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Raise your hand if you want to look silly and gift-wrap an easy attack ad on your demeaned self for Donald Trump for the fall of 2020.

That's what NBC moderators essentially asked three times of the ever-pliable Democratic presidential candidates in those debate sessions last week.

From his grave, Fred Thompson probably smirked.

As a bored Republican presidential candidate in 2008, appearing at an Iowa fair sockless and hiding out in a shaded tent because it was hot, Thompson huffily balked the third or fourth time debate moderators called for a show of hands on whether the candidates had a simple "yes" or "no" on something or other.

Fred--lawyer, actor and Tennessee senator too cool for politics--said he wasn't going to do it.

He said it looked silly. He said he wasn't in the first grade. He said questions required words, context, and that the moderators could leave him out of any hand-raising, though he'd be glad to go into detail if the moderators liked.

Joe Biden would have been better off channeling Fred on Thursday night.

Doddering Joe's debate performance becomes steadily more awful the more you review it.

To hand-raising directives, Biden twice looked around at the other candidates to see what they were doing, then meekly raised a finger or a wrist. You give that signal in the Situation Room and the generals will wonder if you want only to fire a couple of duds at the Iranians.

On whether the candidates favored doing away with private health insurance in implementing Medicare for all--a position that would beat a Democrat next year--Kamala Harris raised her hand. But she said after the debate that she'd heard a different question. She said she'd thought the query was whether candidates--individually, personally--would give up their own health plans for Medicare for all.

I can sort of see how she might have gotten that idea.

But if she'd had the right spunk and deftness for the occasion--if she was the serious contender for president she presumes to be--then Harris would have interjected that the question was unclear and that she couldn't give any hand signal until the specifics of the inquiry were clarified.

How about if she had said: "Lester," meaning Holt of NBC, "I'll give you a straight answer just as soon as you give a straight question."

Boom. That would have been four points for her in the polls, all taken from nervous Joe two podiums down sticking an index finger tentatively above his midsection to demonstrate the depth of his command and commitment.

Beating Trump is entirely too epic an objective for Democrats to tolerate a presumed best vehicle who would blunder through a debate the way Joe blundered Thursday evening.

He committed front-runner malpractice.

As I wrote Sunday, Elizabeth Warren won the first night and Harris the second, although Alex­andria Ocasio-Cortez showed up both on The Late Show minutes after the first debate heat ended Wednesday evening.

But, more broadly, the real winner was Trump.

The Democrat presumed to be Trump's greatest threat was revealed instead as weak and confused. The other likeliest opponents ... well, one of them, Harris, made a bold and successful primary play against Biden, but used a losing retro-1970s issue--school busing--to do it.

And the other, Warren, raised her hand high to say, danged straight, she wanted to do away with private health insurance for single-payer Medicare for all.

She did it because her first assignment is to wrest the populist left from Bernie Sanders, and Bernie is out there ranting and raving about doing away with private health insurance. Warren finds herself needing to be as maniacal as he on this point.

But nearly every progressive, successful democratic socialist system in the world that has national health insurance permits supplemental private insurance coverage for out-of-pocket costs and/or secondary insurance policies for dental and vision care and optional procedures such as cosmetic surgery.

In some democratic socialist jurisdictions, you can buy extra insurance for private hospital rooms.

I n today's America, Democrats need to counter Trumpism with the positive notion of a Medicare alternative for everybody, not a restrictive mandate on anyone.

Government shouldn't kill an industry. It should reform an industry and let the dinosaurs die a natural death.

To carry into the general election a position to do away with all of private health insurance is to take an advantage, the health-care issue, and make it an albatross.

It's to tell everyone happily on a company group plan to become unhappy.

It's to worry seniors already on Medicare, most of whom enjoy their supplemental coverage.

The far-left economic populist position that private health insurance runs up costs unnecessarily and favors the rich perhaps will have its day.

It could be well after Trump's second term and when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is fully grown.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 07/02/2019

Print Headline: Hold back on the silly


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  • mozarky2
    July 2, 2019 at 8:26 a.m.

