“I will ask for forgiveness,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.). “I know that sometimes I get really worked up. And sometimes I get a little hot. I don’t really mean to.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) was similarly reflective: “Well, I’d ask for forgiveness, any time any of you get mad at me. I can be blunt, but I am doing this because I think it is so important to pick the right candidates here.”
The five men onstage, in contrast, offered the gift of their ideas. Several suggested giving others books they had written. Others focused on policy proposals they hatched.
In a campaign that has emphasized policy differences, generational divides and geographical values, this single question illustrated another dimension — what many see as a double standard in the ways men and women are expected to behave.
“It’s an ingrained gender stereotype that men don’t have to apologize for being labeled angry,” said Amanda Hunter, a spokeswoman for the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, the Cambridge, Mass.-based nonprofit organization that focuses on electing more women to top jobs and promoting women in contemporary art. “Many of the women watching the debate could relate to feeling that pressure.”
She added: “Women feel like they have to apologize if they appear angry or forceful, and men get the benefit of the doubt.”
None of the men who answered the question asked for forgiveness.
“I don’t think I have much to ask forgiveness for. You all can correct me on this,” said businessman Andrew Yang, who was the first to answer.
After pondering the question, he noted that Warren is now reading his book. If she likes it, he mused, others on the stage probably would too.
“I would love to give each of you a copy of my book,” he said, and then broadened the answer into a mini commercial for the tome.
“If you like data, this book is for you,” Yang said. “This goes to the people at home, too. If you like data. And books.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) mimicked the answer. “Well, I can give out any one of four books that I wrote,” he quipped, before insisting the best gift would be the agenda he’s running on.
South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, too, offered his writings. “Come to think of it, I should probably send my book around more, too,” he said.
But he settled on a broader gift, saying that defeating President Trump would suffice. And turned the question into a bit of a warning: “Let’s make sure there’s not too much to ask for forgiveness for,” Buttigieg said.
Joe Biden didn’t try to sell a book. Instead, he appeared to get annoyed with Warren, who had won applause for explaining how deeply she’s affected by the stories of suffering she hears from voters who stand in line to take photos with her.
“You’re not the only one who’s done selfies, Senator,” the former vice president said. “I’ve done thousands of them. Thousands of them."
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