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Last night's Democratic debate probably didn't change much. Elizabeth Warren is now clearly the frontrunner, and her fellow candidates are treating her as such. Kamala Harris had some strong moments, as did Amy Klobuchar. Bernie looked and sounded good, which probably assuaged some concerns about his age and health, though those questions will come up again, not just for him but also for Joe Biden, as the men would be 79 and 78 at the time of their inaugurations, if elected.

The candidates yelled the same talking points at each other about Medicare For All as they've yelled in previous debates. They answered who their most unexpected weird friend is, like Ellen and Dubya, and half of them said Dead John McCain. It was whatever.

But Pete Buttigieg had a really really good night, easily his best out of all the debates so far. (HOOBOY do other Wonkettes, and the editrix, disagree!) And Tulsi Gabbard, who had threatened to boycott the debate because the DNC was #rigging it against her by causing her to have a bad campaign nobody wants to support, had a really really bad night.

The nexus of those two things made for perhaps the most interesting moment of the night, when Gabbard decided to spit out a bunch of verifiable lies about what Donald Trump has done to Syria, somehow managing to bolster the positions of both Trump and (surprise!) Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Pete Buttigieg, as the other person with military service on the stage, was not about to put up with that horseshit.



First, Gabbard:

GABBARD: Well, first of all, we've got to understand the reality of the situation there, which is that the slaughter of the Kurds being done by Turkey is yet another negative consequence of the regime change war that we've been waging in Syria.

Pause tape. Gabbard said "regime change war" a lot of times last night, as if that is true. It is not true. Nobody is overthrowing the brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad, and that's not why we went to Syria in the first place, though we can see why Gabbard would be upset about something like that. (We fully explained the Tulsi 'n' Assad sittin' in a tree stuff right here. You may need to bookmark it. Also this, because Assad is not the only strongman authoritarian/dictator Gabbard apologizes for. She has that in common with Trump!)

We have been helping and supporting the Kurds fighting ISIS in northern Syria, and the reason the Kurds are being slaughtered is because Turkey considers them a mortal enemy and doesn't want them to have a country, and Donald Fucking Trump gave Turkey the green light to invade northern Syria and start massacring Kurds. You know, our allies.

GABBARD: Donald Trump has the blood of the Kurds on his hand, but so do many of the politicians in our country from both parties who have supported this ongoing regime change war in Syria that started in 2011, along with many in the mainstream media, who have been championing and cheerleading this regime change war.

Trump might have done a bad thing, but who among us hasn't done a bad thing? Note the continued use of the incorrect "regime change war" framing.

GABBARD: Not only that, but the New York Times and CNN have also smeared veterans like myself for calling for an end to this regime change war. Just two days ago, the New York Times put out an article saying that I'm a Russian asset and an Assad apologist and all these different smears. This morning, a CNN commentator said on national television that I'm an asset of Russia. Completely despicable.

Oh fuck off. People wouldn't question whether Gabbard was an asset of Putin (which is not the same as a spy, it can just be a useful idiot) or accuse her of being an Assad apologist if she didn't constantly do and say things that perfectly align with Putin's goals, and also apologize for Assad. (Note that Russian state-owned media just loooooooves her.)

GABBARD: As president, I will end these regime change wars by doing two things -- ending the draconian sanctions that are really a modern-day siege the likes of which we are seeing Saudi Arabia wage against Yemen, that have caused tens of thousands of Syrian civilians to die and to starve, and I would make sure that we stop supporting terrorists like Al Qaida in Syria who have been the ground force in this ongoing regime change war.

Wait wait wait wait wait. The reason Syrians are dying and starving in Syria is not "sanctions," it is Bashar al-Assad, who murders Syrian people on the regular, including with chemical weapons, something Gabbard refuses to blame him for. We are just saying.

Pete Buttigieg, please set this straight:

BUTTIGIEG: Well, respectfully, Congresswoman, I think that is dead wrong. The slaughter going on in Syria is not a consequence of American presence. It's a consequence of a withdrawal and a betrayal by this president of American allies and American values.

Look, I didn't think we should have gone to Iraq in the first place. I think we need to get out of Afghanistan. But it's also the case that a small number of specialized, special operations forces and intelligence capabilities were the only thing that stood between that part of Syria and what we're seeing now, which is the beginning of a genocide and the resurgence of ISIS.

Meanwhile, soldiers in the field are reporting that for the first time they feel ashamed -- ashamed -- of what their country has done. We saw the spectacle, the horrifying sight of a woman with the lifeless body of her child in her arms asking, what the hell happened to American leadership?

