The Slatest

The Weirdest Three Minutes of the Second Democratic Debate

America, these are your candidates (and Chuck Todd).

Toward the end of tonight’s round of Democratic primary debates, of which there are approximately 800 more, Chuck Todd posed one final, penetrating question to all 10 candidates standing before him.

“President Obama, in his first year, wanted to address both health care and climate,” Todd began. “And he could only get one signature issue accomplished. It was, obviously, health care—he didn’t get to do climate change. You may only get one shot. In your first issue you are going to push, you get one shot. It may be the only thing you get passed. What is that first issue?”

What followed was an emotional and linguistic roller coaster the likes of which we haven’t seen since Jim Webb stood on a debate stage and told the country that he’d killed a man.

It’s a lot to take in at once, so we’ve distilled it for you here. Forgive us.

Eric Swalwell

What he said:

For Parkland, for Orlando, for every community affected by gun violence: ending gun violence.

What he meant:
Eric Swalwell, to everyone’s surprise, appears to be the only one who both understood the question and followed directions, so this section does not apply to him. Congratulations to Eric.

Michael Bennet

What he said:

Climate change and the lack of economic mobility that Bernie talks about. 

What he meant:
Bennet, whose journey toward a profound state of unconsciousness was rudely interrupted by the dulcet tones of Chuck Todd, would like you to know that he has given up. Vote for Bernie.

Kirsten Gillibrand

What she said:

Passing a family bill of rights that includes a national paid leave plan, universal pre–K, affordable day care, and making sure that women and families can thrive in the workplace no matter who they are. 

What she meant:
Seems pretty clear, but if you listen very carefully at a lower frequency, you can hear a hearty, resounding, “Go to hell, Chuck Todd.” At last, a message the nation can get behind.

Kamala Harris

What she said:

So, passing a middle-class and working families tax cut. DACA, guns, [laughing/unintelligible].

What she meant:
“It really doesn’t matter what I say right now, because I just murdered Joe Biden on live TV.”

Bernie Sanders

What he said:

First thing, I reject the premise that there is only one or two issues out there. 

This country faces enormous crises. We need a political revolution. People have got to stand up and take on the special interests. We can transform this country. 

What he meant:
In a move clearly meant to distinguish himself from Gillibrand, Bernie has moved the “Go to hell, Chuck Todd” portion of his message to the beginning. He then goes on to ignore the question in favor of reeling off a few fan-favorite phrases. Strong messaging that once again translates to telling Chuck Todd to go to hell.

Joe Biden

What he said:

I think you are so underestimating what Barack Obama did. He’s the first man to bring together the entire world—196 nations—to commit to a deal with climate change. Immediately. So I don’t buy that.

But the first thing I would do is make sure that we defeat Donald Trump, period.

What he meant:
The first thing Joe Biden plans to do if he becomes president is remind everyone in America that he (Joe Biden) is liked by Barack Obama (whose vice president was Joe Biden) and that the two of them (Joe Biden and Barack Obama, the former president whom you love) talk regularly. Joe Biden, Barack Obama.

The other first thing Biden plans to do if he becomes president is to have won the presidency. Always set achievable goals.

Pete Buttigieg

What he said:

We got to fix our democracy before it’s too late. Get that right, and climate, immigration, taxes—every other issue gets done. 

What he meant:
He’ll figure it out later.

Andrew Yang

What he said:

I would pass a $1,000 freedom dividend for every American adult at age 18, which would speed us up on climate change. Because if you get the boot off people’s throats, they’ll focus on climate change much more clearly. 

What he meant:
So many people gave Andrew Yang so much money to speak for roughly 17 seconds.

John Hickenlooper

What he said:

I would do a collaborative approach to climate change, and I would pronounce it well before the election to make sure we don’t reelect the worst president in American history. 

What he meant:
“My name is John Hickenlooper, and I’m running for vice president.”

Marianne Williamson

What she said:

My first call is to the prime minister of New Zealand, who said that her goal is to make New Zealand the place where it’s the best place in the world for a child to grow up. I would tell her, “Girlfriend, you are so wrong, because the United States of America is going to be the best place in the world for a child to grow up. We are going to have—

What she meant:
Marianne Williamson meant exactly what she said, which is that the only way to fix what’s wrong in this country is to immediately declare war on New Zealand. Reader, say hello to your next president.