Democratic Debates: Biden in the Middle

Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website Yonder and Home. Andrew is the host of Heard Tell podcast.

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70 Responses

  1. InMD says:

    I think Biden came off as ‘well enough given the expectations’ and Harris deservedly got her clock cleaned by Gabbard, who did a great job of not looking nuts until the ‘Trump supports al Qaeda’ comment. Of course the drunken assessment of me and my buddy watching it at a bar was also that unless someone really steps up in a way no one has yet we are probably getting 4 more years of Trump. Also Bill de Blasio sucks.Report

  2. I know you don’t like Gabbard. And I don’t like her ties to Russia or Assad. But watching her demolish Harris’ BS “progressive prosecutor” narrative was a joy. If her campaign does nothing else — and it probably won’t — it did that.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Siegel says:

      My hope is that it knocks off that whole “Nothing to see here” vibe her supporters keep trotting out. Hell, her record isn’t even a deal breaker for me, if she owns it and offers an apology.

      But she won’t, because she needs police and DAs endorsing her more than anyone else, and more than Trump.Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        On the one hand I think promoting Harris as tough-on-crime-to-the-point-of-fault is only going to help her in the general election.

        On the other hand she very much seems like the kind of person whose professional existence has been in an environment where anyone who said “diversity hire” got wished away to the cornfield. She has that “how the FUCK are you even HERE SAYING THIS TO ME” affect in response to questions or criticisms, and while you can get away with that act when you’re President it means that the only way you get things done is to scream people into submission, and eventually you just run out of energy to do that.Report

        • InMD in reply to DensityDuck says:

          I’m not sure it helps her that much in a world where even Trump and the Republican party was willing to get on board with the First Step Act. It can be way overstated but I do think there’s been a cultural sea change on crime and incarceration.Report

        • Aaron David in reply to DensityDuck says:

          It’s one of the things that is going to bite her in the backside. She has never really been in a competitive election, not only for the reasons you state, but political patronage under Willie Brown got her going in the first place.

          It’s one of the same problems that HRC had.Report

      • George Turner in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        Gabbard’s attack on Harris was effective, and many seem to have been unaware of Harris’s DA record. So now it looks like Harris might be one of the vanishingly few Democratic candidates who wouldn’t get overwhelming black support because she can’t smooth over her record. Heck, she was floundering and Trump hasn’t even brought up the hundred plus slaves her family owned. Not only could that cost a few key states, it could have disastrous consequences down ticket.

        That dramatically changes the calculus for those who are mainly seeking a candidate who can win against Trump, hold the House, and retake the Senate, and who were only supporting Harris because she looked like the best pit fighter to go up against him. She showed she was not at all good on defense, and Trump attacks and attacks from a dozen different directions.

        So, I expect her to falter or stall in the post-debate polls, as will Booker, who put in a rather eye-rolling performance, at one point insisting that Democrats shouldn’t be debating each other, having apparently not read the entrance sign claiming he was at a “Democrat Debate”.

        But those soft on Biden were figuring Booker or Harris were the ones to take him down, and they failed badly at it. And with so much of the anti-Biden field trying to undercut him by taking shots at Obama, any later Obama endorsement they’ll get, if any, might be tepid at best. In constantly defending Obama, Biden was trying on his mantle, and that alone might keep him up in the polls.

        I was in a comment thread at Instapundit during the debate, which although not leftist by any means, does have lots of astute political observers. One commented several times on their repeated references to Trump, and he said “You do not use the name of the opponent this early. You refer to him as “the administration” or “the president” so as not to keep name checking him and giving him free advertising.” I found that interesting. Moderates and independents who tune in to the Democratic debate just hear “Trump Trump Trump”.Report

  3. George Turner says:

    If Russian bots can determine Google searches state by state, we might as well not have an election in 2020 because they’ll control it.

    Last night when I checked, the mysteriously reliable Drudge Poll, tilted by 4chan or not, had Gabbard at around 40%, Yang at 25%, Biden at about 15%, then De Blasio and Bennett. The media favorites like Harris didn’t crack 3%, and Castro was dead last. Brietbart’s poll was similar, with Gabbard at 50%. But of course the Drudge poll can’t be trusted because after the first 2016 debates it kept saying Donald Trump one biggly, and we all know that was crazy.

