MSNBC Panelists Trash CNN Moderators; ‘WWE’-Style Should Be Tossed ‘In the River’

After having hosted the first set of 2020 Democratic presidential debates, MSNBC was relegated to only post-debate analysis and some panelists used this format to, without using names, bash CNN moderators Dana Bash, Don Lemon, and Jake Tapper for their debate setup being a “WWE”-style slugfest that should be “throw[n] in the river” for the betterment of candidates and voters.

Lyin’ Brian Williams and Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson took the first stabs (which you can read about here), but MSNBC political analyst and MoveOn.org spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre followed suit. 

 

 

Jean-Pierre stated just after midnight that “it turned out to being [sic] Warren and Bernie versus everybody else and I think a lot of that was just how the debate was set up” because “it was set up to be a disagreement and...for all the moderates to really go after the two front-runners.”

“If I am Biden and his people, I will take notice to that for tomorrow because that's what I — is this going to be how it's going to play out for Biden tomorrow as well,” she added, which All In host Chris Hayes agreed with, cynically stating that CNN will “set that up as much as possibly clearly.”

Former Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) ended up being the one voice truly defending CNN with Hayes briefly asserting later that, at the end of the day, Tuesday was a case of “how a party talks to itself” by working out its differences (click “expand”):

But I do think one thing was very clear tonight is that the people that watched the last debates they know the people that got any traction. You could argue none of them got any traction from the last debate, but anyone who did get traction was somebody who attacked somebody. So it wasn't just the moderators that were trying to set up okay, go after them, let's have this grudge match. It really was I think especially for the people at one percent or two percent, if they weren't swinging fences tonight in trying to go after somebody, they really aren't going to make it's next stage.

Justice Democrats spokesperson Waleed Shahid hung onto a previous point by former Clinton aide Philippe Reines about the moderators:

I think Philippe is making an interesting point about the forum of the debate and the tactical form that maybe the moderators just didn't land it for — like in terms of how they speak, but in terms of just the content of what they're saying, there isn't a real governing vision for the Democratic party, for America that they're offering, that's akin to how bold Elizabeth Warren and clear Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are being about what they want government to achieve. 

The real doozy came during the 1:00 a.m. Eastern hour when Esquire writer-at-large Charlie Pierce brought some late-night humor to MSNBC. He told late-night host Joy Reid that he could see Warren debating Trump, but if it were the President and Sanders, “singularity might be — might be created there that swallows the entire world, but I mean, being stuck at the worst 19th hole at the worst golf club in David Jolly's old district.”

When it came to the moderators, however, Pierce didn’t mince words (click “expand”):

But, you know, I think what you saw tonight, and I think that somebody should take this format before tomorrow night and, like, throw it in the river because it was an awful — it was an awful format and, you know, I think it allowed us to get a little giddy about people who aren't polling at one percent and at the same time, it was sort of a WWE thing. I mean, you knew going in that it was going to be Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and the “moderates” and by the way, just as an side, how come nobody's a conservative Democrat? How come it's always progressives and moderates? John Delaney's not a moderate Democrat. He's a Gerald Ford Republican. 

Pierce also lampooned the supposed moderates in the field, saying they made no impact because “these are people who are polling at zero percent” with “their margin of error [being] negative five” and that such candidates like John Delaney won’t be “remember[ed]...ten minutes after he drops out.”

Before MSNBC closed up shop for the night, Jean-Pierre doubled down on her feelings about the moderators, asserting that the debate “setup” “was kind of all over the place,” but Wednesday could yield more of the same either between the candidates or just “Biden versus Harris.”

To see the relevant transcript from MSNBC’s post-debate analysis on July 30 and 31, click “expand.”

MSNBC’s Decision 2020: Post-Debate Analysis
July 31, 2019
12:08 a.m. Eastern

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, just leaning in on Beto a little bit there, listen, was a lot of hype around him. He raised $80 million. He was running against Ted Cruz, one of the most disliked U.S. Senators in the Senate. It was — it was an easier match-up and you're right. He did not have a reason as to why I was running for president, which was the big, big flaw that he had coming into this, saying I'm born to do it is not a reason to do it and also this is 24 people. A very talented, very diverse group of people.

