Live Blog: Democrat Presidential Primary Debate #7 in Atlanta, Georgia

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

The debate will begins at 9 p.m. ET, one half hour from now, and it will run for two hours. It’s being held at Tyler Perry Studios, “located in the heart of Atlanta on the historic grounds of the former Fort McPherson army base.” (James B. McPherson was killed in the Battle of Atlanta, the second highest-ranking Union officer killed in action. Tyler Perry is Oprah Winfrey-adjacent, and was the highest-paid man in show business in 2011, according to Forbes.)

How to watch:

The debate will be broadcast live on MSNBC, and it will stream for free on and starting at 9 pm Eastern. Note that you will not need a cable or other subscription login to watch online tonight—the DNC’s partners for all these debates have agreed to make them as accessible as possible.

How special. A service that ought to be open to all by right in a democracy is graciously made “accessible” by humongous corporations seeking clicks.

The Jeff Bezos Daily Shopper Washington Post and MSDNCNBC are co-hosts. An all-woman panel:

  • MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow
  • MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell
  • NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker
  • Washington Post White House reporter Ashley Parker

Ten candidates. In alphabetical order:

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • Mayor Pete Buttigieg
  • Sen. Cory Booker
  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
  • Sen. Kamala Harris
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders
  • Tom Steyer
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren
  • Andrew Yang

In stage order:

It’s too bad Castro won’t be on the stage, while Steyer bought his way in.

Here is a shot of the ugly, stupid, and Hall of Mirrors-style stage:

That pathetic white pediment floating up top really frosts me; it reminds me of the stucco-covered styrofoam pediments in the McMansions built just before the crash; it’s that fake. Notice how this pediment has no visible means of support, like say pillars; it’s purely symbolic. Rather like what the two parties, with the assistance of the press and the organs of state security have made of “our democracy.”

I am a little overwhelmed by the signal-to-noise ratio today, so I will not comment on what to expect. Instead, I will summarize my views in simple, visual form:

As before, this post does not update; readers may track the debate in real time in comments. Please keep your comments as informative and analytical as possible. There are no points at NC for context-free one-liners (“Go ____!”) that only those who are also watching can make sense of; that’s for Facebook or Reddit. I think it adds more value if you take a moment, use your critical thinking skills, then comment, and readers can discuss what you say. This is what the NC commentariat is so very good at, after all. Thank you!

Enjoy, have fun, and be excellent to each other!

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. The Rev Kev

    They should really ask Kate Wagner from the blog McMansion Hell for her take on the stage set. I think that it would be particularly savage.

  2. Carey

    From Guardian pre-game coverage:

    Annie Grayer (@AnnieGrayerCNN)

    Governor @DevalPatrick was supposed to have an event at Morehouse College tonight. An organizer with the college who planned the event told CNN that Patrick cancelled the event when he arrived and learned that he would not have an audience. (Note, two people came, not pictured)
    November 21, 2019

    The lackluster response to Patrick’s campaign launch may indicate that complaints about the existing Democratic field are restricted to the party’s donor class.


      1. Michael Fiorillo

        Along with Howard University, it’s the elite historically Black college.

        Spike Lee went there, and his little-known early film, School Daze, examines tensions between Black Town and Gown in Atlanta at the time.

  3. Clark

    Warren said she won’t accept big donors’ money and then give them ambassadorships as an implied condition. She didn’t say she won’t accept big donors’ money in an implied exchange for other goodies. And of course, she didn’t say she won’t accept big donors’ money, period.

  4. DonCoyote

    Biden is going to follow Obama’s winning strategy to get more Democratic Congress members…oh wait.

  5. CarlH

    Biden- “The next President of the United States needs to defeat Trump”. Huh? Please step aside sir.

  6. earthling1

    I got nothing, zero, zilch, nada. Neither source come through.
    Some democracy we got going here. I have to pay to listen to the candidates speak.
    Fuckit, I’m just gonna vote for Trump.

  7. Wombat

    Warren speaking for the FOURTH time. Buttigieg asked his second question. Gabbard, Yang, and Steyer still not provided an opportunity.

  8. lyman alpha blob

    I just turned this on, heard phony Corey Booker talk about he would “fight for” something or other about 30 seconds in, and turned it off.

    Thanks to everyone who’s watching so I don’t have to – the NC commentary is much better than the real thing.

  9. nippersmom

    Warren, if you were president you would by definition not have to defend the ACA from the Trump administration.

  10. Otis B Driftwood

    Bernie was too kind in answer to that question. “Was President Obama wrong?”


    And then Biden’s gets to lie again about M4A and Sanders is not able to respond. Great.

  11. nippersmom

    I want Biden to give me a list of those 160,000,000 people who want to keep their private insurance.

  12. CarlH

    Kamala just flat out lied. I don’t remember Tulsi on Fox criticizing Obama and Democrats for 4 years. At least two of those years she was high up in the DNC. Am I remembering wrong?

      1. Carey

        Harris bobs her head when she’s lying, and bobs her head constantly.

        Look how much time Amy! gets. As said above, this is a farce.

        Poor Biden.

        Gabbard had a great response to haughty Harris.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          No, Obama was far more coherent and consistent. He was bland and spoke in word salad 95% of the time, but this is the old Clinton strategy of simply spinning a tale for the perceived audience. Bill did this all the time. Hillary changed accents for different audiences, and she doesn’t have a natural Southern accent.

