Debates 2020

The One Great Moment From Last Night's Democratic Debate—and the One From Tonight's

Tulsi Gabbard's defense of non-interventionism was electrifying. Tonight's fight between Biden and Sanders over capitalism and socialism will be, too.

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Of all people, it was the joke candidate—Bill de Blasio, the widely hated mayor of New York City who is currently polling far south of 1 percent—who nailed why last night's Democratic debate was an important event, as is tonight's second installment. Yes, per President Donald Trump, last night's debate might have been "boring," but that doesn't mean it didn't matter. "What we're hearing here already in the first round of questions," said de Blasio, is a "battle for the heart and soul of our party."

Within the Democratic Party, that struggle is taking place around two large issues, foreign policy and economics. Last night, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii forcefully engaged the former topic when she ignored a question about gender disparities in wages and ripped U.S. military adventurism instead:

[Moderator Lester Holt]: All right, thank you. I want to put the same question to Congresswoman Gabbard. Your thoughts on equal pay?

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D–Hawaii): First of all, let's recognize the situation we're in, that the American people deserve a president who will put your interests ahead of the rich and powerful. That's not what we have right now.

I enlisted in the Army National Guard after the Al Qaeda terror attacks on 9/11 so I could go after those who had attacked us on that day. I still serve as a major. I served over 16 years, deployed twice to the Middle East, and in Congress served on the Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Affairs for over six years.

I know the importance of our national security, as well as the terribly high cost of war. And for too long, our leaders have failed us, taking us from one regime change war to the next, leading us into a new cold war and arms race, costing us trillions of our hard-earned taxpayer dollars and countless lives.

This insanity must end. As president, I will take your hard-earned taxpayer dollars and instead invest those dollars into serving your needs, things like health care, a green economy, good-paying jobs, protecting our environment, and so much more.

As Reason's Christian Britschgi has written, Gabbard "has made ending American intervention abroad the defining issue of her campaign." This is not a small thing within a Democratic Party that has helped drive ruinous foreign policy for the entirety of the 21st century. In contemporary politics, there's a sense that Republicans are the party of the military-industrial complex. But that's simply wrong, or at least incomplete, as Democrats have long been a party of hawks, ever-increasing defense spending, and interventionism. Certainly, the Democrats are as responsible as the Republicans for the current desultory state of U.S. foreign policy.

In 1976, the Republican vice-presidential candidate, Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, notoriously inveighed against "Democrat wars" in a campaign debate with his opponent, Sen. Walter Mondale. "If we added up the killed and wounded in Democrat wars in this century," said the permanently injured World War II vet, "it would be…enough to fill the city of Detroit." Dole tried to walk the comment back, but his meaning was clear: Democratic presidents led us into World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. In 1960, John Kennedy argued that his opponent Richard Nixon had been part of an administration that was weak on Communism and had allowed a dangerous (and non-existent) "missile gap" to build up between the Soviet Union and the U.S. In 1972, George McGovern ran on an explicitly dove-ish platform that called for the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam and elsewhere ("Come home, America," was one of his campaign slogans), but he was an odd duck in his own party. Bill Clinton was a thoroughly interventionist president and he and Vice President Al Gore made it official U.S. policy that Saddam Hussein should be deposed.

In the 21st century, large numbers of Democrats in Congress readily signed on to everything the Bush administration wanted to do, and despite winning a Nobel Peace Prize early in his tenure, President Barack Obama could never be confused with a peacenik given his legacy of "endless war." The 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton never saw

an opportunity for American military intervention she didn't like. As Secretary of State she was the most enthusiastic of all of Obama's senior civilian advisors about the plan for a surge of troops into Afghanistan in 2009, and in 2011 she led the "humanitarian interventionists" in the administration who persuaded Obama to bomb Libya. In his comprehensive review of her work in the Obama administration, James Traub of Foreign Policy concludes that "at bottom, Clinton was a reflexive advocate of the military."

In such a context, Tulsi Gabbard's explicit non-interventionism and critique of the military-industrial complex is vitally important, both within and without the Democratic Party. Not only is her foreign policy broadly supported by the American people (majorities of whom also see the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq as mistakes), but it resonates with critiques voiced by Republicans such as Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, and even President Donald Trump, who has been less interventionist so far than either George W. Bush or Barack Obama. If Gabbard's foreign policy position becomes the default of the Democratic Party, it would mark a major change within the two-party system and it would also generate broader momentum across the political spectrum for restraint and diplomacy in place of war.