CHRIS HAYES: Yeah.

WILLIAMS: It’s exhausting. 

JEAN-PIERRE: That — it's exhausting and it's very difficult to do. Look, with — with tonight and with the moderates versus the progressive, everybody thought it was going to be Bernie versus Warren and it turned out to being [sic] Warren and Bernie versus everybody else and I think a lot of that was just how the debate was set up. It was set up to be a disagreement and it was set up for — for all the moderates to really go after the two front-runners and so you just saw that the way it played out. If I am Biden and his people, I will take notice to that for tomorrow because that's what I — is this going to be how it's going to play out for Biden —

HAYES: Yes.

JEAN-PIERRE: — tomorrow as well? 

HAYES: They're going to set that up as much as possible clearly. 

JEAN-PIERRE: Exactly and so that would — that was the flag that if I’m Biden's folks I would be paying attention to that. 

WILLIAMS: And Senator, to Chris Hayes's point we love a category and we love — we do research based on categories, we place people in categories. Often we know this. Voters choose who they want to have a beer with.

CLAIRE MCCASKILL: Yeah, and it drives people crazy when we talk about likability because it diminishes the seriousness of it. It is, you know, falling into the trap, but I think it's hard to not argue that there are intangibles. Don't call it likability. There are intangibles —

CHRIS HAYES: Political talent. 

MCCASKILL:  That really -- who touches people? Who connects with people? The trust factor. But I do think one thing was very clear tonight is that the people that watched the last debates they know the people that got any traction. You could argue none of them got any traction from the last debate, but anyone who did get traction was somebody who attacked somebody. 

HAYES: Yeah. Right.

EUGENE ROBINSON: Yeah.

MCCASKILL: So it wasn't just the moderators that were trying to set up okay, go after them, let's have this grudge match. It really was I think especially for the people at one percent or two percent, if they weren't swinging fences tonight —

ROBINSON: No, they had to. 

HAYES: Yeah.

MCCASKILL: — in trying to go after somebody, they really aren't going to make it's next stage.

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Eugene Robinson, lik,,able man.

MCCASKILL: Very likable man. 

ROBINSON: Well, yeah, it was all about policy and the attacks were based on policy and that's part of what voters take into account.

HAYES: Yes, yes.

ROBINSON: But it's just a part of it. You know, I mean, and I think when voters think about policy they don't think about the entire 48-page platform, you know, chunk on Medicare for all and how it gets paid for over X number of years. The — the framing of the issue, the question, are you taking something away from me? Are you making things better is — will there be more money in my pocket? Will I have more coverage? Will I pay less for prescription drugs? Those sorts of things and — and — and those specifics can — can also become very important factors in an election, but — but they're simple and they're understandable and they're not, you know, the deep intricacies of — of — of boring policy documents, frankly.

HAYES: But I will say that to your point about the substantive nature of it, I think both debates — I mean, these are fights the party is having, like, this is a big fight. 

WILLIAMS: Oh, we can hear them. Yeah.

HAYES: And it's not about stupid stuff. It's not about — you said this yesterday.

MCCASKILL: This is hard stuff, yeah.

HAYES: This is how a party talks to itself. It's how the democratic process, the primary process works. These are different visions. They have different visions of what should happen in the health care system. They are also I think genuinely felt. Like, I think the people who are arguing for their positions on the stage last night believe in their positions. They're not pretending to believe in them. They represent different ways of thinking about health care or trade or immigration and so to me this is — this is what a primary should do. It's the way a political coalition wrestles out these positions.

WILLIAMS: I've said this before and I'll say it again. This is just a political party standing in front of a country asking them to love them and along those lines tonight the vagary of the random drawing gave us a stage of nothing but white folks and look at the week we have had in our public policy and our media discussion and the discussions we've had with friends and family driven by the President, his attacks on Baltimore, his attacks on yet another member of Congress of color. Race did come up on that stage tonight.

(....)

12:40 a.m. Eastern

REID: But what did you make of all these people all hitting Sanders and Warren? Do you think any of them did better at hitting back?

