Keeping the gloves on? 手下留情


Reader question:

Please explain "kept the gloves on" in this headline: "In Democratic Debate, the Candidates Mostly kept the gloves on".

My comments:

In American politics, presidential candidates from both Democratic and Republican parties have to participate in televised debates before each party settle on their candidate to run for President. The debates are designed to allow candidates to face off against each other, answering the same voter questions for the latter to decide whom to vote for. Many such debates have become ugly affairs with candidates calling each other names and making all sorts of hurtful allegations.

In the (latest) Democratic debate, however, candidates mostly kept the gloves on. Keeping the gloves on means that, this time around, they were not particularly nasty towards one another. Instead, they were rather nice, soft or merciful.

Keeping the gloves on, you see, is the very opposite of taking the gloves off, which, too, going back to the beginning, is a term that originates in boxing.

Yes, the gloves refer to the boxer's gloves. Today's boxers all wear a pair of leather gloves with which to hit an opponent, on the head or the torso. The gloves are made in such a way as to be fat and soft - lessening their impact, therefore softening the blow.

The bigger the gloves, the lesser the resulting pain they inflict.
In the old days, however, boxing matches were brutal, gloveless affairs. Boxers fought each other with their bare knuckles.

Well, you feel the greater pain that way.

Hence the point.

Anyways, figuratively speaking, when people describe a debate or argument and say the gloves are off, they mean to say the fight is getting serious - both sides are angry and merciless, ready to inflict the greatest wound and pain on the opponent.

In our example, of course, Democratic candidates are not like that. They are more lenient. The gloves are always kept on.

In other words, they still like each other to some degree. They don't want to hurt each other that much.

Expect things to change later on, however, when push comes to shove, as they say.

For now, let's read a few examples of situations where people choose to keep the glove on:

1. One's in, one's out, and one's exploring.

That's where the Democratic field of Scott Brown challengers named Warren stood after another lazy summer week when Gov. Deval Patrick returned from his Bermuda-Maine vacation, only to seek respite in the Berkshires for another week; and lawmakers at the Statehouse were more likely to be seen playing tour guide for visiting constituents than working on policy.

For those keeping score at home: Newton Mayor Setti Warren is still in the race despite lackluster early fundraising; former state Sen. Warren Tolman made his decision not to run for the nomination; and Elizabeth Warren dipped her toes to see how the water felt.

Way back in November, Democratic Party chairman John Walsh said he might be in the minority of those who believe a competitive and positive — the key word being positive — Democratic primary in 2012 would be healthy for the party's chances of unseating U.S. Sen. Brown.

Now with seven declared candidates in the race and an eighth looking like she's just waiting to line up the ballroom for a formal announcement, Walsh has to be wondering whether keeping the Beat Brown Brigade from destroying each other before September will be more difficult than expected. The candidates have kept the gloves on, so far.

- View from Beacon Hill: Democratic Senate candidates playing nice, at least for now,, August 23, 2011.

2. What a difference a week makes. When the four remaining Republican presidential candidates gathered eight days ago for a debate in Detroit, it marked a low point, not only for the 2016 race, but perhaps for the modern GOP itself – the event was more of a junior-high food fight than a discussion of ideas. The Republicans and their audience put on a vulgar and offensive display, reinforcing fears of a party that’s gone completely over the edge.

Last night in Miami was, well, different. If we lower the bar for propriety to a ridiculous level, and say any debate in which a presidential frontrunner refrains from talking about his penis is a success, then sure, the 12th gathering of the Republican presidential field was a vast improvement over the 11th.

But it’s also fair to say that isn’t much of a standard for a global superpower in the 21st century.

Perhaps the most memorable quote of the evening came about a third of the way through the debate, when Donald Trump took a moment to acknowledge what many were thinking. From the transcript:

“I would say this. We’re all in this together. We’re going to come up with solutions. We’re going to find the answers to things. And so far I cannot believe how civil it’s been up here.”

