Warren’s humiliation of Bloomberg was brutal; her larger point is crucial

(Photo courtesy NBC News)
(Photo courtesy NBC News)

“So 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.”

Those were the first words out of Elizabeth Warren’s mouth at the Las Vegas debate Wednesday.

Oh, the Las Vegas debate, like each of its eight predecessors, quickly thereafter devolved into the now customary hand-wringing over Medicare for All. And this time it was fueled locally by the Culinary-Sanders clash that has sucked up so much political oxygen in Nevada, especially since New Hampshire.

But not long after that obligatory section of the proceedings was over, Warren got back to doing what she evidently came to Las Vegas to do: Demolish Bloomberg, at least for one night.

It was brutal. 

Bloomberg, showing signs of arrogant disdain throughout the evening, even began answering moderator Hallie Jackson’s question about Bloomberg creating a workplace hostile to women with a snarky “if I could have my full minute and a quarter, thank you.” Then he said he’s not a monster, or words to that effect. And he added that in his company, “lots and lots of women have big responsibilities,” so that’s condescending.

Warren’s surgical strike really must be seen to be appreciated for the truly memorable moment in presidential debate history that it was.

Several women in Bloomberg’s employ — “dozens, who knows,” as Warren put it — have signed nondisclosure agreements as part of harassment and discrimination settlements. 

“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?” Warren asked. 

Bloomberg said that “none of them accuse me of doing anything, other than maybe they didn’t like a joke I told.” Yes. It totally sounded like something Trump would say.

Then Bloomberg said “there’s agreements between two parties that wanted to keep it quiet and that’s up to them.”

Having fairly and properly set Bloomberg up, Warren calmly proceeded to knock him down.

“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?”

There was some more give and take, mostly consisting of Bloomberg sheepishly attempting to look like someone who hadn’t just been humiliated on national television. Warren finally let up, turned to the audience, and made the point that every Democratic voter in the country who thinks Bloomberg is their Great White Hope needs to hear.

“This is not just a question of the mayor’s character. This is also a question about electability,” Warren said.

“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.”

In interviews after the debate, Warren worried that Bloomberg will merely spend another few hundred million dollars on advertising in an effort to “erase America’s memory” of what happened in Las Vegas.

That might work. But in Las Vegas, Warren brought the absurdity of Democrats nominating Bloomberg into stark, clear relief. At least for one night.

Hugh Jackson
Editor | Hugh Jackson has been writing about Nevada policy and politics for more than 20 years. He was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and wrote the then-groundbreaking Las Vegas Gleaner, which among other things was the only independent political blog from Nevada that was credentialed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He spent a few years as a senior energy and environmental policy analyst for Public Citizen, and has occasionally worked as a consultant on mining, taxation, education and other issues for Nevada labor and public interest organizations. His freelance work has been published in outlets ranging from the Guardian to Desert Companion to In These Times to the Oil & Gas Journal. For several years he also taught U.S. History courses at UNLV. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and then assistant managing editor at the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming’s largest newspaper.