Democratic presidential candidates may have stood in a straight line for two nights of debates in Detroit last week, but the second evening was tantamount to a circular firing squad.
They took potshots at each other and the legacy of former President Barack Obama. While President Donald Trump has exceeded 10,000 lies, Democrats ventured into their own versions of fantasyland.
They attacked health insurance companies and “big pharma” with a relish Trump reserves for both non-white immigrants and officeholders. They spent so much time on health care that economic development — Trump’s trump card — was a non-issue, except for largely misguided attacks on multilateral trade pacts.
Former Vice President Joe Biden took a strange shot at health care villains.
“We can deal with the insurance companies by, No. 1, putting insurance executives in jail for the misleading advertising, what they’re doing on opioids, what they’re doing — paying doctors to prescribe,” he said.
The offenders are drug manufacturers, physicians and pharmacists. And, as the Washington Post reported, the Obama administration failed to heed health officials concerned about fentanyl flooding the nation.
As for punishing bad actors, it promised to prosecute those responsible for the 2008 financial crisis. One person was imprisoned.
Biden was a lonely debate apologist for the Affordable Care Act, which has failed to cover millions of Americans. He battled with Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., who, in her latest reversal, offered a plan with a private option embraced by liberal think tanks.
Others debated an exclusive government program versus retaining company-provided health care. We suspect most corporations want health care burdens removed, while employees would gladly relinquish high-deductible plans.
Most countries with universal health care allow purchasing private options or supplemental plans. The Swiss regulate private plans to keep providers from setting arbitrarily high rates.
“Private” is a dirty word to Democrats enamored with “free” stuff.
Instead of free tuition at public colleges only, why not focus on areas of need and growth, like medical professionals and educators — even at private colleges? (See Iowa Tuition Grants, which follow students.) Means testing, as suggested by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., would be in order.
Biden was better responding to charges on immigration and race, particularly from Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (ignoring the Eric Garner albatross around his neck), and Julian Castro, Obama’s secretary of housing and urban development.
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Biden cited Obama’s attempts to overhaul existing immigration laws and rein in police misbehavior.
He maintained undocumented immigrants illegally entering the country must be considered “illegal,” deflecting Trump’s “open borders” charge. (For his part, a Trump tweet blamed Obama for putting kids in cages. Yet separating children from their parents was a rarity, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, before the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance plan.”)
Biden was less effective describing his support for tough-on-crime bills that have led to mass incarceration.
Too eager to pile on, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., cited a Biden opinion piece supposedly insensitive to working women. In fact, he opposed expanding child-care tax credits to wealthy dual-income households.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, took aim at Harris’ spotty record as California attorney general, citing instances where evidence was withheld. Harris, who has touted her ability to debate Trump as a strength, was clearly wounded.
Post-debate she attacked Gabbard, the “anti-war” candidate, for her skepticism about Syrian President Bashar Assad’s chemical attacks on civilians and refusal to call him a war criminal.
On opening night, moderators missed an opportunity to ask Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., about his reluctance to call Venezuelan socialist strongman Nicolas Maduro a “dictator.” Fellow progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has.
Warren fended off charges by former Rep. John Delaney. D-Md., about “impossible promises” and “fairy-tale economics.” She’d break up Amazon (despite no discernible groundswell), Facebook, Google and Apple.
Meanwhile, Sanders rebuked Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan’s criticism that he doesn’t fully understand “Medicare for All.” “I wrote the damn bill,” Sanders shot back.
What he doesn’t seem to get is that his everything-is-free prescription far exceeds all plans by other industrialized nations.
Not to miss out on “fairy tales,” South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg would abolish the Electoral College (a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds vote with small states inevitably opposed), pack the Supreme Court and grant the District of Columbia statehood (an amendment DOA in red states).
Trump is vulnerable, with an approval rating hovering around 40 percent. By raising interest rates last week, the Federal Reserve Board showed concern about his ill-conceived and expensive tariffs. Feeding red meat to his nationalist base on race and immigration didn’t play well in cities and suburbia during the midterms.
While Trump parlayed “Celebrity Apprentice” into his presidency, Democrats seem obsessed with backstabbing “Survivor” episodes, providing Trump with endless campaign sound bites in the process.