As Democrats squared off during Thursday night’s debate in Houston, their take on the legacy of former President Barack Obama assumed a markedly more positive tone than in the previous debate.
The presidential contenders were full of praise for Obama. Former Vice President Joe Biden, who has struggled to shake off a streak of gaffes and questions about his health, gave a comeback performance — in part, by tying himself to the 44th president.
At one point, Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro attacked Biden, claiming the 76-year-old frontrunner takes undue credit for Obama’s successes while avoiding responsibility for the shortcomings of the previous administration (of which Castro was also a member).
“My problem with Vice President Biden — and Cory [Booker] pointed this out last time — is every time something good about Barack Obama comes up, [Biden] says, ‘Oh, I was there, I was there, I was there, that's me too!’” Castro said.
He continued: “And then every time somebody questions part of the administration that we were both part of, he says, ‘Well, that was the president.’ I mean, he wants to take credit for Obama's work, but not have to answer to any questions.”
To which Biden responded with an arguably strong response: “I stand with Barack Obama all eight years — good, bad and indifferent.”
In another favorable moment for the former vice president, he doubled down on his support for ObamaCare while taking a jab at the Medicare-for-All plan championed by Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders (who were also on the stage) — Biden’s closest competitors. “I know that the senator says she's for Bernie,” Biden said of Warrens’ support for Sanders’ healthcare plan. Well, I'm for Barack. I think Obamacare worked.”
In the second debate, candidates’ reproof of the Obama administration was so strong that Politico declared, “The Fiercest Democratic Debate in 2020 Is About Barack Obama,” and the Huffington Post ran a headline, “2020 Democrats Face Deep Divide On Obama’s Legacy.”
At that debate, Senator Kamala Harris took on the deportations of illegal aliens that occurred under Obama. “On this issue, I disagreed with my president, because the policy was to allow deportation of people who by [the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s] own definition were non-criminals,” she said.
But the Democrats took a softer approach on Thursday, likely due to the fact that, despite the Democratic party’s increasing shift to a leftism that goes beyond even Obama’s, the former president remains beloved by the base, with over 90 percent of Democrats having a favorable view of him.
This time, when Harris was asked how her views on trade differed from Obama’s, she merely replied, “I have no criticism of that.”
She added some praise: “I want to give credit to Barack Obama for bringing us this far. We wouldn't be here if he didn't have the courage, the talent to see us this far.”
Warren framed her healthcare platform not as a rebuke of Obamacare, but as a way of building on it. “We all owe a huge debt to President Obama, who fundamentally transformed healthcare in America and committed this country to healthcare for every human being,” said the Massachusetts senator. “And now the question is: How best can we improve on it?”
Castro, who has also been critical of Obama-era immigration policy, tried to sell himself, not Biden, as the true heir to the Obama legacy. “Barack Obama's vision was not to leave 10 million people uncovered,” Castro quipped at Biden. “He wanted every single person in this country covered. My plan would do that. Your plan would not. I’m fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama and you're not.”
“That will be a surprise to him,” Biden retorted.
The San Antonio politician, who is polling around one percent, made sure to add a jab (one of a handful) at Biden’s alleged failing memory after the aged candidate claimed Americans would not have to buy coverage under his plan. “You just said two minutes ago that they would have to buy in. Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago? Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago?”
Neera Tanden, a former Clinton and Obama official, summed up the Democrats' new tune by explaining that for those trying to court voters, criticizing Obama can be a losing strategy.
Attacks on Obama backfired in the second debate and I think candidates were wary of delivering them again precisely because they engendered such anger before.… So there are a lot of pitfalls and few rewards for any Democrat to criticize the Obama administration and its record.
Luis Miguel is a writer whose journalistic endeavors shed light on the Deep State, the immigration crisis, and the enemies of freedom. Follow his exploits on Facebook, Twitter, Bitchute, and at luisantoniomiguel.com.