And given what happened seven days earlier, no one else could believe it, either. It led to borderline celebratory headlines such as, “GOP candidates set aside insults, talk about policy” and “Who Won the Debate? Substance Over Theater.”

At a certain level, the praise reflects a degree of relief – I think many journalists would have been satisfied last night if the candidates resisted the urge to literally drop their pants – but I think words like “policy” and “substance” should probably come with scare quotes.

Because while the GOP presidential hopefuls managed not to embarrass themselves or their party last night with juvenile taunts and ugly boasts, they also reminded voters that the Republican candidates have no idea what they’re talking about.

Vox’s Ezra Klein explained overnight that this may have been “the most substantive clash of the cycle,” but “the substance was wrong.”

So was this debate substantive? Sure, in the sense that it focused on weighty policy topics like Social Security and trade and the assembled candidates mostly used their inside voices. But the things the candidates actually said were, by turns, wrong, misleading, misinformed, confused, or ridiculous. This substantive debate mostly showed how weak a grasp on the issues the candidates actually have.

It’s honestly difficult to think of any area of public policy the Republicans candidates described accurately. They were wrong about basic, factual details regarding the economy, the environment, foreign policy, the budget, Social Security, education, and defense spending, among other things.

When presidential candidates say wrong things in a calm demeanor, it’s hardly a triumph. Our collective expectations for the GOP field have fallen to such a low level that watching them make bogus claims about reality for two hours seems impressive – because no one held up their hands to show how big they are.

As for the broader political context, it’s unlikely last night’s debate will have a significant impact on the race overall. Trump’s rivals not only kept the gloves on, they seemed to pull every punch, making no real effort to take the frontrunner down a peg. The New York Republican, meanwhile, shifted his tone, presenting himself as the likely nominee who no longer feels the need to knock the rivals he’s already defeating.

- In debate, Republicans replace bad behavior with bad answers,, March 13, 2016.

3. Khloe Kardashian knows she has to put up with a lot of scrutiny and criticism from fans on social media as a public figure, but she clearly draws the line when people start coming for her friends.

After Malika and Khadijah Haqq were spotted helping Tristan Thompson pick out a diamond necklace as a gift for Khloe in the latest installment of "Keeping Up with the Kardashians," social media lit up with fans trashing the twins for stepping in to help him after how things went down between Tristan and Khloe.

On Tuesday, Khloe decided she'd finally had enough and went off in a series of tweets aimed at those meddling viewers, telling them they couldn't possibly know the whole story after watching a television show.

She went on to basically tell them to check themselves unless their lives are absolutely perfect. "People love to have an opinion when they're behind a computer screen," she wrote. "I'm fine with opinions. Just make sure you live the life you so quickly judge others about."

But the bottom line is that Khloe has developed a pretty tough skin when it comes to people criticizing every little thing about her -- she's been enduring their brutality for years, after all -- but she's not going to stand for it when they start coming after those close to her.

"People can talk about me all they want. I'm cool with that. I'm used to it," she emphasized. "But don't talk about my friends! They are nothing but incredible."


At this point, Khloe's focus is on maintaining a good co-parenting relationship with Tristan, which she has said is going very well. If part of that includes gestures of kindness from Tristan and she's cool with it, that's her choice. In the past, Tristan has made overtures about wanting to get back with her and Khloe has effectively handled her business.

It's something she's become quite good at; standing on her own two feet after dealing with a devastating cheating scandal with Tristan just days before giving birth, followed by allegations of some more-than-friends behavior between him and her one-time BFF Jordyn Woods back in February.

Suffice to say, Khloe does not have blinders on when it comes to Tristan. And she definitely is not keeping the gloves on when it comes to people coming after her friends simply for doing something kind for someone she still cares about.

- Khloe Kardashian Claps Back at Fans Coming After Her Friends for Helping Tristan Thompson,, December 4, 2019.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at:, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)

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