Due to other commitments, I did not watch last night’s Democratic debate and so had to read reports of it. As I expected, much of the media attention on the debate was focused on the Bernie Sanders-Elizabeth Warren tension that CNN, the network that was airing the debate and which provided two of the moderators, did all it could to promote.
Jeet Heer of The Nation says that the blatant nature of CNN’s anti-Sanders bias was obvious and that it clearly has it in for him, a blatant example of which was where the moderator completely ignored Sanders’ denial of the charge made against him and asked Warren as if the charge were true.
The big loser of the night was the network that hosted the event. CNN was so consistently aligned against Bernie Sanders that it compromised its claim to journalistic neutrality.
Take the issue of the argument between Sanders and Warren. Sanders flatly denied that he told Warren that a woman could not win the presidency. Since Sanders and Warren were the only two people present at that conversation, there is no way to know who is giving an accurate account of it.
The exchange with CNN moderator Abby Phillip went like this:
Phillip: You’re saying that you never told Sen. Warren that a woman could not win the election?
Sanders: That is correct.
Phillip: Sen. Warren, what did you think when Sen. Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?
Warren: I disagreed.
The audience laughed when Phillip asked Warren the question and Sanders shook his head.
Podcaster Katie Halper was also unimpressed with how CNN commentators tried to minimize foreign policy differences between Sanders and Joe Biden. She tweeted, “These @cnn commentators are appalling. They’re making it sound like [S]anders created a false controversy over the foreign policy differences between him and Biden as if it’s not actually an existential distinction between the two of them.”
The economic questions were similarly ideological, taking right-wing talking points about the dangers of deficit spending as axiomatic. As my colleague Elie Mystal tweeted, “Jesus Christ I hate these biased questions from the moderators. ‘How would you keep your plan from bankrupting the country?’ JUST ASK THE KOCH BROTHERS TO MODERATE NEXT TIME!”
Heer says that the anti-Sanders bias was so obvious during the debate and in the after-debate analysis that even other mainstream commentators noticed.
Much attention was paid to the fact that Warren conspicuously refused to shake Sanders’ offered hand, even pulling her hand back, just after the debate though she had just shaken Biden’s hand. I am disappointed in Warren. This seemed churlish of her. She may be smarting from the fact that as more information comes out, her version of events is being doubted.
The team at The Intercept wrote that the moderators carefully avoided asking Biden hard questions, and pointed out how absurdly biased the questions to Sanders were, giving this example from noted hack Wolf Blitzer setting up his question: “Iran’s Ayatollah [Ali] Khamenei has again called for all U.S. troops to be pulled out of the Middle East, something you’ve called for as well.”
Democrats assembled in Iowa Tuesday night for the opportunity to take him on in the upcoming general election. This time, though, it was CNN moderators who brought out the bat and swung it hard at Sen. Bernie Sanders. The Vermont independent had topped a major Iowa poll last week, compounding fears that have only recently emerged among the party establishment that he may be on course for the nomination.
In contrast to Sanders’s treatment, former Vice President Joe Biden, the national frontrunner, was barely touched — either by moderators or his rivals.
The debate watch team at Rolling Stone listed the four lowlights of the debate, showing how they framed the questions in right-wing terms.
Later, the moderators dropped the pretense and asked simply: “Sen. Sanders, your campaign proposals would double federal spending over the next decade, an unprecedented level of spending not seen since World War II. How would you keep your plans from bankrupting the country?”
The candidates were too polite to tell the moderators that a country cannot, technically, go bankrupt. People can, though — and a half a million households are driven to bankruptcy by medical debt every year in America.
The moderators for Tuesday’s debate were quick to grill the candidates on how they’d pay for their ambitious health-insurance plans.
Sanders was noting broad environmental opposition to President Trump’s NAFTA update and was pushing for a bit more climate conversation when the moderator cut him off, in the interest of refocusing on trade. The sentence is a tiramisu of bullshit, with each layer richer than the last: On the surface, it’s absurd (as Sanders noted) to try and disentangle “trade” from “climate,” given how interconnected the two are.
I think the pattern is becoming clear. The political establishment and its allies in the corporate media (like CNN) are terrified that Sanders will be the Democratic nominee and (oh, the horror!) beat Donald Trump and become president. They are pushing for Biden, and failing that for Pete Buttigieg, and failing that for Amy Klobuchar. But if the progressive tide is too strong to defeat, they will try to use Warren to undermine progressive support for Sanders and displace him as the nominee because she is seen as more friendly to the establishment. The issue is whether she will repulse the effort to use her as a pawn.