    1. Wombat

      That smear was teed up for Harris. If i didn’t know any better, she was tipped off before the debate too.

  13. Vegetius

    A Sanders candidacy may be like another Tet Offensive but the only person on that stage who has a chance of beating Trump is Gabbard.

    1. Massinissa

      I like Gabbard alot, shes easily my 2nd favorite after Bernie (I don’t even have a third favorite, the rest are bad…), but I will be VERY surprised if she even gets close to the nomination.

      Very PLEASED mind you, very very pleased, but still very surprised. Hell, I’ll probably vote for her down here in Georgia if she, by some miracle, starts to do better than Sanders is by that point, but I’m again very doubtful that would happen.

    1. Carey

      >Tulsi handled it well. Yes, she did. Good poise.

      Maddow bleats impeach! impeach! impeach! Sanders with on-point response.

  14. Fern

    No one asks the candidates how they will pay for lowering the Medicare age to 50. The healthiest the this cohort will be covered by covered by employer-based private health insurance, leaving the most expensive people to Medicare, with no additional revenue. This will turn Medicare into a welfare program and guarantees a taxpayer revolt against Medicare. It’s much worse than nothing — it will destroy Medicare.

    The whole point of single-payer is that everyone pays in their entire lives in order to fund the program. Bernie should be emphasizing this.

    1. inode_buddha

      Incorrect. My medicare premiums are 1/5 of the cost of my private employer based insurance. They could double my medicare taxes and it would still be one hell of a deal. So why would anyone keep the private insurance? Do you *like* to spend money???

      The concept is: private insurance disappears, completely. No more premiums, co-pays, or deductibles. A fraction of that money will then pay for Medicare which covers everything.

      1. Anon

        I use Medicare. It is better than private, work-place medical insurance. But it doesn’t cover everything; only 80% of the hospital/doctor side, and Drug premiums are a separate plan. No dental or vision. Medigap is private insurance that covers the 20% hospital/doctor fees that Medicare does not.

        Medicare is not a pay-as-you-go endeavor. You pay into it through your working life and access the program at age 65. You pay a premium each month to stay on Medicare. (that premium is much lower than workplace insurance)

        People point to Medicare as a solution to high medical bills/premiums because Medicare is able to control fees/payments. The goal is universal healthcare provided by a single source (payer) that reduces administrative costs, overhead (insurance profits), and controls the inflation of medical costs.

        Imagine how much money would be saved if everyone had access to dental care. Your health is directly affected by your dental state.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > I use Medicare. It is better than private, work-place medical insurance. But it doesn’t cover everything; only 80% of the hospital/doctor side, and Drug premiums are a separate plan. No dental or vision.

          The Jayapal and Sanders bills both improve existing Medicare. In particular, they cover dental and vision.

      2. Fern

        I don’t see how lowering the Medicare age to 50 will cause private insurance to disappear. Medicare is an inferior coverage to a good employee-based coverage. This is true even of retirees who have employer-based retiree health which supplements Medicare, and I’m personally familiar with the difference.

        Private insurance companies will be able to offer employers better coverage at lower rates because they will cherry-pick the most healthy groups of employees and offer their employers good rates. This will decrease the number of healthy people paying in, and increase the cost of serving the less healthy Medicare enrollees.

        1. Anon

          Medicare is an inferior coverage to a good employee-based coverage.

          Well, I’ve had both and my Medicare with medigap and dental coverage is better and less costly than my former employee-based coverage. My total out of pocket premiums for my Medicare/Medicgap/Drug/Dental plans is~ $3500/yr. My employer- based plan cost me ~$6000/yr, and had copays and deductibles and had network restrictions. I’m much better off now than then.

          In any case, universal healthcare is not solely about premiums.

        2. Yves Smith

          No, unless you are in the <2% of the groups benefits population that has an indemnity plan, you are much worse off than a Medicaid beneficiary. If you are in just about any employer plan, you are in a PPO or HMO and that pretty much means surprise bills if you are hospitalized, or worse, massive bills if your ambulance takes you to an out of network ER.

          You don't have "out of network" with Medicare A and B. And that's where the big bucks and the risk of bankruptcy generally lies.

        3. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Medicare is an inferior coverage to a good employee-based coverage

          Both the Jayapal and Sanders bills improve #MedicareForAll, and I’m not sure what “good” employee-based coverage (as long as the employee has it) might mean.

          That said, any system that permits private health insurance to cover services that #Medicare does is asking to be gamed (as in cherry picking), and any advocate who thinks they’ll act in good faith (“at the table”) is at best, well, overly trusting.

          1. Fern

            “Good” employer medical care plans are, for example, the plans that cover California state workers, teachers and university employees. They are far better than Medicare and they are far better than Medicare supplemented with the state worker, teacher and university retiree medical coverage, which is a Medicare supplement for retirees covered by Medicare. These well paid white collar workers are a very healthy lot.

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              But the baseline isn’t existing Medicare. The baseline is what Jayapal and Sanders propose, which includes dental and vision, as well was various protections for union contracts (I’d have to research the detail on that). I realize nobody wants to lose out, but this is not a new issue, and it’s hard for me to believe that it was never discussed or taken into account by #MedicareForAll planners. It comes under the heading of making the sausage, so far as I’m concerned (unlike the “they’re gonna take your insurance away” fearmongering by liberals).

