"Or are you mocking me here, Pete?” Klobuchar tensely asked before launching into a defense of her record in national politics

By Sean Neumann
February 20, 2020 02:15 PM
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Tensions between Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg boiled over during Wednesday night’s Democratic debate in Las Vegas.

Moderators asked Klobuchar about a recent trip-up in an interview when she forgot the name of Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has held office since late 2018, and she said, “This isn’t Jeopardy!

Fellow Democratic candidate Tom Steyer (who did not qualify for the latest debate) had also failed to come up with Obrador’s name, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren defended Klobuchar during the debate saying, “It happens.”

But Buttigieg wasn’t as lenient with Klobuchar’s answer, turning and questioning how she could run to become the U.S. president while not knowing the leader of one of the country’s biggest trade partners.

“You’re literally in part of the committee that’s overseeing these things and were not able to speak to literally the first thing about the politics of the country to our south,” Buttigieg said.

Klobuchar then tensely said: “Are you trying to say that I’m dumb? Or are you mocking me here, Pete?”

“I’m saying you shouldn’t trivialize that knowledge,” Buttigieg responded, referencing Klobuchar’s Jeopardy! comment.

Buttigieg’s comments triggered a firm defense from Klobuchar, who began listing off her accomplishments before referencing Buttigieg’s lack of experience in national politics.

“He’s basically saying that I don’t have the experience to be president of the United States,” Klobuchar said. “I have passed over 100 bills as the lead Democrat since being in the U.S. Senate. I am the one, not you, that has won statewide in congressional district after congressional district.”

The two Midwestern candidates — Klobuchar from Minnesota and Buttigieg from Indiana — have recently started to knock heads during debates and on the campaign trail.

Ahead of the New Hampshire primary, Klobuchar climbed in the polls as she twisted Buttigieg’s statements about President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. Buttigieg had said that “watching this impeachment process is exhausting” and the trial “makes [him] want to change the channel and watch cartoons.”

Klobuchar — one of the 100 senators who sat through days of arguments and voted in Trump’s impeachment trial — ran with the cartoon comment, saying, “I have a job to do” and referenced Buttigieg not having political experience on a national scale, saying, “I am in the arena.”

Both Klobuchar and Buttigieg have made surprisingly strong starts in the primary season.

Buttigieg claimed a razor-thin victory in the Iowa caucus (just ahead of Sen. Bernie Sanders) and came in second behind Sanders in the New Hampshire primary by about one percent of the vote (or some 4,000 votes).

Klobuchar came in a relatively close third place in New Hampshire, getting about 20 percent of the vote to Buttigieg’s 25 percent.

“The reason that I think we need to talk about Washington experience is that we should ask what that experience has led to,” Buttigieg said Wednesday night. “Experience and certainly tenure is not always the same thing as judgment.”