I was sitting here this morning watching the Kentucky Blue-White Game that I recorded last night. As usual, I’m starting to get excited about basketball season, so I thought this might be an opportunity to write down some observations.
- With Kentucky basketball, it’s not a given that you’re going to get a player play their sophomore year. Last year PJ Washington came back and did himself some favors in regard to NBA draft standing. I think he might end up being looked at as the benchmark for some of these guys who come back a second year. The ones to look at this year are Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, and EJ Montgomery. For me, from these three guys, the one who has taken the biggest jump is Immanuel. He looks so much more confident and just knows what he can do out there. Ashton is reigning Defensive player of the year from the SEC last year and he still looks good. His shot is improved, but I’m not sure he’ll ever be a knock down shooter. EJ also looks better and, with more playing time, he’ll be an important piece. But I predict Immanuel will be on the floor a lot at the end of the game. Cal hinted at that on the broadcast. Maybe he won’t be a starter, but he’ll play starters minutes and will be on the floor at the end because of his free throw shooting. I could also see him getting more minutes than Tyrese Maxey at the beginning of the year.
- While I think Cal will experiment with a 3 guard lineup or small ball in general, I think, but Nick Richards will start at the 5. Nick has failed to live up to his potential before, but I’m really liking what I’m seeing from him in this game.
- As far as the starting lineup, I think Cal is going to want to start with two bigs, so it’s gonna be Nick and EJ, along with Ashton and Tyrese. The question is going to be who starts at the 3. I like Immanuel for shooting. But I could see Juzang, Brooks or Whitney in that spot as well. Who will Cal put there? I guess he will go with Whitney.
- I think your shooters on this team are Maxey, Quickley, Juzang and Sestina. I would, as much as possible, keep at least two shooters on the floor at all times. If you start Nick and EJ, you need Quickley or Juzang to go with Hagans and Maxey. If you get Sestina on the floor as one of the two bigs, you get Brooks or Whitney or both on the floor with two of the three lead guards. I’m really excited to see the shooting lineup – Maxey, Quickley, Juzang, Sestina, and Montgomery.
- Both the Blue and the White squads played zone defense for a chunk of the second half. The defense wasn’t great, but I like the fact that Cal was willing to do it, because he’s not a fan of playing zone. Seems like teaching the zone defense at this point helps the offense practice against a zone, which this team will see a lot of.
- Coming soon: I’m going to do my preseason Top 25. I’m going to have a special contributor on my weekly Top 25 this season. My son, MadZee will be sending me his Top 25 so we can compare and contrast who has the better handle on the state of college basketball this year. He’s a Sports Management major at the University of Tennessee and he’s pretty well informed on most things sports.
- Youth Sports Alert: I’m helping out a friend with coaching a team of 5th and 6th graders this year. I haven’t really dipped my toe into coaching since I was coaching MadZee in youth basketball. It’s gonna fill up my schedule and I apologize to MadDoc in advance for the many nights of practices and games to come.
The title is a quote from Amy Klobuchar about Elizabeth Warren’s embrace of Medicare for All. I’ve already commented on the debate back and forth between moderates and liberals on Medicare for All. I also commented on my problem with Mayor Pete’s consultant’ed change from more progressive to more moderate to help him fit in a lane that can better get him to the nomination. But here I want to discuss the plan versus pipe dream thing that Klobuchar seems to be going after.
There’s part of me that is attracted to the idea of having a candidate who runs on the very popular issues and leaving alone the unpopular ideas. So, I think Amy Klobuchar’s pitch is that she will focus on a more moderate upgrade to the healthcare system, which she believes can get passed. Without saying it explicitly (or maybe she has), she thinks Medicare for All is too left-wing, extreme, or unpopular to be able to get passed.
