Dan Gainor: In Dem debate, Biden confounds with joe30330 (do what?), media hero Obama takes a hit

Democratic presidential candidates came out swinging in their debate Wednesday night, each trying to score a knockout blow to keep an old white guy out of the Oval Office. Only their immediate target wasn’t 73-year-old President Trump – it was 76-year-old former vice president Joe Biden.

As the early front-runner in a crowded field for his party’s presidential nomination, Biden got hit from all sides, especially on his actions taken as President Barack Obama’s vice president. The other candidates need to defeat Biden before one can go on to the title fight against Trump.

“The View” co-host Abby Huntsman tweeted: “Was there a pact made before with everyone to gang up on Biden?”


MSNBC reporter Kasie Hunt commented that it was “Starting to feel like death or at least serious injury to Joe Biden by a thousand cuts from across the stage.”

It sure looked that way. Except Biden also threw some punches of his own. But he closed like a punch-drunk fighter – lost and befuddled.


At one point, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York criticized Biden for writing a 1981 op-ed criticizing paid child care. She asked him: “What did you mean when you said when a woman works outside the home, it’s resulting in ‘the deterioration of family?’” Then she hit harder, reminding him that “these are quotes.”


Biden acted surprised and explained how Gillibrand “came to Syracuse University with (him) and said it was wonderful.” Then he counterpunched. “I don’t know what’s happened except that you’re now running for president.” The crowd roared.

New York Times reporter Nicholas Confessore said: “Instead of running against Trump, the Democrats tonight are running against Obama.”

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof noted how Gillibrand “seems opportunistic when she smacks Biden for long-ago sexist comments.”

Politico Chief Economic Correspondent Ben White agreed, adding: “Yeah she bungled that about as bad as she could.”

Fox News Chief Political Anchor Bret Baier tweeted out a reminder of why Gillibrand’s attack “did not really land” and included a photo Gillibrand and Biden smiling together. Gillibrand’s comment next to the photo complimented Biden: “Thank you @VP Biden for your unwavering commitment to combating violence against women!”

But Biden couldn’t maintain his momentum. By the time he got to his one-minute closing statement at the end of the debate, which aired on CNN, he was punched out.

Even lefty Vox said Biden “bungled debate closing statement.” He actually ended the debate with an error, telling viewers: “If you agree with me, go to joe30330 and help me in this fight.” Only that sounded like a website, when he meant for them to text to it.

To make matters worse, Biden gave a very ominous warning. “Eight more years of Donald Trump will change America in a fundamental way,” he said, screwing up the fact that Trump can only serve four more years. He added that “The America we know will no longer exist.”

Not a good close for the former VP. It was reminiscent of a funny video Trump had tweeted as a joke that showed him winning elections all the way out to 2048, at the age of 101.

Much of the debate in Detroit focused on criticism of Biden’s record, which in many instances also meant the record of former President Obama.

New York Times reporter Nicholas Confessore said: “Instead of running against Trump, the Democrats tonight are running against Obama.”

The Washington Post described the criticism this way: “Earlier, other candidates went after Biden over his involvement in a stringent 1990s crime bill and for standing by President Barack Obama during ramped-up deportations. Later attacks incorporated his stances on trade deals and dealing with climate change.”

CNN Editor-at-Large Chris Cillizza noted how strange it all was. “I am really surprised that everyone but Biden on the stage appears to be good with bashing Obama on what his administration didn't do.”

Even anti-Trump Atlantic Staff Writer David Frum was amazed by it all. “I voted against him twice, and *I* seem to have more positive things to say about the last Democratic president than these Democrats seeking to succeed him,” he tweeted.

The Washington Post hammered the former VP, with a headline: “Candidates challenge Biden on keeping up with Democratic Party.”

The New York Times was more nuanced: “Democrats Put Harris and Biden on the Defensive.”

Kaili Joy Gray, executive editor of far-left Share Blue, blasted the former VP. “Joe Biden does not have good answers to explain his record,” she tweeted. Then she added: “It's OK to make mistakes and realize you were wrong. But he refuses to do that. I don't get it.”

Biden wasn’t the only one who got beaten up. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, who crushed Biden in their first debate, got a taste of her own medicine. Before noon, journalist Michael Tracey had ominously warned: “My one prediction for tonight is that Tulsi is going to take Kamala to the woodshed.”

He was right. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii went after Harris over her time as a prosecutor, saying she was “deeply concerned about this record.” AOL headlined it: “Gabbard rips into Harris for her record on marijuana prosecutions and death penalty.”

Gabbard punched like a political veteran in addition to a military vet, saying of Harris: "There are too many examples to cite but she put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana." Harris later dismissed the allegations because of Gabbard’s low rank in the polls.

Debate Format Criticized Again

The rapid-fired debate format had few fans. CNBC Editor at Large John Harwood complained that “this debate is working a lot better for CNN than the Democratic Party.”

GQ Correspondent Julia Ioffe was equally critical. “Once again, CNN has opted for entertainment rather than debate. We’ve learned nothing from 2016, it seems,” she wrote.

A lot of the commentary was aimed directly at moderator Jake Tapper. Poynter Institute Senior Media Writer Tom Jones mocked his interviewing style. “Jake Tapper's moderating plan: ‘Okay, start fighting with that person over there,’” he tweeted.

NBC analyst Howard Fineman had the funniest comment about the CNN anchor. “If @jaketapper were a marriage counselor everyone would be divorced.”


Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee used the opportunity to slam CNN, a popular position on the right.

“Just how bad is CNN? These past 2 awful nights gave CNN more viewers than it normally gets in a month, but still dismal numbers because their format is worse than farting cows,” Huckabee said.