NPR Analysis Of Democratic Debate

Dec 19, 2019

Candidates Pressed On Judicial Appointments

One of President Trump’s biggest legacies will be the stamp he has put on the federal judiciary. He recently passed the milestone of having appointed a quarter of appeals court judges.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar pointed out that she aggressively questioned Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s controversial but successful Supreme Court nominee, during his confirmation last year — and that he then apologized to her.

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is gay, said, "The Supreme Court is a very important issue to me because my marriage rested on a vote from that single body.”

Candidates Continue Wrestling With Reparations (Or Dodging The Question)

Credit Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Moderators asked candidates whether they supported reparations to African Americans. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg said he supports HR 40, a bill in Congress that would create a commission to study reparations.

When asked about reparations, former Vice President Joe Biden pivoted to talking about immigration.

The issue of reparations has come up repeatedly in the Democratic primary fight. As NPR reported in March, candidates at times took a loose definition of reparations. Some sold their anti-poverty or redistributive policies — which, given America’s racially unequal levels of wealth and income, would disproportionately benefit African Americans — as a form of reparations.

However, reparations are not just about economics but also about reconciliation, as one expert told NPR at the time.

Reparations poll poorly among Americans. According to an October AP/NORC poll, 29% of Americans said they supported cash reparations to descendants of slaves.

However, support varies widely by race and ethnicity: 15% of white people support reparations, according to that poll, compared with 44% of Hispanics and 74% of African Americans.

Billionaires And Wine Caves Punctuate Buttigieg, Warren Dust-Up

There has been a back and forth going on between South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren recently over transparency and access, and it spilled into the open in Thursday’s debate in one of the tensest exchanges yet between the two.

Warren, who’s known for taking selfies with supporters and is focused on raising money from small donors, attacked Buttigieg for holding a closed-door, high-dollar fundraising event with “billionaires in wine caves,” referring to a recent lavish event in California.

Buttigieg, however, punched back, saying that he is the least wealthy candidate onstage and that Warren shouldn’t issue “purity tests you yourself cannot pass.”

“Your net worth is 100 times mine,” the South Bend mayor said.

Candidates Debate Relationship With China

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and businessman Tom Steyer offered different views on how they would address China’s role if there’s a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

Buttigieg said he would make sure that China was “isolated from the free world” if it violently put down the protests, which have been going on for more than six months.

Steyer, on the other hand, said that isolating China from the rest of the world isn’t possible.

“We have to work with them as a friend,” Steyer said, adding that climate change will require that the U.S. partner with China.

Buttigieg And Klobuchar Spar Over Whose Experience Matters Most

Pete Buttigieg is being forced to defend his governing experience as mayor of South Bend, Ind., from Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who suggested that he does not have what it takes to be president.

Buttigieg, who leads a city of some 100,000 people, claimed that he built a broad-based coalition to win office, which he has led since 2012.

Klobachar, who’s represented Minnesota in the Senate since 2007, was incredulous.

“While you can dismiss committee hearings, I think this experience works,” Klobuchar. “And I have no denigrated your experience as a local official,” she said. “You should respect our experience when you look at how to evaluate someone who can get things done.”

Buttigieg shot back, “You actually did denigrate my experience.”

Klobachar’s broadside was the latest in a series of attacks she has launched against Buttigieg, arguing that being the mayor of a mid-sized city does not prepare someone for the White House.

“Senator, I know that if you just go by vote totals, maybe what goes on my city seems small to you,” Buttigieg said. “If you want to talk about the capacity to win, try putting together a coalition to bring you back to office with 80% of the vote as a gay dude in Mike Pence’s Indiana.”

Not good enough, said Klobuchar.

“We should have someone heading up this ticket that has actually won and been able to show that they can gather the support that you talk about of moderate Republicans and independents, as well as the fired up Democratic base.”