The ’90s Flashback Episode

Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks with Sen. Bernie Sanders after the Democratic primary debte in Des Moines, Iowa, January 14, 2020. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

This excerpt is from episode 186 of The Editors.

Rich: Bernie versus Warren, Lev versus Trump. Welcome to this special Who’s Lying edition of The Editors. I’m Rich Lowry, and I’m joined as always by the right, honorable Charles C. W. Cooke, by Jim ‘At Least We’ve Never Blown a 24-Nothing Lead in a Playoff Game’ Geraghty, and . . . is that true, Jim? I should get a fact-check on that.

Jim: Yeah. No, you’re correct.

Rich: I didn’t look it up before saying it. You never know. And—

Jim: We never get 24-nothing leads, anyway, to start with.

Rich: Right. And the notorious MBD, Michael Brendan Dougherty. Jim, we had an incredibly boring and seemingly interminable Democratic debate the other night, two hours with six candidates on stage, or five and Tom Steyer, and really the whole thing could have been reduced to the brief exchange between Warren and Sanders, with Klobuchar getting in there, too, about whether he had said when they met two years ago that a woman can’t be elected president; and then followed up by the greatest thing ever, this hot mic moment that they didn’t realize was hot mic. I don’t know how many views the video now has of this, but I count probably for like 150 of them just myself. I just loved it. It’s so hilarious.

You never see political candidates talk that way to each other. “You just lied about me on national TV.” “No, you just lied about me.” Then perhaps my favorite part, and Jim, you were mocking this on Twitter yesterday, was Tom Steyer just standing there. This incredibly explosive exchange happening to these two real candidates, and he’s like, “Oh, Mr. Sanders, please, I just wanted to say hello. Mr. Sanders?” And he’s like, “Yeah, okay.”

Anyway, what do you make of it, Jim?

Jim: Yeah. First, I got to begin with an apology to the listeners. They don’t pick up on this, but we try to start at a certain time. I’m here in D.C. area. Charlie is in Florida. You guys are up in New York. Everything’s set. Everything’s connected. We’re all ready to go, and I had to slow down. I couldn’t start when I wanted to because Tom Steyer popped in to say, “Hi.” Okay, fine. Thank you, Tom. That was great.

Yeah, first of all, regarding the debate, I’m not a fan of these debates. I’m just going to say, Rich, various readers have said, “Oh my God, you deserve a raise for watching these things so that we don’t have to,” “Oh, you deserve a bonus.” I’m not saying I need it. I’m just saying people are saying this sort of thing, Rich.

First of all, there’s very little debating going on. It was really bad when you had ten to twelve candidates up on that stage. You’d think there’d be a little bit of improvement now that we’re just down to six. But one, there’s not enormous policy differences amongst a bunch of Democrats, and the other thing is, even if there are, nobody at this stage of the game wants to say anything that might offend or bother or that any Democratic Iowa caucus-goer might want to hear. Even if they have disagreements, they don’t want to look mean. They don’t want to look nasty.

It was very clear that Warren and Sanders, neither one of them really wanted to get into the weeds in that during the debate. Warren prefaced by saying, “Bernie’s my friend. I didn’t come here to fight with Bernie.” Of course, you just happen to leak something that makes him look very badly two days before the primary, but she doesn’t want to fight.

I think this is reflecting the fact that as much as she’s not terribly behind the others, right now in most of the polling, Elizabeth Warren is in fourth place in Iowa and fourth place in New Hampshire. It’s a respectable fourth place. It’s like 15 percent to 17 percent. She’s probably going to get delegates. But two fourth-place finishes, and people will pretty much be writing up the obituaries of the Elizabeth Warren campaign, so she needed to do something. She’s probably not going to win that many voters over from Biden. She’s probably not going to win that many . . . The Sanders voters are the most natural base there, so she drops this, knowing that it makes Sanders look bad and makes him look sexist.