Because of the way the candidates were split up over two nights, Gabbard didn't have the opportunity to spar directly with the most interventionist of all the Democratic hopefuls. Joe Biden isn't just leading the Democratic field, he is its most outspoken advocate of using American military might around the world. But he is also the least progressive of the candidates appearing tonight, which sets up a likely confrontation between him and Bernie Sanders over capitalism vs. socialism.

Of the two dozen Democratic candidates, most have signed on to various new, big-ticket items such as the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and student-debt relief (for what it's worth, Gabbard is big on all these, plus increased gun control). If these initiatives stop short of putting the means of production in the hands of the state, they nonetheless represent massive increases in the size, scope, and spending of the federal government. Biden and, to a lesser degree South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, represent a counterweight to the Sanders-Elizabeth Warren axis within the party. If tonight's debate has a memorable moment, it will almost certainly be a showdown between Biden and Sanders over how much bigger the government should get in terms of overseeing more aspects of the economy and redistributing money.

NEXT: Under Warren's Medicare for All Plan, Many Hospitals Would Be Forced to Close—Especially in Poor, Rural Areas

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64 responses to “The One Great Moment From Last Night's Democratic Debate—and the One From Tonight's

  1. I saw Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s exchange with Rep. Tim Ryan on the issue of middle east intervention and she was great. I especially liked when she explained that the Taliban is not our enemy. We don’t like their policies and we can not let them cover for terrorist. But we do not need to, and in all likelihood cannot, destroy them. We need to find a workable solution with the Taliban and other groups in the Middle East. Forever war should not be accepted as an option.

    1. “We need to find a workable solution with the Taliban and other groups in the Middle East.”

      “We” need to do nothing of the sort.
      It’s their problem, and if the solution is killing each other until none are left, so be it.

      1. That is one workable solution.

        1. It looks like the optimal solution. Jihadis killing each other. That’s “win-win”.

      2. ““We” need to do nothing of the sort.”

        A workable withdrawal agreement with the Taleban just might be enough to seal Trump’s re-election, the only one he’ll face. Doesn’t that warm to cockles of your Trump loving heart?

        1. “Doesn’t that warm to cockles of your Trump loving heart?”

          A dumb shit like you would post something like that.
          I do not have a “trump loving heart”; he has simply gone far beyond keeping us from one more lefty SCOTUS justice:
          1) DeVos
          2) Gorsuch
          3) Kavanuagh
          4) Ajit Pai, end net price fixing
          5) Major reduction in the growth of regulations.
          6) Dow +35%
          7) Unemployment at 3.0% (!)
          8) The US Manufacturing Index soared to a 33 year high
          9) Got repeal of the national medical insurance mandate.
          10) Withdrawal from Paris climate agreement.
          11) Not sure about the tax reform; any “reform” that leaves me subisdizing Musk’s customers is not what I hoped for. Let Musk run a company for once. But cutting taxes is good.
          12) Pulled support for the $13 billion Hudson Tunnel project.
          13) More than 16,000 jobs have been cut from the federal leviathan
          14) MIGHT have a deal to de-nuke NK.
          15) Killed monbeam’s choo-choo
          16) Supported and singed First Step Act.
          And finally:
          17) Still making lefties steppin and fetchin like their pants is on fire and their asses are catchin’

          Doesn’t that just piss off your hag-loving ass?

          1. I honestly don’t give a shit about the Trump stuff you love. I have hope that something will come from his peace initiatives and non-interventionism. More than you, apparently.

    2. Now about her other policy positions…you can keep you damned moderation [aka endless compromise until those who want to enslave you finally get what they want].

      1. “Moderation”4ever isn’t anything close to moderate.
        It’s an out and out progressive.
        Progressives are cowards, thus they won’t stand by their beliefs as their beliefs – they must pose as “objective” and “moderate” to give their totalitarian plans the delusion of moral superiority.
        Weak ass, hive mind bitches

    3. Replace Taliban with Nazis and I think you see the problem here.

      You’re right that forever war shouldn’t be accepted; that’s why we need to eliminate them now, not a hundred years from now.

      1. Why not just replace all words with “Nazis.” It would make everything so much simpler.

    4. ” I especially liked when she explained that the Taliban is not our enemy. ”

      I’m not sure Trump would go that far. His feelings lean more to Chairman Kim, author of many a beautiful letter. But, there are peace talks between the administration and the Taleban, a new round is set to begin within days, and all seems to be going smoothly. A deal with the Taleban may be within reach,

  2. Well said, Nick.

  3. Sanders wrote a tortured defense of socialism at the WSJ. He believes somehow Trump is a worse socialist than him. And magic money will somehow appear to pay for everything you want.

