Rep. and Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Eliot Engel (D-NY) says he doesn’t expect Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s opposition to impeachment to last much longer. “That’ll change. I think more and more members are going to decide that the role of Congress right now, the proper role, is impeachment.”
Engel himself announced his support for impeachment only days ago. He is among the highest ranking members of the Democratic caucus to do so. He faces two primary challengers, each of whom is focusing on his comparatively hawkish foreign policy stances.
Earlier this week we brought you this must-read report on Donna Arduin, the itinerant grim reaper of state budgets who has for more than twenty years been going from state to state when a new Republican governor comes into power cutting state spending down to the bone and making way for tax cuts for the wealthy. Now she’s at work in Alaska for Gov. Mike Dunleavy, the state’s new governor. And here’s a story about cuts of roughly 40% of the state contribution to the University of Alaska system ($130 million). The jobs of some 1,300 academic are, reportedly, at risk.
Let me share a few more thoughts on last night’s debate. It was a bit jagged. Biden’s closer was cringey. But there’s a more salient point about the whole thing put together, and here I include both debates combined. There is a small but highly vocal minority of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who see Barack Obama’s presidency as a failure. I don’t mean simply that he screwed up or wasn’t a good leader but more specifically that the policy premises and political strategies of his presidency were simply and fundamentally wrong. I have a friend/acquaintance. Over the years he’s drifted far away from my take on politics and that of many mainstream or middle of the road Democrats. He repeatedly presses the point to me that Obama’s presidency was a disaster and that Democrats can’t fix things, either substantively or politically, until they recognize that fact.
I found the first two series of Democratic presidential debates painful to watch, and I don’t think it was simply the result of the format or of the questions asked. It was because in their preoccupations, I don’t think the Democratic candidates have developed the message and the language that can win the White House for the party.
That was a bit of a shaky close for Joe Biden. I don’t know how else to put it. You don’t get a lot of leeway on that kind of thing when your in your mid-70s. I don’t know if that matters or not. Because on balance I thought he had a pretty good debate. He was much more focused and aggressive than he was in the first debate. He got hit from all sides but he hit back and often effectively. In the first debate he just didn’t seem to be expecting or prepared to defend himself or his record – which is a bit bizarre as a frontrunner heading into his first campaign debate.
When I was a little kid my dad would take the TV out of the closet to watch the big heavyweight prize fights. If they went fifteen rounds they’d get so tired at the end that the boxers would sort of be hanging on each other to rest. That feels like about where this debate got to around 10 PM.
Harris seems to have lost the thread. De Blasio, much as I love him, is getting ridiculous. Biden is having a good night for what he needs to accomplish. Booker is consistently strong in these debates. Really strong. Like operating on a different level strong a lot of the time. But he just can’t seem to get traction. That surprises me a bit.
10:12 PM: This exchange with Gillibrand is maybe the first time when Biden, even briefly, has given a nod to “okay, that wasn’t great but that was a long time ago.” It seemed instinctive and he didn’t stay with it long.
9:59 PM: Dana Bash’s questions are really right from the center-right DC consensus. Consistently.
9:48 PM: There are a bunch of really impressive candidates up on this stage, many of whom haven’t gotten any traction.
9:16 PM: Biden’s basically wearing Barack Obama as a coat.
A lot of clatter in the first hour. What stands out to me most is that Biden is much more focused, much more aggressive. But he’s really not trying to compete within the conversations that are driving this campaign – not on immigration, not on health care. He’s focused on the general election campaign and that electorate. Harris seems a bit unused to being attacked from multiple sides at once. Booker is strong as usual.
9:05 PM: Biden definitely more forthright and focused than in the first debate. But he’s not really trying to compete on most of the debates that are animating this campaign. He’s focused on a general election campaign.
8:55 PM: Whatever you think of the specifics here, as I said last night, this question of whether or not unauthorized crossings constitute a civil or criminal offense is a pretty small part of the overall immigration question. It’s specific relevance is tied to Trump because he is using it as a tool to separate families.