He says he didn’t say it. He was pretty vehement in his denial on stage during the debate. The CNN moderator Abby Phillip just ignores it. The right follow-up question was—

Rich: That was outrageous.

Jim: Yeah. Senator Warren, is Senator Sanders lying right now? That’s the question that really would’ve put everybody on the spot. And she didn’t. She said, “Senator Warren, how did you feel when Sanders said this?” Just totally a—

Rich: Just beyond the fact that she didn’t react to the Sanders denial, what kind of question is “How did you feel?” for any presidential candidate about anything? I just wonder whether, with Abby Phillips, there were nerves. This is the high-profile thing and this was her script, and she stuck with it despite what Bernie said. But the Bernie Bros have real legitimate cause for complaint about how that was handled.

Jim: Yeah. It was one step away from Barbara Walters’s “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” “How do you feel?” All the drama was after the debate ended, where clearly Warren is convinced he said it and that Bernie Sanders is now lying when he denies it; he clearly feels he didn’t say it and that she’s making something up. He didn’t want to deal with it right then and there, but clearly he feels he’s been unfairly accused.

I think it’ll be really fascinating if in the next couple of days or weeks, you see some more open sniping between these two people who insist they’re longtime friends and allies, or at least we would, Rich, if they weren’t obligated to stay quiet all day during the Senate impeachment hearings.

Rich: Charlie, you are an adept reader of evidence in public controversies of this nature. Who do you believe?

Charlie: Well, I certainly don’t agree with the idea that has been put forward by some prominent commentators that we should believe Elizabeth Warren by default because she is a woman, and that this is in some way connected to the MeToo movement-Julia Ioffe’s argument. If it is the case that we’re obliged to believe Elizabeth Warren at all times because she’s a woman, then she can’t be president. We can’t have a president whom we’re obliged to believe. Instead, we should treat Elizabeth Warren, every other woman, and in fact, everyone running for public office in the same way, which is to say that we should evaluate their claims on the evidence and feel no compunction whatsoever about saying that their claims don’t add up when they don’t.

This one is difficult, of course, because it is a claim about a private conversation, and nobody has suggested that that conversation was recorded or that there was anyone else who was party to it. I think Elizabeth Warren has her work cut out here because, given the lack of evidence, one tends to go to character, and her reputation precedes her. If this were, say, a claim about Bernie Sanders saying something incendiary about the Soviet Union, you might look at him and say, “I could see him saying that,” but it’s not. What it is is a claim that helps Warren, or is supposed to help Warren, by playing into a broader narrative, and a narrative that helps her campaign, and that gives her campaign meaning.

We have seen over and over again that Elizabeth Warren has either flat-out fabricated evidence or has twisted and massaged the truth in a way that allows her to paint herself as a trailblazer. This is what she did with the Native American claim. She wanted to turn herself into a minority and gain the benefits that flow from that. It’s what she did with the claim about being fired. She wanted to make herself look like a radical, somebody who had been wronged in the past, and whose very election and candidacy would help to undo that wrong.

I find it hard to believe that she hasn’t embellished this, given what we know about Bernie Sanders and given what we know about Elizabeth Warren. Of course, we will never know, and because we will never know, it strikes me that this was a blunder on Warren’s part. Of course, Bernie Sanders was going to say that it didn’t happen. If it didn’t happen, he was going to deny it because he was innocent. If he was the sort of person who would say this, he was going to deny it because he’s the sort of person who would say that.

There was no win here for Elizabeth Warren. What she has done is drag herself down into a fight that can’t be won and in which neither set of supporters is likely to move. I don’t see how that helps her. As for the rest of us, I think we can look at it, as we should much of the rest of the Democratic primary at this stage, and roll our eyes.

