At the latest Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton didn’t have the bravura night that she did last month in Las Vegas. Bernie Sanders tried to stick to his message as much as he could even as the Paris terrorist attacks overshadowed all else. And Martin O’Malley tried his best to show he was a viable, and bit younger alternative to his rivals.
More than anything, the second Democratic debate, from Drake University in Des Moines and broadcast on CBS News, magnified the contrast that the left has with the right, starting with words.
As GOP candidates rushed to make an issue of calling the Paris attacks a work of Muslim extremism, Clinton refused to paint “with too broad a brush” and referred to it a “jihadi extreme terrorism.” Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Marco Rubio refused to commit to raising the minimum wage; Democrats debated just how high it should go. Then there is gun control, immigration and climate change.
Sanders, ridiculed on the right for labeling “climate change” the greatest world threat in the last debate, went further this time, connecting it to what is happening with ISIS, saying that its effects are “directly related” to terrorism.
This debate also showed the skills of “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson held generally tight control over the proceedings and was deft at followups, particularly at the start when the focus was on the Paris attacks.
Here are the five most memorable moments from the debate:
ISIS. All of the candidates condemned the attacks in Paris, with Sanders pledging that “this country will rid our planet of this barbarous organization called ISIS.” Clinton said that “we need to have a resolve that will bring the world together to root out the kind of radical jihadist ideology that motivates an organization like ISIS.” O’Malley said it was the “new phase of conflict and warfare in the 21st century.”
‘Carnival barker’: O’Malley helped himself with a number of memorable lines, something he needed in a campaign that has too often fallen off the radar screen in the Clinton-Sanders rivalry. He chided Clinton for her positions in the gun debate, calling her “Annie Oakley” at one moment and saying, “There is a big difference between leading by polls and leading by principle.” He also called her Wall Street reform plan “weak tea.” But he got the most attention for characterizing Donald Trump as an immigration-bashing “carnival barker.” That earned him not just a Twitter spike, but a response from Trump, who called O’Malley “a clown.” That will help O’Malley in post-debate talk, ever important as Democrats scheduled this event, for some reason, on a Saturday night, the lowest viewed night of the week.
‘Impugn my integrity’: In their biggest exchange of the evening, Sanders and Clinton sparred over Wall Street, with Sanders suggesting that no candidate who collects campaign money from big banks and hedge funds can escape their influence, while Clinton defended her plan for reform, including a pledge to break up the big banks “if they don’t play by the rules.” “Not good enough,” Sanders said in response. At one point, she accused Sanders of trying to “impugn my integrity,” before launching into an explanation of her contributors that emphasized Wall Street’s connection to 9/11.
Gun control: All of the candidates are for tougher gun safety measures, but this debate showed the lengths of which each is trying to show differences in their levels of commitment. Clinton noted that since the last debate in Las Vegas, nearly 3,000 Americans have been killed by guns. She hit Sanders for his gun control record, noting that he “had a different vote than I did when it came to giving immunity to gun makers and sellers,” while Sanders said that he would be able to build consensus on gun violence issues.
Those damn emails: Sanders accused the media of ginning up the notion that he was backing away from his complaints over the attention to Hillary Clinton’s emails. “I was sick and tired of hearing about Hillary Clinton’s emails. I am still sick and tired of hearing about Hillary Clinton’s emails,” he said.
Clinton responded, “I agree completely.”