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Second Democratic Debate: Foreign Threats And Domestic Issues

Max Schwartz |
November 14, 2015 | 8:00 p.m. PST

Associate News Editor

(DonkeyHotey/Flickr via Creative Commons)
(DonkeyHotey/Flickr via Creative Commons)
The second Democratic debate from Drake University, hosted by CBS News, kicked off with a moment of silence for the terrorist attacks in Paris, a sentiment that carried into the opening statements.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders started off with an anti-Islamic State message, and he then turned to the economy and campaign finance.

“Our prayers are with the people of France tonight, but that is not enough.” That’s how former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton started her remarks. That led into a conversation about choosing a commander-in-chief, and not just a president. She said she would work with our European allies to counter terrorism.

Martin O’Malley, the former Maryland governor, said that what happened in France is “the new face of conflict and warfare.” He said that the United States would be the country best equipped to deal with this change in terrorism.

The first question was about terrorism, and about whether the Obama administration had underestimated the Islamic State. Clinton got the first crack at it, and she said that the group has to be defeated. She said, “It cannot be an American fight,” and that the United States would support other groups or countries in their fights against the Islamic State. The former chief diplomat added that the United States needed to offer leadership to the fight.

SEE ALSO: A Preview Of The Second Democratic Debate

Chief moderator John Dickerson then followed up by reasking the question because Clinton had not addressed the underestimation. She said that she always thought that groups “needed to be equipped early” to fight extremism, and she said that the underestimation due to the United States.

O’Malley was next, and he said the fight against the Islamic State belongs to the United States. He said “the failure of the last 15 or 20 years is the lack of intelligence on the ground.” He said that the United States and its allies fight the safe havens, which includes the use of more intelligence.

Dickerson then went to Sanders, but the question had a climate change spin. He said “international terrorism is a major issue,” but he said the fight against climate change is more important. He countered Clinton’s remark that the the United States does not bear most of the blame for the Islamic State by saying the United States’ invasion led to the “instability” in the region. That was direct criticism to Clinton’s vote for the invasion of Iraq.

Clinton got a chance to respond to because Sanders referenced her. She defended herself by saying, once again, that the Iraq War vote “was a mistake.”

Dickerson went back to Sanders and asked if he approved of Clinton’s job as secretary of state. Sanders said the two have a “disagreement.” He said, “I am not a great fan of regime changes.”

O’Malley insisted on jumping in, and he also slammed the invasion. He talked about intelligence on the ground, and he wants the United States to think about the “second and third consequences,” to the decisions.

Clinton responded by saying, “You have to paint with a broad brush,” because the Middle East is “complicated.” She said that not everything that has happened is a direct result of the United States.

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Sanders jumped in, and he agreed that the Middle East is “complicated,” but he said that Middle Eastern countries “will need to get deeply involved,” with the coalition. He also said European countries needed to be more involved as well.

Clinton then responded, and she said Sanders’ remarks about Jordan were “not fair,” because they have helped. She added, however, that the Middle Eastern countries Sanders referred to will need to make a decision.

Dickerson then asked a question about what happened after Libya’s revolution. She said that our allies got the help they asked for in removing Gadaffi, and that the United States did learn after Iraq.

The moderator then asked O’Malley whether the world “is too dangerous for a governor with no foreign policy experience.” O’Malley called the world “dangerous,” but he said the United States is not “good at anticipating threats.” He also said the United States is not good at dealing with what happens after regimes fall. He transitioned into veterans and the armed forces by saying that the country “fails” the troops after leaders come down.

Clinton then responded with aid to countries, and that there are consequences.

Sanders jumped in to discuss consequences to war. He does not want the country to “turn our back to the men and women” who have served.

Dickerson then asked Clinton about Rubio’s comment about war with radical Islam. Clinton said we are at war with jihadists. She then went into the "barbarism" of the Middle East.

Sanders said it is not the term that’s important, it’s the organizations “like ISIS and Al Qaeda,” which he called a “danger.” He said it takes the world to unite to fight these groups.

O’Malley called people’s Muslim neighbors “our first line of defense.” He said these groups are “perverting” the religion, and he turned his response into a call to action to the Muslims in our society.

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Clinton was then asked if we are at war, which is what France’s president has said of radical Islamists. She said that there is an authorization to use military force, and she said she would make sure “it has the authority it needs,” but use of the military would need to go through Congress.

Sanders was asked about refugees, but he started his answer with intelligence before turning to refugees. He said he thinks the United States "certainly" needs to welcome Syrian and other Middle Eastern and North African refugees.

O’Malley said the United States needs to take in 65,000 refugees because that is what has been requested. 

Clinton was then asked a refugee question from Twitter: How will the refugees be screened? She said they should be screened, but then she segued into Russia and nuclear weapons and China’s South China Sea expansion.

