TEN FOR TEN (THURSDAY NIGHT EDITION)

It’s Friday, June 28, 2019.

It’s the 22nd anniversary of the night Mike Tyson bit off a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear in a heavyweight boxing title fight.

And there are those who might say it’s the one-day anniversary of Kamala Harris biting off Joe Biden’s head.

Yesterday’s Ten for Ten was supposed to be some brief takes on the first night of the first Democratic debate.

It ended up being more than 1,800 words.

I’ll try to be a little shorter today. Here goes:

— If the first debate winners determined the ticket, how would you feel about a Kamala Harris-Julián Castro ticket?

I’d feel pretty damn good.

There are those who would say that it’s unelectable – you need to have a white man on the ticket to balance it.

Hey, last I looked I’m still a white man – and that’s bullshit.

The Democrat candidates for president and vice president need two things. 

In the short term, they need to be able to mop the floor with Trump and Pence on a debate stage. Harris and Castro showed their fearlessness on a big stage, when it was tougher and not a sure thing they would get that opportunity.

By staring down one of her party’s more venerable figures, Harris really put Trump on notice. 

She at least called Biden “Sir” when she started. She won’t say “Sir” to Trump.

In the long term, the Democrats need a vision for the future, not a pledge to go back to old ways. 

Harris and Castro would challenge the nation to be as brave as they are – and that would energize a lot of voters.

Because, again, it’s a mistake the Democrats have to win back Trump supporters. Hillary Clinton got nearly 3 million more votes than Trump.

What Democrats have to do is get people excited about voting for their ticket – and to demoralize the Trumpsters in what would be legitimate suppression.

Harris-Castro ’20. Not bad.

— Anybody who thinks Harris dealt a low blow to Joe Biden last night is forgetting an important point.

Should Biden become the nominee – and the odds are still heavily in favor of that – his next debate opponent would be Donald J. Trump. 

Do you think there’s any blow too low for Trump? Really?

That was the biggest takeaway from that exchange. The Democratic nominee has to be sure of her or himself – more sure than any candidate in history. And he or she has to be able to absorb Trump’s body blows and give them back double.

That won’t just be a debate or an election – 2020 will be a test of whether the United States as a democracy will survive. Harris is ready. Biden, right now, isn’t.

— I’m rethinking my rethinking of the ageism thing.

Last night, Biden and Bernie Sanders proved my point: that the Democratic Party needs someone younger than me – age 65 – as its standard bearer.

Biden was not especially coherent. He gave off an attitude of entitlement and rarely acknowledged the other candidates. 

And after Harris decked him with that race exchange, he was off-balance the rest of the night. 

When Chuck Todd did the stupid thing with what’s your first priority after you’re inaugurated, Biden answered “defeating Donald Trump.” Forgetting, unfortunately, that to get that first priority, you would have already beaten him.

As for Sanders, he did his Bernie rants about radical change, and decrying millionaires and billionaires.

But like Biden, it seemed as though he had no patience for being challenged – either by the candidates or the moderators. 

When Rachel Maddow quoted him about guns, Sanders yelled back that it was a mischaracterization and Maddow – someone somewhat sympathetic to Sanders’ point of view – pointed out that it was a direct quote.

The other thing with Sanders is that, like fellow septugenarian Elizabeth Warren, he vanished for long periods of time last night.

Was that because other candidates – Harris and Pete Buttigieg – were taking his space? Or was it because, like other old people, he got a little tired?

Neither is good.

The Democratic Party needs young blood. It’s how it got Barack Obama for two big wins. 

Biden and Sanders are both good guys and their contributions to the party can never be overlooked. They deserve prime time slots at the Milwaukee convention. But they should leave the party to people young and strong enough to go after Trump and the Republicans.

— The Constitution says you can’t be president until you’re 35 years old. 

(Face it, if the limit was younger, we’d be talking about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s presidential run. For that, we’ll have to wait until 2024.)

Pete Buttigieg will be 39 on Inauguration Day 2021. But last night, he allayed concerns that he’s too immature to be in this race.

He handled himself very well. Calm, measured and on message.

I don’t think the answer to question about the shooting in South Bend is what stood out. That’s a not-good situation for him until it gets resolved – but his answer was about the best he could do under the circumstances.

I think it was his ability to find his moments and make his points. That whole line about how Republicans have lost all claim to being a party of Christians was brilliant – yes, well-rehearsed, but brilliant. 

