Saving Grace: MSNBC Lauds ‘Presidential’ Biden’s ‘Best Night’ ‘At the Top of His Game’

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MSNBC was a much better mood following Tuesday night’s 2020 Democratic presidential debate, expressing hope going forward because former Vice President Joe Biden “looked presidential,” “had his best night,” “had his act together,” and came across as “substantive.”

Further, the panel seemed giddy at the fact that socialist Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) finally faced more than an occasional jab and some boo’s, making for what they deemed not exactly his strongest performance.

 

 

The strongly anti-Bernie MSNBC host Chris Matthews got the first crack at analyzing the debate, employing “doodads,” and “had his act together down here, maybe cause he’s got more troops.”

The Hardball host then spent the rest of his first thoughts on Elizabeth Warren’s bizarre strategy, and hailing Pete Buttigieg for hammering Sanders on his radicalism (click “expand”):

I was not surprised, but I was taken again by Elizabeth Warren's assault on Mike Bloomberg. I don't know why she trained her guns on him, but we’ll talk to her later tonight. But boy, she went after him serious tonight about the NDAs, of course....I think she stymied his ability to perform well tonight. What else? Buttigieg very tough on Bernie tonight. He had a lot of good points.  He went after on the Castro stuff, very strong, which I was surprised nobody else did, saying you can't sell out the best side of the Castro in this country and win. I thought it was very strong. He was really ready to go. So figuring out the politics, I don't know what Warren is up to....She seems to be much more concerned about knocking Bloomberg out of the race than she is in taking on the front-runner, the clear front-runner now, Bernie Sanders. I don't know the politics there what she's doing there. Buttigieg has decided he's going to make his money — he's going to make his points now against Bernie, which is so interesting what he's up to. He is — he is playing for real right now and a very tough assault on Bernie....A lot of politics, intramurals, one on ones in some cases, man-to-man defense, if you will. A lot of it tonight, a lot of people targeting different enemies, different rivals. I thought it was very fascinating tonight — a good debate. 

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson concurred with Matthews, asserting that “Biden probably had his best debate” since “he was not just forceful, but he was substantive,” “a lot better,” and “strong...on foreign policy.”

Likewise, he opined that “Sanders did not seem to me to be quite at the top of his game tonight” and rather “a bit off” for his standards.

The pro-Biden and anti-Sanders conga line continued with University of Texas’s Victoria Defrancesco Soto, boasting that “Biden had a great night because he looked presidential” and especially on the coronavirus.

“[H]e talked about what he would do as president dealing with issues such as these. So for Biden, it wasn't just the foreign policy. It was also the presidentialism that he brought with it. It was the energy,” she added.

Last Word host Lawrence O’Donnell maintained that “[t]here is a future president on that stage” even though “[w]e’re not sure which one it’s going to be.” So not exactly a take instilling confidence.

Former Obama official Robert Gibbs brought up the rear, but stuck to the same talking points that Biden “definitely had a better debate” and “a good night to have a good night.”

On Sanders, Gibbs attempted to be more gentle in calling Sanders one of the debate’s losers, telling the panel that he “didn't have as strong a night” and was forced to realize that he had “a lot of pitchers” fired his way “not in the strike zone, but right at his head.”

And before going to the spin room, Robinson bashed Sanders for his fetish for the Castro regime: 

It's a terrible — it's an atrocious, repressive, awful government that, yes, increased the literacy rate in Cuba, but you ought to be able to get that sequence right, I think, because the bad very clearly outweighs the good and so if you express it the other way around, that's kind of not good.

To see the relevant transcript from MSNBC’s post-debate coverage on February 25, click “expand.”