            2. Yves Smith

              You keep making sweeping generalizations that are not accurate. State/government employees include plenty of blue collar workers: all of the school non-teacher employees, like the cafeteria workers, janitors, bus drivers, maintenance personnel. Firefighters, state troopers, and cops. Sanitation workers. The guys who keep BART running.

              And once you get outside top 10% professionals, where being thin (or at least not being fat) is a status marker, your “blue collar not healthy/white collar healthy” also isn’t as clear cut as you pretend. Obesity is widespread, as is diabetes in desk workers. And blue collar manufacturing jobs are now much more automated than they were and therefore less physically taxing.

        4. Oh

          Employer provided coverage usually has tricks and traps that you don’t find out about until it’s too late. WIth Medicare you can read about the coverage and know what you’ll get. Generally, employers allocate a total sum that they want to use for employee coverage (which shrinks every year) and ask their insurance company to fit the plan to the available $. I think Medicare coverge has been polluted by addition of private insurance companies (Medicare Advantage Plans) but in spite of that costs are controlled by negotiating with these vultures.

      3. Cpm

        Wrong, at least partially.
        My wife had a semi-grunt job with a major Atlanta based multinational.
        She had to retire early, disability.
        Anyway we were covered for a number of years under their retirement policy.
        Great package and very low cost, very low out of pocket and minimal deductibles.
        When we went on Medicare our costs probably tripled.
        Corporate America offers some great coverage at low cost to many white collar employees. Executive packages carry that coverage into retirement.

        What I’m saying is that the managerial class including public servants have superior coverage that in many cases extends into retirement.

        Many of those people are the very same ones who are framing the arguments against Medicare for All.
        They have something to lose.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > What I’m saying is that the managerial class including public servants have superior coverage that in many cases extends into retirement.

          Many of those people are the very same ones who are framing the arguments against Medicare for All.
          They have something to lose.

          Interesting argument.

    2. Yves Smith

      Wowsers. Generalize much? People who don’t have employer insurance are unhealthy? Really? Provide a link, please.

      As in people who work for businesses too small to be required to provide insurance, part-timers, early retirees, sole proprietors?

      1. Fern

        I’ve tried to explain that above. Insurance companies will cherry-pick the white-collar, high income groups of employees and offer their employers lower rates and better coverage, because it will still be profitable to do so.

        1. Yves Smith

          You are engaging in bad faith argumentation. You first tried claiming that the healthy will be covered by employer insurance, when it is a matter of law under Obamacare that employers with a certain # of employees must provide coverage to employees who work >30 hours a week. Now you have utterly shifted your ground and are making an argument unrelated to your original claim.

          You are racking up troll points.

      2. jrs

        Contract workers. Far less privileged than most of that set, but only unhealthy if they are because of perhaps years of precarity.

      3. tegnost

        Yeah, as a blue collar uninsured I have “skin in the game”, which means I eat well,exercise and do a lot of PT to solve some of the problems about which I should go to the doctor, but cannot. On the other hand, my heavily insured white collar friends (who by the way seem extremely happy that ocare reduced their premiums. Yay!) and family go to the doc all the time for basically whatever. So a high cost patient (white collar goes to the doctor a lot) is to be subsidized by a blue collar who had to pay at least $700 for not participating (thanks trump for that concrete material benefit), and many thousands per year with unaffordable deductibles to discourage them from going to the doctor, for participating. The system is hopelessly lopsided and broken, and the “haves” are not going to give up their bennies, they “earned” them…

        1. jrs

          it’s hard to see anyone depending on the ACA as a have, really no, it’s terrible. Employer coverage yes that’s sometimes decent, but ACA plans are terrible. If that’s a have, it’s of the nothing left to lose sort, it’s barely better than no coverage at all.

          I really don’t care what kind of eating well and exercising anyone does. So many people exposed to toxins on the job and sick through not fault of their own. Let’s stop pretending eating well and exercise have any but a tiny percentage impact on health. So MANY diseases that AREN’T caused by lifestyle that I’m tired of anyone even pretending eating well and exercise is a health care plan.

          1. tegnost

            my point is that’s all the health care i have access to, and no, it has not stopped the aging process and related ailments.

    3. Massinissa

      I’m not sure you’re from around here… Are you familiar with MMT? That would eliminate the need to ‘pay for it’.

      Even if you’re not, you’re still incorrect. Medicare isn’t social security, you don’t ‘pay into it’ like with Social Security. That’s never been part of the program, ever. So it can’t ‘collapse’ the way Social Security might.

      1. Fern

        I don’t think you understand what I’m saying, but there will be plenty of time to debate it later.

        IMHO, I think that only singe-payer will produce the changes we need. I think that lowering the age of Medicare could well backfire, and weaken Medicare.

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      > everyone pays in their entire lives in order to fund the program

      How many times do we have to say that Federal taxes don’t fund Federal spending #MMT? The propaganda is so thick on this one.

    5. fdr-fan

      The most expensive people are ALREADY on Medicare. It covers the vast majority of all actual medical costs. Extending it to everyone wouldn’t change the outlay hugely. The extension MUST include increasing the tax rate. The French system charges everyone 13% of their income, compared with 7% for the US system. That’s not a tremendous difference if the private vampires are no longer sucking all the money out of your pocket for the “service” of denying most claims.

    6. Spring Texan

      You are exactly right. There’s a post on the Health Care Renewal blog that goes into this in some detail (I can’t post the link for unknown reason); Cutting the Gordian Knot: Why a “Public Option” Won’t Work

    1. CarlH

      He makes me think of a toy just removed from it’s packaging, string on back pre-pulled. Batteries included.

