California Senator Kamala Harris had the most defining moment in the second Democratic Presidential Candidate debate. Harris took former Vice President Joe Biden to task over his history objecting the desegregation of schools in the US.
It all started when Harris pointedly took issue with Biden for his recent statements where he was reported to have touted his close relationship with former racist senators.
Stating she had the right to respond to the discussing as the only black candidate on stage, Harris turned toward Biden and made it personal.
“I don’t believe you’re racist, but it is personal and it was actually hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country,” Harris said.
The attacks rattled Biden and made him lose his cool. Looking visibly angry, Biden responded touting his civil rights cred and pushed back that he did not praise racists and that Harris was mis-characterizing his positions “across the board.”
But Harris did not back down. She pressed Biden on his opposition to busing of minority children to nicer schools in majority white neighborhoods. Harris’ masterfully personalized the issue telling Biden that while he was opposing busing, there was a little girl in Oakland who was being bused to school.
“That little girl was me,” Harris said, landing the punchline of her argument like a prosecutor who has cornered a defendant.
In response Biden argued said he was only opposed to busing ordered by the Department of education. He said the issue of busing was a local government matter and opening himself up to further criticism for putting up minorities basic rights to the whims of state politics instead of advocating for their equal protection under the federal government.
Day 2 Debate Winners are Losers
Sen. Kamala Harris
She made her presence felt, she jumped into the debate at the right moments and put herself above the fray when she said “America does not want to witness a food fight, they want know how we’re going to put food on their table.” With that line she set the tempo for a strong night, where she stood as one of two candidates who support ending private insurance, a position she has shifted around variously. It appears today, Harris took her final position on Medicare for all and issue that is sure to be a sticking point down the road in the event she becomes the nominee.
Harris also got the better of the argument between herself and Biden on the issue of segregation and bussing.
In every moment she spoke, Harris gave an impression that she could go toe-to-toe with President Donald Trump.
Vice President Joe Biden
While Harris’ attacks took a toll on Biden, he largely maintained his cool and status as an elder of the Democratic party and vigorously defended his positions and that of the Obama administration. While his answers to Harris’ attacks raised eyebrows, they are unlikely to impact the race in any significant way as most Democrats are likely to give him a pass for things that happened decades ago.
Biden strongest moments came when he focused his attacks on Trump. He once again reminded everyone that he was one half of the beloved Obama administration that rescued the nation from a depression and passing Affordable Care Act that is currently under threat from Trump.
His personalized story about the tragedy that has befallen his family was well-delivered and appropriate. His argument that the best way to handle the healthcare system was to strengthen Obamacare made sense and is easy to sell.
Biden came in as a front-runner and he went out as a front-runner.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg
Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a 37-year Afghanistan veteran and the only veteran o n stage in the second debate came is riding high and kept his high profile after the debate. He spoke confidently and took independent position. His answer about college made a lot of sense, when he argued that Americans should also be allowed to make a choice of not going to college and still be able to succeed in life.
Addressing a question about providing medical coverage for undocumented residents, Buttigieg argued that such a policy made sense as undocumented residents pay for healthcare services indirectly through paying for sales taxes or property taxes.
A defining moment, however, came when moderator Rachel Maddow asked Buttigieg about the racial tension in South Bend Indiana, his hometown where is has been a two-time mayor. Tension arose in South Bend after a White police officer shot and killed Eric Logan, a 54-year-old father of seven, who was black. The controversial killing was further complicated because the officer turned off his body camera during the incident, raising questions about his assertions that he actions were in self defense.
Buttigieg was ready for the question and he did not make excuses about the difficulty of the situation. But his explanation that he was awaiting the outcome of the investigation into the matter before taking action was insufficient and Congressman Eric Swallwell interjected and made it clear that the police chief should be fired for condoning an officer turning off their body camera.
It was also unclear why the South Bend police force is only 6 percent black when the population of South Bend is 26 percent black. This is an issue that will continue to dog Buttigieg throughout this campaign and perhaps there is nothing he could do to change the fact.
Despite that difficult moment, Buttigieg showed great command of issues and poise throughout the debate.
Sen. Bernie Sanders
He did not have a single great moment. In 2016, Sanders built his campaign by creating a bogey-woman out of them Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. There is nobody on stage currently he could turn into an bogeyman or bogey-woman. His ideas have either been co-opted by other candidates of bested. It was sad to see Sanders standing in the middle of the stage looking for a moment to standout that never came.
While Sanders did not do anything to harm his candidacy, there was an aura of a man whose moment came and passed.
Spotting a suit and shirt without a tie, Yang appeared ready for a brawl. But the brawl never came. He meekly stood second from the edge of the stage and waited his turn. It is not clear how Yang, an unknown quantity in the presidential politics circuit intends to make a name for himself if he does not speak up.
His failure to assert himself among his friendly peers suggested he may not be ready to face-off an unscrupulous opponent like President Trump.
It’s time for Yang to drop out of the race.
Sen Kirsten Gillibrand engaged in a spirited debate on several issues, she asserted herself and showed she is a formidable candidate, but she did not break out. If she does not pick up more support in the next national polls, she should consider ending her campaign.
Eric Swalwell focus on gun violence gives him a strong moral position among the candidates. His call directed to Biden for passing the torch defined a moment of generational divide among Democratic candidate. His presence in the race is important, but it’s unlikely that he will be on the stage for the next debate. He is perhaps the best candidate to support in order to keep the issue of gun law reform alive.