Michael: I want to play the Bernie Bro for this podcast for a minute here. The ending confrontation after the debate, I think, was just as staged and planned as the leak to the press and the stupid speech she gave about how women win. I think it was also . . . I think the moment was aimed at both Bernie and Joe Biden. I think it was aimed at Joe Biden in the sense that I think there’s good evidence to believe there’s a lot of weak support for Biden as a safe candidate, and she needs to overcome that argument that he’s necessarily a safer, more electable candidate. I think she wanted to make that argument in front of his supporters. I also think she was just trying to change the narrative. The narrative is that Warren has peaked, she’s losing air, and she needs to preserve the possibility of the New York Times endorsing her, which I’m sure they’re going to do.

Yeah, I thought this was staged. I think CNN was shameful in how they moderated it. I think they were shameful in waiting for a whole new news cycle to unveil the hot mic audio.

Elizabeth Warren is a fake. She should be presumed to be lying. This is a woman who plagiarized a French recipe for her contribution to Pow Wow Chow when she was dyeing her hair jet black and pretending to be a Native American. The idea that she should get up and call Bernie, a man who is helplessly himself, helplessly sincere, a liar, I thought it was so treacherous. I’m sure it’ll be effective, though. She has made herself a story and—

Charlie: Do you really think it will be effective?

Michael: I think it’ll be effective in triaging in getting the New York Times to endorse her and getting momentum. Remember, Hillary Clinton pivoted off of a story-

Charlie: How does that help—

Michael: The victim thing—

Charlie: . . . Michael, the New York Times endorsing her?

Michael: The victim thing matters.

Rich: In the primary, that matters, the New York Times.

Michael: In the primary, it matters. The victim thing helps. Hillary Clinton could’ve been dead after Iowa in 2008, but then there was this viral moment of iron my-

Rich: Oh yeah. What was she crying about it? I forget. She cried about something, didn’t she? Was that—

Michael: Also, there was the “iron my shirt” thing, where two people heckled her—

Rich: I don’t remember that.

Michael: . . . in a misogynistic way. I’m sure they were bumped off like Jeffrey Epstein. Anyway—

Rich: You’re going full Bernie Bro here.

Michael: I’m sorry, but everything about her is fake. She’s going to get the endorsement of fake progressives at the New York Times. Her populism is for millionaire doctors and lawyers who want to be out of school debt faster. Her bank reform helped kill small banks. Everything about her is phony, and we should be ashamed that we live in a country that even tolerates a media that plays with her like this. I think it’s just gross. I was offended by it in a serious way. I was hoping she would just go away quietly and die, or in her candidacy, die.

Rich: You haven’t been sending snakes to Elizabeth Warren. Is that what the Bernie Bros are doing? I saw Meghan McCain complaining about that.

Michael: I don’t know. I thought it was treacherous. Yeah.

Rich: Jim, we ultimately can’t know, obviously, because it was just the two of them in the room, and it’s entirely possible that they’re both telling the truth as they remembered it or as they received it at the time—

Charlie: It’s her truth.

Rich: And Bernie said what he says-

Michael: It was family lore that she heard Bernie Sanders was lying about her.

Rich: Bernie said what he said, basically has admitted that he said, that it would be used against her, and that she overinterpreted it in this way and immediately goes out and tells people that he supposedly said this terrible thing. I’m not full MBD on this one, Jim, but I’m pretty close to MBD. I really think she is making it up. I don’t think it is the kind of thing that Bernie would say, given that he wanted her to run in 2016, given the YouTube video that has resurfaced 30 years ago when he was saying a woman could be elected president.

Like Michael, I think, certainly compared to Elizabeth Warren, Bernie is a trustworthy figure. I think he’d have . . . I don’t think he lies about his program. I think he sincerely believes all these magical things about his program. If you told him to go out there and lie about it, I think you’d have a really hard time doing it. Maybe I’m naive about that, but I think you’d have a really hard time, at least a much harder time than the average politician.

