answering the question.

          Now where is put my sarcasm on link???…

      2. Kim Kaufman

        It’s already known. Hillary is in the center with Bernie to her right. The others are… there. There’s a still-bubble-wrapped podium in case Biden shows up. None for Lessig, I had heard he declined to attend, which I found odd, but I was misinformed.

    1. optimader

      flaming shot of vodka thrown at the screen everytime HRC says “.. Now when I was blahblahblah, I blahblahblah

  9. Lambert Strether

    The thing about a drinking game is that it’s negative. I don’t want to confuse lifting a glass because a candidate says something grotesque or idiotic with Sanders saying “Medicare for All” or “single payer.” I’d want to throw roses at the screen, or something. There should be the opposite of a drinking game.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      If this level of humor keeps up, it will all be coming out the nose before it gets down the hatch anyway…

  10. Northeaster

    While I’ll probably be writing in my dog for President, there’s a huge difference between Sanders and Clinton.

    Sanders not only says he wants to reign in Wall Street, but has a track record for voting against them or taking money from them. Clinton on the other hand will champion how she will go after Wall Street, yet Wall Street is her an Bill’s main backers yet so many partisans will believe her!

    I doubt the loyal Sanders and pro-Warren crowds actually believe what Clinton says on this issue, but they will still vote for Clinton in droves when she gets the nomination, and hence walks into The Oval Office in 2017.

    The Republican Party is in shambles, and there is no candidate that is going to garner over 100 Electoral Votes to turn the tide on the Republican side. Of course, at the end of the day, like many elections in this country, an extreme minority actually end up voting/electing the “winner” who will rule over the overwhelming majority.

    Enjoy your cake!

    1. Daryl

      > I doubt the loyal Sanders and pro-Warren crowds actually believe what Clinton says on this issue, but they will still vote for Clinton in droves when she gets the nomination, and hence walks into The Oval Office in 2017.

      Thankfully, I live in Texas, so I don’t have to worry about my votes for Democrats actually mattering.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      I suspect that’s not the case. The GOP didn’t do very well in this last cycle compared to their previous performances and still trounced Team Blue. The Democratic enthusiasm gap is real and goes far beyond real enthusiasm, and those crowds aren’t coming out for Hillary or any current Democrat. The great brown hope of Hispanic voters voting Democratic because the GOP sucks isn’t happening.

      One of Sanders’ strengths is that he isn’t an official member of Team Blue. Conversely, fear was the Democratic message in 2010, 2012, and 2014. It didn’t work, and it’s likely Democrats have created permanent perceptions about current members as lazy, do nothings in the pockets of the banks who can’t be trusted. Bernie and Warren can’t endorse that away either. Look at Howard Dean. He’s practically disappeared from the Internet zeitgeist since he went full Obot.

  11. Eureka Springs

    AA / Sober people should promise to drink whenever an initial good /substantive question is asked or demand for a real answer is made by the ‘moderator’.

    You will remain sober.

    Nice of you to do this Lambert… Thank you. I almost wish I had CNN but NCN (naked capitalism network) is sooo much better.

    1. Bridget

      I promise to take 5 shots of tequila if Hillary is forced to answer who it was who “allowed” her to use a private email server.

      1. Strangely Enough

        I’d put the odds somewhere aroung the same as the word BENGHAZI!!1! being mentioned…

      2. optimader

        I promise to take five shots of Tequila straight away if I watch..

        A preemptive analgesic before getting under the couch in fetal position w/a plush comforter.

  12. cripes

    I just wanna know: since the last fox-GOP debates were cable pay-per-view only, is this CNN-DNC “debate” available to the hoi-polloi on broadcast, cable or pay-per only? Last night I read something about CNN doing livecast on the website. They’re a cable network fer chrissakes.

    How far we’ve gone from the equal time doctrine to the pay-per-view electoral system. If anything says contempt for the public, this does.

      1. cripes

        Thanks, Yves, that’s what I thought. It’s still kind of jumpy from buffering on my “high speed cable.” Not the optimal way to view it at all.

        But, what about the rights of ten’s of millions of you know, VOTERS, without access to internet or pay-per-view cable to exercise their citizens rights to participate (if only to listen) in the democratic electoral process in the greatest nation on earth?

        Why is no one in media or anywhere raising hell about this? Do they have to buy access to exercise the franchise? Vote without knowing the positions of the plutocrat selected candidates? Why not just bring back the property and literacy requirements of an earlier age to qualify for voting rights? Where’s the public interest and ownership of airwaves being defended?

        Seriously, WTF?

  13. Jess

    Bernie has said that he wants to run a positive campaign and not go negative. So my litmus test will be TPP questions. Will Bernie be willing to point out the 45 times that Clinton has supported either the current faux trade agreements or their progenitors like NAFTA and KAFTA? IMO, if he isn’t willing to go there and hammer her on these abominable treaties, he’s showing weakness that will cost him support.

    1. aliteralmind

      He absolutely has to call her on this, somehow, someway. The less knowledgeable viewer could easily mistake them as “equals”, not knowing Bernie has had these opinions for decades, and Clinton for a few days.

      He has a gift for saying things respectfully.

  14. downunderer

    After reading the CNN website’s pages on privacy, terms & conditions for clicking on to see the broadcast, I’m too afraid to. There’s no time left to have my lawyer analyze it all.

    So extra thanks to Lambert for providing sanitized contact and enriched commentary.

  15. optimader

    Sanders does well, because it helps move the Overton Window in our direction and it will put the punditocracy in a difficult position. They’ve tried ignoring Sanders

    I caught a decent background piece on BSanders on France 24.
    To be fair, I don’t watch domestic network news other than some occasional PBS grazing to size things up, so I cant be too objectively critical of the domestic competition, but as yet not having perceived the Earth having stood still, I’m guessing this ~5min background piece was not courtesy of CNN FOX NBC CBS ABC or WGN.

    If Bernie is approaching funding parity w/ HRC, she’s in serious weeds as BSanders funding sources are obviously more diverse

  16. Matthew G. Saroff

    What I want to see is Joe Biden streaking across the stage …. dressed as a Victoria’s Secret model …. Who is dressed as an angel.

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