Here’s my problem. Any Democratic healthcare plan, from the most moderate to the most liberal, will get demonized by the Right and will face many hurdles to getting passed in the House and Senate. I guess Klobuchar’s theory is that she builds this “Blue Wall” in the midwest, takes the Senate and gets some Republicans on board. Except. Klobuchar hasn’t shown any ability to generate enthusiasm that might help her sweep to a landslide victory. The close races that might help the Dems get to a majority in the Senate aren’t in the midwest (except maybe Joni Ernst). Klobuchar’s “Blue Wall” doesn’t help in Colorado, Maine, Alabama, Arizona, or North Carolina. Call me skeptical that Klobuchar can pull off the win and get some coattails. So, I’m not sure this makes Klobuchar a better candidate than Warren in getting two Democratic houses to help her pass legislation.
Which brings me to my bigger point. And, yeah, I’m a Warren supporter, so her arguments speak to me more than a moderate’s like Klobuchar does. Still, I’m pretty sure I know what Warren wants when she becomes President. She wants healthcare coverage for all Americans. She thinks Medicare for all is the best way to get that. She’s not negotiating with herself in advance. Do I know whether Klobuchar wants Medicare for all and just doesn’t think she can get it, so she’s settling in advance? Or does Klobuchar not think Medicare for all is a good idea, so she’s setting forth the best plan she thinks can pass in a moderate to conservative Congress. I think if those are my choices, I’m happier with Warren. She’s leaving herself open to negotiate by asking for the maximum. She’s also telling me what she thinks is the best way forward. For me, that’s the better candidate to fight for the issue.
I’ve been continuing to read, listen to podcasts and generally catch up on the post debate commentary. A couple of things have popped into my head.
- The House passed a resolution condemning Trump’s pull out from Northern Syria. I often think that, like the proverbial blind squirrel, Trump happens upon the right idea. Very often it’s for the wrong reason, like his fighting with China over trade, which I think he does for self-aggrandizement and enrichment. And he almost certainly ends up botching the execution. Again, see China trade policy. I think pulling troops out of Syria is the right thing to do. I think if we weren’t already there and we were looking at a situation where Turkey was going across the border into Northern Syria and slaughtering people, the right response would be diplomatic, rather than sending in troops. The problem here is that we ARE there, and have been for a while. So, pulling out with no plan is the worst possible way to handle things. Then you pile on top of that the fact that we have solid allies in the area who have helped us in multiple armed conflicts in the region and you’re betraying them completely. You end up destroying what little reputation the U.S. has with people in the region and around the world.
- I’m still stuck on my growing problem with Mayor Pete. I’m sticking with him as my number two options for the reasons I said here. From a pure politics standpoint, going after the frontrunner makes sense. And the question of how to pay for a Medicare for All program, along with Warren’s reluctance to admit that taxes will go up, is the obvious way to draw a distinction with her. But as I’ve been reading more, I see things about Pete that I didn’t realize from back in the spring before he really came on my radar. Evidently, he has previously said he thought Medicare for All was the compromise position. Now he’s saying it’s too far to the left. So I think my problem with Pete comes from the fact that I’m just realizing he is less authentic in his beliefs than I previously knew. Yeah, I understand they’re all politicians and they’re going to tend to spin and change their viewpoints depending on the audience. Aside from Bernie, I think all of the Democratic candidates do it to a greater or lesser degree. Yes, even Elizabeth Warren. But compared to Warren, who is remarkably consistent in her attacks on corruption in government and how we have to take on big corporations, Pete seems to have stuck his finger in the wind a little more than most. He had three big moments in the debate that got him some positive attention. His exchange with Tulsi Gabbard on Syria was outstanding and genuine. He’s right on that issue and I have no quibble with what he said. But he also had an exchange with Warren on healthcare and with Beto on guns where I’m thinking less of him now that I’ve been thinking about it. I heard this elsewhere, on a podcast I think, but his criticism of those candidates on their issues didn’t really amount to a disagreement on policy. Not that his policy ideas were better, or even their policy ideas are bad, but their policy ideas go too far and they’ll be divisive and we shouldn’t try to go THERE, when we can settle for this thing I’m proposing. This from the guy who has previously said that we shouldn’t worry about what Republicans will say about our policies because they’re going to call anything we propose socialism. I contrast him with Amy Klobuchar, who has been proposing more moderate policies from the beginning. She’s not my favorite, but I give her points for consistency. Pete seems to have tried to play in the progressive lane, found it was too crowded, so he decided he’d play the moderate card and hope for a Biden collapse. So I think more and more Warren’s line fits this pretty well – dream big and fight hard, don’t dream little and quit before you’ve started.
