Fox News might not be hosting a 2020 Democratic debate, but last night’s moderators on CNN made sure the conservative network’s disingenuous framing of the issues came through in the questions posed to candidates.
With the moderators—Don Lemon, Dana Bash, and Jake Tapper—operating under a clear mandate to get candidates to abide by their rules or have their time reduced, they ended up giving ample screen time to deeply under-performing, right-leaning Democrats. The format of the questions also seemed intended to put Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the top-tier candidates, on the defensive about their supposedly far-left-wing policies.
Meanwhile, candidates like Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan got to talk about cars and Maryland Rep. John Delaney got whatever the fuck that all was.
We decided to tally up some of the absolute worst questions CNN posed to the candidates. Here are just a few of them, culled from NBC’s transcript of the night (and with emphasis added throughout).
On Medicare for All
TAPPER: Let’s start the debate with the number-one issue for Democratic voters, health care. And Senator Sanders, let’s start with you. You support Medicare for all, which would eventually take private health insurance away from more than 150 million Americans, in exchange for government-sponsored health care for everyone.
Congressman Delaney just referred to it as bad policy. And previously, he has called the idea “political suicide that will just get President Trump re-elected.” What do you say to Congressman Delaney?
And later came this zinger, because if you’re pro-universal healthcare then you’re definitely anti-union:
TAPPER: Thank you Congressman. So Senator [Sanders], let’s talk about that. If Medicare for all is enacted, there are more than 600,000 union members here in Michigan who would be forced to give up their private healthcare plans.
Now, I understand that it would provide universal coverage — but, can you guarantee those union members that the benefits under Medicare for all will be as good as the benefits that they’re [sic] representatives — their union reps fought hard to negotiate?
BASH: We’re going to move on to the issue of immigration now. There is...
... widespread agreement on this stage on the need for immigration reform, a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, including dreamers. But there are some areas of disagreement.
Mayor Buttigieg, you’re in favor of getting rid of the law that makes it a crime to come across the U.S. border illegally. Why won’t that just encourage more illegal immigration?
Fear-mongering about undocumented immigrants? On uh [checks notes] CNN??
BASH: Senator Sanders, you want to provide undocumented immigrants free health care and free college. Why won’t this drive even more people to come to the U.S. illegally?
Again, this was not on Fox News:
BASH: Congressman Ryan, are Senator Sanders’ proposals going to incentivize undocumented immigrants to come into this country illegally?
On Gun Violence
LEMON: Senator Sanders, you said this in 2013, just months after the Sandy Hook massacre, and I quote here: “If you pass the strongest gun control legislation tomorrow, I don’t think it will have a profound effect on the tragedies we have seen.” Do you still agree with that statement today?
Sanders clarified that he meant that no one had a “magical” solution to gun violence, but sure, position him as a gun guy.
TAPPER: ...In poll after poll Democratic voters say that they want a candidate who can beat President Trump, more than they want a candidate who agrees with them on major issues.
Governor Hickenlooper, you ran a Facebook ad that warned “socialism is not the answer.” The ad also said, “don’t let extremes give Trump four more years,” are you saying that Senator Sanders is too extreme to beat President Trump?
Oh good, more:
TAPPER: Thank you, Governor. Senator Warren, you make it a point to say that you’re a capitalist. Is that your way of convincing voters that you might be a safer choice than Senator Sanders?
On the Climate Crisis
BASH: Congressman Delaney, I’ll start with you. You say the Green New Deal is about as realistic as Trump saying Mexico is going to pay for the wall. But scientists say we need essentially to eliminate fossil fuel pollution by 2050 to avoid the most catastrophic consequences. Why isn’t this sweeping plan to fight the climate crisis realistic?
BASH: Congressman Ryan, we are here in Michigan, where there are about 180,000 workers in auto manufacturing. Your state of Ohio has around 96,000 workers in that industry.
Senator Sanders is co-sponsoring a bill that would eliminate new gas-powered car sales by 2040. Given the number of auto manufacturing workers in your state, how concerned are you about Senator Sanders’ plan?
Based on a CONCERN SCALE rating of zero to “I’m screaming,” where do you stand, congressman?
On the “Racial Divide”
LEMON: We want to turn now to the issue of race in America. Congressman O’Rourke, President Trump is pursuing a reelection strategy based in part, on racial division. How do you convince primary voters that you’d be the best nominee to take on President Trump and heal the racial divide in America?
Would hate to call the president racist on national television.
LEMON: Senator Klobuchar, what do you say to those Trump voters who prioritize the economy over the president’s bigotry?
Perfect, another opportunity to pass off racism as economic anxiety. Speaking of:
On the Economy
LEMON: Congressman Ryan, President Trump’s tariffs have boosted the U.S. steel industry but hurt auto manufacturers like those here in Michigan, which could drive up the cost of cars. As president, would you continue President Trump’s steel tariffs?
What Americans care most about: steel tariffs.
On Foreign Policy
TAPPER: Senator Sanders, President Trump has argued that the United States cannot continue to be the, quote, “policeman of the world.” You said the exact same thing on a debate stage in 2016. If voters are hearing the same message from you and President Trump on the issue of military intervention, how should they expect that you will be any different from him?
LOL give me a break.
TAPPER: Senator Warren, you want to make it U.S. policy that the U.S. will never use a nuclear weapon unless another country uses one first. Now, President Obama reportedly considered that policy, but ultimately decided against it. Why should the U.S. tie its own hands with that policy?
Nukes bad? Explain!
The good news: We get to do it all again tonight!