The NBC moderators on Thursday spent the second night of Democratic debates ignoring some of the gaffes, shocking comments and startling positions of the 2020 contenders. Most significantly, moderators Chuck Todd, Rachel Maddow, Savannah Guthrie and Jose Diaz-Balart failed to ask Joe Biden about his opposition to Barack Obama’s raid that killed terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.
Instead of talking about this key position, liberal moderator Rachel Maddow decided to, yet again, re-litigate the Iraq War. She wondered, “You have made your decades of experience a pillar of your campaign. But when the time came to say yes or no on one of the most consequential foreign policy decisions of the last century, you voted for the Iraq War. You have since said you regret that vote. Why should voters trust your judgment when it comes to making a decision on taking the country to war the next time?”
That vote in the U.S. Senate was in October of 2002, almost 17 years ago. Of course, when Joe Biden was actually vice president, this is where he came down on another big decision, the bin Laden raid (as remembered by Politico):
“Mr. President, my suggestion is don’t go,” Biden said.
Obama, of course, ignored his deputy’s advice and dispatched Navy SEAL Team 6 to kill the Al Qaeda leader. It was a historic triumph for America — not to mention a political bonanza for a president facing reelection, perhaps the most consequential decision of Obama’s presidency.
And Joe Biden was on the wrong side of it.
But the moderators never asked about that.
In 2018, Congressman Eric Swalwell (CA) got into a Twitter fight with a citizen who said that the Democrat wants “war” with gun owners. The Congressman threateningly tweeted back: “And it would be a short war my friend. The government has nukes.”
Did that come up during the debate on Thursday? No. Instead of pointing out that it sounds like Swalwell threatened to nuke Americans, Maddow described his plan to forcibly take guns as “unique”:
Among this field of candidates, you have a unique position on gun reform. You are proposing that the government should buy back every assault weapon in America and it should be mandatory. How do you envision that working, especially in states where gun rights are a strong flash point?
2020 Democratic candidate Marianne Williamson has referred to vaccination mandates as “draconian” and “Orwellian.” Did that get noted during the debate? No. Instead, Lester Holt asked her a generic question about health care: “We have been talking about the access to health insurance. But for many Americans, he most pressing concern is the high cost of health care. How would you lower the cost of prescription drugs?”
In fairness, there were a few tough questions. Lester Holt challenged Bernie Sanders on just how “scrapping the private health insurance system” would work:
Let me return to Senator Sanders. You basically want to scrap the private health insurance system as we know it and replace it with a government-run plan. None of the states that tried something like that — California, Vermont, New York has struggled with it — has been successful. If politicians can’t make it work in those states, how would you implement it on a national level. How does this work?
But far too often, awkward, uncomfortable moments were avoided for these 2020 Democrats.
For a look back at night one of the debate (and all the questions), go here.
A transcript of ALL the questions for night two can be found below. Click “expand” to read more.
NBC/MSNBC/Telemundo Democratic Debate: Night two
June 27, 2019
9:02 p.m. Eastern
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: We will start today with Senator Sanders. Good evening to you. You have called for big new government benefits like universal health care and free college In a recent interview you said you suspected that Americans would be, quote, “delighted” to pay more taxes for things like that. My question to you is, will taxes go up for the middle class in a Sanders administration. And if so, how do you sell that to voters?
GUTHRIE: Senator Sanders, I will give you 10 seconds to answer the very direct question. Will you raise taxes for the middle class in a Sanders administration?
9:04 p.m. Eastern
GUTHRIE: Vice President Biden. Senator Sanders as you know has been calling for a revolution. Recently in remarks to a group of wealthy donors as you spoke to the problem of income inequality in this country, you said, we shouldn't, quote, “demonize the rich”. You said, “Nobody has to be punished. No one's standard of living would change.” What did you mean by that?
9:06 p.m. Eastern
GUTHRIE: Senator Harris, There is a lot of talk in this primary about new government benefits such as student loan cancellation, free college, health care and more. Do you think that Democrats have a responsibility to explain how they will pay for every proposal they make along those lines?
9:07 p.m. Eastern
GUTHRIE: Governor Hickenlooper, let me get you in on this. You’ve warned that Democrats will lose in 2020 if they embrace socialism, as you put it. You were booed at the California Democratic convention when you said that. Only one candidate on this stage, Senator Sanders identifies as a democratic socialist. What are the policies or positions you think that are veering towards socialism?