- I also heard something on a podcast this morning that sounds about right to me, especially in light of MadDoc’s view of Tulsi Gabbard. MadDoc said she looks like a Russian sleeper agent. And it looks like Gabbard might be getting some push on Twitter from Russian bots, so maybe she’s the candidate that the Russians prefer to mess with the Democratic primary election? But, obviously, Gabbard isn’t going to get within cheating distance (as Pete likes to say about Trump) of the Democratic nomination. Could she be primed to be the spoiler independent candidate who will claim the process is rigged and try to take a percentage point or two off of the Democratic nominee’s numbers in the general? If the election turns out to be a close contest, a robust 3rd party vote – Jill Stein and others – could take enough away from Elizabeth Warren to give Trump another 75,000 vote margin in 3 states and give him the electoral college. I haven’t considered Gabbard in any meaningful way to this point, but I guess she’s on my radar as someone I’m actively pulling against.
I watched the fourth Democratic debate last night from start to finish. I also watched some CNN, listened to a couple of podcasts and read some articles with various pundits’ thoughts on how the candidates did. I wrote last night and this morning about my thoughts on who did well and who didn’t.
But, as promised, I need to update my top 10 for the candidates. Just my preference, not who I think will win necessarily. After the last month, I’m adjusting my tiers of the candidates. I’m putting Buttigieg in the top tier with Warren, Biden, and Sanders. I think there’s a decent chance that Mayor Pete squeezes Biden in the moderate lane, does well in Iowa and gets some momentum to the nomination. Tier 2 is now Harris, Klobuchar, and Booker. Tier 3 – is now Yang, Castro, and O’Rourke. Everyone else in Tier 4.
- Elizabeth Warren – Staying steady. Senator Warren did well taking the attacks from the moderates. She has her challenges as the frontrunner and may have to adjust her tactics a bit. I think her message is the right one. She characterizes herself as a fighter and gets some criticism on that point. Biden and Mayor Pete make the explicit and implicit argument that we need to get back to a normal and bringing in a fighter to follow someone like Trump isn’t the best way forward. I disagree with that point. I think going back to the Obama era is going backwards, not going forward. I’m with her.
- Pete Buttigieg – Up 3 spots. I’m less of a fan of Mayor Pete’s this morning than I was going into the debate. I think it bothers me that he always falls back on his unity schtick. I don’t agree that comity for the sake of comity is the way to go and that seems to be what he’s arguing for. Warren is more on point with her focus on corruption and fighting against big business. But. If I look at the list of candidates and think about who can I see as president. Who would do a good job? And, honestly, who strikes me more as someone I’d like to see in the top job, rather than just as a VP hopeful, then Mayor Pete is an easy #2. I have been outspoken in worrying about the age of Biden and Sanders. All other things being equal, I will go for the younger candidate over the older one. I think it’s a big deal that Pete would be the first openly gay president. He is very solid on foreign policy. He’s progressive enough. And, if he is the nominee, I think he has the most potential besides Warren to generate a lot of enthusiasm to help get out the Democratic base and help down ticket.
- Cory Booker – staying steady. Using the same rationale that I used in putting Pete at #2, I think I need to have Cory at #3. I can see him in the top spot. He does “let’s all get along” much better than Pete or anyone else. He’d be a good debater to take on Trump. I don’t know that there’s an obvious choice for him to choose as VP, but that’s a problem for later. If Warren ends up the nominee, he’s the leader for her VP choice.
- Joe Biden – up two spots. Joe is too old and doesn’t perform well in debates. He’s not going to fire up the base. He’s very moderate and wants to return to how it was before Trump, which I think is a step backwards. Still, he has lots of experience and is very well liked. He’d likely get lots of moderate Republicans to vote for him over Trump.
- Bernie Sanders – up 4 spots. Bernie is maybe the last candidate I can put on this list whom I can see in the top job. He’s too old and his health is an issue that will be used against him in the general. But, he does have the potential to generate some enthusiasm as the nominee.