    My take is that the media will still push Harris, even though she failed miserably on the defensive last night even before Gabbard cut her to pieces like a seasoned prosecutor, calmly and sadly laying out the fact of the case against her. Gabbard also hit one out of the park on climate change when she said that in Hawaii, protecting the environment isn’t a partisan issue, it’s a way of life. However, it doesn’t matter because the party has been out to destroy her ever since she vocally dissented from Obama’s Middle East policy. But then Obama lost last night pretty badly, getting attacked more than Trump did.

    My take is that the 2020 Democratic field is so weak that Marianne, Tulsi, and Yang have crushed them twice in a row, and they don’t have a real prayer of beating Trump.Report

    • InMD in reply to George Turner says:

      This whole bot thing is getting tiresome. Every development the D establishment/professional class faction of the party doesn’t like is somehow the fault of Ivan generating bots and third rate click bait. It’s absurd.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to InMD says:

        Small point, but … Are you saying that a poll in which 40% of respondents claimed Tulsi Gabbard won the debate *wasn’t* driven by bots?

        Tulsi Gabbard? ????Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to Stillwater says:

          Another conclusion is that Drudge voters are functionally indistinguishable from Russian trolls.

          And “She did very well among rightwing Republicans” isn’t the most inspiring pitch.Report

        • InMD in reply to Stillwater says:

          The answer to that is who knows, and it’s weird to me that so many people jump to that very specific conclusion and it’s implications.

          The reliability of an online poll generally though? Of course it isn’t reliable, of course she’s not winning the nomination, and whatever it’s reflective of it isn’t how people are going to vote.Report

          • Stillwater in reply to InMD says:

            Look, I don’t know if Russian bots are responsible for the results of those polls, or if it’s meme-warriors casting votes ironically, or if it’s an honest reflection of how Drudge readers view the Democratic candidates. But to dismiss the suggestion that it’s Russian bots out of hand, after all the evidence regarding the extent of Russian interference in the last election, seems intellectually lazy to me.

            Also, and maybe I’m a step behind on the state of play here, but who jumped to the conclusion that it was Russian bots? George was the first to mention it …Report

            • Marchmaine in reply to Stillwater says:

              Its in the OP:
              “Oh, and ignore all those “Tulsi Gabbard is the most Googled candidate” graphics. It’s been well established that the Russian bot’s favorite candidate gets plenty of social media push from the troll farms.”

              I think(?) Andrew is using the term bot ironically or generically… “brigading” is probably the right term and is represented in the “push from troll farms” part of the sentence.

              What makes it tiresome to reiterate InMD’s original point is that bots are an invisible force and if we’re going to blame bots, let’s show the evidence or point to the absence of clarifying data (the raw data/stats/logs under the poll) first.

              Because if we don’t do that, then how will we possibly resist/defend against the midichlorian impact on the Williamson vote?Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Marchmaine says:

                Ahh, OK. Thanks for linking it back up to the OP.

                I guess I go the other way on this: given that bots (and troll farms …) are ubiquitous in online political activity I see no reason to believe that any online poll or internet data set is reliable *unless* proven so. Maybe I’ve been overly influenced by this article from the Atlantic.


                On the other hand, though, I could totally be persuaded that of all the Democratic candidates, searches for Tulsi Gabbard in Google Images ranked highest.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Marchmaine says:

                Pretty clear that some of our liberal friends are loading up the ‘Russian bot defense’ proactively. I like the idea of making them show their work, but that seems a big ask. (Is it too early to start stockpiling ammo?)Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                I had a real nice comment get eaten by The System. Anyway…

                The evidence that online polls and internet data sets and so on are unreliable due to bot and troll-farm related activity is already in. Here’s an article from the last election cycle discussing it.


              • Marchmaine in reply to Stillwater says:

                Right… I would positively take it as axiomatic that any ungoverned Online Poll falls squarely in the “shits-and-giggles” category.

                If I have any “concern” its a nebulous (leaning towards lazy leaning towards dubious) use of various terms like “bots” and “opposition talking points” as an end-point rather than a possible starting point with any sort of explanatory power.

                That’s why I’m interested in what do we really know vs. what does the Daily Beast think it might know (but really doesn’t).

