Extremely familiar behavior: Last Friday night, six Democratic presidential candidates staged their New Hampshire debate.
At one point, Candidate Klobuchar saucily said this to Candidate Buttigieg:
KLOBUCHAR (2/7/20): We had a moment the last few weeks, Mayor. And that moment was these impeachment hearings. And there was a lot of courage that you saw from only a few people.Imagine! Buttigieg has been trying to look just as cool as a newcomer!
There was courage from Doug Jones, our friend from Alabama, who took that tough vote. There was courage from Mitt Romney, who took a very, very difficult vote. There was courage, as I read today, about Lt. Col. Vindman being escorted out of the White House.
What he did took courage. But what you said, Pete, as you were campaigning through Iowa—as three of us were jurors in that impeachment hearing—you said it was exhausting to watch and that you wanted to turn the channel and watch cartoons.
It is easy to go after Washington because that’s a popular thing to do. It is much harder—as I see Senator [Jeanne] Shaheen in the front row, such a leader—it is much harder to lead, and much harder to take those difficult positions.
Because I think this going after every single thing that people do, because it’s popular to say and makes you look like a cool newcomer—I just, I don’t think that’s what people want right now. We have a newcomer in the White House, and look where it got us.
As so many others were showing their courage; as Klobuchar was valiantly doing her job; Buttigieg was parading around the state of Iowa, knocking Washington and saying he'd rather watch cartoons than the impeachment trial!
He was doing the popular thing while Klobuchar was doing her job!
We were puzzled by Klobuchar's presentation as we watched the debate that night. As you can see in minute 28 of this tape, Buttigieg raised his hand, seeking recognition, when he was criticized. But George Stephanopoulos went elsewhere, and Klobuchar's peculiar statement was never addressed.
Poor Klobuchar! As she was doing her duty in Washington, Buttigieg was parading around Iowa saying he'd rather watch cartoons. Except that isn't what Buttigieg said, according to this report by Slate's William Saletan.
As we've noted before, Klobuchar's apparent loathing of Buttigieg has been disappointing. That said, if we might borrow from The Last Picture Show, we've been writing about this kind of trashy behavior for the past twenty-five years.
Most dramatically, Candidate Gore was mugged in similar ways, for quite a few years, by the vast bulk of the mainstream press corps. His remarks were endlessly paraphrased in endlessly ridiculous ways. This went on for twenty straight months before November 2000, and then for quite a few years after that.
As we watched the debate that night, we found it hard to believe that Buttigieg had made the stupid statement Klobuchar put in his mouth. Aside from that, we thought Klobuchar was quite good that night.
It looks like Buttigieg actually didn't make those stupid remarks! But go ahead—read Saletan's report. We've been writing about behavior like this for the past many long years.
From The Last Picture Show: Here's Ben Johnson, scolding the kids in 1971. They'd been mistreating a mentally challenged kid. Finally, Johnson says this:
Now you boys can get on out of here. I don't want to have no more to do with you.You can watch the scene here. We well remember the first time we saw it.
Scaring a poor, unfortunate creature like Billy just so you could have a few laughs. I've been around that trashy behavior all my life. I'm getting tired of putting up with it.
Now you can stay out of this pool hall, out of my café and my picture show too. I don't want no more of your business.
Don't get us wrong! We could end up voting for Klobuchar in the primary; we'd definitely vote for her in the general. But just how badly does she want the nomination?
Somebody ought to ask.
Full disclosure: We used to write reports like Saletan's. After more than twenty years, we realized there was no point.
Anthropologists contacted us at that point. They offered some fresh new ideas.