  15. chuck roast

    I just tuned into see the two squillionaires thank one another for being so rich. I must be in the right place.

    Cee’s and Clips in around half and hour…

  16. Pavel

    Can’t stand Maddow so not watching tonight… I’ll catch the highlights tomorrow. That stage and backdrop alone is enough to make me want to blow my brains out (figuratively speaking, of course).

    I do note from various reports that Biden botched his first question re impeachment. Let’s hope tonight turns the lights off on his campaign.

    And this comment by Lambert is perhaps the most important of all:

    How special. A service that ought to be open to all by right in a democracy is graciously made “accessible” by humongous corporations seeking clicks.

    Ralph Nader on his Radio Hour had the expert on Presidential “Debates” [we must use that word loosely] and what a corporate-media-driven farce they have become (in cahoots with the Dem and Repub duopoly of course). At least waaaaaay back when The League of Women Voters sponsored them. As it stands they epitomise what a complete joke the US elections have become.

    1. Massinissa

      Didn’t you know? All the Deplorables who voted for Trump are secretly socialists. As soon as they see Bernie they switch their maga hats for “Make America Socialist Again” hats and wave around hammers and sickles.


  17. nippersmom

    Tell me, Joe, how “civil” is it to bomb people into next week? How “civil” is it to condemn people to a life of indentured servitude, or to deny them medical care because of their financial situation, or to make a profit off the incarceration of a ridiculously high percentage of our population?

    That man sickens me.

  18. DonCoyote

    Klobuchar plays the deficit scold.

    We can’t have nice things. No unicorns, no ponies, no free cars.

    1. WJ

      She is in favor however of US taxpayers subsidizing unicorns for the Israelis, so she’s not a total Scrooge.

    1. jrs

      Only it’s not vapid, Tulsi hangs out with the right (not just once like Sanders), you don’t make friends on the left that way. Tulsi is not succeeding in making the debate about foreign policy.

          1. WJ

            Who “on the left” cares if Gabbard goes on Fox News or believes for that matter that Fox News is substantively any worse than MSNBC etc.?


      1. Massinissa

        I’m getting a little tired of this baseless “Tulsi is friends with Assad” and “Tulsi must support Modi because she spoke to him once” nonsense. It’s mostly spurious.

      2. anon in so cal

        I’m not watching the debate (cannot abide Maddow or Mitchell) so don’t know what Tulsi Gabbard is saying in this evening. Just reading here and on Twitter.

        But what does it mean by stating, “Tulsi hangs out with the right…you don’t make friends on the left that way.”

        Is that referring to the fact she has appeared multiple times on Tucker Carlson? Good for her for doing so, and good, also, for Glenn Greenwald, Aaron Mate, and Michael Tracey for doing so.
        Is MSNBC the “left” channel? Does it not push the Russiagate psy ops and root for Syria regime change?

        1. Jessica

          Preaching only to the choir is not how one wins.
          In this case, it would reinforce the power of the pro-oligarchy Dems.
          Tulsi handles herself well under fire.

  19. Punxsutawney

    Ugh…just watched Klobachar say “How are we going to pay for it?” And then added in something along the line of “give everyone a free car” in a swipe at Bernie and Warren.

    The same way we paid for every military funding bill you have voted for perhaps?

    That was as much as I could stand at the moment. So it’s off for now

    1. DonCoyote

      She’s the sensible centrist. Harris & Warren support M4A (for some very tenous version of “support”), and Gabbard…ick.

    2. Allegorio

      Do you have to ask? What a sickening display? It’s probably better that Senator Sanders is not allowed to speak so that he won’t be tainted by the sheer grotesquery of the whole corporate Democrat swill. Maddow looks like some kind of evil animatronic ghoul, even her speech is so contrived and automated, not animated. Malignant careerism on display. What was it CIA Director Bill Casey said to corporate shill Ronald Reagan, “When everything the American Public believes is a lie, we will have succeeded.” The Goebbels School of Journalism in high gear. Mass Murder, Mass Theft and Mass Incarceration don’t bear discussion. Where do all these psychopaths come from. Oh, yes, the corporate universities, where a degree is a license to steal ( and kill ). The spirit of Sydney Gottlieb hangs over the whole enterprise. MKUltra redux, the gallery of poisoners goes unchallenged.

      1. ChiGal in Carolina

        Maybe you shouldn’t watch. I have been working on my laptop and mostly not looking up except sometimes at the candidates. Expected this crew would be awful, thought they were pretty businesslike.

        1. Carey

          >Maddow looks like some kind of evil animatronic ghoul


          Yes, sometimes even the corporate shills’ appearances seem part of a giant
          psyOp. Truly unpleasant!

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      Looking through the transcript:

      [KLOBUCHAR:] And I think it is very, very important that we have a president that’s going to put our country first. I was thinking about this when I was at the Carter Presidential Museum. And on the wall are etched the words of Walter Mondale when he looked back at their four years, not perfect. And he said this: We told the truth, we obeyed the law, we kept the peace. We told the truth, we obeyed the law, we kept the peace. That is the minimum that we should expect in a president of the United States.

      Too bad Obama didn’t pass that test. Or Bush. Or Clinton. Or Carter, for that matter, given that Carter armed the mujahideen in Afghanistan which, Great Game aside, caused a spot of bother down the road.

      1. vlade

        Can’t really think of a single US president that would meet the test, and possibly of any high level pol.