                I mean, as I was taking the opportunity to try to suss-out what we all mean by “bots” made me do it I came across this piece from Cornell
                “We present an analysis of the impact of automated accounts, or bots, on opinions in a social network. We model the opinions using a variant of the famous DeGroot model, which connects opinions with network structure. We find a strong correlation between opinions based on this network model and based on the tweets of Twitter users discussing the 2016 U.S. presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, providing evidence supporting the validity of the model. We then utilize the network model to predict what the opinions would have been if the network did not contain any bots which may be trying to manipulate opinions.
                Using a bot detection algorithm, we identify bot accounts which comprise less than 1% of the network. By analyzing the bot posts, we find that there are twice as many bots supporting Donald Trump as there are supporting Hillary Clinton. We remove the bots from the network and recalculate the opinions using the network model. We find that the bots produce a significant shift in the opinions, with the Clinton bots producing almost twice as large a change as the Trump bots, despite being fewer in number. Analysis of the bot behavior reveals that the large shift is due to the fact that the bots post one hundred times more frequently than humans. The asymmetry in the opinion shift is due to the fact that the Clinton bots post 50% more frequently than the Trump bots. Our results suggest a small number of highly active bots in a social network can have a disproportionate impact on opinions.”

                Not that that proves anything or everything… but hey, people trying to understand bots and their impact are showing that its more like gut flora than mono-causal effects.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                “Defense” against…what, exactly?
                The assertion that Trump fans love them some Tulsi Gabbard?

                Why should we Dems give a hoot about what the opposition thinks of Gabbard, other than to take note of who we should ignore?

                I mean, if I presented you with an online poll showing that the LGM commentariat thinks William Weld is totally pwning Trump, would Republicans think this is terribly impressive?Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Defense against the Left losing their collective shit if/when Trump gets elected. It’s going to get ugly.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                We already know what could re-elect Trump.
                The enduring power of white supremacy.

                Seriously, he’s screaming it out loud now.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                I would suggest that most of his supporters will vote for him in spite of his racism, not because of it. But most people see a LOT less racism than you do, so maybe they have no idea.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                If a guy sees electing a white supremacist as less damaging than a social democrat, he is, if anything, even worse than racist.

                Because that calculation displays a depraved indifference to the lives and liberty of about a third of American citizens.

                As I mentioned in my cites of those articles in National Review and Quillette, ethnic hatred is so raw and primal it destroys everything in its path, like fiscal sanity, respect for law, respect for tradition, even religious piety.

                The idea that a white supremacist would somehow respect liberty and republican ideals, or the philosophical roots of the Enlightenment is absurd, and easily disproved by evidence of wherever it was given free rein.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                We’ve already had the conversation about how much damage an Old Man Racist can do vs. a social democrat. To me it’s not even comparable. It’s marginal damage for a few years vs. huge damage for generations. So I understand their calculation if they actually think Trump’s policies are good.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Because for them, racism is merely bad manners like locker room talk or farting in church.

                It never occurs to them that in a society which embraces ethnocentrism, even white males have no rights, only privileges at the whim of those who hold power.

                In Donald Trump’s America, James Damore may be ranked higher than his female coworker, but in the end he is still a peasant, disposable and utterly without rights.

                Which makes Josh Hawley’s crusade against tech oligarchs so pitiful.
                The white rural men who seethe with rage at the smug coastal elites won’t ever gain rights since ethnocentrism always carves out special status for those members of the hated minority who are useful.

                And the average white male without wealth just isn’t very useful.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                I think it’s because they probably understand the lives of minorities generally get better every decade but bad policy could actually push the country backwards.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                It’s going to get ugly.

                I think the evidence that you’re wrong is that things haven’t already gotten ugly (if you exclude white nationalists shooting up innocent people, anyway).

                Btw, re: the claim about bots’ roll in our elections, I can’t quite figure if this one of those times where a person who accurately describes a situation is viewed as liberal because conservatives reject that description? You seem to think that evidence is partisan…Report

            • InMD in reply to Stillwater says:

              It wasn’t just George, it was in the OP.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to InMD says:

                He doesn’t cite any liberals claiming Gabbard’s online support is driven by Russian bots either. (His link is to an article which claims she accepted campaign donations from a couple of Russians…) So the thing your tired of doesn’t appear anywhere in the OP or the thread.

                On the other hand, and to loop it back to my original comment, dismissing the idea that online political polls and so on *aren’t* driven by bots and trolls strikes me as naive.Report

              • InMD in reply to Stillwater says:

                Parse it however you want, if you don’t think spuriously blaming Russian bots is, as they say, a ‘thing’ we’ll have to agree to disagree.

                Of course online polls are hit by bots and it is one of the many, many reasons they are not particularly reliable indicators of anything. But again, let’s not pretend specifically citing Russian bots has no implications, or in this case isn’t being used to hand-wave away the fact that one of the non-serious candidates landed some solid blows against one of the serious candidates.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to InMD says:

                or in this case isn’t being used to hand-wave away the fact that one of the non-serious candidates landed some solid blows against one of the serious candidates.