    Speaking of Nazis and Reds, here's Kurt Schlichter in yesterday's Townhall:
    I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling pretty good about the election after last week’s two-day Democratic clusterfark, and the president has got to be feeling pretty good too, since he just won it. Oh, we have 17 more months of media pimping of whichever commie candidate is currently the least embarrassing, but the debates made it very clear that Trump is going to be POTUS until Ric Grenell is on the victorious GOP ticket in 2024.
    In the Dems’ defense, they do have an uphill battle. The economy is on fire, we’ve dodged all the new wars our garbage elite has proposed, Mueller (who went unmentioned) delivered only humiliation, and all 723 Democrats running are geebos. But say what you will, they are a diverse bunch in every way except thought – among the weirdos, losers and mutations onstage were a fake Indian, a furry, a guy so dumb he quotes Che in Miami, a raving weather cultist, America’s shrill first wife, a distinctly non-fabulous gay guy, T-Bone’s homie, whatever the hell Andrew Yang is, and Stevie Nicks.
    Exactly who, outside of Manhattan and Scat Francisco, think Americans are dying to stop even our feeble enforcement of the border, make illegal immigration not illegal, never send illegals home once they get here and – think about this – take our tax money to give these foreigners who shouldn’t even be here in the first place better free health care than our vets get? That should go well in places like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. I eagerly await Salena Zito’s interview with a bunch of construction workers at a diner near Pittsburg who tell her, “It really bugs me, Lou and Joe here that those people coming into the country illegally aren’t getting free heath care on our dime. We all want to work an extra shift so we can give it to ‘em. We need a president who finally puts foreigners first! Also, we all agree we ought to give up our deer rifles because people in Cory Booker’s neighborhood can’t stop shooting each other.”
    By the way, Kamala’s heart-felt plea about busing in that racist hot-bed of Jim Crow, Berkeley, was especially amusing to me. I’m two months younger than her, I grew up across the San Francisco Bay from the future Not-Mrs. Wille Brown, and I was bused too. No one cared. It was no biggie in the Bay Area. You weren’t exactly marching to Selma, you goof.
    Of course, if Trump doesn’t win in 2020, we’re in for chaos. From Willie Brown’s Girlfriend’s pledge to rule by decree to Beto, who is a furry, demanding we allow people dressed like cartoon foxes into our bathrooms, to Swalwell wanting to go all Nagasaki on Americans who insist on that inconvenient Second Amendment thing, a victory by any of them would require you set your futures to “Dystopian.”
    (excerpt-read more at Townhall)

  • mozarky2
    July 2, 2019 at 8:28 a.m.

    Here's Kamala on forced busing:
    “I support busing. Listen, the schools of America are as segregated, if not more segregated, today than when I was in elementary school. Where states fail to do their duty to ensure equality of all people and in particular where states create or pass legislation that created inequality, there’s no question that the federal government has a role and a responsibility to step up”.
    Kamala just lost the rich lefties she needs for campaign funds. If there's one thing they won't stand for is the education of their spoiled snowflake children. No way they will support busing their little ones to minority-majority schools or bringing poor kids of color into their own schools.

  • mozarky2
    July 2, 2019 at 8:29 a.m.

    Very interesting "poll":
    Political betting is currently illegal in the U.S., but is alive and well in other markets. In fact, US-Bookies predicted via press release Tuesday that over $100 million will be spent in the 2020 race, “making it the biggest non-sports betting event of all time.”
    The front runner for Democrats, no nobody’s surprise, is Joe Biden, with a 16.4 percent chance of becoming president. This is double Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg’s 8.2 percent. Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders come in at 6 percent, and O’Rourke leads the also-rans at 2.2 percent.
    Interestingly, President Trump has a 45.2 percent chance of winning a second term, US-Bookies says. I wondered if this statistic had something to do with the fact that Trump is already the de facto GOP nominee, and a company spokesperson told me that yes, indeed, that was the case. However, even in a straight-up battle with Biden, Trump still enjoys 51.2 to 48.8 percent lead over the former vice president, the rep told me.
    Rather than a percentage lead, however, “these numbers are an expression of probability of each candidate winning 2020, derived from the global betting markets (worth $100m or more), where investors are asked to make an accurate prediction as to who they think will win the race,” the spokesman said. “The money wagered on each candidate dictates the odds and therefore the percent chance, based on simple laws of supply and demand. In 2016, some election simulators and polls gave Trump under a 2% chance of success, while the betting market comfortably gave the president anywhere between a 25% and 40% chance of success.”
    I’ll leave you with this from the US-Bookies press release:
    "But as many turn to the odds to get an accurate picture of the Dem candidates' varying prospects, the message from the bookmakers remains crystal clear: there has never been a better chance of another 4 years of Trump in the White House.”

  • mozarky2
    July 2, 2019 at 8:31 a.m.

