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Kamala Vs. Loretta: The Worst Debate In History

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

harrisdebateDespite her self-regarding belief, Barbara Boxer has not exactly been a paragon of political achievement in the U.S. Senate — but c’mon is this really the best a state of 39 million people can do in finding a replacement?

Not since the tap dancing George Murphy and the tam o’shanter-styling S.I. Hayakawa squatted in California’s seats in the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body have there been two Mickey Mouse lightweights as insubstantial as 2016 Senate wannabes Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez.

So we guess it was appropriate that the one and only faceoff between the Democratic dynamic duo Wednesday night was the lamest so-called debate in memory, Or at least since the 2016 vice-presidential contenders parleyed the night before.

sanchezdebateA dilettante’s delight: The ABC7-produced event in L.A. was, and let us put this as politely as possible, a bloody muddle: a panel of three, amateur-night questioners competed for time with a batch of pre-recorded Real People (some of whom could not be heard by the rivals in the studio) to pose the most insipid inquiries possible, while OCD-stricken moderator Marc Brown continuously refused to let the candidates finish sentences, apparently concerned there wouldn’t be time left for the crucial performance of a troupe of trapeze artists waiting in the wings.

At one point, one of the three panelists (we omit Janis Hirohama’s name to spare her family embarrassment) actually asked Harris and Sanchez “what committees would you like to serve on?” Yuck.

In the end, sigh, Harris’s banalities and clichés trumped Rep. Sanchez’s squeaky prattling and saccharine babbling, and Kamala was the only one on the stage who at least had the poise and appearance of a U.S. Senator.

Three key takeaways:

Where were Willon, Cadelago and Marinucci? Egghead Raphael Sohenshine of the (all rise) Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State L.A.; League of Women Voters goo-goo Hirohama and ABC7 general assignment reporter Adrienne Alpert all are, no doubt, very nice people who are routinely kind to dogs and curtain crawlers. Not one, alas, is a professional political reporter who is actually, um, covering the Senate race.

So instead of benefiting from beat reporters who know what they’re talking about, and who might have asked at least one – one, for the love of God, one! – follow-up question, we were subjected to this trio of worthies earnestly reading her or his list of shallow questions conscientiously prepared in study hall. That’s not to mention moderator Brown, who seemed to think the 12 people who actually tuned into the affair did so to hear him bellow “your time is up,” any time either Kamala or Loretta came close to expressing a complete thought. Secret memo to Marc: the fans don’t come to the game to watch the umpires.

lorettabowsoutQueen of the platitude: Harris was alternately arrogant, condescending, weak-kneed and pandering. Some examples of her soaring rhetoric: On water: “We must have a conversation around this” (A conversation? Really? Hint, hint: California’s been having a “conversation” on water since before the Bear Flag Republic. No word yet on any progress). On fighting terrorism: “We have to be smart and tough” (now don’t get too far out on a limb there, General). On U.S.-Russia relations: (“I believe that Russia poses a serious threat to our country” (Ooh). Also: we hereby demand a moratorium on using the word “unpack” unless you’re talking about removing the contents of a suitcase. Big upside: she speaks in complete sentences.

Word salad Sanchez: For her part, Loretta was smarmy, scatterbrained, snarling and sarcastic. At least her self-dramatic digressions were long-winded. To her credit, Loretta did roll out an entertaining series of creative gestures to distract from her semi-coherent verbal frolics, at one point forming a little hand puppet mouth while saying that Kamala was all talk and no action, and, at another, shooing the air in her foe’s direction, like a fairy princess dismissing the wicked witch from her kingdom. Sadly for Sanchez, Harris totally clobbered her on her truly lousy House attendance record.

quentin-tarantino-gun-to-headBottom line: Neither candidate did anything that will change a race now shaped as a Harris win. As a practical matter, it wouldn’t matter anyway, since either of them would fill the Boxer space in the Senate of predictable, reflexive support and fist-shaking on behalf of every liberal Democratic interest group in the state. Good times, CTA, trial lawyers and SEIU!

What a pair.

Full disclosure: we watched this horror show with one eye focused on the Giants memorable wild card win over the Mets. However: the most recent PPIC poll reported that a fourth of likely voters said they might not cast ballots in this one. And, despite our long and impeccable citizenship records – we’re the only two people in California who actually show up for jury duty – we’re tempted to join them.

Pence Wins on Style; Kaine Speaks to Women Voters

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

kaineandpenceIndiana Gov. Mike Pence was the calmer, more polished performer in the vice presidential crosstalk fest debate with Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, whose snappish, caffeinated interruptions were likely off-putting to independent-minded viewers.

But the overly-aggressive Kaine fired off Actual Facts about Donald Trump’s outrages which Pence never defended. Worse, Pence denied that either Trump or he had ever said things that are fully documented. On video.

Amid all the talk about Syria, nuclear weapons, taxes, immigration and more, only one issue in the debate spoke to a group of voters that is in play – suburban women – who heard Kaine ask why Trump and Pence cannot trust women to make their own choice on abortion and Pence reply that the right to life cannot be violated. Period.

angrywomanWhat women want This is what we at Calbuzz call a threshold issue: for many women voters, regardless of party affiliation, once a candidate tells them they cannot decide for themselves whether they can control their own bodies, they don’t even hear what the candidate says about Syria, nuclear weapons, taxes or immigration.