                I Googled “Gabbard Russian bot” and the first thing that came up was this


                story about how the Russian propaganda machine’s affinity for Gabbard. So the view that Russian bots and trolls are pushing her doesn’t strike me as crazy. It doesn’t strike me as a one off because Kamala got hit, either since the article predates last night’s debate. The “bot theory” applies to the results of Drudge and Breitbart’s silly polls, and seem perfectly consistent with (though of course not confirmed by) what NBC reports.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Stillwater says:

                From reading that, I don’t see where Russian bots are backing her. Russian news outlets certainly like her because she speaks what they, and quite a few others, regard as the truth about Syria, which is that Assad is defending the Christians, Druze, Shia, and secular Sunnis from a bunch of psycho killers.

                They also note that the US press and the DNC will try to destroy her, which they will.

                But how does that translate into Russian bots hacking online polls in real time, and why did the bots have Andrew Yang ahead of her through half the debate, letting her move forward after her devastating attack on Harris, which probably happened sometime around 5:00 AM in Moscow?Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Stillwater says:

                I gave up Facebook after the 2016 election when I discovered that a few of the lefty pages I liked were in fact Russian troll farms.

                It turned out that they played both ends against the middle, because the real goal wasn’t so much to elect Trump as to sow chaos and hatred between Americans.

                So these seemingly puzzling behaviors, like suddenly boosting a bizarre fringe candidate or conspiracy theory, actually have that same goal, of turning Americans against each other.

                White supremacy and nativism do the trick nicely as well.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                I gave up Facebook after the 2016 election when I discovered that a few of the lefty pages I liked were in fact Russian troll farms.

                Well, there’s nothing Putin could do to sway me into supporting Gabbard except maybe trying to twist my mind by sending some hot young red-headed Soviet KGB agent over here to lure me into a covert relationship where she can keep whispering “Tulsi” in my ear.

                атомный код
                флаг КГБ 2020
                приоритет 1Report

              • InMD in reply to Stillwater says:

                Look I’ll concede it is possible, and that at the end of the day I don’t have the expertise to really say one way or the other whether Russian bots are somehow being used to favor her candidacy online. But here’s why I’m skeptical of articles like that. All it does is defer to the ‘expertise’ of various think tank, former government, and other journalist types. Now maybe the reporter did a good job verifying these people, checking their bona fides, cross checking conflicts, agendas, affiliations, and the merits of their conclusions. Or maybe the reporter picked up on a narrative from the Assad meeting and called a bunch of random people with important sounding titles and cobbled together some quotes. It’s not like the entire national security conversation isn’t rife with that kind of thing and my lesson from Iraq 2 was to accept none of it uncritically. The only actual ‘facts’ it cites are favorable news coverage on Russian websites and reports of online ‘activity’ without much context or good points of comparison.

                The reason I mentioned it here and have before on OT is that it frustrates me. You have a passionate anti-war voice getting air time and no one can engage it on the merits. Instead the supposedly more dove-ish of the two parties and the MSM pulls out all of the neocon scare tactics. She can’t possibly have a principled position on this, or even one worth considering. She’s just in with the Ruskies.

                Make no mistake I’m on team blue. The peculiarities of American politics put me there. But if anyone ever wonders why my support for Dems can be so tepid it’s stuff like this. If the Republicans succeed by treating stupid people like they’re smart I think the Democrats often alienate sympathetic people by treating them like they’re stupid.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to InMD says:

                I tried digging into Gabbard’s proposals after the first debate and honestly, they were pretty thin. My wife thinks I just like her because she is easy on the eyes, but her Afghanistan stance was what pulled me in. I was passionately against that war from the start so she has my sympathies there.

                I will also say it’s bizarre to hear prominent members of the party that so vigorously hated Bush for his wars suggest that we had to stay in Afghanistan to help with women’s rights, etc. Sounds like qe should just deploy troops to every Third World country if that has become our responsibility.Report

              • InMD in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                I’m not a fanatical supporter of hers or anything but she acquits herself well in these debates.

                And agreed on the warfare. Our continued involvement in all these pointless conflicts is the weirdest thing about America, with the total lack of debate on the merits of any of it being the craziest part.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Stillwater says:

                It isnt just Russian bots.

                Since the unexpected success of Brexit and Trump, social media has become a free fire zone for all governments who want to influence policy.