Whereas if I’m a progressive, I look at Elizabeth Warren, and just the Medicare for All thing alone . . . Put aside the Native American stuff and the dishonest answer about her kids and private schools. What was the other thing about being fired? They all run together now—

Jim: Fired for being pregnant when a teacher, yeah.

Rich: Just the slippery way she’s handled Medicare for All would make me suspicious of her.

Jim: Yeah. This is a little too perfect. From a guy who has been open and a fairly outspoken feminist back to when he ran back in Vermont . . . He had one or two female opponents that he made some comments that were maybe borderline. But the idea that Bernie Sanders behind closed doors is like, “Let me tell you, there’s no way America’s ever electing a chick as president, okay? They just don’t trust ovaries in the . . .” That’s not who he is. He’s not Andrew Dice Clay. It just doesn’t fit anything else about him. What is much more plausible is like, “Trump will go after any woman.” But maybe he walked away from 2016 concluding there was sexism in the electorate and that this hurt Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton said this. This is not some sort of lunatic conspiracy theory viewpoint of the American electorate.

Also, if this really bothered Elizabeth Warren, then right after that meeting in 2018, she could have come out and said, “Bernie, for being a longtime friend, he said something, and it really bothered me and it really doesn’t strike me as correct. I think he underestimates what a woman could do.” She could have. But this just happens to come out two days before the final debate for the Iowa caucuses? Oh, that’s really convenient.

Again, I don’t think she’s earned any benefit of the doubt from this. The broader theme of the entire primary so far for me, and you guys know where I’m coming from, I think most Democrats . . . Not only does the media favor Democrats and not only does the media generally have kid gloves Democrats, a lot of people in the media want to believe in Democrats. So far, this primary is just one prominent Democratic rising star figure crashing and burning after another, Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Julian Castro. All of these folks have had, at one point or another, “This is the next great Democratic rising star.” There have been enough of those pieces written about Elizabeth Warren, too.

The thing is, no, she’s not a great rising star. Our colleague John McCormack keeps emphasizing she’s bragging about how she beat Scott Brown in Massachusetts, and nobody said it could be done. It’s Massachusetts, when Obama’s on top of the ticket. And oh, by the way, she ran well behind Obama at the top of the ticket. Then she’s acting like winning reelection in 2018 is a big deal. There is this ludicrously low bar that is used to build up these candidates, and I think eventually the rubber meets the road and you end up with this awkward, ham-handed, clumsy, transparent efforts. I think that might be one of . . . As you mentioned, the genuineness of Bernie Sanders, the sense that he can’t even try to be anything other than what he does . . . By the way, perhaps a rather Trump-like attribute.

Michael: Yes, listen—

Jim: That’s a big part.

Michael: Listen to how they speak. Bernie always speaks in Bernie-ese. He’s always speaking in the same kind of patois which you can trace probably to a specific block in New York City. Elizabeth Warren changes her vocabulary in timbre and delivery almost with every answer. Suddenly, she’s talking mommies and daddies—

Charlie: I think this is the key point here.

Michael: . . . in Oklahoma.

Charlie: I think this is the point.

Michael: “I’m going to have me a beer.” Then she switches into “I’m the professional ladder-climbing wonk.” It’s just plain on the face of day. I feel like I’m going crazy that anyone thinks there is any doubt about who has credibility here and who doesn’t.

Charlie: Rich implied this, and I think he’s absolutely right. One of the big differences between them is that Bernie showed up in a party to which he doesn’t even belong and said, “This is how I think it should be,” and then, give or take a couple of peripheral issues, proceeded to continue in the same vein as he had throughout his entire career. He’s the same person he was ten years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago. Bernie is trying to remake the Democratic party in his image, and he’s had some success in doing that.

