WASHINGTON — When you consider how much the Democratic establishment loathes President Donald Trump, it's just plain sad to watch a Democratic primary that has yet to offer up a front-runner who has Democrats truly jazzed about the election.
Insiders are waiting for former Veep Joe Biden, 76, not so much to stumble, as to stumble and not be able to get up afterward.
At 73, Trump is no spring chicken, but he exudes a vitality Biden lacks.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, 78, is a lovable scold to his die-hard supporters, and he's genuine. So why aren't Democrats more enthusiastic about him?
Elizabeth Warren, 70, is a great campaigner who gained strength during the long slog that she began as the Democrat with a dubious claim to being Native American. And still, the party apparatus has not coalesced behind her.
And below that top-tier of Nestors are a pack of middle-aged opportunists who stand out for their willingness to say anything to generate buzz.
"Hell, yes, we're going to take away your AR-15, your AK-47," former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke crowed in response to a question.
An August Fox News poll shows that two-thirds of Americans support an assault weapons ban. No doubt many Democrats see such polls and hence see no problem with a candidate calling for such a ban.
So they don't realize that O'Rourke's comment probably prompted countless gun owners to run out and buy the guns they hate. And they certainly don't think about the carnage that would ensue if the government actually tried to take those weapons from otherwise law-abiding owners' cold, live hands.
"I frankly think that clip will be played for years at Second Amendment rallies with organizations that try to scare people by saying Democrats are coming for your guns," said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., to CNN.
The ABC-led team of debate moderators didn't help. There was no pointed follow up. No mention of the fact that a year ago after the host told O'Rourke he owned an AR-15, O'Rourke told "The Chad Hasty Show": "If you own a gun, keep that gun. Nobody wants to take it away from you."
"The Democrats and the media, it's as if they're one," Trump observed during a speech at a House policy retreat in Baltimore delivered in the same time slot.
Univision anchor Jorge Ramos challenged Biden: "Are you prepared to say tonight that you and President Obama made a mistake about deportations? Why should Latinos trust you?"
Ramos offered no recognition that Obama was enforcing federal law — which is part of the job description. His question was based on the assumption that it was wrong to enforce the law. And he presumed to talk for all Latinos.
Biden should have defended Obama for doing his job — and rightly discouraging Central American migrants who would not qualify for asylum from crossing the border. In a different election year, Biden probably would have defended enforcing immigration law instinctively.
Instead, Biden denied that the Obama administration put migrants in cages or separated families.
Politifact rated Biden's claim as "false." The fact-checking organization noted that while Trump has a tougher approach to family separation, the Obama administration did put children in chain-linked enclosures. That is, Biden was gutless and wrong.
In the words of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2014: "We have to send a clear message: Just because your child gets across the border, that doesn't mean your child gets to stay. We don't want to send a message that's contrary to our laws or (it) will encourage more children to make that dangerous journey."
That sort of commonsense thinking went out the window during a 2016 presidential debate when, under Ramos' questioning, Clinton changed her position and pledged not to deport undocumented immigrants who don't have a criminal record. The tail wagged the dog. That's how the Democrats' got a field with no clear star.
Over and over again, I hear Democrats say that Trump's tenure in the White House is untenable, that they'll do whatever it takes to win back the White House. Well, anything but stand up for positions they held five years ago. Anything but try to understand what the middle thinks. Anything but allow a debate on Fox News.
Contact Debra J. Saunders at [email protected] or 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.
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