                Whether it is the Saudis wanting to suppress stories about Kashoggi, or Iranians wanting to influence decisions on sanctions; or whether the target is the American elections, European elections, or any other arena, governments and spy agencies have discovered how to manipulate public opinion via social media.

                Unfortunately there isn’t a clear unambiguous way to tell what is real from what is not, and of course that is their entire goal.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                If only someone would invent a way that ordinary people could publish their opinions where other people could read them, instead of depending on the elites in government and media to filter all their information.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to George Turner says:

                That invention hasn’t been made yet.

                Because there isn’t any way to know if the words you are reading are actually written by a ordinary person or a government propaganda outfit.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                But shouldn’t people in government propaganda outfits have the same right to express their opinions as everyone else?

                I mean, Major Sergei Kutsenov, NKVD, probably has way more insightful thoughts than the brain drippings from Alyssa Milano.

                I love hearing all ideas, even the daffy ones.

                The other day I ran across a black kid who was making the argument that Hitler was a staunch anti-racist because he was wiping out the white supremacist Jews to make way for the true Hebrews of color like himself.

                Russian bot? No, they’d never even think of that one.

                Two weeks ago I saw a guy saying cultural appropriation is nonsense because he just got invited to a gender reveal party for a dog, and that there’s no way white people stole that from anybody.

                Again, spit-and-polish Russian intel agents could not possibly have had that insight, either.

                You have to realize that most stuff posted on the Internet is either so insightful, silly, moronic, or stupid that intelligence agents couldn’t possibly be behind it. They would post stuff like “Our analyst project Hillary have 90% chance to beat Trump,” or “We say again, for 123 straight week, House Intel chair have secret evidence that put Trump in jail next week,” or even “Trump is white supremacist расист who put people in ГУЛАГ and make drink from toilet.”Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to InMD says:

                This. Even if the Kremlin was running the Gabbard fan club, that doesn’t change her attack on Harris. Was it substantive? If yes, then her appeal to Russians is honestly immaterial.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Except the issue which started this is how she polled at Drudge and Breitbart and whether that polling is reliable, and not whether she landed a good shot on Kamala.

                Flipping it around, you guys seem to think Gabbard’s 40-50% polling at those sites was due to landing some blows against Kamala. But why think it was that rather than, say, her views on the war in Afghanistan? (Or bots and trolls…)Report

              • George Turner in reply to Stillwater says:

                Heck, as soon as she walked out Stephen Greene, who was drunk blogging the debates for Pajamas Media, said “Tulsi looks stunning tonight.” Later one of the other fellas following the blow by blow at one poiint simply said “Tulsi’s chest is glistening.” So who knows exactly what pushed her to the top?

                Later, many serious pundits talked about how well she did in carrying herself and presenting her views. Her calm demeanor and common-sense positions struck home for many, as she stared right into the camera oozing gravitas and sincerity. I may not agree with her policies, but she’s very good at stating her position.

                In contrast, many of the other candidates just made ridiculous promises, or called Trump a racist, or flailed away at Biden. They were piled up at the bottom of the Drudge poll, with Castro on the very bottom.

                The results make pretty good sense. When another candidate asked him how Castro’s “no prosecution policy” was different from open borders, his only response was that the question was a “right-wing talking point.” No, it was a very valid question, and one he wouldn’t be able to deflect when Trump asks the very same thing. On his primary issue, he didn’t even have an answer to the most obvious question there is.

                However, we’ll get new polling averages over the coming week or two and see how they bumped the needles.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Stillwater says:

                Or to put it another way-
                If the Democratic primary voters don’t think she landed a blow, she didn’t.

                Drudge voters don’t matter.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Progressive sites like Common Dreams say she delivered a devastating blow, and then ask more important questions about Kamala Harris and the nonsense about Gabbard being a Russian plant.

                It wasn’t just Syria. On Wednesday night, Harris’ campaign jumped to tie Gabbard and her campaign to a nebulously defined and unclear Russian conspiracy.

                “Reporters writing their stories with eyes on the modern-day assignment desk of Twitter, read this,” said Harris press secretary Ian Sams, sharing a February story from NBC News claiming that Russia is behind the Gabbard campaign.

                Welcome to the Harris smear machine.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to George Turner says:

                So…Harris landed a pretty solid blow, don’t you think?Report

              • George Turner in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Yep. Framing another innocent person, as usual.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to George Turner says:

                Framing another innocent person, as usual.

                This was a *QUALITY* counter-punch.

