|BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/ AFP-GETTY IMAGES|
Yes, yes. I know. It's early in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. But what we've seen so far should be bringing smiles to the faces of deplorables everywhere. This is because, among other missteps, rather than make the case against the worst president ever, the feckless Dems are going after one of the best.
I refer, of course, to Barack Obama.
The former president's name was invoked at least 17 times in the most recent debate on Wednesday night, primarily over the issue of health care, which should be a huge winner for the party and its standard bearer in 2020.
Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren want to replace the Affordable Care Act with a government-run single-payer system, while centrist Democrats, including Obama veep Joe Biden, want to retain Obamacare and improve upon it. Then you have single-payer supporters Bill de Blasio and Kirsten Gillibrand, who criticized Obamacare for its high deductibles, copayments, and the ever present insurance companies who have profited handsomely from Obama's bold and largely successful attempt to reform America's dysfunctional health-care system.
Julián Castro and Cory Booker pressed Biden about the Obama administration's policy of deporting hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants, while the obnoxious De Blasio went after Biden because Obama's Justice Department, in his view, did not take action on the 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner, an African-American, at the hands of a white cop.
All of this is divine for Trump, and if the front-running Biden is able to cinch the nomination, he will be red meat for Trump because Biden is effectively campaigning to extend the Obama administration to a third term.
I am not suggesting that the still huge field of 20 nomination wannabes lay off Obama, just to remember that they're not running against him.
It's not that Obama isn't fair game when the context is appropriate. His overwhelming popularity among Democrats and many independents has masked his considerable shortcomings. While on balance he was a terrific president and because of an accident in history known as the George W. Bush interregnum, was the right leader for the right time, albeit handicapped by Mitch "Moscow Mitch" McConnell and his Republican refusniks in Congress, Obama's legacy is deeply tarnished by his serial dithering on pushing back against Russia interference in the 2016 election. This was a failure of immense magnitude that, when all is said and done, helped gift us Trump.
But the focus on Obama, even hair-splitting policy differences, gives Trump an undeserved free ride.
Republicans already are seizing on the disconnect. Donald Trump Jr. tweeted on Thursday morning how nice it was "to see Democrats finally go after Obama’s failed policies very aggressively," while the president echoed that theme on Thursday night at a campaign rally in Cincinnati.
"The Democrats spent more time attacking Barack Obama than they did attacking me, practically," he said. "This morning, that's all the fake news was talking about."
At one point on Wednesday night, Biden went after Booker for his crime record as mayor of Newark, New Jersey, prompting Republican strategist John Weaver to scratch his head and tweet: "When the topic is criminal justice, how are they not talking about the criminal in the White House? Huh?"
Indeed. The White House is one big crime scene, Trump is an unindicted co-conspirator in one criminal case and is not off the hook in others, he continues to appease fellow authoritarian Vladimir Putin while turning a blind eye to Russia's ongoing efforts to disrupt elections and is busily trying to bend the intelligence community to his massive ego, most recently by nominating John Ratcliffe, an unqualified hack, conspiracy theorist and anti-Robert Mueller stooge, to be his director of national intelligence. (Trump, blaming the "lamestream media," withdrew the nomination on Friday afternoon.)
"You know, we have a president, as everybody has acknowledged here, every day is ripping at the social fabric of this country," Biden said in his opening statement on Wednesday night without naming names. That was pretty much the last anyone heard about Trump for the rest of the debate.
While we're on the subject, Biden and his surrogates are hands-down winners of the stupidest talking point thus far in the campaign:
Regarding Joe's unfortunate, stand on forced busing 40 years ago, he couldn't be a racist because Obama never would have chosen him to be vice president if he was. And that's as far as it goes. Nothing about Trump being a flaming racist who joins GOP presidential racists Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, as we have just been reminded.
Dick Polman points out what possibly was the most egregious omission in the two nights of debates, which happened to have been held in Detroit, which happens to be in Michigan, which Trump happened to take by a hair's breadth en route to his 2016 Electoral College victory, and happens to be a must-win for the Democrats in 2020:
A scant 10 miles from Detroit’s debate auditorium, in the swing county of Macomb, autoworkers are losing their jobs because a historic General Motors plant is shutting down. Back when Trump campaigned for president in Michigan, he declared: "If I'm elected, you won't lose one plant, you'll have plants coming into this country, you're going to have jobs again, you won't lose one plant, I promise you that." . . . Over a span of two nights, not one of the 20 Democratic candidates mentioned this plant closing -- and the chasm between Trump's promise and performance.On its face, the Democrats are in a win-win situation going into 2000. But this assumes they don't fall on their face.
Trump is deeply unpopular and attracting enough voters beyond his vaunted "base" borders on a mathematical impossibility in a fairly-contested election, while control of Congress is within the party's reach. (Taking back the Senate is a possibility while building on its House majority is looking pretty good, too. In recent weeks, seven Republican representatives have announced they're not running for reelection, including the party's only black congressman and one of its only 13 congresswomen.)
The news media shares some blame for focusing on the intra-party squabbling, while the moderators for debates host CNN were more interested in reigniting the unpleasantness that Kamala Harris visited on Biden about his long-ago position on forced busing than asking questions about a plant closing.
And there was the inevitable media kerfuffle after Biden greeted Harris on stage by saying, "Go easy on me, kid." Was that an insult? Was that just Joe being Joe? Was that a big deal about nothing? Of course it was, but . . .
Tweeted Neera Tanden, CEO and president of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress and the Obama campaign's domestic policy director: "Dem Candidates who attack Obama are wrong and terrible. Obama wasn't perfect, but come on people, next to Trump, he kind of is."
Following the debate, former Obama Attorney General Eric Holder fired an appropriate warning shot about the candidates' Trump myopia:
"To my fellow Democrats. Be wary of attacking the Obama record. Build on it. Expand it. But there is little to be gained -- for you or the party -- by attacking a very successful and still popular Democratic President."