- Amy Klobuchar – up one spot. After the top 5, I see these candidates as potential VPs, but I don’t see them in the top job. Klobuchar is sticking to her focus on the heartland and Midwest. Did you hear she’s won in very red districts? As I’ve said before, all things being equal, I’ll go for the woman candidate. That’s why she’s here. Good VP choice for Biden.
- Kamala Harris – down 5 spots. Just a forgettable debate. She’s fading. She’s here because I’ll take her over the also ran men. Maybe a good VP choice for Pete?
- Beto O’Rourke – Down 4 spots. Beto didn’t really shine in the debate, except he was good on guns. I’m not sure he’s adding anything to the race right now. He’s a potential VP choice for Warren, but not the top one.
- Julian Castro – Down 1 spot. If Julian doesn’t make the November debate, he should drop out and endorse. He’s a big enough name that it would make a splash. If he’s angling for the VP job, Warren is the obvious place to land.
- Andrew Yang – staying steady. I’m liking him more and more. I don’t see him in the top spot or as VP, but he gets the candidates to focus on issues that they wouldn’t normally have to deal with. I hope he sticks around and ends up in a Democratic administration.
Others: 11 – Tom Steyer; 12 – Tulsi Gabbard.
I think this was a really good debate. I was worried in advance that 12 people on the stage was going to adversely affect how the debate would work. It worked out pretty well in the end. The candidates who matter got most of the speaking time, but everyone had a chance to speak on a lot of the topics. The choice of topics was pretty good. They got to the predictable topics, but also touched on long forgotten issues, like opiods, abortion and the Supreme Court.
In general, the debate played out with some of the moderates – Buttigieg and Klobuchar, primarily, going after Elizabeth Warren. Biden did pretty well and Bernie looked healthy and was engaged. Even though impeachment started off the debate, the bigger fireworks were in healthcare and on Syria.
It was also nice to get to watch the first hour with the MadDoc and the MadBee. MadDoc usually watches part of the debates with me in bed. Tonight, MadBee joined us for the first hour or so. She asked questions (what is an entrepreneur) and was pretty engaged for a ten year old girl. This is pretty satisfying for me on another level. I’m MadBee’s Stepdad. It’s a very contentious relationship with her dad and his mom, so that she’s put in the middle of things a lot. MadDoc worries about MadBee being put in the middle, so she doesn’t try make any more conflict for the girl than she has to have. This results in MadBee taking on the beliefs of her dad’s side of the family without question a lot of the time. Trump is a good example of this. She will say she likes Trump. Her reason is always something about jobs because that’s what she’s heard from her dad. She knows we think he’s the worst president ever, but generally sticks with her dad on this issue. Still, when I can get her to watch a political debate for an hour, I have hope that she can eventually see through the right wing propaganda she normally hears about the clown in the White House and see him for who he really is. It was good for her to listen to the Democrats talk about Trump in terms that aren’t the usual Fox News praise and adulation.
Here’s my ranking of how I think the candidates did in tonight’s debate. As always, this doesn’t equate to my overall ranking of the candidates.
- Buttigieg – Most of the pundits seem to be focusing on the moderates who went after Senator Warren. Mayor Pete was one of the two main moderates who went after Warren on healthcare. Specifically the fact that she’s unwilling to say taxes will go up in her plan. It’s an effective attack and where she looks weakest in these debates. Aside from that, though, Mayor Pete had a great moment on Syria taking down Representative Gabbard and her ridiculous repetition of “regime-change war.” He’s just right on that issue and speaks with authority on foreign policy. Pete also had a pretty good exchange with Beto on guns that I think was a draw, although the pundits think he got the better of it. I think he was being disingenuous a little when he tried to say that Beto pushing for mandatory buybacks somehow meant that he didn’t also care about other gun control reforms, like universal background checks. For me, Mayor Pete had a good debate, but I also have some issues with his arguments. If anyone is going to get traction out of this debate and see some positive movement in the polls, it’s most likely to be Pete and that’s why I’ve got him #1 in this ranking. It’s probably because I’m a strong supporter of Warren, but his attacks on Warren are probably going to affect my overall ranking of him in my Top Ten.