    It was an old man yells at cloud moment much like tonight will be.

    1. Trump is pretty pro-big-government. Check the budget. Check the deficit.

      1. Trump is in essence a Bill Clinton Democrat. If the Dems hadn’t moved the goalposts so far left, he never would have happened.

      2. The budget passed by veto proof majority in the senate?

  4. If the Democrats stop short of putting the means of production in the hands of the State but restrict themselves to directing that production then they sound a lot like an Italian newspaper writer of the 1920s.

    1. And they call US nazis

    2. they already want to put healthcare and education in complete control of the government, and regulate financial and tech companies even more closely, if not outright stepping in to mismanage them, as Warren promises.

    3. “If the Democrats stop short of putting the means of production in the hands of the State but restrict themselves to directing that production”

      Already happened, and still happening.
      Our current era is “the information age”
      So what are the means of production?
      Education, media, pop culture.
      They have seized the means of production, and are in the process of eliminating any possibility of challenges arising.

  5. Biden and Sanders fighting about socialism and capitalism–are you serious?!

    Biden might as well be as Medicare for All as Sanders–since both of their proposals would end up in the same system. Meanwhile, both Biden and Sanders want to make our economy socialist by way of their respective flavors of the Green New Deal.

    There won’t be anything electrifying about Sanders openly advocating socialism and Biden pretending he’s offering something different unless by “electrifying” you mean that it induces disorientation and nausea.

    1. Doesn’t shock therapy make people lose their short term memory?

      Maybe that’s what Gillespie means by “electrifying”.

      1. Seriously. Gabbard did little more than say she’d take money away from the military and use it for socialism. And that’s what constitutes ‘electrifying’ for a leading Libertarian figure in 2019. Gross.

        Think what you will about the size of the military, but at least it’s one of the few expenses constitutionally enumerated to the federal government.

        Now, had someone said they’d shrink the military and limit our foreign interventions while returning that money to the people in the form of massive tax and regulatory cuts, I’d call that something worth talking about.

        But saying you’re going to gut the military to pay for massive expansions of social welfare is not terribly libertarian. At all.

        1. ” Gabbard did little more than say she’d take money away from the military and use it for socialism.”

          As if the military weren’t the most socialistic institution in the federal government. What other branch of the bureaucracy has its own schools, hospitals, marching bands, golf courses, TV networks, etc?

          1. mtrueman
            June.27.2019 at 8:40 pm
            “As if the military weren’t the most socialistic institution in the federal government.”

            What a fucking ignoramus.

    2. I’m expecting this, but with less realistic candidates:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUMdCV-Z7kk

    3. “Biden and Sanders fighting about socialism and capitalism–are you serious?!”

      Here’s Ken Shultz once again yearning for the days of Clinton. (yes, both of them.)

  6. electrifying.

  7. “Tonight’s fight between Biden and Sanders over capitalism and socialism will be, too.”

    If this is a question which remains undecided, it is simply a measure of the stupidity of part of the population.

    1. Well someone did recently call it “the stupid American electorate” and credited it for passage of the ACA.

      1. Stupid deplorables.

  8. If anyone in tonight’s debate says a single positive thing about capitalism I will be shocked.

    1. That would be the electrifying part, but I wouldn’t put on any lineman’s gloves just yet

    2. What has capitalism ever done for us?!

      Or the Romans for that matter.

  9. It will likely be much like last night’s debate: too nauseating to watch. These debates just remind me how hopelessly lost the country is.

  10. Mayor Pete is hardly a counterweight to the spend it all and then some wing of the Dems — he’s all in on the ruinously expensive do-nothing Green New Deal.

  11. All this coverage really goes against the article yesterday begging people to please ignore the bread and circus that is the primary debates. I probably lean closer to that view then this fawning.

    1. No, they wanted us to ignore it last night and rely on their hot takes today

  12. Answer the question, T-bone.

    These “debate” formats are atrocious; basically a series of opportunities to grandstand. The audience is completely superfluous and a distraction, inviting soundbite answers.

    A conscientious viewer would benefit more from, say, two or three candidates and the moderator in a closer, Larry King-type setting. No audience, no barking seals, no room to hide, just a conversation.

    1. yeah but that would take 10 hours to cover all the candidates.

