For the first hour or so of tonight’s debate, viewers were watching what could have passed for seven separate candidate town halls. There were a few genuinely substantive questions (moderator Yamiche Alcindor even brought up Israel’s expansion of settlements), but very little in the way of the thing everyone’s actually dying to see: presidential candidates ripping each other’s throats out. Thankfully, that all changed when Elizabeth Warren brought up Mayor Pete’s wine caves.
Warren was referencing Buttigieg’s Napa Valley fundraiser this past Sunday that took place in a wine cellar, beneath a Swarovski crystal chandelier. The exchange started off like this:
Warren: So, the mayor just recently had a fund-raiser that was held in a wine cave, full of crystals and served $900 a bottle wine. Think about who comes to that. He had promised that every fund-raiser he would do would be open-door, but this one was closed-door. We made the decision many years ago that rich people in smoke-filled rooms would not pick the next president of the United States. Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States.
Buttigieg: You know, according to Forbes magazine, I’m literally the only person on this stage who is not a millionaire or a billionaire. So this is important. This is the problem with issuing purity tests you cannot yourself pass. If I pledge—if I pledge never to be in the company of a progressive Democratic donor, I couldn’t be up here. Senator, your net worth is 100 times mine. Now, supposing you went home and felt the holiday spirit—I know this isn’t likely, but stay with me—and decided to go on pete.com and gave the maximum allowable by law, $2,800, would that pollute my campaign because it came from a wealthy person? No. I would be glad to have that support. We need the support to everybody who is committed to helping us to defeat Donald Trump.
It’s a lot of Mayor Pete pretending not to understand the insidious nature of corruption, while also (accurately) pointing out that Warren didn’t always eschew wealthy donors in the way she has during her presidential campaign. What that’s supposed to say about about Buttigieg, who is still happily rubbing elbows with billionaires, is unclear.
Who came out on top in the Warren vs. Pete feud is debatable, but also beside the point. Because reader, here is your winner.