Buttigieg Previews How He'll 'Manage' Trump on the Debate Stage

Posted: May 23, 2019 12:58 PM

Washington, D.C. - South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg was the first Democratic presidential candidate to take part in The Washington Post's "2020 Candidates Series" on Thursday.

He covered a lot of ground in the hour-long discussion with WaPo's Robert Costa, but one exchange I'd like to highlight was the moment the moderator asked Buttigieg how he's preparing for the Democratic primary debates and if he's the nominee, his onstage battles with President Trump.

As for the debates with his fellow Democrats, he won’t be the one "waving his arms or being the loudest." He'll be focusing on the issues. Judging by some later comments he made about Joe Biden's 1994 crime bill, one of those issues will be prison reform. He took Biden to task on how that legislation "led to mass incarceration."

He'll tweak his strategy slightly when he faces Trump. He suggested it was his moral duty to respond to the president's "lies." And, according to the mayor, that will keep him pretty busy.

"He’s going to try to get under your skin," Buttigieg predicted. He'll "distract us." 

"It can’t be about him," he said. "No energy can go his way."

So, the mayor plans to "stiff arm" his opponent and engage in "crazy uncle management." 

After "crazy uncle," he added Trump was a "bully."

Buttigieg suggested that if Washington had its act together, Trump wouldn't even be there. That's because, Buttigieg explained, a lot of people in the industrial Midwest voted for him while holding their nose.

They "voted for someone they dislike just because they wanted to burn the house down."

Costa asked Buttigieg if he would consider pardoning Trump during any ongoing criminal investigations if he won the election.

That was "easy," Buttigieg said. "No."

Judging by how many times Buttigieg alluded to his age, I think he'll also be highlighting his youth during those debates with the 72-year-old incumbent. When he discussed the crime bill with Costa, Buttigieg noted how he was just 12 years old when it was signed. When he was asked about how President Ford pardoned Nixon, Buttigieg reminded the audience he "wasn't around" for that. If he becomes president and is inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2021, it will be the day after he turns 39.