DES MOINES, IOWA
JANUARY 14, 2020
9:00 PM: Wolf Blitzer opens the 7th Democratic primary debate in Iowa by reminding the audience that tonight’s debate is being hosted by CNN so everyone should lower their expectations.
9:02 PM: The debate begins with the topic of foreign policy. Blitzer addresses Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden by saying, “You two don’t agree on some of this stuff, so would you please fight for us?” Sanders agrees that “we saw the Iraq war differently,” and Biden nods, adding, “I did trust they’d just let the inspectors in and not go to war.” There is a long pause, and then Blitzer continues, “Hmm, OK, well, that was disappointing.” He takes out a very long stick and tries poking Sanders and Biden with it. Sanders swats the stick away. Biden seems oblivious, then begins doing jumping jacks. Blitzer turns to Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, “All right, you two have been good for a tussle. Please fight.” He lobs a small grenade between them. Klobuchar smiles, “I’d like to tell you about a man I know, a man who lives in the Midwest, some might call it ‘Flyover Country’ but I call it ‘Frank Country’ because that’s his name, Frank, and you know who doesn’t care about people like Frank and me? Donald Trump. He’s the one who doesn’t care. But not me, I’d let Frank cut my hair even though he’s a plumber — all plumbers have scissors or sharp keys — because when you’re from the Midwest you know what it means to work hard, and that’s who I am.” She pulls out a curling broom and expertly slides the unexploded grenade offstage.
9:19 PM: Wolf Blitzer remarks that our nation was just on the brink of war with Iran and asks each candidate, “If you were president and could start any war you wanted to, which country would be your ideal adversary?” The candidates shift positions and fidget. Bernie pipes up and says he doesn’t want any war. The other candidates mostly mumble in various levels of agreement. Wolf is disappointed. He quietly pushes the GI Joes he had set up on the table in front of him back into a Tupperware box on his lap.
9:31 PM: Chief Politics Reporter of the Des Moines Register, Brianne Pfannenstiel, turning to trade, asks Sanders, “The USMCA makes some modest improvements, but you’re going to vote against it, is it because you’re unable to compromise, or is it just because you’re a bad person?” Bernie replies that we can do better than a Trump-led trade deal. Tom Steyer asks what USMCA stands for and guesses “Undercover Sheep Make Cute Assistants?” Buttigieg corrects him, “Assassins.”
9:38 PM: Continuing the discussion on trade deals, Sanders states that he’s tired of trade deals negotiated by and for CEOs. Biden says that we need corporate responsibility. Warren argues that we don’t just need corporate responsibility; we need trade deals that are not made by multi-national lobbyists. CNN turns to Andrew Yang and asks what he thinks, at which point everyone realizes that Andrew Yang is not on the stage. They then go to Cory Booker but notice he’s not there either. Warren whispers, “Castro?” There is no response. The candidates, suddenly struck by the eventual mortality of their own campaigns, turn even whiter than the stage already was. From the wings, Tulsi Gabbard walks onstage, saying, “I’m actually still in this thing.” The audience hisses and Amy Klobuchar reaches into her purse and throws fistfuls of homemade mac and cheese at her. Steyer waves happily. Gabbard exits.
9:44 PM: CNN correspondent Abby Phillips turns to Senator Sanders and asks why he said a woman couldn’t win an election? Sanders responds that he never said that, and that clearly a woman can win. Phillips asks Senator Warren why she’s friends with a liar? Warren replies that the only people onstage who have won all their elections are the women. Klobuchar makes a move to high-five her, but her hands are covered in egg yolk from the dumplings she’d been making at her lecturn, and Warren declines. Tom Steyer stares into the camera.
9:56 PM: The debate now turns to a discussion on healthcare. The candidates are asked how they can even begin to imagine wasting money on healthcare when everyone knows that all of the country’s revenue must be spent on payouts to corporations and funding wars?
10:07 PM: Buttigieg says his plan, Medicare-For-All-Who-Want-It, will be fully paid for. Warren says that his plan is like Biden’s and would only cost less because it contains a few small improvements. Buttigieg responds, “It’s. Just. Not. True. That the plan. I’m proposing. Is small.” He continues, “Look, if your house is on fire, that’s terrible, but if you shake a can of sparkling water and spray that in the kitchen and put out one flame that was in your sink, you can’t say that wasn’t the MOST FIRE THAT HAS EVER BEEN PUT OUT in your burning house!”
10:23 PM: For the next question, Blitzer addresses the entire field: “Do you think there are undecided voters watching at this point, or have most of the people who are still watching already decided who they’re voting for, so they are now engaging this as if it were a sporting event where they tune in to boo the opponents and get mad at the refs?” Adding, “I’m just kidding. The real question is, what’s up with your hair tonight, Biden?”
11:04 PM: Closing statements…
KLOBUCHAR: Trump thinks this is about him, but it’s not, it’s about you. It’s about Billy, the guy I met during the commercial break, I didn’t get his whole story, but he said today he had a burrito for lunch and I believe we need a president that’s going to half-listen to folks and then rehash when politically convenient, everyone’s story.
STEYER: I played sports my whole life and the American people are my teammates. I won’t permit someone to kick my teammates in the face. Unless we’re playing a game of facey-kicksy, in which case I’ll kick right along with them because that’s just the basic rules of the sport. I’ve been kicked in the face a lot.
BUTTIGIEG: Black people should like me more. I have done everything I could while putting in absolutely no effort so I do not see what the problem is, but I know that it is fundamentally unfair.
WARREN: Let’s take a moment to talk about what didn’t get mentioned tonight: disability concerns, trans-women’s safety, black infant mortality rates, farmers barely holding on, student loan debt… (The Oscars orchestra music plays her off and her mic gets cut.)
SANDERS: And wealth disparity, our broken criminal justice system, immigration reform, government corruption… (The Oscars orchestra kicks up again, twice as loud. The Tuba player stands in front of Sanders to obstruct any view of him.)
BIDEN: America’s character is on the ballot. I have not met this character, but I’ve heard it’s a very fluffy squirrel. Am I president now?