                I imagine that the final Democratic ticket will be Biden/Harris and we will be able to overcome the White Supremacy of Trump and get back to putting Black People in jail with fully plausible deniability.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

                Putting black people in jail with plausible deniability…by Jove I think you’ve found the magic strategy that will win over those moderate Republicans!Report

              • InMD in reply to Stillwater says:

                See my way overly long (seriously I apologize for that) response above. What rubs me the wrong way is less the poll crap, it’s these specious hard to prove or disprove claims used to discredit her for an important stance that doesn’t normally get much consideration.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to InMD says:

                I hear you on all that … but …

                Gabbard’s anti-war stance coupled with her apologetics for Assad and what are pretty clearly crimes perpetrated against his own citizens confuses the issue quite a bit, don’t you think?

                I’d prefer that her anti-military interventionism wasn’t tied so tightly to her pro-Assad(ism).Report

              • InMD in reply to Stillwater says:

                I have found her explanations about Assad sufficient and there’s a strong argument that his regime warts and all is the least bad among the plausible options. But reasonable people can disagree on both points.

                What I haven’t seen is anyone make a convincing case that whatever sympathy she has for the Assad regime is somehow uniquely disqualifying while mainstream stances on the relationship with other Syrian factions, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Egypt, Yemen, hell Israel at this point are not. The press and most commenters just take it as a given. Yes there’s a principled position of no dealings with authoritarian human rights abusing governments but that’s not exactly where her critics are coming from.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to InMD says:

                What I haven’t seen is anyone make a convincing case that whatever sympathy she has for the Assad regime is somehow uniquely disqualifying while …

                That’s an excellent point, InMD. I surely can’t make it. Our ME policy, even under Trump’s (scarequotes) “non-interventionism”, is an absolute disaster.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Stillwater says:

                Well that gets into the complicated question about whether being anti-Assad is being pro-ISIS, and that question is essay length at minimum, and probably book length.

                What are the achievable long term outcomes in Syria? Who are the viable players who would end up in charge under the most likely scenarios? To what extent do facts on the ground determine the outcome? What foreign actors will be there after we leave?

                In WW-II, we’d have loved it if some Anglophile Lithuanian resistance could have prevailed against both Germany and the Soviet Union, but that wasn’t a viable choice. And that was a simple two-sided conflict, not a six-way civil war to the death. As you work down through the viable choices, where do you end up? Maybe you should go ahead and get to that place, even if it’s a pretty ugly decision to make, because kicking the can down the road is even worse.

                On one hand, this cold pragmatism seems to be the exact opposite of idealistic, but on the other, its just trying to end a conflict as decisively and rapidly as possible in the way that has the best chance of long-term stability and the preservation of secular multi-ethnic and multi-religious diversity.

                Tulsi might be much like anyone here who went back in time to do a Congressional fact-finding mission in Vietnam in 1967. You’d come back and give an answer that absolutely nobody in Washington wanted to hear, and they’d have called you crazy (whatever your position might be). You’d either sound like a commie sympathizer, a defeatist, a war monger, or a nutcase with a crazy fortified DMZ strategy when everyone knew it was a guerrilla war.

                But whatever you said would have been, at least by many metrics, better than what they did, because what they did, in retrospect, didn’t make a whole lot of sense.Report

              • InMD in reply to George Turner says:

                No matter how many times they are proven wrong people believe that all you have to do to make a democracy is topple a dictator. The possibility that even really nasty, brutal governments might be the only thing holding back total chaos or something even worse just never occurs.

                I mean Saddam was a real mother but he turned out to be basically right about that. Is learning just not allowed?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to InMD says:

                InMD, what we have learned is that these people will die one way or another.

                Shouldn’t they be killed by an American?Report

              • George Turner in reply to Jaybird says:

                Lots of people would like to think so, but as Yang pointed out, those types of jobs are being taken over by robots.

                *The potential for insights like that are why we need Marianne Williamson, Andrew Yang, and Tulsi Gabbard on the same stage in the third debate*Report

        • Marchmaine in reply to Stillwater says:

          I don’t know… was Boaty McBoatface the result of Russian bots?