If anything “moved the needle,” as the TV pundits like to say, it will be what suburban women in Pennsylvania, Colorado, Florida and North Carolina heard about choice: Clinton and Kaine trust women; Trump and Pence don’t.

Which is why Clinton, right after the debate, tweeted out: “We support Roe v Wade. We support the constitutional right of American women to make their own decision about pregnancy.”

Little of the debate will long be remembered. Vice presidential debates don’t do much to affect the vote for president. Even when Lloyd Bentsen smacked down Dan Quayle, telling him “You’re no Jack Kennedy,” he and his running mate, Michael Dukakis were defeated by George H.W. Bush and Quayle.

So while Pence made the smoother, more stylish TV performance and did himself a lot of good with the conservative – and especially evangelical – base, Kaine’s unanswered challenge to him to defend Trump’s attacks on Miss Universe, on Mexicans, on a federal judge, on women, on the disabled, on John McCain, and others will gnaw at Trump and Pence in the days to come.

For us, this was the most crucial exchange in the debate – as far as affecting voters. It began with a discussion of how religion affects the candidates’ thinking and decisions as public officials:

kaineindebateKAINE: I try to practice my religion in a devout way and follow the teachings of my church and my personal life. But I do not believe in this nation — a first amendment nation where we do not raise any religion over the other and we allow people to worship as they please — that the doctrines of any one religion should be mandated for everyone. 

For me the hardest struggle in my faith life was the Catholic Church is against the death penalty and so I… was governor of a state — the state law said there was death penalty for crimes that the jury determined to be heinous. So I had to grapple with that. When I was running for governor — of attacked pretty strongly because my position on the death penalty. 

But I looked to the voters of Virginia and I said look is my religion — I’m not going to change my religious practice to get one vote, but I know how to take an oath to uphold the law, and if you elect me I will uphold law. And I was elected and I did.

pence debatePENCE: (M)y Christian faith became real for me when I made a personal decision for Christ when I was a freshman in college. And I have tried to live that out — every day of my life since. With my wife at my side, we have followed a calling into public service where we have tried to keep faith with the values that we cherish. 

And with regard to when I struggle, I appreciate and I have a great deal of respect for the senator and his sincere faith. I truly do. But for me, I would tell you — the sanctity of life proceeds out of the belief that ancient principle where God says before you were formed in the womb I knew you, and so for my first time in public life, I sought to stand with great compassion for the sanctity of life. 

The state of Indiana is also — sought to make sure we expand alternatives and healthcare counseling for women — non- abortion alternatives. I’m also pleased with the fact we are well on our way in Indiana to becoming most pro- adoption state in America. I think you’ll be pro-life you should be pro- adoption. But what I cannot understand is with Hillary Clinton and now the senator at her side — his — to support a practice like partial birth abortion — and to hold to the view — I know Senator you hold pro-life views personally, but the very idea that a child that is almost born into the world could still have their life taken from them is just something to me. I cannot have conscious about a party that supports that. And you have historically opposed taxpayer funding of abortion — but Clinton wants to repeal the long-standing provision in the law where we said we would not use taxpayer dollars to fund abortion. So for me, my faith informs my life. I tried to spend time on my knees every day. But it all for me begins with cherishing the dignity the worth the value of every human life.

KAINE: This is a fundamental question. Hillary and I are both people out of religious backgrounds — her Methodist church experience was formative for her as a public servant. But we really feel like you should live fully and with enthusiasm with the commands of your faith — but it is not the role of the public servant to mandate that for everybody else. 

So let’s talk about abortion and choice. Let’s talk about that. We support Roe versus Wade. We support the constitutional right of American women to consult their own conscience, their own support of a partner or their own minister, but make their own decision about pregnancy. That is something we trust American women to do. And we do not think that women should be punished as Donald Trump said they should be for making the decision to have an abortion.

The Governor wants to repeal Roe versus Wade. He said he wants to put it on the ash heap of history, and our young people in the audience were not even born when this was decided. This is pretty important: before Roe versus Wade states could pass criminal laws to do just that — to punish women if they made the choice to terminate a pregnancy. I think you should live your moral values but the last thing the very last thing that the government should do is have laws that would punish women who make reproductive choices. And that is the fundamental difference between a Clinton/Kaine ticket and a Trump/Pence ticket.

reagancowboyhatSt. Ronald cited One other comment by Kaine might well have struck home with moderate Republicans and independents.

“Ronald Reagan said something really interesting about nuclear proliferation back in the 1980s,” Kaine said. “He said the problem with nuclear proliferation is that some fool or maniac could trigger a catastrophic event. And I think that’s who Governor Pence’s running mate is. Exactly who President Reagan warned us about.  ”

That was a low blow, Pence replied with disgust, clearly not happy that Kaine had called his running mate a maniac.

Hey, if the shoe fits . . .

 Some random afterthoughts While Calbuzz (and other analysts) thought Pence looked better in the debate in terms of his demeanor, a CNN focus group overwhelmingly thought Kaine won the debate.

blazingsaddles03Maybe, in part, that was because Pence damn near broke the internet when he accused Kaine of “whiping out that Mexican thing again.”

Or maybe it was because, as Vox observed, Pence never answered at least seven charges against Trump that Kaine accurately cited including his not paying taxes, fat shaming Alicia Machado (the former Miss Universe), birtherism, denigrating John McCain and urging the spread of nuclear weapons.