Night One

CNN: Hello and welcome to the second debate. Which of these American gladiators will prevail?

Here is a two-minute video we made to get you hyped for the contestants — whoops, candidates — you will be seeing tonight. WILL THESE TWO FORMER FRIENDS TURN ON EACH OTHER AS THE CAMERAS ROLL? WILL THIS BRAVE SOUL, STRUGGLING AGAINST THE ODDS FOR A FINAL SHOT, MANAGE TO CUT THROUGH THE NOISE TO EMERGE BATTERED AND BRUISED BUT VICTORIOUS? AH, IF ONLY THERE WEREN’T SO MUCH NOISE!

This is the best way to choose who should lead a country and is in no way part of what got us Donald Trump. Now, let’s begin with the John Delaney hour. We heard America loud and clear after the last debate, and what America was saying was, “More John Delaney, please.” Senator Bernie Sanders, John Delaney called your plan bad. What would you like to yell at the former congressman?

SANDERS: Who?

CNN: Thank you. Congressman Delaney, what’s your response?

DELANEY: I am right. My dad, a union electrician, loved his health care. He had a picture of his insurance provider he carried in his wallet every day and would show to anyone who would listen. Only sometimes did he bother to include a picture of me. But I understood. I get it. The man loved his insurance. I want more sons to have the experience I had.

SANDERS: Recently, I beheld a land called Canada, where the streets are paved with health-care guarantees and insulin flows like a reasonably priced stream. And it’s real! It’s a real place! I am not —

CNN: Thank you. Congressman Delaney?

DELANEY: I don’t want the Democrats to be the party of subtraction. Of taking things away, which is what subtraction means. I disagree with your plan and do not think it would do what you say it does.

ELIZABETH WARREN: I completely disagree. People are dying. I know someone who is dying even though he has good health insurance. His name is —

CNN: Thank you. Marianne Williamson, in a sense, aren’t we all dying even though we have health insurance?

WILLIAMSON: Not me. My thoughts are too strong. They have to be, so I can fight the scream that is illness.

CNN: Senator Warren, before we get too distracted, would you have to raise taxes on America’s hard-working middle class to pay for your costly, ill-advised plan?

WARREN: If I could just finish the story of the person who is dying?

CNN: Only if you explain about the taxes. Governor Steve Bullock, would you mind attacking Medicare-for all?

BULLOCK: You know how the Republicans want repeal and replace? Isn’t Medicare-for-all the biggest repeal and replace of all of them out there? It’s just what Republicans want, people!

CNN: Confusing, but thank you. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, talk more about the high taxes on the middle class that this plan would inevitably bring.

BUTTIGIEG: Actually, I have come up with a solution to this problem. It is called Medicare-for-all-who-want-it. It combines the excitement of having “Medicare-for-all” in the name with the excitement of it not actually being Medicare-for-all, in case that plan turns out not to work.

CNN: Senator Amy Klobuchar, you haven’t said anything. Now, Senator Warren said politicians who do not support her plan lack the will to fight for it.

KLOBUCHAR: LISTEN, I HAVE NEVER LACKED THE WILL TO FIGHT FOR ANYTHING IN MY LIFE. YOU WANT TO GO? LET’S GO RIGHT NOW. I’LL SHOW YOU THE REASON THEY CALL ME THE STREET FIGHTER FROM THE IRON RANGE.

CNN: Finally! Would you care to attack any specific person onstage right now?

KLOBUCHAR: I would prefer not to, no.

CNN: Ugh. Well, that brings us to our next segment. Under most of your podiums is a box containing an item that can be used as a weapon. On the count of three, you will open the box. But! One of the candidate’s boxes is empty. Everyone’s response … when we return from commercial.

(Commercial. We cut back to a theater where the candidates are standing exactly as before, although Warren is holding a mace, John Hickenlooper has a set of throwing knives, Williamson has beams of orange light emanating from her fingertips and Sanders is holding a paper clip.)

CNN: (Nervously.) Marianne, don’t you want to use the, uh, machete?

(Williamson shakes her head.)

CNN: Congressman Delaney?

DELANEY: (Awkwardly putting a straight razor underneath his notes.) So, uh, I don’t think my colleagues understand the health-care business.

SANDERS: IT’S NOT A BUSINESS! Which you might think would make me like it MORE, but actually makes me like it LESS!

CNN: Congressman Tim Ryan, do you have any complaints about the Sanders plan? Do you think it is the policy of a crazy socialist? Answer with your weapon!

RYAN: Yes.

CNN: Ugh. What about you, Governor Hickenlooper?

HICKENLOOPER: Senator Sanders, you can wave your arms —

SANDERS: I WOULD LOVE TO!

HICKENLOOPER: I TOO CAN WAVE MY ARMS! WA-HO! I can wave my arms and make promises, like Gandalf, but in the end, Gandalf is not the one who has to stay around and implement things. That’s work that has to be done by local administrators, ordinary people like myself and Tom Bombadil.