        Look at Lincoln, the favourite measure – he broke the habeas corpus law early in ACW, knowingly. That said, does it mean I think less of him for it?

        Here I like the bit from Stephenson’s Diamond Age on hypocrisy (bolding mine):

        You know, when I was a young man, hypocrisy was deemed the worst of vices,” Finkle-McGraw said. “It was all because of moral relativism. You see, in that sort of a climate, you are not allowed to criticise others-after all, if there is no absolute right and wrong, then what grounds is there for criticism? … Now, this led to a good deal of general frustration, for people are naturally censorious and love nothing better than to criticise others’ shortcomings. And so it was that they seized on hypocrisy and elevated it from a ubiquitous peccadillo into the monarch of all vices. For, you see, even if there is no right and wrong, you can find grounds to criticise another person by contrasting what he has espoused with what he has actually done. In this case, you are not making any judgment whatsoever as to the correctness of his views or the morality of his behaviour-you are merely pointing out that he has said one thing and done another. Virtually all political discourse in the days of my youth was devoted to the ferreting out of hypocrisy.

        We take a somewhat different view of hypocrisy,” Finkle-McGraw continued. “In the late-twentieth-century Weltanschauung, a hypocrite was someone who espoused high moral views as part of a planned campaign of deception-he never held these beliefs sincerely and routinely violated them in privacy. Of course, most hypocrites are not like that. Most of the time it’s a spirit-is-willing, flesh-is-weak sort of thing.”

        “That we occasionally violate our own stated moral code,” Major Napier said, working it through, “does not imply that we are insincere in espousing that code.”

        “Of course not,” Finkle-McGraw said. “It’s perfectly obvious, really. No one ever said that it was easy to hew to a strict code of conduct. Really, the difficulties involved-the missteps we make along the way-are what make it interesting. The internal, and eternal, struggle, between our base impulses and the rigorous demands of our own moral system is quintessentially human. It is how we conduct ourselves in that struggle that determines how we may in time be judged by a higher power.”

          1. vlade

            Stephenson is underrated, but I sort of understand it, as he has IMO problems with finishing the books. Most of his books finish on such a weird note that is often not related to the rest of the book that on re-reads, I sometime finish before the end :)

            I never liked the ways that the whole Drummers stuff and it all was integrated into the story in DA for example.

            In Reamde, the final was just flat, same with Cryptonomicon (woho, a firefight we know who’s going to win. doh.), especially compared to the rest of the book.

            Still, a lot of ideas that are pretty interesting IMO.

    4. jrs

      Does anyone else feel completely crazy hearing candidates debate 3-6 MONTHS (!) paid family leave in a country that doesn’t have ONE DAY of national paid sick time? (some states have a few days).

      It is such an upper middle class pitch that there are no words. With so many workers in the country working precariously or even regular jobs without benefits … You could be dying and not a single paid sick day for you, come to work if it kills you. And the better off don’t care as they have paid sick and vacation time and thus never think about them!!! But they still think about how they would like paid maternity.

      No, I don’t care what happens to the upper middle class women and their children whom this stuff has to be pitched to (does anyone really think it’s going to benefit the precariat, holding on to gig and contract work?). Not until we first get some enforcable sick time that applies to the precariat and low paid workers and everyone, well and unionization of the precariat of course.

    1. JCC

      That mini-halftime show was like listening to a couple of Monday Night Football TV armchair quarterbacks telling us “Turnovers could be a key factor in this game.”

      Other Than Tulsi and Sanders, most really don’t have any more to say than Dems have been saying for the last 40 years.

  20. WJ

    Oh no this is happening again. I can’t bear to know what sorts of things are going to be said and done tonight. Absent an uprising of the audience leading to the tarring and feathering of the moderators I will be disappointed.

  21. Berniebro

    Missed first half hour of the debate trying to get MSNBC free on my Roku TV. Ended up streaming it online, but it doesn’t seem fair that everybody can’t watch the debates on television for free.

  22. Carey

    Steyer making good noises on AGW, not that I’d trust him.

    Poor Joe shamblingly lying again.

    Now Sanders *nailing it* on climate change.

    Dog, I can’t stand Harris.

      1. Vegetius

        No sarcasm. Anti-racism has become the religion of the prog-left, and in practiced it is unclear how or if this differs from anti-white race-baiting.

        Scapegoating the majority population was always morally bankrupt. Not it is turning out to have been politically stupid.

        While most of the others pander to a monolithic black vote that may or may not turn out, and a mythical brown vote that defies liberal stereotyping, the only person on that stage who has ever addressed the concerns of white Americans as such is Yang.

    1. WJ

      At what point between now and November 2020 will the opinion first be aired that the outcome of the election might have to be reversed by our intelligence agencies because of their certain knowledge of Russian interference? Or wait, did that already happen?

    2. Massinissa

      That’s… That’s actually really disappointing, really. I’m not a big fan of BGI but I was under the impression Yang was better than that…

      Maybe he’s starting to get desperate since his numbers aren’t budging.

  23. Squid Man

    Interesting how Bernie gets the “Do you want to bring the troops home and make the terrorists win?” loaded question while Yang gets asked “What do you think about Russia’s election meddling?”

    1. Fern

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but as far as I know, Tulsi has not said anything about Bolivia, which has been disappointing in the extreme. Only Bernie has been brave enough to call a coup a coup.

      1. Massinissa

        She was asked about it on camera, and said “I don’t know enough about it yet”, and that’s fine.

