To be honest with you, I would have watched the first debate featuring the Democratic candidates whether I was running this goofy website or not. I'm obsessed with politics, and this debate provided the first opportunity to gain some insight into a variety of questions. How does Bernie Sanders present himself in a debate? Does Hilary Clinton have a new line of messaging to counteract the various "scandals" that have had surprising staying power (ex: that whole emails thing)? Generally speaking, how progress would these candidates be compared to how the crop of candidates from 2008 were?
What I didn't see coming: Lincoln Chafe. Holy shit, Lincoln Chafe. What was that?
I've seen dozens and dozens of presidential candidate debates and Chafe easily gave the worst performance out of all of them. For context, I want to be clear in saying that this isn't the result of him failing to meet sky-high expectations that I had set. I sincerely did not know who he was before last night; statistically speaking, he's even more obscure in the realm of presidential politics than Lindsey Graham. He could have simply walked onto the stage and calmly read generic Democratic talking points and he would have just been bland and forgettable (hey there, Martin O'Malley).
But man oh man. First of all, there is his now infamous assertion that he voted the way he did on a controversial piece of legislation because he was new on the job and, oh, gee whiz, it can be hard to know what's going on, cut him some slack. Sure, there's a learning curve that comes with any new job, but really, you're going to say that you're running for federal office and that you will be unable to figure out what's in a major piece of legislation before you vote on it? If you really regret your vote on something, just *say* that you've changed your mind. Anything other than saying that your job is too hard.
As the evening went on, his bizarre gaffes compounded, even when he was given the least amount of time to speak out of any candidate in the 2016 cycle so far. He referred to the 1999's as a decade. He repeatedly trotted out a catchphrase about how he was as solid as a "block of granite," even saying it again after Anderson Cooper matter-of-factly brought up how many times he has shifted his party allegiance. When Chafee stuck by his previous statements that described Hilary Clinton's email scandal as being a "huge issue," Clinton didn't feel the need to do anything other than curtly say "no" when Cooper asked if she felt like responding.
This performance has justifiably lead to scores of excoriating headlines, including Slate's declaration that his entire candidacy is now a lost cause. Even Wolf Blitzer, of all people, is openly suggesting that he should drop out of the race to keep his dignity in tact, to his face. Look, Chafee may very well be a lovely human being. I find his skepticism regarding the more aggressive elements of our foreign policy (wars in general, our usage of drones, etc.) to be admirable. Despite that, he is just completely out of his element here.