BUTTIGIEG: A way in which I am unlike Gandalf is that I am very young, so young that when I hear “Clinton” my first thought is Hillary. I am so young that by comparison to me, Paul Ryan seems withered and wizened with years of toil. This means a lot to me. And I would tell Donald Trump that, and by doing so, would solve the climate crisis.

CNN: Now for another commercial. But when we return, Marianne Williamson will say something about fighting dark psychic forces and then follow it up with something arresting about reparations, just to really confuse people who can only hold one thought in their minds at a time.

WILLIAMSON: Looking forward to it. If you want to learn how to hold multiple thoughts in your mind at one time, please have your doctor prescribe you my book!

(Commercial.)

CNN: I feel like we haven’t heard from John Delaney in too long. John, do you have anything to add?

DELANEY: I think free trade is good? I am not making any unrealistic promises, just offering pragmatic solutions, although I understand that prefacing all of them with “When I am president” confuses the contrast I am trying to draw between myself and those who believe in improbable dreams.

Night Two

JOE BIDEN: Can I just say that I love how diverse it is on this stage! This is what America really looks like! I’m contributing to that, I think.

CNN: Senator Harris, Vice President Biden: We liked it when you fought. Fight again — nunchuks are available upon request — but this time about health care.

KAMALA HARRIS: Look, happy to, but honestly I think they covered that last night? Besides, there are many things I would rather do on this stage than defend my health-care plan, which I understand everyone has objections to.

REPRESENTATIVE TULSI GABBARD: How about you defend your record as a prosecutor? I, on the other hand, have a spotless record on issues ranging from Assad to conversion therapy that requires no defense! So let’s hear it!

HARRIS: Actually, isn’t it about time to hear from Congressman Delaney?

(Harris looks around. Confusingly, for once, there is no sign of Delaney.)

SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND: Excuse me, Vice President Biden, in the past, you said working women tear apart the fabric of the family.

BIDEN: Here is something that has been puzzling me. When I was Barack Obama’s vice president — and his cherished friend, Barack’s B-rock, if you will (the B stands for Biden!) — everyone wanted to spend time with me and pose with me in pictures and had nothing but good things to say about me, but now that I am the front-runner for president, they criticize me and think what I did was wrong? I feel like there’s a disconnect.

GILLIBRAND: Okay, but that was not an answer to the question.

SENATOR CORY BOOKER: Can I just ask Vice President Biden something? Why is it that you are happy to bring up Barack Obama, unprompted, 100 percent of the time, but when anyone asks about an actual policy you espoused as part of the administration, you claim that was the one week you were out of town?

BIDEN: I wish I had an answer for you, but that was the week I was out of town. I was not the only person in the Obama administration, though. Secretary Castro, you were there. Why didn’t you tell us any of your good ideas about decriminalizing illegal entry then?

JULIAN CASTRO: I’m sorry I failed then! At least in the interim I learned from the past, unlike you!

BOOKER: Please, please! Stop this fighting!

CNN: (Whispering.) No …

BOOKER: Don’t you see, you’re playing into their hands! Or at least, if you must fight, use fewer policy specifics. People will say we’re socialists!

BIDEN: You were not a good mayor.

CNN: (Whispering.) Yes …

BOOKER: If you want to compare records — and, frankly, I’m amazed that you do — I think I was putting out a fire that until recently you were proudly announcing that you had lit. And I know about rescuing people from fires!

GOVERNOR JAY INSLEE: I HAVE BEEN SILENT LONG ENOUGH! WHY DO WE MANUFACTURE DRAMA? THERE IS DRAMA ENOUGH ALREADY — THE WHOLE EARTH IS ON FIRE! HEARKEN, HEARKEN, O YE PUNY DEBATERS, TO THE CRY OF THE GREAT WOUNDED PLANET ON WHICH WE HELPLESSLY SPIN.

WHY DO YOU NOT HEED?

WE HAVE NO TIME, NO TIME AT ALL.

BIDEN: It’s okay, I think. Clean coal?

INSLEE: IT IS NOT OKAY! I SPIT UPON YOUR COAL. COAL WILL NOT SAVE US. EVERY ISSUE IS ENWRAPPED IN THIS ISSUE. I AM A VOICE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS. WHY DOES NO ONE HEAR ME? YES, MY TONE IS HEIGHTENED, BUT THE ISSUE IS EXACTLY THIS SERIOUS!

CASTRO: I think impeachment is a good idea!

(Inslee wails.)

MICHAEL BENNET: I do, too, but I doubt Congress will be able to do it. My confidence in Congress is lower than my name recognition. Everyone thinks I am a Jane Austen character who failed to marry Charlotte Lucas.

INSLEE: Am I invisible? Like carbon dioxide? Ah, if only I too could effect an imperceptible change in the entire world! Weep, weep for our poor Earth!

CNN: Would anyone like to bungle their closing statement?

BIDEN: Don’t be discouraged. This is America, where people can do anything they put their minds to, even understand what I mean when I tell them to go to “Joe 30330” to join the fight!

CNN: Stay with us for an additional three hours of talking heads, during which we will show you all the weapons not deployed in the second debate and discuss why.

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