GUTHRIE: Senator Sanders, I’ll give you a chance to weigh in on this. What is your response to those who say nominating a socialist would reelect Donald Trump?
9:10 p.m. Eastern
GUTHRIE: Senator Gillibrand, 30 seconds.
9:10 p.m. Eastern
GUTHRIE: Senator Bennet, you have said, quote, “It’s possible to write proposals that have no basis in reality. You might as well call them candy.” Were you referring to a candidate or proposal in particular?
9:12 p.m. Eastern
JOSE DIAZ-BALART: Many of your colleagues on stage support free college. You do not. Why not?
9:14 p.m. Eastern
DIAZ-BALART: Mr. Yang, your signature policy is to give every adult in the United States $1,000 a month. No questions asked.
ANDREW YANG: That’s right.
DIAZ-BALART: I think that's like $3.2 trillion a year. How would do you that?
ANDREW YANG: Sorry?
DIAZ-BALART: How would you do that?
9:15 p.m. Eastern
DIAZ-BALART: If I get to understand a little bit better, you are saying $1,000 a month for everyone over 18, but a value add ed so you can spend that $1,000 on value added tax?
9:16 p.m. Eastern
DIAZ-BALART: Congressman Swallwell, I talked a little bit about what Mr. Yang is talking about, And you just mentioned. Americans are worried about self driving cars, robots, drones, artificial intelligence will cost them their jobs. What would you do to help people get their skills to adapt to the new world?
9:17 p.m. Eastern
DIAZ-BALART: Vice President, would you like to sing a torch song? [Response to Swalwell repeatedly saying that we need to pass the torch.]
9:20 p.m. Eastern
LESTER HOLT: You all expressed an interest in talking about health care. This is going to be a show of hands question. We asked about health care last night that spurred a lot of discussion, as you know. We are going to do it again now. Many people watching at home have health insurance through their employer. Who here would abolish their private health insurance in favor of a government-run plan? [Gillibrand, Williamson and Sanders raise hands.]
9:23 p.m. Eastern
HOLT: Vice President Biden, you were one of the architects of ObamaCare. So, where do we go from here?
HOLT: Let me return to Senator Sanders. You basically want to scrap the private health insurance system as we know it and replace it with a government-run plan. None of the states that tried something like that — California, Vermont, New York has struggled with it — has been successful. If politicians can’t make it work in those states, how would you implement it on a national level. How does this work?
9:25 p.m. Eastern
HOLT: I just have to follow up. How do you implement it on a national basis, given the fact that it has not succeeded in other states that have tried it?
9:27 p.m. Eastern
HOLT: Ms. Williamson, this is a question for you. We have been talking about the access to health insurance. But for many Americans, he most pressing concern is the high cost of health care. How would you lower the cost of prescription drugs?
9:28 p.m. Eastern
HOLT: Senator Bennet, a question for you. You want to keep the system we have with ObamaCare and build on it. Is that enough to get us to universal coverage?
HOLT: Senator Sanders, you get a response.
9:31 p.m. Eastern
GUTHRIE: A lot of you have been talking about these government health care plans you proposed in one form or another. This is a show of hands question and hold them up so people can see. Raise your hand if your government plan would provide coverage for undocumented immigrants. Let me start with you, Mayor Buttigieg, why?
9:33 p.m. Eastern
GUTHRIE: Vice President Biden, I believe you said that your plan would not cover undocumented immigrants. Could you explain your position?
JOE BIDEN; I’m sorry. I beg your pardon.
GUTHRIE: I believe at the show of hands you did not raise your hand. Did you raise your hand?
BIDEN: No, I did.
GUTHRIE: Okay. Sorry. So, you said it would be covered under your plan that is different than ObamaCare. Can you explain that change?
DIAZ-BALART: Senator Harris, Senator Harris, last month more than 130,000 migrants were apprehended at the southern border. Many of them are being detained, including small children in private detention centers in Florida and throughout our country. Most of the candidates on this stage say the conditions of these facilities are abhorrent. On January 20th, 2021, if you are president, what specifically would you do with the thousands of people who try to reach the United States every day and want a better life through asylum?
