Day one Democratic presidential candidate debate was a missed opportunity to assure the nation anxious about the Donald Trump presidency that help was on the way.
President Trump, largely remained the elephant in the room that barely anyone spoke about. The base sees Trump as a villain and is looking for a candidate who will attack Trump and show she or he can go toe-to-toe with him.
The candidates engaged in intelligent policy debate about gun policy, immigration, climate change, healthcare among other topics, but none, except for Gov. Jay Inslee, who declared Trump the biggest threat to our democracy during his closing statement, captured the pulse of the nation.
It’s as if we were watching master archers in a contest aiming at the wrong target and then patting each other on the back.
Trump’s three-year tower of chaos and corruption came out unscathed. The questions from the moderators failed to capture the pulse of the Democratic base and failed to set up questions for any candidate to attack Trump directly on various issues.
There was, however, an attempt by MSNBC Rachel Maddow to ask about the candidates views on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s stance not to pursue Trump’s impeachment.
Responding to the question, former congressman John Delaney sided with Pelosi and downplayed the significance of Special Counsel Report. Delaney said rarely does he get asked about the Mueller Report on the campaign trail.
Delaney’s argument, is yet another example of a self-fulfilling prophesy where a candidate justifies avoidance of addressing an issue by asserting amorphous expertise at reading the pulse of voters.
A recent NPR/ PBS and Marist Poll taken after Mueller’s press conference found that 52 percent of Americans wants impeachment proceedings to begin.
All in all, the first day of the debate did not produce much memorable moments.
Here are the winners and losers
Senator Elizabeth Warren
She said what she needed to say, was in command of the issues. She drove home the point on income inequality. Did not get attacked by anyone and other candidates seemed to respect her. She, however, receded to the background and allowed Sen. Cory Booker to dominate speaking opportunities. But Booker failed to capitalize on the gimme and assert him as the leader of the pack. In the end, Warren ended the day intact.
President Donald Trump
His three years of chaos, corruption, undermining the rule of law and democracy, obvious incompetence and critical findings in the Robert Mueller Report was not highlighted by the moderators or the candidates. Trump was largely ignored. This was a mistake the first debate candidates made that should not be repeated by day 2 candidates. The base wants a nominee who will turn up the heat on Trump. They didn’t get that June 26th night.
Former Vice President Joe Biden
Not a single opponent brought up his name. He goes on stage June 27th his lead intact and without any pressure to defend himself. This was a missed opportunity for Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker.
New York Mayor Bill De Blasio
He asserted himself powerfully, he attacked O’Rourke’s defense of private insurance asking “why are you defending a system that is not working?” De Blasio also made powerful statements about the importance of going to war responsibly by drawing on his father’s unfortunate demise after the Okinawa War that led to his suicide. De Blasio also made a strong argument for responsible policing and the dangers young black men face in America.
Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro stood out with his command on issues such as immigration. He came across as credible and strong. When he confronted former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke for not calling for the abolition of section 1325 of the constitution that criminalizes border crossings. Castro called out O’Rourke’s for his assertion that he did not support the repeal of the section because he is concerned about human trafficking. Castro dismissed O’Rourke’s explanation stating there were already other laws in the books tha outlaw human and drug trafficking.
Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke
He seemed lost throughout the debate. He was caught speechless when fellow Texan Julian Castro attacked his position against repealing section 1325 of the constitution that would decriminalize border crossing. He did great speaking Spanish. O’Rourke should consider dropping out.
Second Big Loser Congressman John Delaney
The former Maryland Congressman was the Debbie Downer of the night. His adult-in-the-room moderate shtick fell flat. His answer about impeachment was unfortunate. Clearly he is out of touch with the Democratic base. His desperate interruptions were annoying, it’s amazing he didn’t fall off the stage hustling the moderators for attention.
Delaney should drop out.
Third Big Loser
Moderating a debate with so many candidates is a tough job. It did not help that there was a moment of technical difficulties. So this was not an easy task for the moderators. But they failed to ask questions that would create viral moments and live beyond today. There were no questions about the Trump chaos government, Russian interference in our democracy, Trump’s erratic foreign policy, and the candidates’ stance on impeachment. Maddow’s attempt on the impeachment question came in too late into the debate and did not elicit answers from all the candidates.
Moderators must ask more questions about Mueller Report and Trump’s actions in the second debate.