It just so happens that on the very day “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg did his FOX News townhall from New Hampshire, Turner Classic Movies showed an old Spencer Tracy movie called THE LAST HURRAH, about a mayoral campaign that’s taking place just as modern “messaging” is taking its place in politics. What fortuitous timing!
As you know if you watched the Buttigieg townhall, he is very, very good at crafting messages. At 37, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, might be the sort of person who would be hired by a, shall we say, more seasoned presidential candidate to handle his or her campaign communications. Instead, Buttigieg is using those skills to promote his OWN candidacy. His intended audience will love what he has to say.
There are problems with some of his messages, though, that unfortunately will be recognized only by those who are more well versed in economics and the Constitution than the typical Democratic voter. For example, he assumed wrongly that the deficit is affected that much by Trump’s tax cuts (which “blow a hole in the budget,” he said) when it’s really the spending side of the equation that’s pumping up the debt. He acknowledged the spending problem but didn’t venture too far beyond the observation that “we just have to figure it out, and I think we need a little bit more of that mentality in the federal government.” Ya think? But he does have some very creative ideas for taxing the wealthy, and he talked about doing deficit spending that “pays for itself in the long run.”
Right. Democrats love to talk about spending programs (“investments”) that are supposed to do that, in theory. In fact, the spending typically ends up being way more than estimated and never pays for itself. (To be fair, this far into his presidency, Trump hasn’t seriously addressed the debt, either, although with the current Democratic Congress it may not matter.) During this townhall, Buttigieg sort of walked a tightrope on taxation and spending, crafting a message that sounds extremely rational –- again, almost conservative –- but that his “progressive” audience will like.
Buttigieg also argued for “generational change” or, his term, “a generational shift,” when I find that whole concept discriminatory and offensive, no matter how he tries to rationalize it. Judging from what he said here, Buttigieg is an ageist.
He also wrongly referred to the Republican Party as the victim of a “hostile takeover” by Trump, but his audience, predictably, ate that up.
He got big applause by saying he believes a woman’s right to make her own decisions regarding her reproductive health and her body is a “national right...an American freedom.” (“Even some of my supporters believe differently, but that’s what I believe.”) He said he would appoint judges and justices who recognize that freedom. (In other words, hello litmus test.) He also implied that by restricting abortion “rights” we might be “starving women” of other reproductive care. I’d like to know what care that is, exactly. Mammograms, perchance?
(He knew better than to specifically mention mammograms, but he certainly didn’t bother to correct the mistaken belief that Planned Parenthood offers them. THEY DON’T. And there are many other clinics besides Planned Parenthood that offer low-cost birth control and routine exams. One doesn’t have to go to an abortion mill to get those.)
When Chris Wallace asked him about his beliefs about abortion at any point during pregnancy, he had the perfect response for his audience. “I trust women to draw the line,” he said, to uproarious applause. He tried to brush off Wallace’s question about third-trimester abortion as “hypothetical,” but when pressed by Wallace, his answer was interesting to a conservative like me who believes in general that the government should stay out of personal matters. He said, “That decision’s not going to be made any better, medically or morally, because the government is dictating how that decision should be made.”
Gosh, if you DIDN’T think abortion is the killing of an innocent life, you’d think he was talking pretty much like a conservative! And yet he’s arguing for abortion. But if he trusts a woman to draw the line, where SHOULD she be able to draw the line? Before the first heartbeat? Before the last contraction? Before the umbilical cord is cut? And what if it’s a slippery slope? What if in twenty years, we’re talking about trusting a woman to make a life-or-death decision before her child says his first word?
I know that sounds farfetched, but who would have thought we’d be talking about whether it’s okay to let a newborn suffocate and die on a tray in the delivery room? That’s where we are today.
If he trusts women to make this one decision, why does he think the government should be so involved in OTHER personal matters? For example, if it takes charge of my health care through a single-payer bureaucracy, it’s going to pry into everything about me and ultimately make the decisions for my care. Doesn't he trust ME with those decisions?
Buttigieg was asked about America’s “comfort level” with the idea of a President who is gay and has a husband. He said that in the coming election “Americans are going to vote based on who’s going to make them better off...and that they will evaluate you for who you really are.” (Uproarious applause.)
Well, I agree with him there. I’ve got no comment, really, about his being gay, but plenty to say about which party will help make us better off, and that is NOT the Democratic Party, whether he or anybody else is the face of it.
A new FOX News poll shows Buttigeig at 1 percent with non-white Democratic primary voters. To his credit, when he was asked about how he was reaching out to voters “of color,” he did NOT apologize for being white. (THANK YOU!) He talked about a goodwill outreach, “sometimes behind closed doors...engaging in a process of listening and speaking with activists, with faith leaders, with community leaders, elected officials.” He said this was an important priority, “not only to win, but to deserve to win.” Okay, but this is something candidates of both parties should and must do.
An audience member asked Buttigieg about “the Democratic Party possibly impeaching Trump.” (I thought that was an...interesting...way to phrase it.) He said pleasantly that the President’s conduct has been “beyond the pale morally” and “to put it politely, it was legally questionable, too...he may well have done things that deserve impeachment, but that’s for Congress to decide.” He sees an enormous defeat for this President at the ballot box as a way to “put an end not just to this presidency, but to the divisiveness, to the corruption, to the behavior...” (Cue the huge applause.) Never mind that we’re learning more every day about the systemic corruption that predated Trump’s election.
Asked about President Trump’s tweets, he said, “The tweets are –- I don’t care!!” (Huge applause.) We have to be “changing the channel from this show that he’s created.” The tweets can be hard to ignore, he said, because “it’s the nature of grotesque things that you can’t look away.” That’s a good line, I have to admit, but I would respond that Trump typically is goaded into his comments by politicians and media who’ve been grotesquely eyeing impeachment since Day 1.
Buttigieg went on to distort what Republicans are trying to do vs. what Democrats would do. Republicans are NOT trying to keep people from getting raises; in fact, just the opposite. They are NOT trying to take away people’s health care. “Their positions, as a general rule, are unpopular,” Buttigieg said. Again, not true at all.
He also distorted what has been said on some of the FOX News opinion shows about immigrants and the border crisis. Here, again, he devolves into sounding like one more Democratic party hack, albeit a very well-spoken one. It’ll be interesting to hear what Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham have to say in response.
The townhall went on to touch on other subjects, such as the military/foreign policy and student debt. Buttigieg wasn’t asked about socialism, extremism in his party, or climate change and the “Green New Deal” at all. These were pretty softball questions from Chris Wallace. If Buttigieg seems refreshingly candid and well-spoken, it’s probably because the other primary candidates are so lacking in those attributes and today’s political rhetoric is so idiotic. Keep in mind, though, Buttigieg is the same on the issues as the other Democrats: he’s totally pro-choice on abortion, he wants to do away with the Electoral College (horrible idea), he gets it SO WRONG on Thomas Jefferson, and there’s much more I’ll get to in a Part II.
Right now, I’m going to take a break from politics and watch a movie about...politics. But this one stars Spencer Tracy and may offer some perspective on what I’ve just seen. (That’s for Part II as well.) In the meantime, here’s a link to Buttigieg’s townhall…