Last night, the showdown was ON. Two candidates took the stage, coiffed for battle, ready to face down and parry the ludicrous personal attacks and brutal hypocrisies of their worst enemies: the debate moderators.
Wait, What Now?
Yes, Wednesday’s Democratic debate was notable less for disagreements between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton and more for the viewing audience legitimately wondering if the Univision moderators were about to start tossing rotten fruit at both of them. Let’s leave aside that the English-language translators sounded like they had been pulled directly from studying for their sophomore Spanish midterm and thrust in front of a microphone (at one point, one of them referred to the candidates as the “protagonists” of the debate, which … we guess isn’t technically inaccurate?), because moderators Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas of Univision and Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post were on a whole other level.
We are all in favor of candidates we like facing tough questions. Tough questions are what not only keep the candidates honest, but show how well they’d be able to face GOP attacks in a general election. They are a necessary and vital part of the primary process.
Unfortunately, what we got was not tough questions. What we got was this:
RAMOS: If you get indicted [are] you going to drop out?
CLINTON: Oh, for goodness — that’s not going to happen. I’m not even answering that question.
That’s an actual moderator in an actual debate lending credence to a Republican fever dream conspiracy (and it wouldn’t be the last time in the evening, as Evan covered so ably earlier). Incredibly, it only went downhill from there.
“But Why Won’t Both Of You Say This Specific Buzzword?!”
Tumulty won the night’s stealth dumb question with this one:
TUMULTY: Secretary Clinton, you have known Donald Trump a long time. You have seen what kind of campaign he’s running. Secretary Clinton, is Donald Trump a racist?
And to Bernie:
Senator Sanders, do you think it’s fair to call Donald Trump a racist?
Now, that might look like a reasonable question to you. You might be annoyed that neither Bernie nor Hillary answered it directly by saying, “Yes, Donald Trump is a racist.” You know why both candidates refused? BECAUSE NEITHER OF THEM IS A FUCKING IDIOT.
If they gave Tumulty the “yes” she was clearly seeking, the media wouldn’t stop shouting about how they said the R-word, and ain’t nobody got time for that. Bernie and Hillary have actual important shit to discuss. Both responded to the question by condemning Trump’s words and his bigotry, and showed solidarity in so doing (which made us love them both so very much — seriously, YOU KIDS STOP FIGHTING ABOUT WHETHER MOMMY OR DADDY IS THE ANTI-CHRIST AND GET OFF OUR LAWN). Tumulty, however, seemed visibly annoyed that neither of them would say her buzzword.
“Madame Secretary, Tell Us Why And How You’re Actually An Asshole.”
Shortly before Ramos brought up Benghazi like a fucking Breitbart columnist, Tumulty was at it again:
Secretary Clinton, a Washington Post poll just yesterday found that only 37 percent of Americans consider you honest and trustworthy. Now, when you’ve been asked about this in the past, you have said that this is the result of many, many years of Republican attacks upon you. But Americans have also had 25 — more than that — years to get to know you for themselves.
Is there anything in your own actions and the decisions that you yourself have made that would foster this kind of mistrust?
What the hell is this question? Like any candidate, Hillary should face questions about her policies — what they are, how she would implement them, whether they set us on the right path, whether she’ll adhere to them once in office. All of those are fair questions we would like to see asked!
Asking why people just have a generally bad feeling about her, even after all these years, and how it must be her fault, is not the kind of question we ever need to hear again. It’s the same vague “UGH, what is wrong with your personality?” sexist bullshit Hillary has been facing her entire career, and frankly, we are really tired of it.
To his immense credit, even Bernie had a “Wait, what the balls is this shit?” look on his face when they asked her this.
Time For Some Red-Baiting, Huzzah!
Lest you think Clinton was the only one subject to some oddly phrased questioning, OHHHHH NO. Bernie got it every bit as badly:
SALINAS: In 1985, you praised the Sandinista government and you said that Daniel Ortega was an impressive guy. This is what you said about Fidel Castro. Let’s listen.
SANDERS: You may recall way back in, when was it, 1961, they invaded Cuba, and everybody was totally convinced that Castro was the worst guy in the world. All the Cuban people were going to rise up in rebellion against Fidel Castro. They forgot that he educated their kids, gave them health care, totally transformed their society.
SALINAS: In South Florida there are still open wounds among some exiles regarding socialism and communism. So please explain what is the difference between the socialism that you profess and the socialism in Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela.[…]
Senator, in retrospect, have you ever regretted the characterizations that you made of Daniel Ortega and Fidel Castro that way?
What is the difference between the democratic socialism Bernie Sanders talks about and the brutal, dictatorial communist regime of Fidel Castro? Like, besides how they are two totally different political ideologies, and they’re not even spelled the same way? This question is a slightly more intellectual-sounding way of shouting “SOCIALISM BAD!” like a Lou Dobbs caller. It’s the modern equivalent of “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?”
“Interrumpiendo La Vaca MUUUUUUUUUU!!!!”
It wasn’t just the questions themselves, either. Remember when Evan made that hilarious interrupting cow en Español joke yesterday? Yeah, so did the Univision debate moderators, apparently, because they spent the entire night doing it, repeatedly cutting off both candidates halfway through (not unreasonably long!) responses. Any time Bernie and Hillary started to go back and forth on a subject — y’know, to have a fucking debate — all three moderators brusquely attempted to force them to move on. At two separate points, Ramos told Bernie “You have 30 seconds,” then tried to cut him off before he hit 15. Even Hillary looked like she wanted to say “For fuck’s sake, let the man speak.”
It wasn’t just that they were interrupted, either, it was how relentlessly dickish the moderators were about it. Four separate times (three for Bernie, one for Hillary), the candidates had clearly finished speaking, but the moderators made it a point to snap “YOUR TIME IS UP” anyway.
So That Was The Most Badly Moderated Debate We’ll Ever See, Right?
God, we hope so.
We’re still trying to figure out what the hell happened last night. Did Bernie poison Maria Elena Salinas’ dog? What member of Jorge Ramos’s family did Hillary do Vince Foster to? We would make some crack about “when did Univision get taken over by Fox News,” except we watched the last GOP Fox News debate, and the moderators in that one actually asked smarter questions than Univision did.
We can’t think of a bigger insult to lob at them than that.