With the latest Democrat presidential debates airing on CNN this week, it seems like a good time to review what the candidates are doing and saying.
During the 2016 presidential primary season, I used to refer to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio as “Obama-lite.” Like Mr. Obama in 2008 before him, Mr. Rubio was perceived as a young, dynamic speaker. Like Mr. Obama, his pre-Senate experience was exclusively in the world of state politics and like Mr. Obama, Mr. Rubio was a trained attorney who never really practiced law. Both seemed to get a pass on many of their weaknesses by an enamored media.
Mr. Rubio, as it turned out, did not have the eloquence that Mr. Obama exhibited, nor did he have the charm. Like him or not, Mr. Obama has an infectious smile that seems to come from his soul. The Florida senator’s smile on the other hand was both rare and painful. It didn’t come naturally and often appeared more like a grimace than an expression of happiness. Mr. Rubio flamed out after former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie pointed out during a debate that the senator seemed to be limited to repeating the same three talking points over and over. Mr. Rubio responded by repeating those same three talking points.
With that in mind, it isn’t intended as a compliment when I say California Sen. Kamala Harris is Rubio-lite. Like the two afore-mentioned senators-turned-presidential candidates, many perceive Ms. Harris to be a good speaker. She does possess some of Mr. Obama’s ability to come across as cool, even in the most awkward situations, but she also seems to mirror Mr. Rubio in her struggle to be authentic.
Ms. Harris famously made light on an urban radio show about how she smoked pot all the time in college while listening to the rap music of Tupac Shakur. As it turned out Tupac didn’t put out his first album until well after Ms. Harris was out of school, so some have questioned her street credibility when it comes to firing up a joint. The bigger problem lies in the fact that as a prosecutor Ms. Harris sent more than 1,500 people to jail for marijuana offenses, yet jokes about her frequent use of the weed herself.
Bigger contradictions have appeared on the campaign trail. Initially, Ms. Harris supported Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” plan and wanted to eliminate private insurance altogether. Within a couple of days she changed and said she did not support getting rid of private insurance. This week she introduced her own plan that says it allows private insurance, but it sure smells like it doesn’t. One the web site Medium, Ms. Harris blogged the following. “Essentially, we would allow private insurance to offer a plan in the Medicare system, but they will be subject to strict requirements to ensure it lowers costs and expands services,” Ms. Harris continued, “If they want to play by our rules, they can be in the system. If not, they have to get out.”
The Democrats love to utter the phrase Medicare for All. It should be called “One size fits all,” which of course in health insurance, isn’t true.
Ms. Harris’ biggest contradiction to date may be on immigration. Earlier this year she supported decriminalizing illegal border crossings. Days after publicly saying that, the senator changed her mind. She was no longer in favor of decriminalization. Minutes later in the same interview, however, she said “We’re not going to treat people who are undocumented and cross the border as criminals.” Does she really not know what she wants or is her default position on issues to placate everyone by taking all positions at once?
Ms. Harris has some of the tools a candidate requires to win in 2020 but doesn’t seem to have any idea what her own policies are. That is typically a clear indicator that a candidate lusts after a position, but doesn’t actually stand for much. Thus far, the media hasn’t held her accountable for her gaffes nor her flip flops, but if they do, Ms. Harris could be in trouble.
No one actually believes Bernie Sanders will be the nominee, yet the self-proclaimed socialist remains in the top tier in virtually every poll. A summary of his debate comments on illegal immigration go something like this: We need to stop the flow of people coming into the United States, especially on our southern border, so we should decriminalize undocumented entry. Apparently, Bernie thinks if it isn’t a crime people will be less inclined to cross the border. This from the guy who also thinks we should provide free housing and free health care for those entering the U.S. illegally. Help me here, how exactly is this going to discourage people from entering?
Lets’ jump to the other end of the spectrum among candidates, those who will drop out in the next 90 days. Rep. Tim Ryan was the only candidate who didn’t put his hand over his heart when the National Anthem was played at the debates. No one thought to ask him why. Beto O’Rourke’s performance reminded me to go back and watch “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” because dumb guys can be funny without intending to be. Why is Amy Klobuchar even running?
Some Democrats want to give you free health care. Some want free food and housing for illegal immigrants. Businessman Andrew Yang takes it to another level. He wants to give every man and woman over the age of 18 $1,000 per month simply for being alive. He thinks it will stimulate the economy. No word on who will pay for it. This from the same Andrew Yang who said during Wednesday night’s debate that he doesn’t want America to go backward to some perceived grand yesteryear. Yet, he wants to invest billions of tax dollars in saving dying shopping malls.
Joe Biden, of course, is the current front-runner, though many are questioning if he has the stamina to hang on. His second debate was better than his first, but still wasn’t exactly a confidence-inducing performance. CNN senior political commentator David Axelrod, a former Obama campaign adviser, had this to say about Mr. Biden on Wednesday night, “I think the good news for Joe Biden is this was maybe the best he could do, and the bad news is this may be the best he could do.”
President Trump said this week he expects Mr. Biden to be the nominee. I don’t.
Two other candidates deserve mention. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts comes across as inauthentic, like she’d take any position if it might gain her a smidge of attention and popularity. Most disturbing is the way Ms. Warren is effectively demonizing success. If a big business is thriving, Ms. Warren believes it is inherently evil. If you have been financially successful Ms. Warren is quite sure you’re bad. Her debate promise that the middle class will not see a tax increase if the government provides health care and that services will be far better than they are now rang hollow.
Surely, no one believes we are all going to get something for nothing. Not only nothing, but while getting new and improved health care you’ll save thousands annually because you will no longer have to pay for insurance. Whatever she is doing, however, seems to be resonating with about one out of six Democrats, and Ms. Warren’s polling numbers keep increasing.
The dark horse on the debate stage seemed to be Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. While much of the media likes to focus on WWE-type antics among candidates, many Americans are pining for a common sense, polished, professional who can make a political point without feeling the need to insult and demean his or her opponent. Miss Gabbard is young, relatable and handles herself with grace and class. Her integrity is rock solid, having quit her position as vice chair at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) during the 2016 presidential campaign when it became apparent they were gaming the system for Hillary Clinton. For anyone seeking actual substance in a candidate, she may be the one for you.
All of this is moot, of course, because as I’ve shared before, I fully expect that when no Democrat becomes the break-out candidate by late this year, Michelle Obama will ride in at the 11th hour to save the party. The excitement and media adoration will be off the scale, and the Obama machine will sweep through the primary process to victory.
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