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MSNBC: Candidates ‘Savaged Each Other’ Like Boxers Fighting at the Roman Coliseum

MSNBC wasn’t sure whether to react with approval or horror Wednesday night after the 2020 Democratic presidential debate. In the first 15 minutes, MSNBC analysts, hosts, and pundits offered debate descriptions ranging from “a presidential version of Survivor to “the most expensive night in Vegas” to an event at “the Roman Coliseum” to “boxing in the 1950s.”

Lyin’ Brian Williams led off, remarking that the six candidates “sometimes savaged each other” and that “the old bromide, what brings us together is greater than what divides us, doesn’t accurately depict what we just witnessed.”

 

 

After Deadline: White House host Nicolle Wallace suggested nearly all the candidates (except Mike Bloomberg) could declare some form of victory, former Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) dubbed the debate “a little bit like a presidential version of Survivor featuring “a lot of punches and counter punches.”

McCaskill boasted that former Senate colleague “Elizabeth Warren came out swinging,” Pete Buttigieg “did very well tonight,” and “Joe Biden had one of his better debates.” 

But it was next that McCaskill and Wallace showed a liberal media bubble disconnect by fretting there wasn’t a discussion about the Roger Stone sentencing and their fears about a future lacking “the rule of law” under Trump (click “expand”):

MCCASKILL: I do think that I was disappointed that we didn’t have any discussion about the rule of law being systematically dismantled in our country. That’s what’s on my mind. I think it’s on a lot of people’s mind, and the circular firing squad, there’s a danger there. There wasn’t enough pivoting to talk about the real problem, which is Donald Trump and will we get through this? Yes. Will the Democrats still unify? I believe we will, but this kind of debate makes it tougher. 

WALLACE: It does. You know, I’m glad you raised the rule of law. We’re sitting in a moment where this is the eve of the Roger Stone sentence and there’s a lot of speculation in Washington on the right and on the left that Donald Trump is contemplating and aware of his power to pardon. So I am — I share your dismay and I found it a little disconcerting that in a moment where Trump is consumed with a revenge chore to punish all of the civil servants that testified in the impeachment and on a pardon-palooza, again, freeing felons. 

MCCASKILL: For corrupt people. Mr. I Hate Corruption. 

WALLACE: I’m surprised it didn’t come up. 

The Root’s Jason Johnson quipped next that Bloomberg had perhaps “the most expensive night in Vegas I’ve ever seen” because “he lost everything.”

“He had the opportunity to really stand on stage and appear to be an equal with everybody else, and he looked bored. He looked disenchanted. He absolutely stumbled over very obvious questions that anybody would have anticipated about sexual harassment and NDAs and stop and frisk. I thought it was a bad night for him,” Johnson added.

Later, Williams fretted to Last Word host Lawrence O’Donnell: “I’m tempted to ask who’s going to tell them they have to run against Donald Trump in a few months.”

Like a good socialist Democrat, O’Donnell replied that “they’re going to get there and there was some running against Donald Trump tonight, but obviously there was a lot of running against Michael Bloomberg” such as when Warren “just flattened” him.

Hardball host Chris Matthews went last before the first commercial break, stating with exasperation that “I never saw anything like it” and compared it to a bout inside “the Roman Coliseum.”

Matthews continued with the analogies by calling the two-hour event “boxing in the 1950s” in which “[y]ou wait for the other guy — Carmen Basilio or some guy like that to get a cut over their eye, and then you keep punching the cut over their eye over and over and over again.”

He added (click “expand”):

That’s what they did to Bloomberg. That’s what Elizabeth Warren did to Bloomberg. She knew his weakness was the NDA, and she kept punching the spot, and it kept bleeding and bleeding. He had no way to stop it. He didn’t have a cut man. He should have had somebody before the event — the bout tonight, to warn him this is what they’re going to hit you on and they’re going to keep hitting you until you answer release the women or something. I think that’s what it was about tonight. What we saw, though, is also Elizabeth Warren who was really doing the punching. She came back tonight, I think she’s fought herself back into third place, maybe better, maybe second out here. I think she’s probably disappointed that she wasn’t tougher in New Hampshire. Everybody said that she wasn’t the fighter. She was the fighter tonight. 

(….)

