The debaters and the teacher

Warren remains above the fray as Biden takes hits

IT STARTED WHEN former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro questioned Joe Biden’s memory over what he had said minutes before about automatically enrolling uninsured people into a Medicare-type program. Castro appeared to have either misunderstood or misheard what Biden said,  but pundits are interpreting the exchange as an attack on the former vice president’s age.

“This is why presidential debates are becoming unwatchable,” said South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. “This reminds everybody of what they cannot stand about Washington — scoring points against each other, poking at each other…”

Castro didn’t buy Buttigieg’s sermonizing. “That’s called the Democratic primary election,” he said. Sen. Amy Klobuchar weighed in with an Abraham Lincoln quote — “a house divided cannot stand” — but that fell flat.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren was noticeably silent while Biden was coming under fire. She focused instead on what she called her dream job — teaching.  She recounted how she completed her bachelor’s degree in speech pathology at the University of Houston, not far from where the debate was held at Texas Southern University. She then went on to New Jersey where she taught children with disabilities for a year, before enrolling in law school.

“I’ve had the same dream since I was in second grade — I wanted to be a public school teacher,” Warren said. “I’ve lived my dream job. I’ve been a special needs teacher.”

She added: “I’m the only person on the stage who was a public school teacher.”

The Boston Globe suggested Warren may have benefited by staying above the fray, while David Bernstein at WGBH saw a candidate evolving away from her “I have a plan” persona to try to connect with voters on a more personal level.

Biden attempted to mix it up with Warren at one point by aligning himself with Barack Obama’s health care plan and his idea of adding a public option to the Affordable Care Act. Biden suggested Warren didn’t know how to pay for Medicare for All, which is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’s signature proposal. “The senator says she’s for Bernie, well I’m for Barack,” he said.

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Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth magazine

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

Warren responded by defending the plan, and defending her proposal to tax high income earners. She sounded a lot like a teacher educating her students.

Peter Kadzis and Adam Reilly at WGBH called Warren’s debate work a higher-caliber performance. While many wonder how Warren would stand up against President Trump’s often unforgiving character attacks (he called her Pocahontas again last night at an event), her performance at the very least gained her some notice on a night where 10 presidential candidates were vying for their moment on camera.