Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Last night's debate - attacks against Warren and figuring out Tulsi Gabbard

Political writer for the NY Times Lisa Lerer provides a sample of exchanges in last night’s Democratic Presidential debate (in this morning’s email). The barbs were mainly directed at Elizabeth Warren (marking her, I guess, as a (if not the) front runner.

Here is a sample.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., who took some of the most aggressive shots at Ms. Warren, probed how she would pay for her health care plan and whether it would involve raising taxes on middle-class families — a question she continued to dodge last night.

“Your signature, senator, is to have a plan for everything, except this,” said Mr. Buttigieg, after calling her “evasive.”

One of the most striking moments came when Mr. Biden tried to take some credit for the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, one of Ms. Warren’s signature achievements.

"I went on the floor and got you votes” in Congress, he said, forcefully repeating himself three times.

Ms. Warren responded, “I am deeply grateful to President Obama, who fought so hard to make sure that agency was passed into law,” making no mention of Mr. Biden or his work.

“You did a hell of a job in your job,” he shot back.

Ms. Warren, seeming slightly taken aback by Mr. Biden’s biting tone (or perhaps looking to troll him), offered a quiet “thank you.”

The exchange marked a notable reversal in the race: In past debates, it was Mr. Biden who found himself fending off a series of attacks from opponents trying to weaken his commanding position in the race. With his numbers sliding and the latest financial reports showing that he trails several rivals in campaign cash, Ms. Warren now faces her turn in the spotlight.

On Tuesday night, she held her own through the incoming fire, trying to turn the attacks back on her critics by casting them as lacking in political vision and ambition.

And by refusing to answer whether her health care plan would raise taxes on the middle class, she avoided creating a sound bite that her aides worry could be easily used against her in the primary — or the general election.

But here is the really interesting stuff.

Even Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii tried to get in a jab or two, demanding to be shown Ms. Warren’s qualifications to be commander in chief.

Ms. Warren ignored the request.

So what’s up with Gabbard?

And this little newsletter writer [Lerer] even had her own turn in the political limelight. In Ms. Gabbard’s effort to invigorate her campaign and qualify for the November debate, she called a piece I wrote over the weekend — detailing her support from white nationalists, Russians and the alt-right — “completely despicable.” Want to know what all the fuss was about? Check it out here.

Below are excerpts from Lerer’s expose on Gabbard What, Exactly, Is Tulsi Gabbard Up To? As she injects chaos into the 2020 Democratic primary by accusing her own party of “rigging” the election, an array of alt-right internet stars, white nationalists and Russians have praised her.

Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, is impressed with her political talent. Richard B. Spencer, the white nationalist leader, says he could vote for her. Former Representative Ron Paul praises her “libertarian instincts,” while Franklin Graham, the influential evangelist, finds her “refreshing.”

And far-right conspiracy theorists like Mike Cernovich see a certain MAGA sais quoi.

Then there is 4chan, the notoriously toxic online message board, where some right-wing trolls and anti-Semites fawn over Ms. Gabbard, calling her “Mommy” and praising her willingness to criticize Israel. In April, the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website, took credit for Ms. Gabbard’s qualification for the first two Democratic primary debates.

… her frequent appearances on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show have buoyed her support in right-wing circles.

… Democrats are on high alert about foreign interference in the next election and the D.N.C. is well aware of the frequent mentions of Ms. Gabbard in the Russian state news media.

An independent analysis of the Russian news media found that RT, the Kremlin-backed news agency, mentioned Ms. Gabbard frequently for a candidate polling in single digits, according to data collected by the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a group that seeks to track and expose efforts by authoritarian regimes to undermine democratic elections.

"This whole thing the Democratic Party has done by putting forward this false idea that there was collusion between Russia and Trump has hurt our relations in a huge way with the Russians,” Mr. Graham said. “I can’t speak for Tulsi, but I think she feels kind of the same way on some of these things.”

In the three years since, Ms. Gabbard has criticized Israel for its reaction to protests, met with Mr. Assad and made several statements defending his regime.

“To have a moral woman like Tulsi who is a military hero suddenly sit with a man who did that was inexplicable,” Rabbi Boteach said. “I don’t understand it until today. I can’t figure her out.”

Let me help the Rabbi “figure her out.”

“She’s got a good energy, a good vibe. You feel like this is just a serious person,” Mr. Cernovich said. “She seems very Trumpian.”

I am reminded of the British linguist J. R. Firth who famously wrote “You shall know a word by the company it keeps.” So it is in politics. To paraphrase: You shall know a candidate by the company she keeps.

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