Buttigieg's Performance In Democratic Debate

Sep 12, 2019

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., left, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, right, try to respond to a question Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019, during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by ABC at Texas Southern University in Houston.
Credit David J. Phillip/AP Photo

Here are the highlights of the debate from NPR's coverage of Pete Buttigieg: 

After tech investor Andrew Yang announced his contest that could give $1,000 per month to 10 people, there was a pause before South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg delivered his opening remarks. Sen. Kamala Harris of California could be heard laughing. Then Buttiegieg raised his eyebrows and said, that’s “original -- I’ll give you that.”

Buttigieg hadn’t been a central part of this debate early on — he surged early in the campaign but has stalled recently — but he is the only military veteran onstage, having been a Navy Reserve intelligence officer. Buttigieg responded to a question about the Joint Chiefs chairman, Gen. Joe Dunford, who has called for enduring support for Afghanistan’s government and military.

"You know, I served under General Dunford,” Buttigieg said. “Way under General Dunford, in Afghanistan.”

Buttigieg can talk about the military in more personal terms than anyone else onstage. Another 2020 Democratic hopeful, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, also is a veteran — but she didn’t qualify for this debate. Buttigieg talked about having to be responsible for other troops, and he hit President Trump — who got a deferment from service in Vietnam for allegedly having bone spurs — for using service members as political props.

Buttigieg also slammed reports that Air Force crews have been staying at a Trump property in Scotland during refueling stops even though closer, cheaper options are available.

It is remarkable that this year marks the first time that people born on Sept. 11, 2001, can vote. And as pointed out by Buttigieg — who is the only veteran onstage — it is also the first time people born on that day can enlist in the military.

The years since the Sept. 11 attacks have brought a whole generation that has never known the time of peace that preceded the terrorist attacks and the conflicts they sparked. All this generation has ever known is war and economic uncertainty. One enduring question for the 2020 election and beyond: How will that reshape not just American politics but culture?

Buttigieg took aim not only at President Trump but at many of Trump’s supporters. Buttigieg said Thursday that anyone who supports Trump’s immigration policies is "supporting racism."

Buttigieg responded bluntly when he was asked by debate moderator Jorge Ramos whether those who support Trump’s immigration policies are racist.

“Anyone who supports this is supporting racism — es racismo y es sencillo,” Buttigieg said, stating in Spanish, “It’s racism and it’s simple.”

Buttigieg went on to say that people who buy into the president’s hateful rhetoric around immigrants are people who don’t know immigrants.

Buttigieg wrapped up the debate by talking about his decision to come out as gay while running for re-eleciton as mayor of South Bend. 

"As a military officer serving under 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' & as an elected official in IN when Mike Pence was Governor, I wondered if acknowledging who I was would be a career ending setback."

"When I trusted voters to judge me on the job I did for them, I learned trust can be reciprocated... You need to now what is worth more to you than winning we have to know what we are about."

"It is not about this President, it is about the people who trust us with their lives... If we hold to that it doesn't matter what happens to each of us professionally, we will win a better era together."

When it ws all said and done, NPR estimates that Buttigieg came in 6 of the 10 candidates based solely on time spent speaking.