- Klobuchar – Senator Klobuchar is the other moderate who was very aggressive in taking on Warren. Pete did a better job of it than Klobuchar, so that’s why he’s above her in the ranking. She and Pete are also fighting hard for the representative of “the heartland” or the Midwest. She also once referenced the Midwest as flyover territory in the derogatory way that Republicans do. Still, she had a good debate and got some attention.
- Warren – Senator Warren got the frontrunner treatment. The moderates came at her. O’Rourke came at her. Gabbard tried to ask her questions directly. The questions from the moderators were focused on her. Considering all of that, I think she did a good job. Her weakness is clearly the healthcare issue. She has a plan for everything, but, as Mayor Pete pointed out, she doesn’t have a plan for her version of Medicare for All. The questions always come in the context of “will you admit that your plan would require tax hikes.” She’s consistent in refusing to say anything about taxes, referring to it in terms of costs. It’s a clear strategy not to have tape where the Republicans can put her in commercials next year saying she’ll raise taxes. But I’m sympathetic to her focus, which is on getting everyone covered. At the end of the day, even the most modest Democratic plan for expanding healthcare is going to be a real slog getting it through Congress. I think Warren’s focus is aspirational and she is helping herself down the line to take these arrows now and just keep coming back to her core idea of how the insurance companies make profit off of saying no to their customers. She had two good lines for me. On the wealth tax, she said the question shouldn’t be why are she and Bernie for it, but rather why everyone else isn’t. Also, when talking about breaking up Amazon, she said you can be the umpire or one of the teams, but you can’t be both.
- Booker – Senator Booker had a pretty good debate, but nothing too flashy. He does the kumbaya, why can’t we all get along stuff better than Mayor Pete. Where Pete had some topics that were in his wheelhouse, Cory didn’t really have those moments. Still, when he gets the chance, he does a good job. Cory is a good debater and the format with 12 people on stage probably didn’t help him.
- Sanders – Bernie won the debate by being up there and looking good and engaged, considering his recent heart attack. He chimed in to support Warren a little when everyone was attacking her on healthcare. He made the most news with the word of some endorsements by Squad members, but didn’t do much to stand out in the debate.
- Biden – Joe benefitted by virtue of the fact that he wasn’t the focus of the attacks. He rambled some on the obvious question that they posed about Hunter Biden. Not a great answer. He was pretty strong in the foreign policy section, but had a weaker moment in his back and forth with Senator Warren on the electability. He said he was the only one who had done stuff, forgetting about Warren’s part in creating the CFPB. It was awkward and potentially a negative for him if women voters saw it.
- Yang – Andrew was strong on tech questions and has clearly gotten better in the debates. Had some good exchanges with Warren that weren’t as antagonistic as some of the other attacks on the frontrunner.
- Harris – Senator Harris with another mediocre performance. She had a couple of nice moments in defense of women’s reproductive rights. Otherwise a forgettable night.
- O’Rourke – Beto got a question on his signature issue – gun violence – and did pretty well. He’s for mandatory buybacks of AR15s and that got him some attention. He held his own with Mayor Pete on the issue, but otherwise was a non-factor tonight.
- Steyer – For his first debate, Steyer did a pretty decent job. He’s going to have to lean into the “I’m the billionaire to take on Trump” stuff even more next month (he’s already qualified for the next debate).
- Castro – Julian had a decent moment opposing mandatory buybacks by referencing the terrible shooting by the police officer of the woman in her own apartment in Texas. He got a good response from the crowd for that. His responses were actually pretty decent when he got called on. Reminded me of the time I had him higher in my candidates Top Ten. Still, his debate performance didn’t pop and is unlikely to do much to keep him in the race.
- Gabbard – Her repetition of the phrase “regime change war” had echoes of what you might expect from someone who is accused of being an Assad apologist. And bad move to bring up the “smears” she said she got from the New York Times. Made me want to go google them right then and I probably wasn’t the only one. She tried to ask Warren questions as a way to hijack the debate and it just didn’t work. I am ready for her to drop out.