CNN conducted the latest round of Democratic presidential debates. Dana Bash, Jake Tapper, and Don Lemon did the questioning.
One type of question was off the table — the show of hands (as in “raise your hand if you favor free college education for illegal immigrants”). Democratic cheerleaders like E.J. Dionne had objected to this sort of inquiry — employed during the Republican debates in 2015-16 — which forces candidates to take a firm position that might haunt them later. There was talk of a pact to refuse to respond.
No pact was necessary. CNN duly complied with the wish of its favorite Party.
Even so, Bash and Tapper asked some good, searching questions. Lemon was content to ask any question he could preface by using Trump and racist in the same sentence.
I liked it when a questioner asked a candidate to specify which opponents he or she was referring to when he or she criticized “some on this stage.” Lower tier candidates Amy Klobuchar, Steve Bullock, and Bill de Blasio all were asked this. For example, Tapper said to Klobuchar:
At the beginning of the night, you said you’re going to hear a lot of promises on the stage. And previously you have said, when asked about your primary opponents, quote, “A lot of people are making promises, and I’m not going to make promises just to get elected.” Who on this stage is making promises just to get elected?
Klobuchar declined to name names. It wouldn’t have been nice. Only de Blasio singled anyone out (Joe Biden) in response to this kind of question.
Unlike Klobuchar, Bullock, and de Blasio, Elizabeth Warren was permitted to take a shot — and a far more damning one — at opponents without being asked to identify them. With her usual well-rehearsed flourish, she barked:
There is a lot at stake, and people are scared. But we can’t choose a candidate we don’t believe in just because we’re too scared to do anything else. And we can’t ask other people to vote for a candidate we don’t believe in.
This rhetoric cried out for someone to ask Warren which candidates she doesn’t believe in. The question would have required Warren either to, in effect, decline to endorse one or more of her rivals or to demonstrate that her bark is worse than her bite. (I imagine Warren would have picked the latter option).
But no one asked. It’s okay to put no-hopers like Klobuchar, Bullock, and de Blasio on the spot. Elizabeth Warren, not so much.
This is CNN.