MSNBC’s Decision 2020: Debate Analysis
February 25, 2020
10:08 p.m. Eastern

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well, you know, I thought that Biden had his best night. Maybe because he feels good about his chances down here. He's been talking them up for months that he's going to win South Carolina. I think he acted like it. He seemed to have a lot of homework, a lot of things, dodads he threw in tonight — threw in tonight I also thought something interesting. He seemed to have a cheering section tonight he never had before. There was a lot of blast, though, every time he said something that was reasonably good, there was a big reaction in the audience out here. I thought he had his act together down here, maybe cause he’s got more troops. I was not surprised, but I was taken again by Elizabeth Warren's assault on Mike Bloomberg. I don't know why she trained her guns on him, but we’ll talk to her later tonight. But boy, she went after him serious tonight about the NDAs, of course, not satisfied at all with what he's put out so far. Of course, going after red lining again, she hit him in two weak points again very hard. I think she stymied his ability to perform well tonight. What else? Buttigieg very tough on Bernie tonight. He had a lot of good points.  He went after on the Castro stuff, very strong, which I was surprised nobody else did, saying you can't sell out the best side of the Castro in this country and win. I thought it was very strong. He was really ready to go. So figuring out the politics, I don't know what Warren is up to. I'll find out tonight maybe. She seems to be much more concerned about knocking Bloomberg out of the race than she is in taking on the front-runner, the clear front-runner now, Bernie Sanders. I don't know the politics there what she's doing there. Buttigieg has decided he's going to make his money — he's going to make his points now against Bernie, which is so interesting what he's up to. He is — he is playing for real right now and a very tough assault on Bernie. Well, that's what I've seen tonight. A lot of politics, intramurals, one on ones in some cases, man-to-man defense, if you will. A lot of it tonight, a lot of people targeting different enemies, different rivals. I thought it was very fascinating tonight — a good debate. 

(....)

10:11 p.m. Eastern

EUGENE ROBINSON: They sort of packed the hall with their supporters who cheered at the appropriate times. I, too, agree with Chris. Biden probably had his best debate. He — he — he was not just forceful, but he was substantive. He is strong in every debate on foreign policy, I thought, and they spent a lot of time on foreign policy. 

BRIAN WILLIAMS: It was a good night for him to have that tonight. 

ROBINSON: Exactly. Bloomberg could not have done worse than the last debate. In fact, he did a lot better, I thought and who knew — Bernie Sanders did not seem to me to be quite at the top of his game tonight. He just seemed a little bit — a little bit off. Maybe that was subdued for Bernie Sanders a little bit. I don't know how much this is going to impact — there are two audiences. There’s a big national audience, but there’s a very specific audience of voters in South Carolina that they're all playing to and you could see Biden going after Steyer because Steyer is — is registering, especially among African-American voters in South Carolina and Biden needs to sort of quell that. You saw everybody going after — after Bernie, particularly Buttigieg because the calculation is that if Bernie were to win South Carolina, he would be very, very hard to stop and — and so it was at times, you know, another food fight kind of like the last debate, but there were also moments when I think we maybe learned a bit more about the candidates. So we'll see. 

WILLIAMS: Professor, there was some speculation for what it's worth on social media that Bernie was not used to being booed at these things and he was audibly booed three times at least that I counted, and maybe was as a result a little bit off balance. 

VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO: Right, which came first, the chicken or the egg. We were noting earlier that he seemed a little bit off, Whether that — he came in off or that was a reaction to the crowd. Agreeing with my colleague here, Biden had a great night because he looked presidential. He didn't bring up the coronavirus first. That was Mike Bloomberg, so props to him for bringing up the thing that keeps me up most nights these days. The fact he took it and ran with it. He talked about the Ebola virus — even though I know it’s not the same thing, but he talked about what he would do as president dealing with issues such as these. So for Biden, it wasn't just the foreign policy. It was also the presidentialism that he brought with it. It was the energy. So Biden up here in terms of energy, Sanders down here. 

WILLIAMS: Lawrence O’Donnell, here's the question. Is there a future president on that stage tonight? 

LAWRENCE O’DONNELL: There is a future president on that stage. We're not sure which one it's going to be. This debate will forever be known as the naked cowboy debate. 

WILLIAMS: I guess. Can you explain to the viewers who — thank you. 

ROBINSON: They have no idea. They have no idea. 

O’DONNELL: Mike Bloomberg did a joke about the naked cowboy which is a character you'll see wandering around Times Square and as a service to the viewers, I retweeted a picture of the naked cowboy, so you all can go find it.

WILLIAMS: Thank you. We emphasize, because some kids are still up. He's wearing —

O’DONNELL: He does have —

ROBINSON: Underpants. 

O’DONNELL: — underwear.

WILLIAMS: Tidy whiteys. Yeah, it’s not —

O’DONNELL: It says naked cowboy on them — the other — but this was Mike Bloomberg's attempt at a joke. There were several flat deliveries of jokes by Mike Bloomberg.

ROBINSON: Oh, Bloomberg.

