Former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg’s record on race issues and his lack of experience created an image problem for him at the ABC debate in New Hampshire.
The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate seemed to lose his momentum after his surprising performance in the Iowa caucuses, leaving viewers of Friday night’s debate unsatisfied with his ability to represent black Americans or to even correctly defend his own record.
Buttigieg struggled in his response to questions about his record as mayor and about the noticeable differences in arrest rates for black and white residents of South Bend during his tenure.
“How do you explain the increase in black arrests in South Bend under your leadership for marijuana possession?” ABC moderator Linsey Davis asked.
As Buttigieg began to respond about a lower rate, Davis fact-checked him in real-time.
“No, there was an increase. The year before you were in office, it was lower. Once you became in office in 2012, that number went up,” Davis countered, adding that “that number was still up” in 2018.
“One of the strategies our community adopted was to target when there were cases when there was gun violence and gang violence, which was slaughtering so many in our community — burying teenagers, disproportionately black teenagers,” Buttigieg responded.
“We adopted a strategy that said that drug enforcement could be targeted in cases where there was a connection to the most violent group or gang connected to a murder. These things are all connected,” he added. “But that’s the point, so are all the things we need to change, in order for us to prevent violence and remove the effects of systemic racism not just from criminal justice but from our economy, from health, from housing and from democracy itself.”
With Buttigieg’s dismal lack of support among black voters, his non-answer laying out abstract goals was an instant flop.
“Sen. Warren, is that a substantial answer from Mayor Buttigieg?” Davis asked as a follow-up, directing her question to Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
“No,” she answered, garnering applause. “You have to own up to the facts.”
CNN’s Van Jones criticized Buttigieg’s performance in a post-debate analysis on the network, saying the 2020 hopeful sounded like the cartoon dog Scooby-Doo when confronted on the race issues.
“He was so impressive at the beginning of this thing… this guy could be president,” Jones told the CNN panel.
“Then you get to the social justice and racial justice issues and he just starts sliding off the pavement again. He has got to figure this thing out. He’s got one more state where he can get these answers wrong and botched on race. And he’s going to be in real trouble,” Jones said.
CNN host Chris Cuomo asked why Jones felt Buttigieg’s answers were “wrong and botched.”
“He just doesn’t have the feel of it. When you’re asked the tough question: why the heck are they putting more black people into jail the minute you walk into office and he sounds like Scooby-Doo, Jones replied, imitating the animated dog from the cartoon.
“That is not going to work. You’ve got to be able to answer that question in a way, say ‘I did that because I was scared of black kids killing each other. I was doing the best I could,'” Jones added. “Come out with it, man. He can not deal with those questions.”
Former GOP New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told ABC that Buttigieg looked like a “deer in headlights.”
“I think the moment that could be a foreshadowing of the future is when Mayor Pete was up there outright lying about his record,” he said.
(Source: ABC News)
“You saw the look on his face, he looked like a deer in the headlights,” Christie said, noting the moment when Davis challenged the 2020 contender.
“He thinks Linsey Davis is hard? If he ever gets on the same stage with Donald Trump, it’s going to be a whole different story who will call him on those things.”
He added that the other 2020 Democratic candidates “better get serious” about calling Buttigieg out on his South Bend record.
“That look in his eyes when she came back at him and didn’t take his first line of baloney,” Christie said, “was very telling about what kind of candidate he may be able to be.”
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