Elizabeth Warren is trying to conform to the Democratic party, and to a Democratic party that has been changed by Bernie Sanders. She has to pretend to believe things she doesn’t. She has to effectively apologize for being a Republican. She has to learn this language which is not native to her, and in the course of doing so, she’s trying to put herself on the pyramid of grievances. So she has a greater incentive to make things up, to bend the truth than Bernie Sanders does. That doesn’t mean that she is lying here, but it does mean that the circumstantial evidence, especially when combined with the fact that she has a history of being slippery and also a history of dressing up for Halloween, means that Bernie probably is more likely to be reflexively believed and should be.

Rich: Jim, let’s widen it out and talk about the debate in general. Because I take Bernie’s side in this dispute, I was surprised and kind of displeased by some of the early polling. A focus group said Warren won. The FiveThirtyEight polling said she did the most to help herself, although FiveThirtyEight polling, they now analyze the stuff down at the microscopic level. We’re talking decimal points. But I thought just watching it, I thought Bernie had a strong night. He was emphatic and lively. And I thought Biden was strong, probably not on a totally objective scale, but by the scale of as good as the last debate, which was his best. He wants a steady state race, at least much more than any of the other candidates do.

Jim: I think one of the lessons of this cycle is that “a good night” doesn’t really matter. There are a number of times in the past six months we’ve chatted about these debates and said, “Julian Castro had a good night” or “Cory Booker, boy, he really had a good night,” “Amy Klobuchar.” None of them got anywhere. None of the numbers moved.

I think there’s one key measuring stick that comes out of most of these debates . . . Occasionally, you have a moment of drama, like Tulsi Gabbard filleting Kamala Harris like a fish. But by and large it comes down to, did Biden have a bad night? And most of these nights he’s not having a bad night. I don’t think Thursday was a bad night.

I think the interesting thing is that, heading into the debate and still so far, the big four candidates, Biden, Sanders, Warren, and Buttigieg, is that they’re all pretty comfortable with where they are. Maybe Warren’s a little bit worried. But they’re all walking away from Iowa with delegates, so nobody’s in a mood to take any big risks. Nobody wanted to go on the attack and have some sort of viral moment that goes badly.

Now, at least two of them are probably wrong. At least two of them are going to look back and say, “I should’ve done something more. I should’ve tried to make a bigger splash.” But right now, those four weren’t doing it. Amy Klobuchar, who is probably in that reasonable fifth place, needs to double her support, basically, to get any delegates, and she was not coming out swinging like crazy. And Tom Steyer was just there to be along for the ride and say hi to everybody.

Rich: If there’s ever been a candidate who was made for a reasonable fifth place, I hate to say it’s probably Amy Klobuchar. What’d you think of the debate generally, MBD?

Michael: I was missing Andrew Yang, for one. As the no-hopers like Andrew Yang, Tulsi Gabbard, and Marianne Williamson have left, they’ve become less interesting. The differences have narrowed. I thought Pete Buttigieg was boring, and I felt like he doesn’t seem to sparkle up there. He feels more canned and rehearsed.

Rich: It especially struck me in the beginning portions of the debate talking about foreign policy. All his answers were great. Everything he says is perfectly practiced and polished down to the syllable. But really, the mayor of South Bend is sitting here making grand pronouncements on how we should conduct matters of war and peace as a country?

Michael: Well, and the other thing is, too, for those of us who have watched more than one of these debates, to do another half hour, another round on Medicare, Medicare for All, Medicare for all who want it, there’s nothing to be gained at this point from probing them on this. That’s interminable.

Charlie: I think they’re all duds. That’s not to say one of them won’t win. Who knows?

Rich: All the candidates?

Charlie: All the candidates I think now are duds. I will distinguish that from suggesting that Trump’s going to win a second term. He may, he may not. One of them may prevail, but if I were a Democrat, I’d be disappointed.

The last two Democratic presidents have been charismatic. They’ve had something about them, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton. Ronald Reagan was obviously charismatic. The people who are hoping that if the Democrat wins, we will see more than merely a replacement of a peculiar and unpopular president, I think will be disappointed. I don’t see any of those people as able to usher in the sort of progressive change that they want to see.