O’DONNELL: Some of them were obviously scripted and so part of the homework for reviving this candidacy within the debate was let's use that New York humor that absolutely did not work. He was substantive on education and on other subjects where he did much better than last time, but for Biden and South Carolina, it looks like he did what he had to do for South Carolina, but this was the California debate. More than anything else, this was the California debate. It's the last time California voters see these people in the debate stage and California has these three hugely expensive media markets. San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco. Bloomberg is the only one who can really buy those markets the way you need to buy them now. So for Elizabeth Warren, for Klobuchar, for Buttigieg at this stage of the financing of his campaign, this was their chance to reach California voters, Texas voters at the same time. Their last time they're going to see Super Tuesday voters. 

WILLIAMS: Robert, I have to say Lawrence just referenced it, maybe there was a lull in the noise from the stage, but tonight, Bloomberg's education answer seemed to cut through, provided it all stands up to fact checking, but it was just one moment amid a sea of them. What did you make of that? 

ROBERT GIBBS: Well, he definitely had a better debate. I mean, as was said, hard to not go up —

WILLIAMS: Yeah. 

GIBBS: — though I'm sure my son watched his joke on the naked cowboy and said, okay, boomer. [PANEL LAUGHS] But, look, I think the two things that happened tonight, Biden had, somebody else said, a good night to have a good night. He's the only other candidate that's been on the ballot. We don't know about Bloomberg yet. He's the only other candidate that's been on the ballot that's capable and has drawn a multi-racial coalition. If he can win South Carolina and get to not just Super Tuesday, but some of the states beyond Super Tuesday with a much higher degree of African-American voters, not as high as will be in South Carolina on Saturday, but still a good part of the electorate, he has an opportunity to become the person that faces maybe Bernie Sanders more closely one on one. I think Bernie didn't have as strong a night for whatever reason, but I think it's also important to understand this was the first time — he's run for president now twice — it's the first time he's walked out on that stage with those bright lights as the consensus front runner. 

O’DONNELL: Yeah. 

GIBBS: And a lot of pitches came, not in the strike zone, but right at his head tonight and it's a very — it's a little bit different, right? He's been a very consistent performer in these debates and that's helped him, but tonight a much, much different set of pitches that he faced. Some that he did okay on, the very first question, some like with guns and others that he struggled a bit with.

O’DONNELL: Well, you know, I got to say his guns answer I thought was one of the best answers I've ever seen on the debate when he talked about some of his past votes on guns that were in alignment with what the NRA wanted, he said, those were bad votes. I cast bad votes. Now, there's no one who has been in the Congress 30 years who can't say that —

ROBINSON: Yeah.

O’DONNELL: — and they say it to you privately, but there are very few who would ever admit it publicly. Every one of these candidates has something in their past that they don't want you to talk about, and Bernie handled that part of it I think as well as you can. He can't deny what those votes were. He has a different position now. What matters really when you're voting for these people, what's their position now, what are they going to do tomorrow?

WILLIAMS: Of course, a lot of Democrats have been lamenting ever since the words Fidel Castro were uttered on 60 Minutes that, in part, the party and these candidates have spent some of their time thus far this week debating about Fidel Castro. As anticipated, it came up on stage again tonight. 

[CUBA CLIP]

WILLIAMS: Joe Biden had a response for that, that right after Bernie finished, but again, you hear — you heard the boos from the crowd, which is a new look — 

ROBINSON: That's a new look.

WILLIAMS: — for a very formidable candidate. 

ROBINSON: He hasn't really heard that before. You know, couple of things about this Castro discussion we're having. Number one, Fidel Castro is, in fact, deceased. 

WILLIAMS: Do you have a calendar on you? 

ROBINSON: Yeah, I — thank you and so he's no longer with us. The system he put in place in Cuba is still with us. I spent a lot of time in Cuba. I have — I’ve written a book about Cuba. So I do know a bit about it. It's a terrible — it's an atrocious, repressive, awful government that, yes, increased the literacy rate in Cuba, but you ought to be able to get that sequence right, I think, because the bad very clearly outweighs the good —

WILLIAMS: For most of them.

ROBINSON: — and so if you express it the other way around, that's kind of not good.

NB Daily Campaigns & Elections 2020 Presidential Debates Coronavirus Communists Liberals & Democrats MSNBC Brian Williams Eugene Robinson Chris Matthews Lawrence O'Donnell Bernie Sanders Pete Buttigieg Joe Biden Elizabeth Warren Michael Bloomberg
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