And when I was deployed, I knew one of the things keeping me safe was the fact that the flag on my shoulder represented a country known to keep its word. And our allies knew it and our enemies knew it. You take that away, you are taking away what makes America America. It makes our troops and the world a much more dangerous place.

That is correct, and is exactly what is happening right now because of Donald Trump's reckless and stupid actions, which he took after the president of Turkey rolled him on the phone like the fucking moron he is.

Gabbard massacred a few strawmen with her response, RIP strawmen:

GABBARD: So, really, what you're saying, Mayor Pete, is that you would continue to support having US troops in Syria for an indefinite period of time to continue this regime change war that has caused so many refugees to flee Syria, that you would continue to have our country involved in a war that has undermined our national security, you would continue this policy of the US actually providing arms in support to terrorist groups in Syria, like Al Qaida, HTS, al-Nusra and others, because they are the ones who have been the ground force in this regime change war? That's really what you're saying?

Regime change war regime change war regime change war REGIME CHANGE WAR! Must've been on her Word Of The Day Calendar.

And of course, she's full of shit when it comes to why refugees are fleeing. It's not because of the "regime change war," IT'S GODDAMNED FUCKING ASSAD, TULSI.

Before we get to Buttigieg's response to that drivel, you should know a couple more things about how Tulsi Gabbard has treated Syrian refugees, which show how much she really cares about them so much, obviously, you betcha. She sided with the GOP to screw them over, voting in 2015 for the SAFE act, which as The Nation explains "would have effectively frozen the admission of Syrian and Iraqi refugees by requiring unanimous approval for each person from the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, and director of national intelligence." But don't worry, Gabbard has also specifically tried to carve out exemptions for Syrian refugees who love Jesus, just like Donald Trump has! She's not a fan of Muslims, it seems. (Jacobin, yes Jacobin, lays this out quite nicely.)

Finish this, Pete Buttigieg:

BUTTIGIEG: You can put an end to endless war without embracing Donald Trump's policy, as you're doing.

That's what happens when you put a woman Steve Bannon thinks is awesome on stage with a bunch of actual Democrats.

The other moments when we even noticed Tulsi Gabbard was on stage were mostly amusing. Unlike that one debate where she cherrypicked and misrepresented Kamala Harris's record, but was nonetheless successful in lobbying her scripted zingers and stuck a shiv in Harris's campaign from which her polling numbers have never recovered, when Gabbard tried it this time, it didn't fly and she just looked like an idiot.

This time, her target wasn't Harris, but rather Elizabeth Warren, and Gabbard just really wanted Warren to answer some GOSHDARN questions right then and there! Just after her first spiel on how Trump did a bad thing in Syria, but so did everybody else in the whole entire world except Assad or Turkey, Gabbard wanted Warren to once and for all answer the question nobody's been asking:

GABBARD: I'd like to ask Senator Warren if she would join me in calling for an end to this regime change war in Syria, finally.

Warren responded by saying of course we need to get out of there, but we should do it in a non-stupid way, and mentioned that Trump has "sucked up to dictators, he has made impulsive decisions that often his own team doesn't understand, he has cut and run on our allies, and he has enriched himself at the expense of the United States of America. In Syria, he has created a bigger-than-ever humanitarian crisis. He has helped ISIS get another foothold, a new lease on life."

In other words, Warren replied with facts about the situation as it is, not as Tulsi Gabbard wishes it were.

The second time came toward the end of the second hour of the 96-hour debate (Christ, CNN), when the subject of age came up. The moderators asked the three Oldy McEarlyBirdSpecials on the stage (Biden, Bernie, to a lesser extent Warren) about presidenting after 70, and they all gave decent answers. Then they turned to Gabbard, who was not the youngest person on the stage but would be the youngest ever elected president, and framed the question in a different way:

"Congresswoman Gabbard, you're 38 years old, and you would be the youngest president if elected. Should age matter when choosing a president?"

After giving a perfectly fine answer about her readiness to serve as commander-in-chief, Gabbard horned to say, "I'd like to ask the other candidates this question! I'd like to start with Senator Warren!"

But WOMP WOMP, moderator Erin Burnett was like BRB we're finally going to commercial, and nobody ever thought of Tulsi Gabbard again, until she answered the "who's your weird best friend" question but forgot to say it was Assad. (Her weird friend was "Trey Gowdy.")

Oh yeah, and she said some stuff about how she doesn't really support impeachment all that much and how she isn't really all that supportive of abortion rights, you know, because of how she is an asshole.

It would have been better had she not shown up at all.

[transcript]

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Evan Hurst

Evan Hurst is the senior editor of Wonkette, which means he is the boss of you, unless you are Rebecca, who is boss of him. His dog Lula is judging you right now.

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