On Sunday, The Daily Wire’s own Ben Shapiro faced off against CNN liberal pundit Sally Kohn in a fierce debate at PolitiCon 2016 in Southern California. Before the event began, the two debaters agreed on the terms of engagement. Shapiro was open to everything under the sun, while Kohn requested specific parameters of argumentation. Kohn wanted to talk about Donald Trump, a one-dimensional target who could presumably be blamed for a myriad of political ills. Shapiro deferred to Kohn, enthusiastic to begin a verbal sparring match.
At the beginning of the debate, Shapiro and Kohn agreed that they did not like Donald Trump, but that was the last time they were of one mind. After Shapiro offered his perspective on Trump, Kohn offered a preamble in which she complimented Shapiro for his stand against Trump, which she said proved he valued principle over party, and saluted him for his courage in leaving Breitbart when the Michelle Fields/Corey Lewandowski incident revealed Breitbart's fealty to Trump rather than good journalism.
Kohn started by insisting that America was on a financial cliff in 2007-08 because of "tax cuts on the rich and the war in Iraq." She bragged that America has had 53 straight months of private sector job growth, but bemoaned the "gods of Wall Street." She then segued to a mantra she would often repeat, that Trump's "biggest argument" was to reach "prosperity through bigotry." She had a little problem with numbers, talking about 270 years of American history despite the fact that next week will mark America's 240th birthday. Kohn blamed the Republican party for building racial resentment.
From there, the debate turned into Kohn blustering and patronizing with platitudes and Shapiro methodically eviscerating Kohn's positions one by one. Shapiro wasted no time in decimating Kohn's opening:
The idea that this has been anything but the worst recovery in American history is untrue. This has been the worst and weakest American recovery in the history of the country. As far as why the collapse happened in the first place, the reason the collapse happened, obviously, is because we had sub-prime mortgages that were being backed by the federal government in order to discriminate in favor of particular races, and then the economy, it turns out, people take out loans that they can't afford, they don't pay them back, and then the economy collapses. (Applause) As far as Obamacare ... the way that you increase health care for people is by increasing the supply, not by increasing the demand. Obamacare increases the demand, not the supply..
Shapiro stated, "If you bring in millions and millions of people, not that they're bad, it has nothing to do with bad-"
Kohn interrupted patronizingly, "They're not bad, they're just stealing our jobs," trying to link Shapiro with Trump.
Shapiro fired back that that might be Trump's view, but not his, as he decimated her again, prompting a sustained ovation: "In a perfectly welfare-state-free society, open borders and free movement of labor are totally fine. It's the Milton Friedman position. The problem is when you give out welfare, when you give out free education, when you give out Obamacare, when you give out food stamps, and then you say to people, my front door is wide open, a lot of people are going to come in and they are going to take advantage of the system, which is what's happened in the state of California." Kohn tried again on immigration: "Your party also is the party that wants to cut those benefits, so it becomes an illogical argument to say we want to cut those benefits but the fact that we have the benefits is our argument for not letting people in this country."
Strike two. Shapiro fired back, "No, it's not illogical at all. They want to cut the benefits. If you won't cut the benefits, then people can't come in and take them for free. It's not illogical at all."
Shapiro then turned to Kohn, asking her what restrictions she would place on immigrants, prompting her to send the question back at him. Shapiro stated, "Devotees of any culture who believe in individual freedom, that they have to believe in the notion of private property and the Constitution and limited government. That's what this country is about."
Kohn then delivered a 30 mph softball down the middle of the plate: "Who the f*** have you ever met in this entire green, beautiful world who does not believe in individual liberty?" The crowd moaned, guessing that Shapiro would slaughter the pitch.
Boom. "Are you kidding me," he responded. "This is legitimately fully delusional. By Gallup polls, 99% of the population of Afghanistan believes in sharia law. That's not individual freedom." Kohn snapped, "You are using sharia law to suggest that everyone who believes in sharia law believes in extremism." She then started to use statistics, but couldn't remember what she was saying.
It didn't matter. Shapiro said bluntly, "I recommend if you believe that, you try to go to a sharia law believing Muslim and aks them to cater your lesbian wedding."
Kohn slammed religious Christians, saying, "I believe that they should all have to bake me a cake." Shapiro replied, "I believe nobody should have to bake anybody a cake if they don't want to," eliciting huge applause again.
After Kohn went on a rambling harangue, again accusing Republicans of racism, dehumanizing people, and demonizing political correctness, citing Ronald Reagan talking about "welfare queens," Shapiro fired back, "So here's the difference between the Democrtaic Party and the Republican Party. You accuse Ronald Reagan of doing "dog whistles" in a year, two years before I was born, or four years before I was born, I was born in 1984. I can accuse the guy who's currently in office of not doing 'dog whistling' but openly, openly race-bating by attacking police officers on the basis that they are all racist ... Eric Holder's Department of Justice targeting dozens of police departments around the country and then telling them to restructure based on zero evidence of systematic racism whatsoever."
