You can definitely tell the network that’s given us both Diane Sawyer and Scandal was behind the latest Democratic presidential primary debate, held in New Hampshire. 

Given that it was the first debate since voters have started voting, many expected the candidates to come for each other’s necks a lot more than in past debates. That didn’t really happen, though I do want to salute Amy Klobuchar because her contempt for Pete Buttigieg is pure, and to be fair, justified. 

“We have a newcomer in the White House,” Klobuchar said. “Look where it got us.”

She doesn’t seem to fancy Tom Steyer’s equally unqualified self being in her purview on the debate stage either, but that Pete really does appear to bug her. 

Speaking of the former mayor, he manages to talk at length but says very little. It is a sight to behold to see a millennial candidate more or less constantly speak like the presidential candidate equivalent of an inspirational word meme on Instagram. This man says virtually nothing so much of the time. And it almost sounded as if he was trying to even speak the way Obama did in debates. 

These people and their Vanilla Latte Obama dreams for Buttigieg are delusional. See his response to a question about police arrests going up after he became mayor of South Bend. Buttigieg might one day become a formidable politician, but the fact is, no matter how much empty fancy jargon he can bark out on command, whenever the issue of race comes up, he flounders, exposing him and his candidacy for the fluke that it is.

But yeah, good luck with that dream. 

I wish I had heard less of him and more of Andrew Yang.  I found Yang endearing when he said we need “to disentangle economic value and human value.” Not so much the invocation of Dr. King, but yes, Yang is his best when he speaks to the issues that got him to run for president like automation, along with other non-traditional topics politicians don’t often introduce on stage — in his case, advocating for safe injection sights. Unfortunately, Yang spoke the least amount of time. As the only nonwhite candidate on stage, everyone should have known better. (Also: thank you, Yang, for thinking of us artists.)

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Elizabeth Warren, like Andrew Yang, spoke eloquently on the need to tackle corruption in government given how it directly impacts so many facets of our lives, but she didn’t speak as much as she has in previous debates. One imagines if she felt compelled to simply insert herself the way the (now junior varsity) billionaire Tom Steyer constantly did, but elected not to — perhaps over fears of the potential gendered reaction from her.  

Now that Tom Steyer is a smooth cackle, he reminds me of a person who used to post about Basketball Wives on Lipstick Alley then ends up as a cast member on Basketball Wives. Or if that reference is too niche, Tom Steyer basically acts like a fan of politics who paid his way to get on stage and stir some mess like a Real Housewife. And when he wasn’t doing that, he was giving notes to the moderators.

To Steyer’s credit, he had a point that race had yet to be discussed in the debate. 

Still, why is he there? 

As for “Brother Bernie,” he was hollering about the rights of the working class and swatting away Joe Biden’s criticism of Medicare for All and Buttigieg’s mouthing off a bunch of nothing with ease. These are all compliments. Seriously, Bernie is Bernie and as long as he’s consistent, it works. 

I have been harsh on Joe Biden’s performance on the debates because they have been so bad. On this one, not so much.

In fact, I felt Biden made very good use of being a pa-pa by ordering everyone in the audience to stand up and applaud Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who was fired by the National Security Council and escorted off of the White House grounds on Friday. Vindman testified in Trump’s impeachment hearing. And he, like Klobuchar, and probably everyone else, can’t stand Buttigieg. Will that be enough to save his campaign, which is struggling for money?

Not sure, but you could tell each of the candidates were all thinking about South Carolina because it was the first time so many of them kept repeatedly bringing up Black people. It’s nice to be remembered to exist. Let’s see how long it lasts.

Until next debate, which will apparently feature Michael Bloomberg, the richest of them all who has managed to have the rules changed for his benefit.