Michael: What did you make of Bernie’s argument? I actually am basically in agreement with this before he even said it, but Bernie made an argument that you need enthusiasm and a grassroots fervor to win. I actually think that’s true. I think that was true of Trump and Obama, and until that model is overturned, I think there’s something to the argument that you start with a rabid, febrile base and then build out from there through partisan energy.

Charlie: Well, I should say that there are differences. There are different reasons for why I think they’re all likely to be duds, even if they become president. The problem with Joe Biden is that he is old and doesn’t have any ideas and speaks extremely poorly and looks like a caretaker, and is one temperamentally.

The problem with Elizabeth Warren is that she’s extremely unlikeable. I’m going to get emails now telling me that that’s because she’s a woman. That’s not true. She is unlikeable. I think she would have very little chance of convincing the public to go along with sweeping change, and I think if she tried to do it via the executive branch alone, which she’s threatened and which Luke Thompson says really is her worldview, then she will prompt a remarkable backlash in the way that President Obama did.

I think that Pete Buttigieg is just too green, and I think his instincts would be toward the center. I don’t think he’s going to go for bat, should he become president, for Medicare for All or canceling all student loans.

Then you have Bernie. Now, Bernie is different, as you say, Michael. Maybe Bernie could win because he gins up enough enthusiasm in the Democratic party and in the base. It’s possible. But again, to borrow from Luke Thompson’s dichotomy, Bernie’s view is that he would be in the vanguard of a revolution, that he would change public opinion, that people would look at America and say, “We need to alter it fundamentally, and Bernie is our guy.” That’s not going to happen.

If Bernie becomes president of the United States, the response from, especially, middle-class voters is going to be extreme. Bernie, remember, is off the charts when it comes to his ambitions. He wants to spend more money than any president would have ever presided over-spending in American history by a factor of at least two. He wants to spend more money than was spent in the New Deal. The reaction would be swift.

I can see them winning. I don’t know who. I can see Trump losing. I can’t see any of these people being the sort of president who shifts the center of gravity or who institutes change that lasts.

Rich: Jim, I’m not quite there yet, but per Michael’s point, I could see talking myself into the idea that Bernie is the strongest, potentially, in a general election of the four, certainly in the abstract, the point about the grassroot enthusiasm and a movement and a certain kind of charisma, although Bernie’s is obviously very idiosyncratic, being really important. That’s all really true. It’s just obviously the problem is Bernie carries so much baggage with the socialist label, with things he’s done in the past, and then just with the complete outlandishness of the program. But I was talking to someone the White House just the other day, and I was asking, “Who do you think the toughest is?” and he was like, “Maybe Biden, maybe Bernie.”

Jim: I don’t see it as that difficult a choice. I think Biden is significantly tougher than Bernie. Back in 2008 when Barack Obama was marching towards the presidency, there was a moment where Colin Powell surprised everyone by endorsing Barack Obama, George W. Bush’s secretary of state. At the same time, Markos Moulitsas over at Daily Kos was endorsing Barack Obama. I remember saying, “One of these two guys is going to end up disappointed,” because Colin Powell and Markos Moulitsas don’t actually want too much of the same things.

But that was the secret of Barack Obama, that he could be this blank slate that everybody projected their ideals onto. You’re probably right that there’s nobody in this field who can really do that. You can probably argue Bill Clinton sort of did this in 1992, as well—

Rich: Sorry to interrupt, Jim. Probably the closest would be Buttigieg, right?

Jim: Yeah, and I—

Rich: Because the thing about George W. Bush getting elected in 2000 and Obama in ’08, they weren’t hated yet. They got hated really quickly.

Charlie: But that’s why. That’s why Buttigieg won’t be the bringer of radical change, because he’s not going to, unless something cataclysmic happens between now and November, he’s not going to come in on the back of a terrible economy, 60 Senate seats, a supermajority in the House. It’s not going to happen, which means he’s going to end up where Obama ended up on a majority of questions, being lambasted by the Markos Moulitsases of this world for being too moderate.