        Except… That was a week ago. Still no public statement. I mean, usually she gets the drop on Bernie on this kind of thing but not this time I guess.

        1. Fern

          This alone makes me lose all faith that Tulsi represents the anti-war, anti-regime change position. This is her issue. There’s absolutely no excuse.

          1. scarn

            Yeah, all I can find is her saying she’s gathering facts. Weak stuff. Bernie gets braver as the campaign progresses, his opponents find their cowardice.

            1. Carey

              Not certain at all, but maybe Gabbard’s anti-war stance is only an abstract one? At least she makes some good noises.


              1. Dwight

                She only seems to be concerned about the costs to Americans of foreign wars, and especially costs to people in the military. These are very important costs that deserve great attention, and it may be politically astute to focus on them. However, if Gabbard is not concerned about deadly economic sanctions as a form of regime change warfare, then her position is at best incomplete.

              2. drumlin woodchuckles

                She is not anti-war. She is anti America-getting-into-regime-change-wars.
                If Burma and Thailand were to have a war, she would be agnostic about it, as long as no one tried to get America involved.

                1. Carey

                  Gabbard likes that “Commander in Chief” line too much.

                  1-2-3-4, which Corporation are we Fighting For?”

                2. jrs

                  If it was really a conflict in which the U.S. had no involvement (are there actually any with hundreds of U.S. bases around the world?) that might make sense. But this is Bolivia, U.S. affiliated agencies questioned the election without much basis and then a coup follows. The U.S. is not uninvolved (probably more involved that we even know at this point, but sticking to known knowns).

          2. jrs

            Has she come out with her healthcare plan yet?

            I don’t understand it re Bolvia either but I guess anti-certain wars, anti-some regime changes, afraid to alienate some supporters (not on the left, the left knows all about latin America and U.S. coups)

            1. Jessica

              Tulsi gets it that direct US military intervention is toxic. I am not sure that she gets it that the rest of US foreign policy is just as toxic. I think that she will learn from experience.

        2. drumlin woodchuckles

          If no one is conspiring to get American soldiers involved into Bolivian events, why would Gabbard necessarily have an opinion?

          Just because the Left rings its little bell and demands that Gabbard hop, that doesn’t mean that Gabbard is obligated to hop or carry the Left’s baggage.

  24. integer

    Biden and Klobuchar want a new foreign policy that’s just like the old one.

    Warren wants more people to serve in the military.

    Sanders condemns Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Good for him.

    Gabbard is excluded from the foreign policy section of the debate.

    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      yet has spoken more on the topic tonight than during most of these events. and spoken well.

      she has evolved from her earlier introverted presentation and is quite powerful and effective.

      very cool

      1. integer

        Yeah, she absolutely demolished Buttigieg in their exchange over his having said he would send troops to Mexico. The look on his face was priceless lol.

        1. Carey

          Yes, Booty got a little edgy there. Good, we need to see that.

          “..met with a murderous™ dictator™!”


  25. polecat

    I’ve got to wonder just how absurd the viewing public finds these set-ups, er sorry .. I meant debates .. to be. We can’t be the only ones who see these venues for the media-rigged carney displays that they are ….

    And what’s with the 4 Harpys ?? .. This ain’t the VIEW … or is it ?

  26. Carey

    If D’oh Biden’s polling doesn’t fall off a cliff after this debacle, the rigging will just be too
    obvious, and maybe Team Dem are fine with that. The dude is not functional, sorry.

    Now Amy! gets even more time..

    Did anyone listen to that Kornacki maroon at intermission? Turned off the sound when I saw his mug.

  27. Fern

    Buttigieg was NOT “commanded into a war zone”, as he just claimed. His division was not deployed. He volunteered to go, which was convenient because he was in hot water due to his outrageous firing of the popular black police chief and the brave and ethical veteran police department communications director who was concerned about the extreme racism in her department. This allowed him to duck out of the mess he had caused and to come back draped in an American flag as a patriotic war hero.

  28. Jason Boxman

    How bad is it? I’m tempted to have another drink when I get home. I probably missed it. But I expect the end of the world anyway.

    The phrase “opt out” from the first? season of The Walking Dead sounds apt, and it is possible I live long enough for that to actually make sense. But watching or not watching the debates isn’t going to materially impact my fate, in any case.

    God speed.

  29. CarlH

    Gabbard handled herself well in that exchange with Buttegieg. Booker wants to cause “good trouble”. Please stop.

  30. anon in so cal

    Michael Tracey
    “Pete can’t resist hurling the Assad smear for the ten millionth time. It’s just sad at this point”

    1. jrs

      Yes it’s old, at least Kamala’s point hasn’t been hit as much, but Pete just reflexively unthinkingly reached for that like answering a question on Jeopardy, even the look in his eyes.

  31. ChiGal in Carolina

    Gotta say, Tulsi is knocking it out of the park tonight and seems to be getting more speaking time than other nights.

    I am pleasantly surprised that the moderators despite some typically inside the beltway assumptions are pretty businesslike about managing who has the mike.

    1. Carey

      I thought the moderation was slightly less bad than in the previous debates, but Klobuchar
      getting so much time, and Gabbard not getting a word in until what, ten minutes in?

    2. Yves Smith

      Hate to tell you, but you’d never know that from Twitter. Full of Tulsi-hate. MSM too. All about “Harris rips Gabbard” and “Tulsi hearts dictators.”