Kohn cited the Ferguson report, saying it showed systematic racism, snapping, "You don't believe that report. You think that report is bull***t." Shapiro fired back, "I read that report all the way through. What the report said is that a local government taking advantage of its citizens just like local governments all over the country take advantage of their citizens and the vast majority of citizens happen to be black. They're not doing it because they're black. Stop and Frisk is a perfect example. The left believes Stop and Frisk is racist. The left believes that the vast majority of the people who are stopped and frisked are black and Hispanic.That's because the vast majority of people in New York City who actually commit gun crimes in New York City are black and Hispanic. January to June 2008: 95% of all gun assailants in the city of New York were black and Hispanic." He concluded, "The biggest problems for blacks and Hispanics living in the inner city is that aren't enough police officers there to actually take care of them and police the crime to make their cities safe for investment and education."
Shapiro added, "Today, in law, there are more advantages given to black people than white people." Kohn huffed, "I'm done." Shapiro, unruffled, continued, "Sally, I don't know how you can't believe that, considering that the Supreme Court just determined that discrimination against white people in favor of black people is okay."
Kohn, desperately trying to find a chink in Shapiro's armor, asked if he thought there was sexism in America. Shapiro answered, 'If you're asking if America is structurally sexist the answer is no." He pointed out that in college admissions there are more women than men, and that graduate schools admit more women than men. Kohn admitted he was correct. Then he zoomed in for a killer line which set up a chain resulting in the biggest applause of the debate: "When it comes to jail, which you just cited, the vast, vast, vast, well over 90% of the people in jail are men. Is that because the system is sexist against men? Are you arguing that the jailing system is now sexist against men because there are more men than women in prison? That's really your argument?"
Kohn replied weakly, "It does happen to also be the case that more men commit crimes."
Shapiro, succinctly, "There you go."
Turning to attitudes toward radical Muslims, Shapiro targeted Kohn with a series of questions:
1. "Do you think there is a distinction worth drawing between western civilization and radical Islamic civilization?" Kohn answered, "Yes."
Shapiro continued "You think there are differences between the civilizations. What would the indicators that somebody would be part of a radical Islamic civilization be that would be threatening western civilization?" Kohn: "If what you're asking is do I think there's a difference between cultures, religions, political traditions, and people within those traditions ... if you're asking is there a difference between extremist, hateful, anti-individual, anti-liberty groups and traditions and those that within those identities, within those groups, within those countries that support freedom and progress ... absolutely, yes."
2. "Okay. Now let me ask you a second question: "Do you think that there's any correlation between the culture and the percentage of people in that culture who believe the things you don't like, meaning if you have a high percentage of one group, if you have a majority of British Muslims who believe that cartoons of the prophet Muhammad ought to be prosecuted, which I think we can all agree would be a bad thing, do you believe we should prosecute people who draw Muhammad?" Kohn: "No." Shapiro: "Then we agree. I'll assume that you think this would be an anti-western civilization position." Kohn: "I'm not going to parse it that way." Shapiro: "Why?" Kohn, admitting, "It's anti-Democratic. You're right. I'm against it." Kohn than ranted for a bit.
3. Shapiro, patiently, "Where do you draw the line?" Kohn: "If they actively want to do harm to our country, they don't get to come in." Shapiro: "Your only criterion is if they they want to kill Americans." Kohn: "You want to sit here and rewrite immigration law and refugee and health screenings?" Shapiro: "Yes. Yes. Sounds good." Much later, Shapiro said that the way he would draw the line is to look at the philosophy of the person wanting to emigrate to make sure they would accept the tenets of Western civilization.
After the debate, The Daily Wire interviewed event participants from across the political spectrum.
One self-identified “gay liberal” appeared awestruck that a conservative actually had the “balls” to challenge Leftist orthodoxy. “It’s good to see open and honest debate,” he said. “Ben did a good job. I was surprised. I wasn’t expecting that.”
Another gentleman with an unmistakable bright red “Make America Great Again” hat concurred. “I loved it. Ben is fast. He ran circles around her,” the Trump supporter said. “She was left stupefied.”
However, two self-identified “liberal millennial” women outside had a slightly different take. With Planned Parenthood pamphlets in their hands, the women suggested that they “generally agree” with Kohn. Showing off a fake gold uterus tattoo on her left collar bone, one of the women said she was slightly confused. “They couldn’t seem to agree on the facts,” she stated. “My gut is telling me to go with Sally.” The woman’s friend then interjected, “But Ben is a smart dude. Can’t deny that. It’s kind of annoying.”