Debate tidbits

Last night’s Democratic debate brought to mind a dysfunctional family into whose midst a stranger barges, claiming to be a relative. The family unites and pummels the stranger. But soon the kids (here, Buttigieg and Klobuchar) are quarreling more vociferously than ever.

Here are some additional observations about last night’s session.


Candidates’ kids sometimes play a role in debates, but not in this cycle. Most of the field is so old that no one wants to hear about their kids.

Buttigieg is young enough to have cute kids, but he and his husband don’t have any. Biden would like to talk about Beau, but that would risk making people think of Hunter.

Parents, not kids, are a persistent topic in the debates. Last night, Biden launched a semi-coherent riff about how his father lost his job and the family had to move. He told the tale so quickly that it sounded like stream of consciousness. Perhaps this was a moment of therapy for a man whose lifelong ambition seems to be slipping away.

Warren, too, offered a family hardship story. Something about a car being repossessed, I think. The hero of her story was Warren’s mother, though no specific instance of heroism was described. Warren’s father didn’t figure in her story.

Bloomberg didn’t talk specifically about his family, but appeared to throw it under the bus. When criticized for his foul, sexually-charged workplace language, Bloomberg explained that he was “brought up” that way.

Klobuchar didn’t talk about her family during this debate. However, her volatile, alcoholic father has featured in several past debates.

Sanders never mentions his parents. His father may have been even more radically socialist than Bernie is. I haven’t heard Buttigieg talk about his parents during a debate, though apparently he has mentioned his late father (a respected literature professor at Notre Dame) in tweets.


Last night, Bernie Sanders pronounced the distribution of income in the United States “immoral.” This raises the question of what distribution of income would be moral, and why.

I can think of only two distributions that can be defended on moral grounds. One is perfectly equal distribution. The other is the distribution that would exist absent any redistribution of income or government interference other than neutral enforcement of basic criminal laws.

I don’t support either type of income distribution, and I doubt many Americans do. But without embracing one or the other, or describing a similarly grounded alternative, it’s hard to see how morality can be an arbiter of income distribution.

But here’s the real problem. When a politician claims the ability to declare particular income distribution results “immoral,” as opposed to simply undesirable, it opens the door to totalitarianism, including the persecution and possible elimination of those who possess an “immoral” amount of wealth.

It’s no accident that communism, the ideology that focuses heavily on how income should be distributed, invariably gave rise to totalitarian regimes. It’s no accident that Bernie Sanders sympathizes with communism. It’s no accident that many of Sanders’s supporters resemble the thugs who make up the shock troops of totalitarian regimes.


A panelist who works for Telemundo, decided to attack Amy Klobuchar for not knowing (or maybe not remembering) the name of Mexico’s brand new president. Klobuchar had her answer ready, but the fool from Telemundo found it wanting and pressed the matter.

Naturally, Pete Buttigieg joined the attack, and Klobuchar had to dig deep into her talking points to fend off the assault. All of this allowed Elizabeth Warren to play the hero (and, believe it or not, the voice of sanity) by defending her fellow female Senator.

Under pressure, Klobuchar struck one unfortunate note. She compared not knowing the Mexican president’s name to not knowing the number of members of Israel’s Knesset. This isn’t a terrible point on the merits. But to the extent Latino voters have a problem with Klobuchar not knowing the Mexican president’s name (a small cohort, I hope), she dug the hole deeper by treating the matter as trivial.

The attack on Klobuchar was unfair, but I don’t feel sorry for her. The person I feel sorry for is the campaign staffer who prepped the Senator for the interview in which she failed to come up with the Mexican president’s name.