Debate Part 2; Trump in the Zone

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Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California). Courtesy U.S. Senate.

California Sen. Kamala Harris has won the Democratic Party’s presidential primary and President Donald Trump has won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Although we haven’t seen the latest polls on either subject, these two assertions are genuine examples of what the president likes to call “fake news,” or, put another way, false facts.

They are two news items by way of fantasy or prediction, but they have not and did not happen (at least not yet).

Maybe so, but if you listened to the reactions to what was often described as Harris’s political “takedown” of front-runner-in-the-polls and former vice president Joe Biden during the second Democratic debate on June 27, and watched the startling spectacle of President Trump and North Korea Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un step across the DMZ that separates North Korea from South Korea on June 30, you might have thought they were true. One online commenter did in fact suggest that perhaps now was the time for a Trump Nobel.

Harris, who had been languishing in the polls prior to Thursday night, launched a personal and powerful attack on Biden’s civil rights bona fides in the wake of comments he made about dealing hands-across-the-aisle style with segregationist — and racist — Southern senators when he served in the Senate a number of years ago.

It was a dramatic encounter which, while not entirely spontaneous, was certainly emotionally authentic. Harris said she was hurt by Biden’s statements, recalling her experience as a second-grader, one of several integrating a previously all-white school. “I do not believe you are a racist,” she said, stating that “it was personal and actually very hurtful to hear you talk about  two senators who built their reputations and careers on segregation and race.”

The boisterous Bernie Sanders was sandwiched awkwardly between Biden and Harris in arguably the most dramatic moment of the debates.

At these debates, everybody — including the NBC moderators who often treated the debate like another episode of “Meet the Press,” only much, much bigger — spins like a frantic ballerina.

What occurs often, and it did here, too, is that every debate is a measure of the past and how it can rise up to bite you in the present. With 20 candidates or more, that makes everybody vulnerable, but also full of optimism, not so much about our future, but about theirs.

Pete Buttigieg, the young, married and gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana, saw the race issue in its current manifestation come up and bite him when his efforts following the shooting of a shooting of a black man by a white police officer were questioned. To his credit, Buttigieg handled the issue with some grace and minimal discomfort. Asked about dealing with the lack of black officers on his force, he said: “I didn’t get it done.”

An unwieldy bunch such as this spread out over two weeks yield few revelations of character, some surprises, the freewheeling tones and interruptions, the unrewarding hold-up-your-hands questions. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren fiercely pushed her views on the great economic divide and described its human cost eloquently, but — by all but being left out of the second half of the discussion on immigration — perhaps did not convince everyone.

There is no serious deadline yet, and so the claim that these first two debates were indicative of the final outcome fits only the media, who like to think of themselves as chicken-and-gizzard prophets in the digital age. The next debate, will a similar if not the same setup, will take place this month in Detroit.

The pressure of daily events is self-evident, much as it was in the 2016 campaigns — a tale of Donald Trump slowly pulling off a hostile takeover of the Republican Party. Nothing to see here in that way. The civil rights fire started by Harris and Cory Booker may well continue, but it still appears to be an attempt to overcome Biden’s now shaky hold of the lead in the polls. Democrats, if they don’t exactly thrive on their differences, are certainly used to them and are marked by them.

They can also count on the big shadow hanging over their primary campaign, the shadow and presence of the president, who is doing his very best in taking attention away from the Democrats, for better or worse.

That shadow, dare we say, resembles a very large balloon that may or may not show up on the mall on the Fourth of July. It always looms large with uncertainty, taking the shape of a visit to royalty, a spat with a soccer player, the resurrections of old enemies at a rally in Orlando or a G8 gathering at which Trump trumped himself by inviting the North Korean leader, his dear friend, to meet with him for a handshake and a chitchat and possible later negotiations.

And so it came to pass that a solemn Trump waited for his friend, and he showed up and they shook hands in North Korea and then in South Korea, crossing the zone — a first for a U.S. president — and said some words and smiled and the camera people went crazy.

This is the kind of event — seemingly impromptu, seat-of-the-pants and showcased with brilliance — that this president is extremely good at. While whatever it may accomplish in the future is unknown, it was a rush of an attention-getter that drowned out whatever Democrats may have been up to.

You can be skeptical about just how uncertain the outcome would turn out. It’s hard to believe that the president would risk being left to stand with egg on his face without some assurance that Un would show up.

Be that as it may, it was a wowser, to which there is no comparable answer by the Democrats so far. That will require the Dems to get on the same page, first thing, then move forward in some kind of harmony. Love, as candidate and spirituality guru Maryanne Williamson has indicated, may be part of the answer.

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