Jim: Yeah. I don’t think any of the progressive grassroots look at Pete Buttigieg, or only a small percentage look at him and say, “Oh yeah, he’s one of us.” Part of it’s because every single one of his debate performances, as good as they are, sound like a McKinsey consulting presentation, that there’s no… a little too polished, a little too slick. This is not a guy who it feels like it’s coming straight from the heart, unfiltered. I don’t think anybody has that.

The other thing is also, again, we on the right look at these guys and see all of their flaws. The average Democrat doesn’t want to see their flaws. They want to believe. Nobody’s going after Bernie on his nutty writings for those alternative newspapers about women and rape fantasies and stuff. Donald Trump is going to go right there. Donald Trump is going to go right to everything regarding socialism, the crowd in Nicaragua saying, “Death to America,” or chanting some sort of anti-American chant, and Bernie Sanders being fine with it, all of his IRA friends, although maybe Michael likes that, all of the stuff that Bernie Sanders has done over the years that makes him a genuine radical. Donald Trump is going to take this and lick and put all of it on him until it sticks. This is all, by the way . . . The guy is nearly 80 years old, and he had a heart attack. This is a target-rich environment.

Now, does Biden have weaknesses? Sure, absolutely. But I think Bernie Sanders probably doesn’t get elected and doesn’t get people to sign on, “Yes, we need a socialist revolution,” as long as unemployment is below 4 percent. If we were at the peak of the Great Recession, 2008, maybe you get somebody like Bernie Sanders, somebody saying, “Yeah, this totally hasn’t worked. We need radical change. We need big sweeping changes.” This is not a great environment for Bernie Sanders, and that’s even separate from his quirky personality.

Rich: Those are all excellent points, Jim. Well taken.

Rich: Let’s go exit question to you, MBD. Who benefits from the Bernie-Warren conflict? Choose one. Bernie, Warren, Biden, Buttigieg, Andrew Yang?

Michael: Warren benefits because I honestly think we’re only, whatever, 48 hours into this by now, but I think she’s given a reason for the media to do what I think the media is inclined to do, which is try to drag her to the top. I think we are not ready for the amount of energy that is going to be poured into this now that it’s basically a foot race, a three- or four-way foot race.

Rich: Charlie Cooke?

Charlie: I have the same logic as Michael, but with a different conclusion. I think it helps Bernie because the media is going to try to drag Elizabeth Warren to the top. I think what happened during the debate was appalling, the moderation, and I think the reaction in the press has been appalling. I think that Bernie will be able to cast himself as somebody who is not only an outsider, but who’s being unfairly treated. I think this, in the same way, albeit on a much smaller scale, as did the Kavanaugh fight, is going to galvanize those who are partial to Bernie.

Rich: Jim Geraghty?

Jim: Malarkey! It helps Biden. It makes him look worse, makes her look worse. You saw the same thing between Gephardt and Dean in the closing days of the Iowa caucuses. Anybody who was wavering for either one of them might just go with the safe choice, and it helps good old Joe.

Rich: I’m with Jim. This is the conventional analysis, but I think it’s correct. I think Warren, worked for her that night, she had a bit of a moment from it, but she needs . . . Her path to the nomination is collapsing down Bernie and winning his people, and there are going to be some segment of those people that aren’t going to forgive her. I don’t think there’s really much upside to Bernie to having this accusation hurled at him, which some people in the media and the commentators say they believe of him.

Just the usual way it works is two candidates going after each other in a multi-candidate race benefits someone else. And I think especially enjoyable, though, it was, as a pundit and a viewer, the hot mic moment afterwards. It’s just two people calling each other liars. It’s not going to help either of them. I agree with Jim. Biden, maybe Buttigieg, but certainly not Warren or Sanders.

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