WALEED SHAHID: I think Philippe is making an interesting point about the forum of the debate and the tactical form that maybe the moderators just didn't land it for — like in terms of how they speak, but in terms of just the content of what they're saying, there isn't a real governing vision for the Democratic party, for America that they're offering, that's akin to how bold Elizabeth Warren and clear Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are being about what they want government to achieve. 

(....)

1:22 a.m. Eastern

REID: Joining us now is Charlie Pierce, writer at large for Esquire magazine, one of the most fun people to talk about anything, including politics. Alright, Charlie, you watched from — you’re there in Detroit. Give us your impressions of — who stood out to you as someone you could see on stage with Donald Trump? 

CHARLIE PIERCE: Well, I think obviously — obviously Senator Warren did. I mean, I don't know what would happen if it was Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump on the same stage. I think we might — singularity might be — might be created there that swallows the entire world. But I mean, being stuck at the worst 19th hole at the worst golf club in David Jolly's old district. But, you know, I think what you saw tonight, and I think that somebody should take this format before tomorrow night and, like, throw it in the river because it was an awful — it was an awful format and, you know, I think it allowed us to get a little giddy about people who aren't polling at one percent and at the same time, it was sort of a WWE thing. I mean, you knew going in that it was going to be Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and the “moderates” and by the way, just as an side, how come nobody's a conservative Democrat? How come it's always progressives and moderates?

REID: Right.

PIERCE: John Delaney's not a moderate Democrat. He's a Gerald Ford Republican. 

REID: Of the moderates, just to zoom in on them for a minute, I counted one, two, three, four, five, you can say six if you include Buttigieg who's more on the moderate side than — he's sort of in the middle but he's kind of moderate. They have to narrow that down. They can't all go into battle to be the moderate versus Biden, so did any of them versus each other — as you said, yes, John Delaney was the most conservative. Steve Bullock, we've just seen them for the first time. Did any of them jump off the page for you?

PIERCE: No. Absolutely not. These are people who are polling at zero percent. You know, their margin of error is negative five. I thought the people — and I felt — the people I felt worse for were the people sort of in the middle, which is

REID: Yeah.

PIERCE: Amy Klobuchar and Beto O’Rourke. I thought Pete Buttigieg did a great -- I thought he had the best debate he's had. We've only had two. But I thought he was much more commanding than he was in Miami. But at the same time he's caught in this middle ground too and I think his best answer was his answer on you know, look, they're going to call us far left socialists no matter what we do —

REID: Yeah.

PIERCE: — we might as well go with what we believe in. 

REID: Yeah, lastly, just really quickly, there were 38 minutes I counted, 39 minutes on health care. Did you feel like the fight, particularly that John Delaney was taking to Warren and — and Bernie Sanders, harmed the overall issue just because of the way it was framed and the way it played out, harmed the issue of Medicare for all? 

PIERCE: No because nobody's going to remember John Delaney ten minutes after he drops out. I mean — I mean — I mean, the debate is going to go on. It's obviously — an obvious line of attack, you know, for the Republicans —

REID: Yeah.

PIERCE: — against whoever runs for the Democrats. 

REID: Yeah. 

PIERCE: But the impact of John Delaney on this election is going to be — you know, it's going to poll at zero. 

REID: You need to come out of your shell, Charlie Pierce, but we appreciate you trying tonight. Thank you very much, Charlie Pierce. Appreciate you.

(....)

1:54 a.m. Eastern

JEAN-PIERRE: So, it’s interesting because it is not just the candidates, it's the setup of the debate. If you look at the debate tonight the way that it was — it was done, it was kind of all over the place, right? It was set up to be Warren and — and Bernie versus the moderates. 

REID: Yeah 

JEAN PIERRE: So if I am Biden advisers and I'm looking at this I would be really concerned about how this debate tonight will look like. Will it — will it be set up in a way where everybody's coming —

REID: Coming — yeah.

JEAN-PIERRE: — after me or is it going to be Biden versus Harris? So I — so I would be really — if I'm them I'd be like how are we going to work this? Because we already see it's going to be going after people. They're setting up a situation where they want to go — want folks to go after the front-runners. So, I think that’s — that's really a key important part is how is it being set up not just the candidates.

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