      1. One WWE winner take all head to head debate each week. Internet voting, like American Idol. Tag team allowed but only if the one tagging in agrees to be VP if they win (and Trump’s butler if they lose).

      2. or they could just have the 2 or 3 who matter

  13. The WaPo called Gabbard one of the debate losers (despite her winning most of the post-debate online polls), since she didn’t mention anything about defending trans rights when repudiating her earlier socially conservative views.

    But then the WaPo is pro-war on everything and everyone.
    Maybe the voters are tired of war, and not so gung-ho on wrecking the economy by turning it over to a Harvard prof.

    1. “since she didn’t mention anything about defending trans rights”

      She’s the old-fashioned type of liberal that is right about some things and ignorant about economics. So not the future of the Democrat party and must be crushed.

      1. I meant to add *but not completely batshit

    2. Lol at thinking the WaPo was more relevant than MySpace.

  14. Anagram for Tulsi Gabbard: I GRAB BAD SLUT

    1. Bad tuba girls.

      All girls are bad at tubas, aren’t they?

  15. Another Democrat:

    “Turns out I’m really good at killing people.”

    To think people speak of Obama as if he’s a regular Cincinnatus.

  16. “In 1960, John Kennedy argued that his opponent Richard Nixon had been part of an administration that was weak on Communism and had allowed a dangerous (and non-existent) “missile gap” to build up between the Soviet Union and the U.S.”

    Nixon lost in 1960 because of a failure of nerve or moral cowardice. On the matter of civil rights and black issues in general, Nixon was miles ahead of foot dragging Kennedy or Johnson. When Martin Luther King Jr was taken from his prison cell in the middle of the night and hustled off by Atlanta deputies, his family was terrified. Nixon resisted the urge to put in a call to Coretta, King’s wife, to calm and re-assure, but Kennedy called her. The election followed a week or so later and the Democrats enjoyed a huge increase in Black support, something they enjoy to this day. Nixon could have won it if he wasn’t so shy about courting the black vote.

  17. “…the American people deserve a president who will put your interests ahead of the rich and powerful. That’s not what we have right now.”

    I don’t think we’ve had that since Calvin Coolidge left office.

  18. Last I heard Pete Buttigieg is planning to totally nail the next debate by giving every answer in Norwegian.

  19. Hey, this’ll get a mention tonight; hearsay from folks somebody said something to in the ’90s:

    “Friends: Trump accuser told us of attack in the ’90s”
    […]
    “…And I said, ‘What? He raped you?'” Birnbach said. “I said, ‘Let’s go to the police,'” she recalled, but Carroll refused…”
    https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Friends-Trump-accuser-told-us-of-attack-in-the-14055698.php

    1. “but Carroll refused…”

      A white person who doesn’t trust the police? Now that is news.

      Revenge being best served cold is not news.

  20. […] Nick Gillespie noted this morning, tonight’s grown-ups’ table debate (featuring 10 candidates with a […]

  21. Sure, Gabbard warns about interventionism, adventurism, yada, yada, but she has no trouble turning those guns from pointing at foreigners and into the faces of her fellow American citizens* with all manner of domestic interventionism and adventurism.

    But I sense Reason’s preferred Dem is about to be announced.

    [Oops, that should be fellow occupiers of the same geographical space]

    1. She’s my preferred Dem as well. And anti-interventionism is the only reason for my support for Trump, however tepid and qualified.

  22. ““Tonight’s fight between Biden and Sanders over capitalism and socialism will be, too.”

    I think Biden has the size advantage there but Sanders is wiry. If he gets close in he can take Joe down in a couple moves.

    Really I don’t think anyone is going to take the Capitalism vs Socialism debate any further along with a couple of scripted sound bites. The whole thing is just a show.

  23. NOT ENOUGH TO OVERCOME ALL THE OTHER CRAZY.

    Plus Trump has been really restrained anyway.

  24. I enjoyed it very much.

  25. […] Her central message about the need for a more humble foreign policy is impossible to disconnect from her criticisms of Democratic leadership. Gabbard’s candidacy is best understood as an attempt to break the bipartisan agreement on interventionist foreign policy and to restore the Democratic Party’s anti-war wing. […]

  26. […] Her central message about the need for a more humble foreign policy is impossible to disconnect from her criticisms of Democratic leadership. Gabbard’s candidacy is best understood as an attempt to break the bipartisan agreement on interventionist foreign policy and to restore the Democratic Party’s anti-war wing. […]

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