9:39 p.m. Eastern
DIAZ-BALART: Governor Hickenlooper, day one if you are at the White House, how do you respond? [Marianne Williamson tries to break in.] Let me get — I will get to you in just a second. Governor. Day one thousands of men, women, and children ask for a better life. What do you do? Day one, hour one.
DIAZ-BALART: Mrs. Williamson?
DIAZ-BALART: Senator Gillibrand, what would you do as president with a reality [sic]?
9:43 p.m. Eastern
DIAZ-BALART: We're had a very spirited debate about decriminalization of the border. Raise your hand if you think it should be a civil offense rather than a crime to cross the border without documentation. Can we keep the hands up to see them?
DIAZ-BALART: Mr. Vice President, I don't know if you raised your hand or were just asking to speak, but would you decriminalize crossing the border without documents?
9:46 p.m. Eastern
DIAZ-BALART: The Obama-Biden administration deported more than three million Americans. My question to you is if an individual is living in the United States of America without documents and that is his only offense, should that person be deported?
9:46 p.m. Eastern
DIAZ-BALART: 15 seconds if you could, if you wish to answer. Should someone who is here without documents and that is his only offense. Should that person be deported?
9:47 p.m. Eastern
DIAZ-BALART: Congressman Swalwell. What do you do?
SWALLWELL: Day one?
DIAZ-BALART: No, if someone is here without documents and that is their only offense, is that person to be deported?
9:48 p.m. Eastern
DIAZ-BALART: Senator Harris?
9:50 p.m. Eastern
HOLT: We are going to turn to the issue of trade now, if we can. Last night, we asked the candidates on this state to name the greatest geopolitical threat facing the U.S.. Four mentioned China. U.S. Businesses say China steals our intellectual property and party leaders accuse them of manipulating the currency to keep the cost of goods artificially low. I will ask this to Senator Bennet. How would you stand up to China?
9:52 p.m. Eastern
HOLT: Mr. Yang let me bring you in on this on the issue of China. You expressed a lot of concerns about technology and taking jobs. Are you worried about China and how would you stand up against it?
9:53 p.m. Eastern
HOLT: Mayor Buttigieg, how would you stand up against China?
10:00 p.m. Eastern
RACHEL MADDOW: But we will begin with Mayor Buttigieg. In the last five year, civil rights activists led a national debate over race and the criminal justice system. Your community of South Bend, Indiana has been in uproar over an officer-involved shooting. The police forces six percent black in a city that is 26 percent black. Why has that not improved over your two terms as mayor?
10:03 p.m. Eastern
MADDOW: Senator Harris, if I could preface this, we will give you 30 seconds since we’re going to come back to this in just a moment. Go for 30 seconds.
10:05 p.m. Eastern
[Harris goes after Biden on segregation.]
MADDOW: Senator Harris, thank you. You have invoked. We are going to give you a chance to respond.
10:07 p.m. Eastern
TODD: Vice President Biden, 30 seconds because I want to bring other people into this.
10:08 p.m. Eastern
TODD: Senator Sanders, I want to go to you on this. You said on the day you launched your campaign that voters should focus what people stand for, not a candidate's race or age or sexual orientation. Many Democrats are excited by the diversity of the field and on this stage and last night's stage and the perspective that diversity brings to this contest and these issues. Are you telling democratic voters that diversity shouldn't matter when they make this decision?
10:09 p.m. Eastern
TODD: Senator Gillibrand I want to give you 30 seconds on this.
10:10 p.m. Eastern
TODD: Senator Bennet, the next question is to you. On the issue of partisan gridlock, President Obama promised in 2012 after his reelection, Republicans would want to work with Democrats. The fever would break. That did not happen. Vice president Biden said the same thing. If he is elected, both parties will want to work together. Should voters believe if there is a Democratic president in 2021 that gridlock is going to magically disappear?
10:12 p.m. Eastern
TODD: Vice president Biden, it does sound as if you haven't seen what's been happening in the United States Senate over the last 12 years. It didn't happen. [Bipartisanship.] Why?
10:13 p.m. Eastern
TODD: Go ahead. 30 seconds.
10:15 p.m. Eastern
MADDOW: Senator Sanders, I’d like to put a different question to you. Roe vs. Wade is the law of the land since 1973. Now with a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, several states have passed laws to restrict or ban abortions. One could make it to the Supreme Court during your presidency if you are elected. What is your plan if Roe is struck down in the Court while you are president?