          I’m willing to believe yes on either… but one of the things that leaves me a little cold is when I do my usual thing and click on the link provided – this time to Politico in Andrew’s post. And then click on the link that the Politico article is 100% based on – in this case the Daily Beast

          I don’t find any discussion or support for Russian Bots, but rather seriously exaggerated claims like this:

          “Donors to her campaign in the first quarter of the year included: Stephen F. Cohen, a Russian studies professor at New York University and prominent Kremlin sympathizer; Sharon Tennison, a vocal Putin supporter who nonetheless found herself detained by Russian authorities in 2016; and an employee of the Kremlin-backed broadcaster RT, who appears to have donated under the alias “Goofy Grapes.” ”

          and… if you’re still skeptical after that, well then…

          “…the list of controversial donors to Gabbard, as detailed by her filings with the Federal Election Committee, doesn’t end there. Susan Sarandon, the famous actress who earned the enduring wrath of Democrats for her support of Green Party candidate Jill Stein in the 2016 election, gave Gabbard $500.”

          But… we probably shouldn’t discount the possibility that maybe its racist bots too:

          “Though she has not courted their support, some prominent figures in the white nationalist community have flocked in Gabbard’s direction. David Duke, the former KKK leader, has heaped praise on her. And on several occasions, Richard Spencer, the avowed white supremacist, has tweeted favorably about her, including once again this week.”

          So, for me, Tiresome is sort of a good word because attempting to learn about these bots takes us not to articles analyzing bots and bot traffic, but to tiresome articles by non-experts about non-issues. So… tiresome. Next up: echoing the other side’s talking points.

          Marchmaine, clicker of links.Report

        • George Turner in reply to Stillwater says:

          Yes, Tulsi Gabbard. As many pundits have pointed out, she was the only person on stage other than Biden who didn’t didn’t sound like a pandering politician desperate for votes or who wasn’t pushing policies from crazy town.

          She was calm, forthright, matter-of-fact, self-confident, and somehow passionate without being either emotional or fake.

          And many of the times she spoke, she was devastatingly effective.

          Free tuition for illegals? She said “No.” And then said that we shouldn’t just slap a band-aid on the problem of having second-class citizens here.

          I mean, one obvious problem is that if you give free college to anyone who doesn’t have paperwork, all the parents will teach their kids to say “No tengo papeles. College gratis! Nacho libre!”

          You know who else got free college? Japanese in internment camps in WW-II. Hard to fault her for thinking free college is a band-aid and a gimmick to cover over serious faults in what they’re proposing.

          Tulsi also won both the Drudge poll and the Google search metrics after the first debate. She’s now suing Google for $50 million dollars for sabotaging her campaign by basically making her disappear off the web for the critical half-day after that first debate.

          And not surprisingly, while she led Google searches, she wasn’t trending at all on Twitter. It’s not Russian bots rigging the election, it’s Google, Twitter, and Facebook, and they are afraid of her because she’s got their number.Report

          • Chip Daniels in reply to George Turner says:

            The conspiracy is much, much larger than that.

            There are about 100 million registered Democrats in America.
            Gabbard is polling at around 1%.

            Connecting the dots with yarn on my giant whiteboard, its obvious that some 99 million Democrats are secretly refusing to support her candidacy, in an effort to thwart her bold truthtelling.

            I have to go now, before they get to me.Report

            • George Turner in reply to Chip Daniels says:

              The Drudge and Brietbart polls weren’t asking who people were supporting, they were asking who won the debate. That’s a very different question.

              Even never-Trumpers and that Jeb! supporter would concede that Trump crushed him on the debate stage. That doesn’t mean they started supporting Trump, either, it just means they knew their candidate would have to scramble and do better next time, or that voters would just have to ignore the blowhard’s circus act and stick with Jeb! because Jeb! is a leader who can lead.Report

  4. DensityDuck says:

    “De Blasio had the same problem of calling out others, especially Biden, only to step on the rake of Eric Garner’s killer still being an employee in his charge.”

    And you’d think he’d have put together a quick one-liner for this after Buttigieg got *slammed* in his first debate over the same sort of issue.Report

  5. Mike Dwyer says:

    It’s starting to feel like Hillary 2.0 in that the Dems are going to run another terrible campaign and then get really mad about losing. I’m sure several of these candidates would be okay presidents but they need to win first and I’m concerned that none of the frontrunners can get there. Ironically, some of the 2nd tier candidates would probably do better against Trump but it seems the party faithful don’t want to consider that as an option.Report

    • George Turner in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      Maybe so, but we’ll always have the images of Buttigieg standing on stage at a Presidential debate with a smashed bug on his forehead, so there’s that. ^_^

      Sure, it’s not Nixon with a 5 o’clock shadow, but it’s still pretty funny.Report

  6. Saul Degraw says:

    Biden interestingly is not doing well in California. Neither is Sanders. Harris is in 1st place and Warren is in 2nd. Biden and Sanders are 3rd and 4th respectively.