It resonated the same way Bill de Blasio’s line about how immigrants are not the reason for Americans’ economic insecurity did the night before.

He brought up his military service without crowing about it, the way it seemed Tulsi Gabbard did that sometimes. And he was somewhat matter-of-fact about his husband, although he did point how his marriage was legitimized by a single vote in the Supreme Court.

And the big test: Do I think he can stand on a stage against either Trump or Pence? Absolutely.

— Medicare for All advocates need to do a better job of selling this idea.

I’m for Medicare for All – I like the idea of ending private insurance because I don’t think it works. I think insurance companies are looking to make a profit – and make getting affordable care difficult.

But also thought his Michael Bennet’s challenging Sanders on Medicare for All was focused and helpful.

Bennet was trying to get Sanders to explain how you get from what we have now to Medicare for All – and Sanders wouldn’t do it. All Sanders ever says “We need radical change. We’re going to do it.” He has no plan for selling it.

I think Medicare for All is a goal that’s attained eventually. Americans are going to be scared of the idea unless it’s phased in. But like Obamacare itself, once they get there, I think they’re going to like it – just like people in the countries that have a form of it like it.

— By the way, I kinda like Michael Bennet.

I wish he would have announced his candidacy sooner so that we could have more time to evaluate him.

But I thought he was focused and on point. He showed some passion and raised the Russian threat that was mostly ignored in these debates.

— Kirsten Gillibrand’s woman power campaign is a problem.

When I was very young, in the early 1960s, Coca-Cola came out with a lemon-lime soda called Veep, the forerunner of Sprite and answer to 7Up.

It was marketed as the first refresher made “just for girls.” 

In the ads, a guy who tries Veep despite some young women’s warnings ends up in a skirt – obviously, this was a campaign way ahead of its time.

The drink failed. Why “girls” would be more inclined to drink lemon-lime soda than “boys” is not something I understand, but I figured at age six that the drink wasn’t meant for me.

I think the same thing applies to presidential campaigns. If you keep saying that your campaign is for women, then are you saying men need not vote for you?

That’s dumb to me. And I’m sure Gillibrand – who I like and think would make a terrific president – would be happy to get my vote.

But appealing almost exclusively to women is not a way to break through. Like one-issue focused candidate Jay Inslee – and unlike Julián Castro – she didn’t articulate well the women’s rights position that she’s using to gain traction.

One other thing about her: She was gifted an issue and she seems reluctant to accept it. 

Gillibrand has been in the forefront of getting help for 9/11 responders. She has video clips of being on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” in which he praises her efforts.

I don’t remember her talking about that last night. That’s a missed opportunity.

— Unlike the first night, the second stringers weren’t impressive.

Marianne Williamson was the nut case at the party who makes you roll your eyes. John Hickenlooper spent the night telling us he was a scientist and a businessman – and that socialism is bad.

Eric Swalwell looked overmatched. He tried to challenge Biden about passing the torch and Buttigieg on firing the police officer who turned off his bodycam, and got slapped down each time.

And Andrew Yang, with less than three minutes of speaking time, never was able to explain his position about guaranteed income. He seems like a bright guy, but he was out of his league – and presidential politics is about maintaining a high-power presence on a big stage.

— Again, the NBC moderators played the hot hand

I thought they did a good job with the questions. Only a few of the questions – the Buttigieg one is an example – were focused on the individual. 

In that case, since it’s still about his performance in office – and not a dumb question about his marriage – it’s OK.

But, as I said yesterday, as a college professor, I’m sympathetic to their dilemma – they’re trying to keep things interesting. 

That was more likely to happen if you threw a question at a red hot Harris or a faltering Biden than Yang or Swalwell.

— So let’s say the Democrats wanted to jumpstart the process. 

You put the top eight performers from this first debate — and, because they still have big followings, I’d include Biden and Sanders – into one night and the rest into the second night. 

In my eye, you would have this lineup: Bennet, Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, Gillibrand, Harris, Klobuchar, Sanders, Warren.

That would be quite a donnybrook. 

It would be a great test for Harris, who will have people with her who are Senate colleagues and friends that she’d be somewhat more reluctant to go after.

But it also would allow the Democrats to find out, once and for all, if Biden is really up to this. 

I don’t think he is.

Just under 1,800 words. Sigh.

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