I also thought Buttigieg would not lay up on Klobuchar. He wouldn’t lay up on the fact she didn’t know the president of Mexico. He kept punching her weak spot, her wound over and over again. It was the boxing match in which nobody pulled back and said enough and nobody clenched. Everybody kept fighting. I’ll tell you I think Trump probably likes the look of it. I’m not sure he’s right. On first — on first view, it looks awful and bloody. Everybody attacking each other. Circular firing squad, all those — all those cliches, but maybe what we saw was a lot of passion and maybe that passion is going to get through, but there’s only one candidate who believes he’s going to have the most delegates going into Milwaukee, and we know who it was. It was the guy that said that person should be the winner. Everybody else said I will not have the most delegates….They were not going to give the win to the guy — or the person with the most delegates.

To see the relevant transcript from MSNBC’s post-debate coverage on February 19, click “expand.”

MSNBC’s Post-Debate Analysis: Decision 2020
February 19, 2020
11:00 p.m. Eastern

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Two ways of looking at what just transpired on that stage in Las Vegas, Nevada. Six people fighting for themselves. Six people who, over the course of two hours, sometimes savaged each other and at some point someone on that stage is going to have to run against the incumbent president. Sometimes at the end of what we just saw, throwing in the old bromide, what brings us together is greater than what divides us, doesn’t accurately depict what we just witnessed. [INTRODUCES PANEL] Nicolle?

NICOLLE WALLACE: You know, I think a lot — I had the job for a long time of running into the spin room and explaining why my candidate won and it’s always been sort of a dubious craft. I think tonight more so than ever because I think just about all these candidates can make a claim to having an important night in terms of what they’re trying to achieve. I think if you were waiting for Biden to, you know, be as focused and in command as he was tonight, you finally got it. If you wanted Pete Buttigieg to show a national audience why he won Iowa, you got it. If you are one of the millions of people who has sort of thrust Bernie Sanders to the top of the national polls, you saw what you love about Bernie Sanders. If you love Amy Klobuchar, you saw her defend herself and fight, and if you’re an Elizabeth Warren fan who wondered why she dipped in the polls, I think you saw all the fight come back in her. I think that what was hanging over this was the introduction of Michael Bloomberg in the race. Michael Bloomberg’s campaign doesn’t really rely on these debates but he has to go through them to get beyond them. We’ll see if this — I think people will have analysis about Bloomberg that’s everything from he’s disqualified to, you know, he sort of stood apart and it may not matter. I think what we learned in 2016 is what we say and think matters a whole lot less than what it felt like in the room and what the Democratic primary voters in Nevada think about what they saw on the stage. 

(….)

11:03 p.m. Eastern

WILLIAMS: Claire McCaskill, your interpretation of the free form evening we just witnessed? 

CLAIRE MCCASKILL: Well, it was a little bit like a presidential version of Survivor. There was a lot of punches and counter punches. You can tell they — the stakes have been ratcheted up. There are candidates that were on that stage tonight that know they won’t be around in 30 days. 

WALLACE: Maybe ten. 

MCCASKILL: Maybe ten. Maybe after Super Tuesday, So tonight was a big, big night, and it showed. I thought Elizabeth Warren came out swinging, and landed some significant punches on Michael Bloomberg. I don’t mean literally, obviously, but figuratively. She was certainly lived up to her moniker of fighter tonight. I thought she had a strong debate performance. I thought Pete — Mayor Pete did very well tonight, and I thought Joe Biden had one of his better debates. You know, this has not been his moment, these debates. I do think that I was disappointed that we didn’t have any discussion about the rule of law being systematically dismantled in our country. That’s what’s on my mind. I think it’s on a lot of people’s mind, and the circular firing squad, there’s a danger there. There wasn’t enough pivoting to talk about the real problem, which is Donald Trump and will we get through this? Yes. Will the Democrats still unify? I believe we will, but this kind of debate makes it tougher. 

WALLACE: It does. You know, I’m glad you raised the rule of law. We’re sitting in a moment where this is the eve of the Roger Stone sentence and there’s a lot of speculation in Washington on the right and on the left that Donald Trump is contemplating and aware of his power to pardon. So I am — I share your dismay and I found it a little disconcerting that in a moment where Trump is consumed with a revenge chore to punish all of the civil servants that testified in the impeachment and on a pardon-palooza, again, freeing felons. 

MCCASKILL: For corrupt people. Mr. I Hate Corruption. 

WALLACE: I’m surprised it didn’t come up. 

WILLIAMS: Jason Johnson?

