Watching the Democratic presidential candidate debate -- with Elizabeth Warren promising government health care for all without saying she'll tax the middle class to pay for it -- was like staring from a distance at the Big Rock Candy Mountain.
You don't know the Big Rock Candy Mountain? That's the gorgeous Democratic Socialist paradise where everything is free.
"Where the handouts grow on bushes ... And the sun shines every day/ On the birds and the bees and the cigarette trees/ The lemonade springs where the bluebird sings/ In the Big Rock Candy Mountains."
It sounds so nice, like Democratic economic policy written for modern Americans who've been trained to despise the freedom offered by capitalism, while yearning for free stuff promised by the federal masters.
It's an old hobo (can I still use that word?) song about a dreamy place where the cops have wooden legs, guard dogs have rubber teeth and the hens lay soft-boiled eggs all day.
But I concentrated on what the candidates were saying, and it completely harshed my mellow.
It wasn't that they rained hate on President Donald Trump. The debate sponsors, CNN and The New York Times are cheerleaders in the anti-Trump resistance. And all performed as expected. The one thing they stand for, clearly, is they hate Trump.
But I had hoped we'd hear a bit more about what distinguishes one candidate from another on policy. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a military veteran, tried to go there, mocking CNN and the Times and fellow Democrats for pushing the conflict in Syria, which she described as another "regime change war."
Gabbard's attempt was admirable but doomed. The last thing Democrats and the Beltway media want to be reminded of is that on Syria, they're now in bed with those "Never Trump" pro-war Republican neocons.
And so, a dense anti-Trumpian fog descended upon the Big Rock Candy Mountain.
Warren, the Massachusetts senator, refused to say if the middle class would end up paying for her monster federal government Medicare plan for all. And that's not the only problem with the plan -- it would kick some 150 million Americans off their private health care insurance.
Asked whether she'd tax the middle class to pay for her plan, Warren dodged, pivoted, danced, but didn't answer. She wasn't pressed enough.
It's as if the entire Democratic Beltway Media Hive has come to realize -- perhaps through the release of hive-friendly pheromones -- that former front-runner Joe Biden is done and Warren must be protected, even from herself.
At least Sen. Bernie Sanders didn't dodge. He climbed the Big Rock Candy Mountain years ago, planted his flag and waited for the entire Democratic Party to move hard left and join him. He's 78 and just had a heart attack, but he stood strong. Sanders is the one authentic candidate in the bunch. He admits what he is: He's a socialist.
"At least Bernie's being honest here and saying how he's going to pay for this and that taxes are going to go up," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. "And I'm sorry, Elizabeth, but you have not said that, and I think we owe it to the American people to tell them where we're going to send the invoice."
Voters already know the middle class always gets the bill.
In a question written as if to please CNN boss Jeff Zucker, Anderson Cooper asked Biden about his son Hunter.
"Mr. Vice President," said Cooper, "President Trump has falsely accused your son of doing something wrong while serving on a company board in Ukraine. I want to point out there's no evidence of wrongdoing by either one of you."
That's not completely true. It was categorically wrong for then-Vice President Biden -- as the Obama administration point man to Ukraine and China -- to have his son Hunter cashing in on business deals in both countries, including $50,000 a month from Ukrainian gas company Burisma.
I don't know if it was a crime, but it was a clear conflict of interest. The legendary Chicago boss Richard J. Daley leveraged his clout to help his sons. When asked about it, Daley told reporters to kiss his mistletoe. But Daley didn't say mistletoe.
"Having said that, on Sunday, you announced that if you're president, no one in your family or associated with you will be involved in any foreign businesses," Cooper continued. "My question is, if it's not OK for a president's family to be involved in foreign businesses, why was it OK for your son when you were vice president? Vice President Biden?"
Biden looked to his left and his right as if afraid. He's no Dick Daley.
"Look, my son did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong," Biden said, going on to babble about George Washington worrying about foreign influence in elections and then, of course, Trump.
Cooper pressed on.
"Look, my son's statement speaks for itself. I did my job. I never discussed a single thing with my son about anything having to do with Ukraine," Biden said.
Joe, you did talk to your son. Hunter admitted as much years ago. Even now, with the other candidates avoiding the Hunter issue lest they be accused of pro-Trumpian leanings, Joe must realize that he won't be the Democratic nominee. It's being given to Warren.
Yet before he walks off the stage for the last time, wouldn't it be nice if Joe Biden sings to the nation he loves, in the song the Democrats now sing, in a fine clear voice?
"There's a lake of stew/ And of whiskey, too/ You can paddle all around 'em/ In a big canoe/ In the Big Rock Candy Mountains."
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