    3. jrs

      Extremely boring close rivaling maybe only Cory Booker’s close for boring, platitude full. Mostly boring. Good on paper ballots and good for bringing that up. Pivots a question on climate change to talking mostly about clean air and water. What is this Trump? (Trump isn’t for clean air or water of course, and she might be, but he always does that particular pivot when asked about climate change). Could have pushed strong on the issue as she has pushed a climate change bill, that went nowhere and maybe wasn’t really serious at the end of the day, but nonetheless could have gone strong just on that etc., but didn’t.

      It really seems she does want bipartisan appeal to Dems and R’s and libertarians etc. as she says. But I guess this necessitates soft peddling a lot of non foreign policy issues that anyone left of Ron Paul cares about.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Good on paper ballots and good for bringing that up.

        From the transcript:


        …stop the unbelievable practice where we still have 11 states that don’t have backup paper ballots. That is my bipartisan bill.

        Useless. Now Gabbard:

        Thank you. I mean, voting rights are essential for our democracy. Securing our elections is essential for our democracy. I’ve introduced legislation called the Securing Americas Elections Act that mandates paper ballots to make sure that every single voter’s voice is heard.

        Still useless. From Gabbard’s bill:

        “(i) VERIFICATION.— (I) The voting system shall require the production of a voter-verified paper ballot of the voter’s vote that shall be created by or made available for inspection and verification by the individual voter before the voter’s vote is cast and counted. For purposes of this subclause, a voter-verified paper ballot includes (but is not limited to) a paper ballot marked by the voter for the purpose of being counted by hand or read by an optical scanner or other similar device, a paper ballot prepared by the voter to be mailed to an election official (whether from a domestic or overseas location), a paper ballot created through the use of a ballot marking device or system, or a paper ballot produced by a touch screen or other electronic voting machine, so long as in each case the voter is permitted to verify the ballot in a paper form in accordance with this subparagraph.

        Also useless. The only safe way is hand-marked paper ballots, hand-counted in public. There must be no digital intermediaries at all, because anything digital can be hacked.

        1. Oh

          I agree with you. What’s the point in the voter verifying the paper ballot selection when later the election data is changed on the server. We need to use only paper ballots and hand counting of same.

        2. drumlin woodchuckles

          I choose to be generous and note that Gabbard is too young to remember the pre-digital world of Analog Reality. She probably thinks that “digital” means “quality”, and the right kind of “security digital” will make elections secure.

          I would just love it if someone too young to remember the Analog World would discover it anyway through “cultural archaeology” and call for analog elections. Meaning the Very First Mark made on Legal Paper Ballot and Zero Digital Pollution from that point onward downstream.

      1. Monty

        Like the rest of the shills on Dem apparatchik Twitter, I thought they deserved a special commendation for being all born female. A really good choice on their part. It made the right wing / establishment framing of their questions seem so much reasonable than if a man had been paid to read the same words.

    1. dk

      A low bar but yes, considerably better. Still a crowd of candidates and let’s-keep-things-moving, and the questions were pretty soft-ball, maybe some missed opportunities to really show how unproductive dick-wagging moderation is.

  32. Fern

    Well, there are a lot of experienced Toastmaster club members up there, but there’s only one candidate that is likely to do what he says he will do, and that’s Bernie.

  33. anon in so cal

    “Pete Buttigieg was just exposed as a dangerous neocon plant who despises diplomacy and can’t even own up to his own words. (And I’ve seen many self styled lefties more outraged over Tulsi’s presence in the race than his) ”


    Jimmy Dore
    “Tulsi takes a swing at Buttigieg over sending Troops to Mexico, He exposes himself by responding with cheap shots. That’s not a leader , that’s a corporate coward.”

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I think Gabbard beat Buttigieg like a gong here. From the transcript:

      GABBARD: Thank you. You were asked directly whether you would send our troops to Mexico to fight cartels and your answer was yes. The fact-checkers can check this out.

      BUTTIGIEG: No.

      GABBARD: But your point about judgment is absolutely correct. Our commander-in-chief does need to have good judgment. And what you’ve just pointed out is that you would lack the courage to meet with both adversaries and friends to ensure the peace and national security of our nation. I take the example of those leaders who have come before us, leaders like JFK, who met with Khrushchev, like Roosevelt, who met with Stalin.

      BUTTIGIEG: Like Donald Trump who met with Kim.

      GABBARD: Like Reagan, who met — like Reagan, who met and worked with Gorbachev. These issues of national security are incredibly important. I will meet with and do what is necessary to make sure that no more of our brothers and sisters in uniform are needlessly sent into harm’s way fighting regime change wars that undermine our national security. I’ll bring real leadership and experience to the White House.

      All Buttigieg has on this is a cheap shot?

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        BUTTIGIEG: Like Donald Trump who met with Kim.

        And his “cheap shot” is to go after the one good thing Trump kind of did (mostly it was the South Koreans which demonstrates the colonial mind set of the McKinsey intern.

        1. jrs

          yea in his whiny “but Donald Trump …”, yea orange man sucks, but please, that can’t be high on almost ANYONE’S list of what’s wrong with Trump, except a few beltway warmongers. This is not someone who performed well. I guess he was ok talking about farmers and climate change. Perhaps the one good point he made, one good point from someone who spoke as much as Pete did isn’t performing well.

  34. Carey

    I thought Sanders’s closing statement could have been a lot better. He stands with the undocumented? Super, but that’s the big point to make now?

