Mike Bloomberg’s deliberately vague campaign slogan is “Mike Can Get It Done,” and give him credit: last night, he did. He managed to finally make a Democratic debate entertaining just by showing up. (Also, to get this out of the way up front,: no, Bloomberg did not stand on a box. Lucky for him; if he had, Elizabeth Warren probably would have set it on fire.)
That’s not to say that it did his presidential aspirations much good. In fact, you could argue that his appearance in the debate was the most disastrous strategic misstep since Michael Dukakis said, “I’d love to ride in a tank, but do you have a helmet that’s 10 sizes too big?”
Bloomberg has been trying to sell himself like an “As Seen On TV” product, by blanketing the airwaves and Internet with wall-to-wall commercials. But by avoiding the essential steps of debating and campaigning (which teach candidates to listen to voters and assert and defend their positions), he made what his first big national appearance as a Presidential candidate hopelessly unprepared. Voters who’d been swayed by his ad onslaught must’ve felt like consumers who were considering paying $99.95 for a “miracle anti-aging cream” only to learn it’s just a can of Crisco.
Bloomberg proved that you can buy up all the airtime, consultants, social media “influencers” and zinger writers in the world, and it’s still no substitute for political experience, empathy or personal contact with working Americans. Campaign events and townhalls are where bubble-dwelling politicians (and billionaire wannabe politicians) who think they know how to run your life better than you do discover that, say, farmers, actually know more about a lot more important things than they do.
But Bloomberg didn’t just self-immolate his own campaign. He may have helped burn down whatever crumbling walls of the Democratic Party were still standing. Viewers, many of whom I assume were Democrats hoping to see any reason to convince them to stick to their party, instead saw a shoutfest in which all the candidates savaged each other when they weren’t attacking Bloomberg. Here are just a few of the things we now know about the candidates, and bear in mind, this is what they said about each other:
Amy Klobuchar prosecutes possibly innocent black youths, doesn’t know who the President of Mexico is, and her health care plan is a “Post-it Note.” Pete Buttigieg has billionaire contributors and is an unqualified small town mayor who’s memorized a lot of talking points and has a health care plan that’s a Powerpoint presentation. Bernie Sanders has scary crazy followers and is a famous socialist with three houses, as well as ruinous, commie economic and health care plans. Mike Bloomberg is a sexist who calls women "fat broads and horse-faced lesbians” and makes them sign non-disclosure agreements (he claimed that’s just because they didn’t like jokes he told, not realizing he was addressing a crowd who routinely destroy people’s lives for having told a politically incorrect joke a decade ago.)
There was much more, but that’s enough. You can see why Stephen Green at PJ Media compared this debate to the “food fight” scene in “Animal House.” Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit observed, “Everyone on the Dem debate stage seems unbalanced — they look so angry that they’re about to either hit someone or burst into tears. It’s bizarre.” (Actually, that sounds to me like the entire Democratic Party ever since Election Night 2016.)
The only thing they seem to be able to agree on is that Donald Trump must go, even though they also claim to want to help the poor and minorities, who are finally getting good jobs and raises under Trump. Also, Gallup recently found that 90% of Americans are happy with their lives, but don’t worry, these Democrats have a plethora of plans to reverse that.
As for Joe Biden, he started out strong but slipped into word salad mode as the evening wore on, but the relative lack of attacks on him to focus on Bloomberg was a sad, unspoken verdict on how far he’s fallen in the other candidates’ eyes, from frontrunner to “candidate not worth attacking.” Elizabeth Warren probably “won” the debate, but only because she did so much damage to Bloomberg, the political equivalent of cleaning your house by burning it down. Also, she seems to be locked into a single attitude: “righteous fury.” She claims to have posed for over 100,000 “selfies,” but I wonder if she’s scowling in all of them.
Even worse for the Party was when Bloomberg actually scored a few points, and they only illustrated how far off the rails the Democrats have gone. Like when he asked if he was the only one on stage who’d ever started a business, and the others could only stand there in silence. But easily the most cringeworthy moment came when Bloomberg slammed the other candidates for attacking capitalism, saying, “We're not going to throw out capitalism. We tried that, other countries tried that. It was called communism, and it just didn't work."
And the crowd audibly groaned and booed!
Imagine being a moderate Democrat voter and actually hearing your fellow party members boo someone criticizing communism. Is Donald Trump starting to look good yet?
Naturally, President Trump weighed in on the Democrats’ debate…
And if you think I’m biased in my assessment of the debate, here are a few comments from the Democratic side. At the New York Times website, Times readers said this:
“I am finding this unbelievably troubling. The worst debate I have ever seen”…“I turned it off after 10 minutes, horrified”...“Too hyperbolic, too inaccurate, too gratuitously damaging, too much intentional misrepresentation, too much waffling when the opposite was called for”… “Horrid, debate tonight. This food-fight format is just awful. All the candidates should be forced to watch this in its entirety, so they don't repeat this ugly debacle”…“This is sickening, a real slug fest with everyone shouting at the top of their lungs as if the world needed a hearing aid. I almost wish I needed one so I could remove it. If these are the survivors of 9 debates, we're in worse trouble than I thought.”
Democratic political analyst Mary Anne Marsh ranked the winners and losers and finds only one winner, Warren. I think she forgot the big winner: Donald Trump.
My friend Van Jones, with whom I have very little in common politically, compared Bloomberg’s performance to the Titanic, with Warren as the iceberg. He astutely noted that “he just wasn’t ready. He was tone-deaf on issue after issue, and the reason why: he’s not been in those living rooms, he hasn’t been doing those town halls.”
And Justin Baragona of the Daily Beast may have had the best line on Twitter: “Bloomberg brought a wallet to a gun fight tonight.” Well, he is Mike Bloomberg; you can’t expect him to bring a gun to a gun fight.