DETROIT — Democrats debated again in Detroit on Wednesday, and this time the candidates didn't pretend Barack Obama's presidency never happened. Instead, they embraced his legacy as an example of how political leaders have failed the country.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the clear frontrunner going into the debate, was attacked on all fronts as he persisted in his role as the most vocal advocate for the accomplishments of his former boss. "Obamacare is working," Biden said during the health care portion of the debate. Many of his rivals disagreed.
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For a party who’s biggest star, savior and hero is Obama they sure were quick to dump Obamacare
— Bill Maher (@billmaher) August 1, 2019
Like the first debate on Tuesday, the health-care arguments grew heated at times, with Sen. Michael Bennet (D., Colo.) accusing Medicare for All supporters, such as Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), of not being "honest" about the fact that such a policy would "massively raise taxes on the middle class."
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio accused Bennet of "fearmongering." Harris chided him for using "Republican talking points," before noting that Obama's health and human services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, had endorsed her health care plan. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D., Hawaii) pointed out that Sebelius actually helped write the plan, and happened to work for a health care firm that would benefit from it. Harris claimed this wasn't true, but her denial wasn't entirely accurate.
On a related note: Sebelius is one of many former Obama administration officials making bank in the private sector.
Obama's legacy on immigration came under fire as well, with Biden adopting the apparently controversial position that "people should have to get in line" to immigrate to the United States, rather than simply crossing the border and paying a fine. Of Julián Castro's proposal to decriminalize illegal border crossings, Biden retorted: "I have guts enough to say his plan doesn't make sense."
Mayor de Blasio demanded to know why Biden hadn't done more to undermine Obama's inhumane policy of deporting people who broke the law. Even Biden agreed that, if elected, he wouldn't deport as many people as Obama did. Castro said he was "disappointed" by former Obama homeland security secretary Jeh Johnson's critique of the Democratic Party's "unwise" embrace of "open borders," which Castro dismissed as a "right-wing talking point."
The discussion on trade brought further denunciations of Obama's achievements in office, and by extension Obama's record on labor unions and the environment. Gabbard said the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), one of the Obama administration's signature foreign policy initiatives, was an example of an agreement that would "give away the sovereignty of the American people and our country, that give away American jobs, and that threaten our environment."
Even Biden seemed to agree, suggesting that he would not sign it. He would "renegotiate" the deal, and "this time make sure that there's no one sitting at that table doing the deal unless environmentalists are there and labor is there."
Recent GOP presidential candidates have not lined up to embrace George W. Bush, but he was incredibly unpopular by the time he left office. If Barack or Michelle Obama were on the 2020 primary ballot, they'd probably run away with the nomination. So perhaps nothing actually matters.
- Andrew Yang was the best, most polished politician on stage. Ties are bulls—t.
- Kamala Harris said in response to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report: "I have seen people go to prison for far less." It's unclear if she was boasting.
- Julián Castro's answer to the question about prosecuting Donald Trump after he leaves office — "I believe that the evidence is plain and clear and that if it gets that far, that you're likely to see a prosecution of Donald Trump" — doesn't have the same ring to it as "Lock her up!"
- Anytime politicians are having a discussion, it's sometimes difficult to fully comprehend the absurdity of what they're talking about — until you see it written out in a CNN chyron. For example: "Question: Is it realistic for the Green New Deal to include a jobs guarantee and paid vacations?"
- Michael Bennet: Lego Man, voiced by Mr. Mackey from South Park.
- Tulsi Gabbard: "The president is supporting al-Qaeda."
- Kirsten Gillibrand: "I'm white."
- Joe Biden: "If you wait for the day when your parent comes to you and says ‘I can't take care of myself anymore,' it's never gonna happen." -Phyllis Vance, The Office
- Andrew Yang: "The planet's f—ked. Here's $1,000."
- Kamala Harris: It was fun while it lasted.
- Cory Booker: "I'll stand by."
- Julián Castro: Marco Rubio without the charisma.
- Jay Inslee: "I've never been a black teenager."
- Bill de Blasio: His giant body will never fit in Washington, D.C.