The Democratic presidential candidates debated one another last week in Las Vegas and often acted so boorish, childish and foolish that I could have sworn I was watching a white-collar version of World Wrestling Entertainment.
One question stood out, of course: Who won?
That's easy. There were six winners:
-Jason Sudeikis (aka Joe Biden).
- Rachel Dratch (aka Amy Klobuchar).
- Kate McKinnon (aka Elizabeth Warren).
- Larry David (aka Bernie Sanders).
- Colin Jost (aka Pete Buttigieg).
- Fred Armisen (aka Michael Bloomberg).
They have been portraying the candidates on Saturday Night Live. And they no doubt had a field day during the fracas in Vegas. So did the show's writers, who could have literally jotted down notes, verbatim, and converted the dialogue into a cold-opening sketch. And I would be thrilled to see it. Wouldn't you?
The debate disintegrated into hollering, hazing and hilarity. NBC News anchor Lester Holt closed the freaky first hour by quipping, in his understated and ironic way: "Everybody warmed up?" (That even topped the moment when Chuck Todd, another NBC questioner, asked Michael Bloomberg: "Should you exist?")
The hilarity ensued in the sheer theater of the absurd. Did Amy Klobuchar really need to tell us that she knew the number of members of the Israeli Knesset (120)? Remember when former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, said to be worth roughly $52-to-60 billion, called out Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for having the wealth and inherent chutzpah to own three homes?
One of the weirder moments was the spectacle of Elizabeth Warren raising her hand high – which made me think of Reese Witherspoon's depiction of Tracy Flick in the film "Election" – to get the attention of the moderators. (Pretty soon, other candidates on stage started doing the same.)
Lost in the Flood
The serious, telling issues were discussed, of course, but were lost in the flood. All of the candidates had a lot to answer for. It comes down to this: You had enough material to love, even more, your favorite candidate, and eviscerate the one(s) you already hated.
As former Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill suggested afterwards on MSNBC, the debate was like a political version of "Survivor."
The smackdown began with a seeming alliance between Minnesota ("Minnesota Nice") Senator Amy Klobuchar and Mayor Pete of South Bend, Ind. That dissolved like an ice cube on a city sidewalk on a very hot day. There was no illusion that Warren and Bloomberg were foes. Biden, no longer the front runner and no longer the other candidates' natural adversary, got off comparatively easy compared to the barrage of abuse Bloomberg absorbed. A possible Warren-Klobuchar team went nowhere. Mayor Pete kept hitting Klobuchar on her failure to identify the head of state of Mexico.
The second hour started out cordially enough, especially by the standards of the wild, preceding 60 minutes. The bonhomie did not last long. The candidates simply couldn't contain themselves and began ripping into one another.
I felt sorry for Don Lemon, host of the show running on CNN during this debate. He probably wished his network had owned the broadcasting rights to the event.
The Big Loser(s)
You know who was a big loser? I was. I missed watching the New York Rangers score five goals in the third period, to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks, 6-3. That must have been a great game!
Who else lost? The Democratic Party, which looked ridiculous.
In comparison, the quiet, calming version of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land," which appeared in a commercial toward the end of the debate, seemed stunning for its inherent dignity.
Oh yeah, right, Dignity was also a big loser. Maybe Dignity, in fact, was the biggest loser of all.
As we went to press, the Democrats were getting ready to do it all again, in Charleston, South Carolina this time. Lorne Michaels has never had it so good.