Explosive, dramatic, fiery: last night's Democratic Debate was the most contentious debate so far in the primary season. With every candidate on their A-game and looking for blood, Wednesday night's debate immediately veered into an all-out slug-fest. Warren got the evening started by attacking Bloomberg with such force, the crowd gasped. Here are her remarks:
“I’d like to talk about who we’re running against: a billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians. And no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump. I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg,” Ms. Warren said. “Democrats are not going to win if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women, and of supporting racist policies like redlining and stop and frisk.”
Warren's attacks continued throughout the evening, increasing in strength until the final blow, which she delivered by pinning Bloomberg on the question of whether he was ready to release women from NDAs that he has signed with them. After mentioning how many women he has hired in the past, Warren went nuclear:
JACKSON: Senator Warren, you've been critical of Mayor Bloomberg on this issue.
WARREN: Yes, I have. And I hope you heard what his defense was. "I've been nice to some women." That just doesn't cut it.
The mayor has to stand on his record. And what we need to know is exactly what's lurking out there. He has gotten some number of women, dozens, who knows, to sign nondisclosure agreements both for sexual harassment and for gender discrimination in the workplace.
So, Mr. Mayor, are you willing to release all of those women from those nondisclosure agreements, so we can hear their side of the story?
BLOOMBERG: We have very few nondisclosure agreements.
WARREN: How many is that?
BLOOMBERG: Let me finish.
WARREN: How many is that?
BLOOMBERG: None of them accuse me of doing anything, other than maybe they didn't like a joke I told. And let me just -- and let me -- there's agreements between two parties that wanted to keep it quiet and that's up to them. They signed those agreements, and we'll live with it.
BIDEN: Come on.
WARREN: So, wait, when you say it is up to -- I just want to be clear. Some is how many? And -- and when you -- and when you say they signed them and they wanted them, if they wish now to speak out and tell their side of the story about what it is they allege, that's now OK with you? You're releasing them on television tonight? Is that right?
WARREN: Is that right, tonight?
BLOOMBERG: Senator, the company and somebody else, in this case -- a man or a woman or it could be more than that, they decided when they made an agreement they wanted to keep it quiet for everybody's interests.
BIDEN: Come on.
BLOOMBERG: They signed the agreements and that's what we're going to live with.
BUTTIGIEG: You could release them now.
WARREN: I'm sorry. No, the question is...
BLOOMBERG: I heard your question.
WARREN: ... are the women bound by being muzzled by you and you could release them from that immediately? Because, understand, this is not just a question of the mayor's character. This is also a question about electability.
We are not going to beat Donald Trump with a man who has who knows how many nondisclosure agreements and the drip, drip, drip of stories of women saying they have been harassed and discriminated against.
That's not what we do as Democrats.
Sanders also had a few choice words for Bloomberg:
TODD: So, Senator Sanders, what did you mean that you don't think they [billionaires] should exist?
SANDERS: I'll tell you what I mean.
TODD: What did that mean?
SANDERS: We have a grotesque and immoral distribution of wealth and income. Mike Bloomberg owns more wealth than the bottom 125 million Americans. That's wrong. That's immoral. That should not be the case when we got a half a million people sleeping out on the street, where we have kids who cannot afford to go to college, when we have 45 million people dealing with student debt.
We have enormous problems facing this country, and we cannot continue seeing a situation where, in the last three years, billionaires in this country saw an $850 billion increase in their wealth -- congratulations, Mr. Bloomberg -- but the average American last year saw less than a 1 percent increase in his or her income. That's wrong.
TODD: Mayor Bloomberg, should you exist?
BLOOMBERG: I can't speak for all billionaires. All I know is I've been very lucky, made a lot of money, and I'm giving it all away to make this country better. And a good chunk of it goes to the Democratic Party, as well.
TODD: Is it too much? Have you earned too much -- has it been an obscene amount of -- should you have earned that much money?
BLOOMBERG: Yes. I worked very hard for it. And I'm giving it away.
These are just two of the most heated exchanges out of many. Other pointed moments for Bloomberg came when he attempted to apologize for stop and frisk policies he oversaw as mayor of New York City. Biden stepped up to take his turn with Bloomberg:
HOLT: Let me go to Vice President Biden on this. You want to respond to that, react to it?
BIDEN: Yes, let's get something straight. The reason that stop and frisk changed is because Barack Obama sent moderators to see what was going on. When we sent them there to say this practice has to stop, the mayor thought it was a terrible idea we send them there, a terrible idea.
Let's get the facts straight. Let's get the order straight. And it's not whether he apologized or not. It's the policy. The policy was abhorrent. And it was in a fact of violation of every right people have.
And we are the one, my -- our administration sent -- sent in people to moderate. And at the very time, the mayor argued against that. This idea that he figured out it was a bad idea, he figured out it was a bad idea after we sent in monitors and said it must stop. Even then, he continued the policy.
Bloomberg's crushing defeat at the hands of seasoned professional politicians immediately sent waves through the primary race. For one thing, Bloomberg was the 2nd billionaire who entered the Democratic primary. Steyer went down less dramatically, but he went down, and that sends one message: the debates are relevant indicators of a candidate's ability to prepare beforehand. The format favors a certain type of preparation as well, one that relies on canned, memorized responses that candidates can fall back on when caught in traps. Bloomberg, evidently, had no such responses prepared for some of the most obvious questions he faced.
For another, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) took a huge hit to its credibility. Bloomberg was only on the stage as a result of the DNC's decision to change certain rules to allow him to qualify. His loss is a reflection of just how out of touch they are. How could the DNC establishment possibly thought it would be a good idea to allow such a terrible candidate into the ring with the likes of Biden, Warren, and Sanders? Even Buttigieg and Klobuchar took their shots, and all of them landed. If this was an indication of what the DNC prefers in candidates, then the Party is in need of deeper reforms than many have previously suspected.
If this performance does not end Bloomberg's campaign, then the Democratic Party, and perhaps the political system in general, is truly broken. However, judging from the breathless reactions from pundits across the media spectrum, it is hard to see a viable path forward for Bloomberg from here. Assuming Democrats retain their common sense, the only way he can survive this performance is if his ad campaigns carry him to the convention. It is possible, after all, the ads are all that matter now. Bloomberg's survival depends on the truth or falsity of that idea.