    Biden’s close was wacko territory, IMO. “Three times the productivity of the Asians”, as he said? Gong Show stuff.

    1. scarn

      I thought Sanders’ statement was just OK, but the 20 somethings I was watching with went absolutely nuts with excitement over it. I think I might just be getting old.

    2. jaaaaayceeeee

      Sanders closing statement wasn’t clever at all (like Warren’s immediately following). I noticed his chorus of audible ‘yep’s’ as Steny Hoyer said winning depends on organizing those who have giving up on the value of voting. Sanders was speaking to that part of the electorate, saying he stands, and always has stood, for you, who are just barely getting by or not. As other commenters have said on Naked Capitalism, I’d like to see him soon address the elderly as directly, since the other candidates won’t do as much for them as Sanders. Looking at the voters he’s going for, and who’s been donating to him, it wasn’t a terrible strategy.

      Warren seemed to be speaking to likely Democrat voters, saying that sure, the other candidates you’ve been listening to tonight all have great ideas, but it’s the corruption, duh, and I have THE plan for that. Clever.

      Biden’s closing statement, with rambling, warmed-over Hillaryisms about how America is already great, was deeply inadequate.

      But nothing about tonight was anywhere near as pathetic as the efforts of the moderators to prevent anything more than sound bites, gotcha’s, blurring differences candidates’ policy positions would make on pocketbooks, the usual Bernie blackout, and the lack of real time lie fact checking (several candidates claimed they were first on this or that issue Bernie’s been introducing legislation about for years). That alone makes me want to see these same journalists watching their work negated by the returns on election night!

  35. Vegetius

    If I am Mitch McConnell, I am going to slow-walk an impeachment trial, use it to publicly expose the corruption of the Obama administration, and keep those five Senators tied up until maybe April or May defending increasingly indefensible positions while Barr begins prosecuting Obama alums for seditious conspiracy.

    1. BoyDownTheLane

      I was jut scrolling through, not having watched the debate, wondering if anyone was going to acknowledge that the whole impeachment thing just “flat-lined” today and that the people of the United States are working on a GoFundMe page to raise money to dig the political graves of the brain-dead who will persist with the farce.

    2. Big Tap

      You can add Joe Biden to the list of five too. He won’t be there six days a week like the others but he will be forced to testify. The Republicans that run the Senate will insist upon it.

    1. scarn

      This sort of chicanery must be purposeful. I do hope the only tactic our enemies have is to pretend like their cutouts are popular in the hope that pretending makes things true!

  36. Bill Carson

    Got home from choir rehearsal and I’m frustrated that I can’t find a place to see the full replay of the debate. NBC website is replaying the debate, but you can’t start from the beginning, you have to jump in where it is. Good grief, what year is this?

    Also, NBC, MSNBC, and WaPo have plenty of clips of the debate, but none of them feature Bernie.

    1. inode_buddha

      How much do you want to bet that this is on purpose so they can gaslight the entire population? By limiting access to TV and making it difficult for alternative media, knowing that Sanders is running his own media game. You can’t refute something that isn’t there, nor build talking points if nobody can find the video clip.

  37. cnchal

    > Here is a shot of the ugly, stupid, and Hall of Mirrors-style stage:

    It’s like a slot machine. Pay your money and takes your chances, blinking lights and all

    Thank you, commenters, for an entertaining read. I only need an ounce of brain bleach, you need at least a gallon.

    Bernie or bust.

    1. Detroit Dan

      Well said. I didn’t even realize the debate was happening. Caught up this morning by reading through the comments here.

  38. Pat

    Well according to Vox the four winners last night were Buttigieg, Warren, Booker and Stacey Abrams (actually the focus on voter suppression, but…).

    The losers were Biden, and the subjects of asylum seekers (missing Castro) and health care (“no ones heart was in it”).

    The winners and losers were all described by individual writers.

    Me, I would say the real losers are the American public – they have the insult of this farce of a debate compounded by cynical and pointless media coverage like this.

    1. jrs

      Winners: Sanders, Klobuchar, and Yang to a much smaller degree. They did well I think.
      Losers: Biden, Buttigieg (a lost little boy), Harris (a defeated woman)
      Treading water: the rest, treading water is ok if you are a front runner like Warren maybe, and she did respectably enough, but otherwise it’s doom

      I don’t even see how you watch that debate and don’t think Sanders hit some really strong points, though he was 100% in all of it.

        1. jrs

          I thought she performed well with the position she took (which is not the position we need). If we’re going to have a centrist (read rather right wing of course) candidate she made a case for herself, in a race where the favored centrist choices literally make NO sense at all, even if one’s only goal was “Trump Be Gone”. We have the age-related cognitive impairment guy, and the mayor of a map dot (unqualified basically), who will also alienate anyone with homophobia. Of course they may well be more likable and Klobuchar too much like Hillary in impression, I don’t know, I’ve never been a good judge of likability.

  39. juliania

    Thanks to you all here, and especially Lambert for tracking the transcript and pointing out paper ballot needs and deficiencies.

    My comment on the opening visual of the set – to me it immediately invoked what the interior of a prison would look like if neon lights were strung along all the tiers. Prettied up but not pretty. But I guess that’s okay as not many destined to inhabit those cells would be watching in any case.

    1. Carey

      >to me it immediately invoked what the interior of a prison would look like if neon lights were strung along all the tiers.

      I think this is a *real good* point.

      “Always be closing..” they are

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