JASON JOHNSON: So, the big new name was going to be Michael Bloomberg and this probably was the most expensive night in Vegas I’ve ever seen. He lost everything. This guy has spent $320 million. He had the opportunity to really stand on stage and appear to be an equal with everybody else, and he looked bored. He looked disenchanted. He absolutely stumbled over very obvious questions that anybody would have anticipated about sexual harassment and NDAs and stop and frisk. I thought it was a bad night for him. He’s probably doubling the salaries of his staff who want to go into the spin room because I wouldn’t want to defend him after the night he had. But I’ll also say this as far as unity or people getting together, the most critical question tonight was when they — when the moderator asked, look, if somebody heads into the convention and they have the most delegates, but they have not hit the threshold, does that automatically make them the Democratic nominee? And everybody said no except for Bernie Sanders. I think that’s indicative of what we’re going to see. These candidates are going to continue fighting forward. They’re not necessarily going to fall in line because Bernie is in the lead and I think this is going to a long and hopefully productive conflict going forward in the campaign. 

(….)

11:07 p.m. Eastern

WILLIAMS: Lawrence, I’m tempted to ask who’s going to tell them they have to run against Donald Trump in a few months. 

LAWRENCE O’DONNELL: Ah, they’re going to get there and there was some running against Donald Trump tonight, but obviously there was a lot of running against Michael Bloomberg and Michael Bloomberg did have some strong moments for Mike Bloomberg. 

WILLIAMS: Oh, he had.

O’DONNELL: However, he had — he suffered the worst blows on that stage. The non-disclosure agreement round that Elizabeth Warren opened up on him and the women and others in his company who have non-disclosure agreement settlements, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren double teaming Michael Bloomberg saying release them right now on TV from their obligation not to disclose, and Mike Bloomberg absolutely wasn’t ready for that at all. On the other hand, you know, and by the way, on the Bernie Sanders thing about he thinks the person with the most delegates even if it isn’t enough to lock up the nomination should get the nomination, that is exactly opposite of the Bernie Sanders’s position of four years ago when someone else he believed was going to go into that convention with the most delegates. That’s always a position of convenience and always has been. The most fascinating thing that happened on the stage our viewers at MSNBC got to see during a commercial break in a box on the screen, and that was after Elizabeth Warren just flattened Michael Bloomberg a number of times, Michael Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren spent the entire commercial break in very cordial conversation with each other that was real. They weren’t doing that stiff thing of turning away from each other. They were exchanging ideas. If there’s audio of anything, that would be really fascinating to hear and I’m sure they will give us their version of what that conversation was, because it was — it had absolutely nothing to do with everything else you saw on TV during the actual debate. 

(….)

11:09 p.m. Eastern

WILLIAMS: They brought hay makers for the first round. Chris Matthews, you’re at the venue watching along with us. 

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Right. 

WILLIAMS: In Las Vegas. Whatcha you make of it? 

MATTHEWS: Well, I never saw anything like it. It was the Roman Coliseum. The — it was boxing in the 1950s. You wait for the other guy — Carmen Basilio or some guy like that to get a cut over their eye, and then you keep punching the cut over their eye over and over and over again. That’s what they did to Bloomberg. That’s what Elizabeth Warren did to Bloomberg. She knew his weakness was the NDA, and she kept punching the spot, and it kept bleeding and bleeding. He had no way to stop it. He didn’t have a cut man. He should have had somebody before the event — the bout tonight, to warn him this is what they’re going to hit you on and they’re going to keep hitting you until you answer release the women or something. I think that’s what it was about tonight. What we saw, though, is also Elizabeth Warren who was really doing the punching. She came back tonight, I think she’s fought herself back into third place, maybe better, maybe second out here. I think she’s probably disappointed that she wasn’t tougher in New Hampshire. Everybody said that she wasn’t the fighter. She was the fighter tonight. I believe she hit every other single candidate. I don’t know if she made her way to Biden. If not, it’s only because she didn’t think it was worth it. [PANEL LAUGHS] She hit every other candidate really hard. He has to get her position back in the top tier. I also thought Buttigieg would not lay up on Klobuchar. He wouldn’t lay up on the fact she didn’t know the president of Mexico. He kept punching her weak spot, her wound over and over again. It was the boxing match in which nobody pulled back and said enough and nobody clenched. Everybody kept fighting. I’ll tell you I think Trump probably likes the look of it. I’m not sure he’s right. On first — on first view, it looks awful and bloody. Everybody attacking each other. Circular firing squad, all those — all those cliches, but maybe what we saw was a lot of passion and maybe that passion is going to get through, but there’s only one candidate who believes he’s going to have the most delegates going into Milwaukee, and we know who it was. It was the guy that said that person should be the winner. Everybody else said I will not have the most delegates. They all made it official. They were not going to give the win to the guy — or the person with the most delegates. That was so telling tonight. Today it was an acknowledgment that Bernie is the winner, not the winner, the winner so far in this whole fight and he may be the winner all the way and I think they think so. 

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