The attacks on Michael Bloomberg came early and often at Wednesday’s debate in Las Vegas, but none of them, of course, touched on his infamous “kill it” comment to a pregnant subordinate. No, the party of abortion at all stages wasn’t going to touch that one. Instead, Elizabeth Warren focused on Bloomberg’s thoughts about “horse-faced lesbians” and “fat broads.”
Bloomberg has paid advisers millions of dollars to prepare him for just such moments, but he still acted like he was answering the challenges for the first time. He came off as cold and flat-footed — the unlikeable technocrat trying woodenly to make himself palatable to a left-wing audience with half-hearted answers.
It wasn’t until late in the debate that he seemed to loosen up a little bit and hit Sanders with a zinger about being a socialist millionaire with three homes. “What a country,” said Bloomberg. Of course, that didn’t go down well either, since the Democrats don’t think much of America. One would never know that the American economy is thriving from these Democratic gloomfests, where the candidates never feel slightest compunction to grapple with positive economic indices under Trump. Talk about an out-of-touch party — its rhetoric befits the Great Depression, not an economy in which the stock market spikes as unemployment plunges.
Bloomberg was the only candidate who came close to acknowledging how ridiculous the Democrats sound as they debate the virtues of socialism. But that comment elicited a groan, too.
Bloomberg would have done better had he continued to mock his opponents in that vein. But he couldn’t decide which direction to go in the debate. He spent much of it getting tangled up in half-baked apologies designed to improve his standing with progressives. His answer on stop-and-frisk lacked all coherence, because he didn’t have the guts to acknowledge that it actually worked and that it is not inherently racist.
Through much of the debate, Bloomberg was neither on offense nor defense. He was just there. He had plenty of opportunities to turn his fire on Bernie, but he didn’t. Bernie escaped the evening relatively unscathed. Unlike Bloomberg, who disappeared for stretches of the debate in a stance of stolid aloofness on the side, Bernie delivered his absurd polemics with passion and fended off attacks quickly from the center of the stage. Biden was in the middle of the stage too, but strained to stay in the middle of the debate. No one seemed to care much about his presence — a foreshadowing of another loss in Nevada.
Warren was lively but directed most of her attacks at Bloomberg, not Bernie. She seemed afraid to anger his fans, evidently hoping to scoop them up later. Warren was throwing haymakers even at Klobuchar and Buttigieg, whose only real contribution to the evening, besides his tiresome holier-than-thou patter, was his unshaven face. At one point he resorted to bragging about his poverty. Why, he is the only non-millionaire on stage! That was too much for Biden, who chipped in that he was the poorest man in the Senate.
Meanwhile, an imperious and disengaged Bloomberg noted that a billionaire like him can’t be expected to do his taxes on TurboTax in an evening. He alternated between chalking his fortune up to “luck” and testily defending it as the product of “hard work.”
The debate was a mess, full of tedious and forgettable exchanges. The Democrats have dug a significant hole for themselves, and it remains very unclear whether or not any coherent, electable candidate can emerge from it. Once again, Donald Trump comes off as the real winner of the debate. The Dems are too preoccupied with fantasyland politics — “existential threats” and the like — to challenge Trump on grounds of common sense.
For all their pathetic vying for attention from the unremarkable moderators, the members of the field didn’t exactly come off as a robust lot. Bloomberg and Bernie were reduced at one point to bickering about their stents. Bloomberg’s greatest expenditure of energy was rolling his eyes as Warren rattled on about non-disclosure agreements, a moment that won’t exactly endear him to the feminists within the party.
It looks like Bloomberg really will have to buy this election. His gift for retail politics is nil.