    This is a monthly posting of Twitter follower growth for the past month to see which 2020 presidential candidates attracted the most new followers in JUNE 2019!
    We just had our first round of Democrat debates and front runner Joe Biden had his a** handed to him. Not that anybody distinguished themselves all that much, other than to show their bitterness towards President Trump, who is rapidly proving to be the best and most effective president of the modern era.
    Why follow Twitter follower growth?
    Good question. During the 2016 campaign, as Trump was getting bashed again over his use of Twitter, I decided that I would start tracking how many followers Trump, and his opponents were attracting. As the summer of 2015 progressed, I saw that former front runners like Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz were seeing less Twitter momentum as Trump climbed ever higher.
    Trump was beating Hillary in Twitter follower growth month after month.
    Slow Joe Biden only gained 29,227 Twitter followers in the month of June. This places him at #12 out of my Top 20. Incumbent President Trump earned over 837,000 new followers during that same period!
    And, the #2 Twitter follower getter is Democrat Andrew Yang. You don't hear that in the mainstream media, do you? During June, Yang garnered just over 214,000 new Twitter followers. It seems Andrew Yang is now the Democratic front-runner.
    On Andrew Yang's heels is Warren with 171,000 new followers and fading media darling Pete Buttgieg with 122,000 new followers.
    It bears repeating that Slow Joe only garnered 29,227 new followers. Folks, Joe Biden is not going to be the Democrat nominee. There is no enthusiasm for Slow Joe.
    I was surprised to see that Kamala Harris wasn't further up in the rankings. She picked up close to 40,000 new followers but I expected much better after her spirited, albeit nutty, debate performance.
    Finally Bill De Blasio snuck into my Top 20. He picked up 6,800 new followers in June. Which pretty much tells me that internet access has apparently been granted to mental institutions around our great nation.
    By the way, I am now tracking 62 presidential candidates. Yep, I even track the total nut jobs like Vermin Supreme and Mark Cuban.
    I should also mention that Trump has some purported Republicans run against him. Let me tell you how they are faring. The drunken Bill Weld picked up 2,552 new followers in June and is number 29 on my list. The total loser John Kasich LOST 688 followers and is #60 on my list. Then you have Bob Corker who LOST 1,054 followers during June to hit #61 out of 62.
    Last place went to the obnoxious billiionaire Mark Cuban - he lost 4,973 followers.
    Finally, remember Beto O'Rourke? Well he is #59 on my list, just ahead of John Kasich, losing 563 followers. Vermin Supreme has better Twitter follower growth than any of these guys. When you are a presidential campaign and you are LOSING followers, you might as well just go home.

    July 2, 2019 at 9:09 a.m.

    That poor granddaughter.

  • GeneralMac
    July 2, 2019 at 9:23 a.m.

    A three word response that is a personal attack is par for ARMNAR.

  • Jfish
    July 2, 2019 at 9:32 a.m.

    Good column John, I could not believe some of the statements about illegal immigration. I have always appreciated Bernie's honesty, but has he really pushed a guy like Biden that far to the left? I predict Biden will come out swinging in the next debate, the question will then be, will the moderate democrats get behind him and take back their party? What was so bad about Biden's comments on busing? I thought he had been proven right over the years. Poor little Kamala, she was so mistreated that she has only been able to achieve the position of US senator.

  • GeneralMac
    July 2, 2019 at 9:43 a.m.

    Kamala Harris was quoted......." I am Black and proud of it "

    Yet she has a hard time getting the support of Black voters ?

  • Packman
    July 2, 2019 at 10:03 a.m.

    There's a lot of water to go under the bridge between now and November, 2020 and miscues by candidates now can be overcome. Although, JB is spot on about the losing Democrat platform that will be extremely difficult to win on in places like Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, and Michigan.
    My initial reaction from the second debate was the winners were Mayor Pete and Kamala Harris. But Harris' follow-up that she supports forced busing will cost her the general election, if she gets that far. Anyone recall the commercial Tommy Robinson did on the subject?
    As I recall it started with a young child standing alone on a country road just as daylight was breaking with a rooster crowing in the background. Suddenly, the stillness is broken by the distant rumbling of a yellow school bus. The bus slowly approaches and as the child climbs aboard the bus is empty except for the child and driver. The child may have even had a tear in their eye. The commercial was powerful and helped propel Robinson to a win. In Harris' rush to paint Joe Biden as a racist, she created a major problem for herself none existed before she opened her mouth.
    Moving toward November, 2020, don't be surprised if there are more and more self-inflicted wounds from democrats. And all they had to do was not be insane.
    Hey genmac - It's creepy armnar.

  • Waitjustaminute
    July 2, 2019 at 11:48 a.m.

    John hits the nail on the head. The other 'raise you hand' moment that will come back to haunt is when nearly all the candidates raised their hands in support of decriminalizing illegal immigration.