NBC's technical glitch on the first night of the initial Democratic presidential debates on Wednesday provided the perfect meme for the breathless candidates who were showcased on Wednesday and Thursday and their extreme policies.
The stage at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Performing Arts Center was expertly designed, brightly lit and patriotically colored, the evening had been well-rehearsed, and the technology had been checked and rechecked. But accidentally open microphones caused an embarrassing few minutes when the current and former hosts began talking over each other as the debate entered its second hour. Ultimately, a commercial time-out was ordered to get things right.
So it is with the 20 hopefuls and the promises that spouted forth from them like a fountain. Free health care, free college, free pre-kindergarten, a $15 minimum wage, a Green New Deal, gun buy-backs, and returns to the flawed Iran nuclear and Paris climate agreements.
To the uninformed, they sounded wonderful — shiny, bright, hopeful. Who doesn't want free stuff? Who doesn't want a green country? Who wouldn't like guns out of the hands of thugs? Who wouldn't want to think other countries kept their agreements?
Like the technical glitch, though, reality often gets in the way. Someone has to pay for free stuff, which always has a way of being more costly than first thought. Someone has to pay for guns to be bought, and to figure out what to do about those who have no intention of giving up theirs. Totalitarian countries don't live up to their promises, and the benefits to the United States when closely examined don't add up to much.
We have had and do have our differences with President Donald Trump, both in style and substance, but not one of the 20 candidates would be better for this country in 2020 than the president. In fact, almost any one of the candidates would lead this country down a dark path into ruination with unchecked spending schemes, promises that cannot be kept and policies that erase the strong, free and indomitable American spirit for which the country has been known.
It would take every page of this newspaper to rehash the lies told, half-truths spouted and promises uttered by the candidates over the two nights, both about Trump and their own plans, so we'll just highlight a few.
On Thursday night, every single Democrat raised his or her hand when asked if as president they would extend free health care to illegal immigrants, people who have broken the law by coming into the U.S. Every. Single. Democrat.
Later, when asked if it should no longer be a crime for people from other countries to come into the U.S. through other than lawful means, all but one Democrat raised a hand. All. But. One (and that one may have raised his hand after the camera panned past him).
Although the two questions weren't asked on the first night, no Democrat likely would have had the fortitude to say "no" once numerous hands went up. Although pundits had said the debates pitted moderate vs. progressive candidates, once they raised their hands to those two questions, no moderate was left standing.
Consider in just those two answers what the candidates want — for the U.S. to open its borders to all who would come and for the country, in turn, to pay for health care for all who choose to come.
So in league with the candidates was the host network (and most media) that no NBC moderator pushed back and asked how the country could possibly cover the cost of such plans for illegal immigrants. However, the amount would be staggering, not just for health care but for other benefits federal and state governments provide.
Indeed, over two nights, there was very little questioning about the cost of promises made. In the rare cases questions were asked, the candidates simply dissembled. One exception was Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, who admitted those in the middle class "will pay more in taxes but less in health care for what they get."
The second night, as opposed to the first, had very little talk about potential impeachment hearings against Trump. Either moderators realized the American people don't believe such additional investigation is warranted after the two-year-plus probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller or they didn't want to have anything said like former Congressman John Delaney of Maryland did on Wednesday.
Delaney, no fan of Trump, said he'd been all over first-caucus state Iowa, and impeachment was "not the number-one issue the American people ask us about."
"It's not," he said. "They want to know what we're going to do for health care, how we're going to lower pharmaceutical prices, how we're going to build infrastructure, what we're going to do to create jobs in their communities. They never ask about the Mueller report."
We hope informed and uninformed Americans tuned in Wednesday and Thursday to see and hear these Democrats who would lead our country. If they're already informed, we're sure they understand the folly of what they heard. If they're uninformed, we hope they'll become informed enough to ask questions like how on earth could it all be paid for.
After all, this is no political giveaway game. This is the country's future we're talking about.