    This might signify nothing. This might signify that Biden has blown himself up and can do so again (third time is a charm maybe though).

    Why is Biden the current front runner? He is a known quantity. Lots of Democrats just want to see Trump out of office.* Jemele Hill at the Atlantic theorized some months ago that Trump destroyed boldness in Democrats.

    This is perhaps Trump’s most crucial victory yet: successfully persuading Democrats—especially African American voters—not just to lower the bar, but to abandon the idea that inclusion and bold ideas matter more than appeasing the patriarchy.
    More by Jemele Hill

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    More than likely, the Democratic nominee for president won’t be the person with the best and most progressive ideas, or the person most capable of galvanizing a fractured country. The nominee just has to beat Trump, even if the cost of that victory is reinforcing the idea that only an older white man is capable of getting this country back on track.

    In a recent piece explaining Joe Biden’s early polling success, David Mark, a writer for NBC News’s digital site Think, wrote: “For starters, there’s Biden’s demographic edge in the primaries. Biden, 76 and white, broadly fits the profile of the Democratic electorate that will select the nominee.”

    But older white Democrats aren’t the only ones who are bullish on the former vice president. In a Quinnipiac poll conducted in late April, 61 percent of nonwhite Democrats said Biden had the best chance of beating Trump.

    Already many Democrats are cutting Biden much more slack than they’re giving other candidates. There is, for example, a double standard in how some African Americans judge the presidential candidate Kamala Harris—who was an Oakland prosecutor before becoming a U.S. senator from California—far more harshly than they judge Biden.”

    Biden can still win it. He is not the worst nominee. That would be a larger gang of bozoos. I do think it is interesting that now the only people I see say Kamala Harris is a cop are middle-aged white dudes that haven’t voted Democratic regularly in decades, if at all. There is something about middle-aged white dudes that makes them think they are natural rulers above all others. This needs to be ripped out of the system.

    *Despite eyerolls from blase right-wingers, I do think Trump is everything I wrote in my piece for Warren.Report

  7. North says:

    I think shaky at best is putting your thumb on the scale. Most everyone I read seems to be reluctantly admitting that Joe had everyone going after him and that he managed it decently. Not a shining performance but better than his previous debate showing. As front runner that’s all he really needs.

    Which isn’t exactly delighting me because he is so… himself… and he is so elderly. Maybe these early debates by soundbites are just difficult for him and they’re certainly not typical. We’ll see what happens when the scythe begins swinging and the field winnows so the debates have fewer bodies and more time.

    I’m not excited at the prospect of Joe debating Trump though. At least not the way he’s performing right now.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to North says:

      Depends on what you/we mean by “performance”. In the little bit I saw Joe landed some good on-the-fly zingers, one on Gillibrand, one on De Blasio, which reduced both of them to incoherent blabbering.Report

      • North in reply to Stillwater says:

        Yes, it’s pretty obvious that Joe’s research people flagged the avenue of attack Gillibrand used as one that Joe was vulnerable on and equipped him with a ready answer. Joe delivered it like a Molotov right into the hatch of Gillibrand’s tank. That’s good debate prep and good delivery- Good on Joe.
        De Blasio is De Blasio and no one knows why the hell he’s even there.

        I watched a big portion of the debate and I stand by what I feel is the reluctant consensus: Joe turned in a solid but not scintillating debate performance but he isn’t shining yet.

        There’s a lot we can take away from that. For one thing the CNN moderation was terrible. For another thing the debate stage is packed with people and this simply is not a typical debate format- more like argument by soundbite. So maybe Joe will do better as the field winnows and we move into a more typical debate context.
        It also is pretty obvious that the media is very plugged into the twitterverse and would really really prefer that Joe not be the nominee so they’re looking for any excuse they can find to downplay him.

        Still, I think he did what he needed to do to move on but I don’t think he is going to -gain- ground. As the front runner he doesn’t need to gain ground but it would be nice if he could.

        One other thing is that I’m struck by the contrast with every republican debate I’ve seen as an adult. The candidates spin and exaggerate because, hey politics, but they do actually know and talk about policy whereas the GOP candidates for the last decade have barely been able to rise above idiotic right wing ideology soundbites. The gap between the two parties on knowing how shit works is utterly yawning. Pity that doesn’t count for much in elections.Report

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