8:43 PM: This back and forth over private insurance is a good example of why it’s a deep disservice to voters that the four top candidates aren’t up on the stage together. It creates two debates where the debate on this central issue is just really distorted.
8:40 PM: As you know, I think the Sanders-style Medicare for All plan is a real liability in a general election. But this is a Democratic debate. And the moderators really aren’t pressing at all on questions like how many people does your plan cover, how does it contain costs? Ending private insurance is a big issue. But it’s hardly the only issue, to put it mildly.
8:34 PM: Seeing a lot of people saying Harris seemed wobbly. Not sure I see it that way.
8:18 PM: Not to snark but man, Bennet has a really, really soporific affect.
8:14 PM: Wow, De Blasio here to kick some wealthy person ass.
8:00 PM: Okay, let’s do this.
On balance I thought this was a pretty productive, good debate for the simple reason that a series of central debates in the Democratic party and this campaign were joined clearly, in a generally well argued and illuminating way. Former Rep. John Delaney was clearly the odd man out on the stage (possibly with Gov. Bullock a runner up). He frequently seemed like he was in a time warp back to the 1990s. But he provided an effective foil to Warren and Sanders; he even leveled some reasonable critiques. In so doing he managed to garner wildly more time on air than his non-candidacy possibly merits. But I thought it was good because you had a series of set piece exchanges which really captured the broader debate in a clear and illuminating way.
9:38 PM: The Green New Deal spends about half or likely more than half its money on things unrelated to the environment.
9:22 PM: A memorable moment …
Elizabeth's moment pic.twitter.com/Wkj63iaOAB
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) July 31, 2019
9:10 PM: This debate was going pretty well and then it all went wrong.
8:50 PM: A simple point. The entire immigration debate – at least in this debate – has been reduced to this issue of whether unauthorized border crossing should be a civil offense or a criminal offense. It’s not a non-issue. But quite apart from the rights and wrongs this is an incredibly narrow issue in the broader immigration debate. As the advocates of decriminalization make fairly clear the reason they want to do this is that President Trump has used this law as the hook for family separations. By and large previous administrations chose to deal with crossings as civil infractions. In other words, before President Trump, in practice it wasn’t criminalized in the first place (there were exceptions). So in practice there’s very little difference. This amounts to an argument that if we get a Democratic president, it will be a priority to formally change border crossings to only a civil offense so that a future Trump-like President wouldn’t be able to use the law for family separations in the future. Of course, presumably a future Trump-like President could simply change the law again. Again, not that it’s a non-issue. But this is a narrow and technical issue that would largely be moot under a Democratic President in the first place.
8:37 PM: So far I think this is a really good debate because most or all of the candidates are making the best, clearest arguments for their case.
8:34 PM: I mentioned this in an earlier post. I think this debate about taxes and premiums is wrong. I think in practice employers will pocket much of the savings (from no longer paying premiums) and individuals will pay real and substantial new taxes.
8:27 PM: Pitting Sanders and Delaney against each other here is actually very edifying. It gets the core issues on both sides right out there.
8:23 PM: Decent openings from Buttigieg and O’Rourke.
8:20 PM: Interesting that with Sanders and Warren on the stage as the frontrunners, the also-rans can position themselves as non-ideologues as though Biden and Harris weren’t in the race.
8:18 PM: Delaney’s such a fascinating, weird player in this campaign. It’s like he’s running for President of the 1990s. It’s not whether these ideas are good or not. They’re just so distant from where the Democratic party is today.
8:12 PM: Remarkable. CNN is reporting that Sanders may go after Warren on the issue of electability. It’s hard for me to see how that’s a good angle for him, though I will say that Sanders consistently polls a bit better than Warren in head to head match ups with President Trump.
Apparently there’s a debate and we’re all here.