10:17 p.m. Eastern
MADDOW: I’m going to give you ten additional seconds because the question is what if the Court has already overturned Roe and Roe is gone. All the things you just described would be to try to preserve Roe. If Roe is gone, what could you do as president to preserve abortion rights?
TODD: We are moving to climate. Senator Harris, I addressing you first. Your state has been hit by drought, wildfires, flooding. Climate change a major concern for voters in your state. It’s pretty obvious. This state as well. Last night, voters heard many of the candidates weigh in on proposals. Explain specifically what yours is.
10:19 p.m. Eastern
TODD: Mayor Buttigieg, in your climate plan, if you are elected president in your first term, how is this going to help farmers impacted by climate change in the midwest?
10:21 p.m. Eastern
MADDOW: I want to bring Governor Hickenlooper in to this for a moment. Governor, you have said that oil and gas companies should be a part of the solution on climate change. Lots of your colleagues on stage tonight have talked about moving away from fossil fuels entirely. Can oil and gas companies be real partners in this fight?
10:22 p.m. Eastern
MADDOW: Vice President Biden, on the issue of how you do this, Democrats are arguing robustly among themselves about what's the best way to tackle climate change, but many Republicans, including the President, are still not sure if they believe it is even a serious problem. So, there are significant ways you can cut ash on emissions if you have to do it with no support from Congress?
MADDOW: Senator Sanders, I want to give you 30 seconds to follow-up. But I’m going to hold you to 30.
10:26 p.m. Eastern
TODD: We got to sneak in a break in a minute. Before we go, I’m going to go down the line here and I’m asking you, please, for one or two words only. Please. President Obama and his first year wanted to address both health care and climate he could only get one signature issue accomplished. It was obviously health care. He didn't get to do climate change. You may only get one shot and your first issue that are going to push. You get one shot that it may be the only thing you get passed. What is that first issue for your presidency. Eric Swalwell?
[Todd goes down the line to all the candidates.]
10:34 p.m. Eastern
MADDOW: Congressman Swalwell. Among this field, you have a unique position. You are proposing that the government should buy back every assault weapon in America and it should be mandatory. How do you envision that working, especially in states where gun rights are a strong flash point?
10:35 p.m. Eastern
MADDOW: Seantor Sanders, a Vermont newspaper recently released portions of an interview you gave in 2013 in which you said, quote, “My own view on guns is everything being equal, states should make those decisions.”
BERNIE SANDERS: No.
MADDOW: Has your thinking changed since then. Do you now think there is a federal role to play?
SANDERS: That's a mischaracterization.
MADDOW: It’s a quote of you.
10:36 p.m. Eastern
MADDOW: Senator Harris, we’re going to give you 30 seconds.
MADDOW: Mayor Buttigieg, I will bring you in on this, sir. A lot of discussion are often shorthanded as military style. You are the only person on the stage with military experience and veteran of the Afghanistan war. Will military families, does that inform your thinking on this? Do you believe America's veterans or military families at large have a different take than the other Americans we have been talking about and who Congressman Swalwell is appealing to with his buy back program?
10:39 p.m. Eastern
MADDOW: Vice President Biden, 30 seconds.
10:40 p.m. Eastern
HOLT: This is a question from our viewers. We put some suggestions that ask maybe they could share some. This is from Kathleen from Oregon, who writes, “Many fear the current administration inflicted irrevocable harm on governing institutions and norms. And, in the process, on our reputation abroad. The question is what do you see as important early steps in reversing the damage done.” And we will put this one to Senator Bennet
TODD: This is a perfect time for me to do another one of these down the line. You are likely going to have to reset a relationship between America and another country or entity if you become president because of, perhaps, some relationship that you just mentioned about President Trump. What is the first relationship you would like to reset as president. I will go down the line and start with Mrs. Williamson?
[Question goes down the line to all debate moderators.]
10:43 p.m. Eastern
MADDOW: Last question for Vice President Biden. You made your decades of experience a pillar of your campaign, but when the time came to say yes or no on one of the most consequential foreign policy decisions of the last century, you voted for the Iraq War. You have since said you regret that vote. Why should voters trust your judgment when it comes to making a decision on taking the country to war the next time.