It was not, apparently, a night for inside voices.
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders yelled at each other, at the CNN guys and at us.
A raucous crowd ate it up.
The folks in the Brooklyn hall for the season’s ninth Democratic debate seemed to tilt for the older of the two oldsters, leaving Clinton to wait to give her final closing arguments until the “Ber-nie! Ber-nie! Ber-nie!” chants finally calmed a tad.
This came after Bernie continued to act as if he were in an early Republican debate, where the trick was to get as much air time as possible. Seemingly unaware that in a two-person debate it would always be his turn to talk next, he kept signaling to the moderators that he had a response.
Most of the instant analysis found the once-harmonious Democratic primary getting increasingly nastier. That’s what happens, after all, when candidates inch ever closer to victory or defeat.
New Yorkers vote on Tuesday. The result could give Clinton the insurmountable lead she’s been chasing for months (or in a sense for a decade or more) or give hope for all those Bernie bros and college kids out there that the adorable/cranky democratic socialist dude from Vermont still might get this thing.
“What started out many months ago as a relatively civil contest, in which both Sanders and Clinton seemed to resist negative attacks,” wrote Dan Balz at The Washington Post, “has descended into the kind of competition that raises questions about how easily the party will come together once a winner has been crowned.”
At The Atlantic, David Graham saw two candidates who’d seemingly spent the month since their last debate boiling up with resentment and itching to settle a few scores.
“There was none of the kumbayah of previous debates, in which they had criticized each other but taken care to insist that their real opponent was the Republican Party,” Graham wrote. “On Thursday, they targeted each other directly. At one point, Wolf Blitzer, like a disapproving national father, felt compelled to cut in. ‘You’re both screaming at each other,’ he implored. ‘The viewers won’t be able to hear either of you.’ ”
Pete Weber at The Week thought that the Blitzer beseeching would mark the “most replayed moment of the night.”
“There was a lot of yelling from both candidates. But while Clinton got visibly exasperated (‘If Sen. Sanders doesn’t agree with how you are approaching something, then you are a member of the establishment,’ she said at one point), Sanders was the only one who appeared to actually be angry,” Weber observed.
Jon Favreau (not to be confused with the Jon Favreau of “Swingers” who now makes spandex movies) once wrote speeches for the current president and suggested this wasn’t the prose he’d craft for a candidate. He tweeted that the debate had reached its “get off my lawn” moment and suggested Sanders anger undercut the Bernie brand.
Red State’s Joe Cunningham said only debate host CNN came out a winner for insisting that Sanders explain why it’s taking so long to release his tax returns (although Bernie’s excuse seemed to be that wife Jane has “been busy”) and pressing Clinton to share transcripts of her high-dollar speeches to Wall Street biggies (she’s not budging). The network, Cunningham said, gave “neither of them a break if they didn’t answer a question.”
The losers, he continued, were Sanders for failing to score a “killing blow” that would level Clinton and “the people watching old folks yell at them – My god, the yelling. It didn’t stop. At all.”
At Salon, where liberals mostly talk about how awful conservatives are, the writers sometimes also fight among themselves. The pieces usually toggle about how obvious it is that Clinton is going to win and why all should rally behind her or how clearly undeniable it is that she can’t triumph and Sanders is the only salvation.
On Friday, though, it’s chief headline on the Thursday throwdown was how rough it had been: “That was the most vicious debate yet.”
As usual, there were things to find wrong about the actual facts the candidates put out. Politico said: “No, Bernie, the media isn’t AWOL on criminal justice and unemployment … Sanders overstates Clinton’s contributions from fossil fuel lobbyists. … Bernie stretches the truth on corporate taxes. …Hillary Clinton said Bernie Sanders doesn’t know how to break up the big banks. Here’s why she’s wrong.”