In an eerily bizarre debate, with no studio audience, and the now two remaining candidates keeping the CDC recommended 6 feet between them, it was no wonder that issues surrounding the coronavirus crisis took center stage.
As the two candidates were asked several questions relating to how they would handle the virus if they were in the oval office, Biden took several pot shots at Sanders ’ transparent attempts to use the coronavirus pandemic to renew his call for “Medicare-for-all,” saying, “People are looking for results, not a revolution.”
Despite the somber tone set by the corona precautions, there were plenty of fireworks, with an often aggressive Sanders hitting his rival in their first one-on-one debate over everything from super PAC support to his history on Social Security.
At one point, Sanders urged viewers to “go to the YouTube” to review evidence of Biden calling for cuts to Social Security on the Senate floor. That prompted one of the night’s most contentious exchanges, as Sanders pinned down Biden aggressively — with Biden eventually acknowledging under pressure that various cuts were “on the table” as part of congressional negotiations, but that he “never voted” specifically to slash Social Security.
“We did not cut it!” Biden exclaimed during the exchange, hammering his lectern.
“I know, because people like me helped stop that!” Sanders retorted. “You’re an honest guy, why don’t you just tell the truth here?”
Biden has, in fact, previously supported temporary freezes on Social Security benefit increases, though it has largely opposed cuts.
Which Virus Are We Fighting?
As the two both tried to articulate how Trump was failing in handling the current health crisis, it seemed that each of the elderly candidates had trouble focusing on just what virus we were currently facing.
Biden, 77, muddled the name of the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu, which spread across the world in 2009.
“We’ve been through this before with the coronavirus. We’ve been through this before — excuse me — we’ve been through this before with dealing with the viruses, the N1H1 as well what happened in Africa,” the former vice president said, referring to the H1N1 virus and the Ebola virus outbreak in 2014 through 2016.
After Biden had mentioned the Ebola crisis, Sanders, 78, mistakenly referred to coronavirus as Ebola.
“The Ebola crisis, in my view, exposes the dysfunctionality of our healthcare system,” the Vermont senator said. “The Ebola crisis is also, I think, exposing the cruelty, and the injustice, of our economy today.”
Sanders later caught himself.
“We have got to move aggressively right now to address the economic crisis as a result of Ebola, as a result — he’s talking about Ebola, he’s got Ebola in my head here right now,” Sanders said. “As a result of the virus here, the coronavirus.”
That wasn’t the only big coronavirus related flub made by Biden during the debate. He also had to walk back his use of the word “alien” – a super “no-no” on the left — to describe illegal immigrants. In responding to a question about how he would handle undocumented immigrants who might be afraid to get tested for the virus for fear of deportation, he said, “Just like I have argued all along: Any woman who crosses the border or is here and being beaten by her husband, but she’s an undocumented, she cannot be deported because she reports. There are certain things you cannot deport an undocumented alien for — an undocumented person for,” he said, slightly stuttering, closing his eyes, and lowering his head in a clear display of frustration.
Biden Vows to Name a Female Running Mate
In one moment of clarity the former VP did leave no doubt that he would name a female as his running mate, should he be the party’s nominee. “If I’m elected as president, my cabinet, my administration, will look like the country and I commit that I will in fact pick a woman to be vice president. There are a number of women who are qualified to be president tomorrow and I would pick a woman to be my vice president,” he said.
Biden also promised that in his first 100 days as president, “no one will be deported at all,” a vow that would also presumably protect murderers or rapists who violate federal immigration law.
The debate comes as the nation and much of the world struggle to contain a global pandemic amid mounting economic uncertainty. The debate itself was upended by the outbreak, having been moved from Phoenix to a Washington studio.
The goal in the debate for Biden was to strike a challenging balance – appealing to a general election audience while also making concessions to the left, as the party tries to coax Sanders out of the race.
Hours before the CNN-Univision debate began, Biden announced he would adopt portions of two proposals from Sanders and Elizabeth Warren concerning free public college and bankruptcy, respectively, in an apparent bid to win over their supporters.
Over all they each had good moments, theyu each had bad moments, but in the long run, neither one came out of the debate looking great. And I am sure that neither one’s supporters moved an inch closer to switching allegiances, which should matter most to Biden, who is going to need Bernie’s supporters if and when the Senator from Vermont is mathematically eliminated.
Biden summed things up nicely when asked what he would do, if he is the nominee, to bring Sanders into the fold, “He’s making it hard for me right now,” the VP said after the debate.