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“Send In The Clowns”

Don’t you love farce?

My fault, I fear.

I thought you’d want what I want.

Sorry, my dear.

But where are the clowns?

Quick. Send in the clowns.

Don’t bother … they’re here.

Stephen Sondheim

The raucous free-for-all first Democratic Party presidential primary debates were held in late June. Because of the unwieldy 20-candidate qualifying field, the debates had to be split into two segments of 10 candidates each over two nights. One should understand the term “debate” was used broadly. There was hardly any resemblance to the traditional high school or college debating formats. It was a circus-like cacophony with participants promoting what most sensible folks would consider harebrained schemes of one-upmanship to see who could outdo the other in outlandish statements and giveaways to the electorate. Things got so out of hand that during the second night Sen. Kamala Harris of California sought to rein in the circus.

“Hey, guys, Americans don’t want to witness a food fight. They want to know how they’ll be able to put food on the table,” admonished Harris, gesturing like an irate wife brandishing a rolling pin.

The better known candidates were self-assured enough to regurgitate their well-known positions. Sen. Bernie “Mr. Socialist” Sanders of Vermont railed against capitalism, promised free education through college, forgiveness of student debt and free health care for everyone. But boxed in, he grudgingly admitted taxes would have to be raised to pay for such largess.

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — yes, she of the questionable American Indian ancestry — echoed Sanders plus emphasized her pro-abortion, anti-big business, pro-labor union credentials.

Julian Castro, a former Obama administration official, seemed to take everyone by surprise when he declared illegal entry into the U.S. should be considered a civil, not a criminal offense. Unfazed by the weird proposal, the other candidates did a quick political correctness math and fell in line. Of course, being seasoned pols, they probably knew neither Castro nor his proposal was going anywhere anyway.

Like clowns scrambling to board a jalopy, the rest of the field adopted the same positions. They were all flashing eyes and wild gesticulations. Why such as large field anyhow? Who knows: Egotism, book deals, too much time on their hands? I mean: Steve Bullock, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Jay Inslee, Joe Sestak, Tom Steyer, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang? Come on, folks!

But of course the proverbial elephant in the room, Joe Biden, a former senator and President Obama’s vice president, was biding his time, waiting to shine. He’s comfortably atop the Democratic Party polls and bettered President Trump in various national polls. In his segment of the debates he had a bemused smile on his face; the self-satisfied smile of someone who felt patrician, entitled, Clintonian. Norman Mailer once described Nelson Rockefeller as having a “catfish” mouth; which, come to think of it, could just as easily apply to Biden’s smile. He displayed that smile as he tried to differentiate himself from the pack, touting his decades as a senator, glorying in his days as Obama’s veep, waxing on how such credentials made him the logical …

Bop! He hadn’t seen it coming.

Kamala Harris had slammed her imaginary rolling pin against his head to cut through his verbosity and the inane chattering of other candidates to get Biden’s attention. The moderators tried to fend her off, but she persisted until they allowed her to speak. Biden appeared totally bewildered. What’s going on?

“I do not believe you are a racist,” she said to Biden. “But it’s personal and hurtful to me to hear you talk about two senators who built their reputations on race and segregation in this country and opposed busing.” In an emotionally charged voice she said as a little girl she had been a beneficiary of busing.

Biden hung his head throughout and then tried to defend himself, but Harris’ searing words had hooked him, and like a catfish on a line he thrashed this way and that, gasping for air until, of his own accord, he declared his allotted debating time was up, even though no one else bothered about time allotment. Yet, to be fair to Biden, one must admit Harris had been awaiting just such a moment.

A few weeks earlier he had boasted of his prowess as a negotiator by working closely with arch segregationist Senators James Eastland and Herman Talmadge. Biden said they must have respected him, for they never called him “boy”; a derogatory term used for black men. Biden has since apologized to a black audience for his past indiscretions, begged forgiveness and said we should look to the future, not the past.

The Biden/Harris dustup was ancillary to the uber far-left policies being espoused by the candidates, including free medical care to illegal immigrants. The massive giveaways they’re proposing would cost trillions of dollars and no candidate has any realistic idea of how to pay for them. But there might be hope they’ll come to their senses. New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio cautioned: “The Democratic Party must stop acting as the party of the elite and put working people first.” Yet, a party of such candidates looking over their shoulders at the likes of socialism admiring Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a far cry from that of FDR, JFK and LBJ.

The second round of debates slated for later this month will prune the pack. It’ll be interesting to see if the survivors will be wearing baggier pants, clumsier shoes and redder noses.

Stafford A. Garbutt, of Gary, is a naturalized American citizen and native of Belize. The opinions are the writer's.

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