What Sanders said last week: Should Bernie Sanders be the Democratic nominee this year?
We don't have a firm view about that. By traditional standards, every candidate on last night's stage is unelectable. This complicates the decision a primary voter must make.
That said, the sitting president, Donald J. Trump, is also unelectable. And, by the rules of the game, someone has to be elected this year, assuming we have an election.
That conundrum set the stage for last night's embarrassing reenactment of the time-honored bar scene from Star Wars.
Who was worse—the moderators or the hopefuls? Our favorite exchange went like this:
KLOBUCHAR (2/26/20): So I have long supported the assault weapon ban. I am the author of the bill to close the boyfriend loophole that says that domestic abusers can't go out and get an AK-47—Who actually wrote the provision which would have closed the boyfriend loophole?
BIDEN: I wrote that law.
KLOBUCHAR: That bill, along with— You didn't write that bill. I wrote that bill.
BIDEN: I wrote the bill, the Violence Against Women Act—
KLOBUCHAR: OK. You did do that.
BIDEN: —that took out of the hands of people who abused their—
KLOBUCHAR: OK. We'll have a fact check look at this.
BIDEN: Let's look at the fact check—
KLOBUCHAR: Oh my goodness.
BIDEN: The only thing that the boyfriend loophole is was not covered. I couldn't get that covered. You, in fact, when you were, as a senator tried to get it covered and Mitch McConnell is holding it up on his desk right now, and we're going to lose the Violence Against Women Act across the board.
KLOBUCHAR: OK. So if I could finish. I have the bill, anyone can check it out, to close the boyfriend loophole.
Reportedly, the text came to Biden in a dream when he was imprisoned on Robben Island. Why won't Klobuchar simply accept the basic facts of American history?
For our money, Candidate Biden is pretty much out on his feet. To her credit, Candidate Klobuchar seems to be sane, except when forced to stand within fifty yards of Candidate Buttigieg.
That said, voters were being asked to make their decisions on the basis of exchanges like the one we've posted—an exchange concerning the authorship of a loophole they'd never heard of. And then, there was the giant question—the question concerning what Candidate Sanders (partially) said in The Summer of '85.
As we noted yesterday, the sudden focus on this question comes from the part of modern campaign culture known as No Misdirection Left Behind.
Earlier in this very campaign, Candidate Harris assailed Candidate Biden for a position he'd taken all the way back in the 1970s. But as it turned out, Candidate Harris holds the same position today.
This awkward fact undercut the claims of greatness showered upon Candidate Harris in the aftermath of her attack. But whether it's Candidate Hart's possible girl friend, or Candidate Gore's three-button suits (one of which was brown);
Whether it's Candidate Clinton's treasonous Moscow trip, or Candidate Clinton's "extremely careless" behavior with a bunch of trivial emails;
Whether it's the temper displayed by Candidate Muskie while playing cards with the boys on the bus, or the fact that Candidate Dukakis didn't bunch Bernie Shaw in the nose when Shaw asked a deeply inappropriate question during a 1988 debate;
Whatever form the misdirection of the moment may take, the misdirection will always come when the rich come into our lives. This explains why we're now talking about what Sanders (partially) said in 1985 about a topic which no longer matters, as opposed to what he said last week.
What did Sanders say last week? He said something which is plainly very important! But he said something which, by the rules of the game, simply cannot be pursued within the American discourse.
In Monday's report, we were discussing this forbidden topic before Griff Witte came into our lives. Here's what Sanders last week. He said in the last Democratic debate, the one held near the casinos
SANDERS (2/19/20): Let me be very clear, two points. For a hundred years, from Teddy Roosevelt to Barack Obama, this country has been talking about the need to guarantee health care for all people. And yet today, despite spending twice as much per capita, Chuck, twice as much as any other major country on Earth, we got 87 million who are uninsured or underinsured, we got over 60,000 people who die every year because they don't get to a doctor on time.Thus spake Candidate Sanders—and he says this all the time! But as we noted in Monday's report, the topic goes undiscussed and unreported. By the unwritten rules of the game, this topic simply cannot be discussed within the American discourse.
We're getting ripped off outrageously by the greed and corruption of a pharmaceutical industry, which in some cases charges us 10 times more for the same drugs because of their price-fixing, Five hundred thousand people go bankrupt every year because they can't afford medical bills.
Instead, we've now zeroed in on (partial) statements by Candidate Sanders from 1985. This is what happens when the rich come into our lives. Stated another way, this is what happens when the rational animal stages its latest charade.
On Monday, we approached this forbidden topic through the rarest of sightings—a front-page report in the Washington Post about American health care spending.
The report was written by Heather Long, an experienced economics reporter. She's the type of reporters who doesn't get asked to appear on MSNBC.
As we noted, Long's front-page report appeared on January 8. It started off like this:
LONG (1/8/20): America’s sky-high health-care costs are so far above what people pay in other countries that they are the equivalent of a hefty tax, Princeton University economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton say. They are surprised Americans aren’t revolting against these taxes.As we noted, Case and Deaton were actually understating the size of the annual "poll tax" visited upon the typical American family. If they had compared American health care spending to that in larger nations like England, Canada, France or Japan, the size of the extra annual spending which have been much more dramatic.
“A few people are getting very rich at the expense of the rest of us,” Case said at conference in San Diego on Saturday. The U.S. health-care system is “like a tribute to a foreign power, but we’re doing it to ourselves.”
The U.S. health-care system is the most expensive in the world, costing about $1 trillion more per year than the next-most-expensive system—Switzerland’s. That means U.S. households pay an extra $8,000 per year, compared with what Swiss families pay. Case and Deaton view this extra cost as a “poll tax,” meaning it is levied on every individual regardless of their ability to pay.
Long's report in the Post was a major outlier. This topic has been around forever. It goes to the heart of questions which have long defined our pseudo-discourse—questions about stagnant wages and about federal deficits and debt.
That said, this topic, by the rules of the game, simply cannot be discussed within the mainstream American press. For that reason, we're allowed, indeed encouraged, to discuss what Sanders (partially) said in 1985. But we aren't allowed to discuss a basic question:
Where's all the extra money going? What explains the very large "poll tax" paid by each family each year?
In theory, our journalists and our professors should be rushing into print to discuss this important topic. But, with very rare exceptions, our guardians have long since walked off their posts, and so we face the current situation:
We're encouraged to discuss what Sanders (partially) said in 1985 about a topic which no longer exists. We aren't allowed to discuss what Sanders said on NBC in prime time just last week.
Our guardians from CBS behaved like fools last night. Their inanity and incompetence helped create what happened.
That said, our major news orgs have never tried to explain where all that extra money is going. When Long's report appeared in the Post, it triggered zero discussion.
Rachel continued to worry about how many years Roger Stone would get. Others kept dragging Kornacki before "the big board" to supply us with tons of pointless statistics. (No jacket; sleeves rolled up.)
The entertainment rolls along. But Long's report, a major outlier, came and went without notice.
Last night, we saw the fruits of this very familiar game. What Sanders said last week is extremely important. But, because it can't be discussed, we've returned to things he (partially) said in the summer of '85.
This happens when the rich come into our lives. The other rich won't tell you.
Tomorrow: As with Case and Deaton, so with Katherine Boo