Dickerson then tossed it to Nancy Cordes for questions on economic-related issues. The first one was to Clinton, questioning who would pay for the college and prescription drug plans she's proferred. Clinton said her plans “will not increase the deficit.”

There was a followup about her prescription drug cap of $250, and she said the the entire prescription status quo needs to be redesigned, and that the government needs to stop price gouging.

SEE ALSO: Clinton Goes On The Defensive In First Democratic Debate

Cordes then asked O’Malley about how he would pay for his college plan because he did it in Maryland by increasing the sales tax. He said the country should pay for everything it needs by getting rid of “a much lower income tax rate,” and the different capital gains tax. He thinks capital gains should be taxed as income.

Sanders was then questioned about how he would pay for his plans, which he would like to do by placing an additional tax on top earners. He said corporate loopholes should be closed, and that speculation on Wall Street should end. He wants corporations to “pay their fair share,” but he does not have an exact number yet. He just said it would not be as high as Dwight D. Eisenhower’s rate. By Sanders' estimation, “Wall Street should bail out the middle class.”

O’Malley then jumped in, and he said millionaires and billionaires “love their country enough,” to do more.

Both Clinton and Sanders praised the Affordable Healthcare Act and talked about expanding its reach. Sanders, though, said the next step is to go after the pharmaceutical companies over their prices.

Dickerson then turned it over to the journalists from Iowa for questioning. KCCI's Kevin Cooney asked O’Malley whether he would compromise on refugees to deal with border security. O’Malley said most of the focus has been on border control. He said"net immigration" from Mexico has been zero. He wants to get the immigrants into the American economy. “There is no substitute for comprehensive immigration with a pathway to citizenship….”

It then went to Clinton about putting Obama’s executive actions into place. She believes the president “has the authority” to enact the actions he has proposed. She is for immigration reform “with a pathway to citizenship.” She closed with, “Let’s move toward what we should be doing as a nation.”

Obradovich asked Sanders about his proposal to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour, which Alan Krueger has warned against, and what amount of job loss from it would be acceptable. Sanders said that every policy has some bad consequences, but thinks the country “should move toward a living wage,” because some people need to work three jobs to stay afloat. He wants the change to happen over several years, and he said, “I apologize to nobody.”

He was then asked a followup question about job loss, and he said that people would create jobs when they can go out and spend money.

SEE ALSO: What To Expect From Tonight's Democratic Debate

O’Malley cited Maryland as the first state to put a living wage into place. He was asked why he started with $10.10 per hour, and he said that is all he could get the legislature to do. He also said that people would generate jobs by spending money, and he said that he has seen it happen.

Sanders jumped back in, and he cited Los Angeles’ minimum wage.

Clinton said she is for a minimum wage of $12 per hour, with an emphasis on minimum, citing what Krueger said about a $15 per hour minimum wage. O’Malley jumped in about $15 per hour, and said that they should not be listening to Wall Street economists. 

Dickerson asked the next question, about Wall Street, to Clinton. He asked how she could convince voters that he she would regulate Wall Street when she has taken money from people on it. She said that people could look at what she did in the Senate - introduce legislation - and she said that hedge fund mangers are running ads against her. She said she has a plan that includes taking out the “shadow banking industry.”

Dickerson asked Sanders, who is critical of Clinton's stance on Wall Street, what he thought of the answer, and he said “It’s not good enough.” He said the problem is that Wall Street controls the wealth and credit of this country. 

Clinton then jumped in and said that her integrity was being attacked, and she said 60 percent of her “donors are women.” She said her “proposal is tougher…comprehensive,” because it “does more than just go after the big banks.” Clinton said Sanders’ plan of reinstituting Glass-Steagall “is not enough.”

Sanders then defended his plan, before Dickerson turned to O’Malley, who said he would “not be taking [his] orders from Wall Street.” He said he saw people whose lives were upended by Wall Street, and he said that he would protect the "Main Street economy.” He agreed with Sanders about Glass-Steagall.

Clinton then countered by saying that she would “move past” 2008, and she said she would go after big banks and executives.

Sanders then jumped in, and he said Wall Street’s “business model is flawed.” He promised that “Wall Street representatives will not be in my cabinet.”

Dickerson then moved to guns. Clinton was asked to explain differences between her plan and Sanders’ plan. She went through gun stats since the Las Vegas debate, and she said the country is facing an “emergency.” Clinton said she would do what she could to end the gun show loophole and put universal background checks into place.

The moderator then asked why should one vote - the gun immunity vote - define Sanders, but Iraq should not define her. Her answer: The vote for Iraq vote was a mistake. Sanders said he agrees with some parts of the immunity bill, but not with others, and he said he “would be willing,” to take another look at it.

O’Malley jumped on this by saying the immunity bill needs to be repealed, and he called out Clinton for having had three positions on bill. He touted the fact that gun control happened in Maryland.

Sanders then said he thinks he can reach out to people on all sides of the issue because he is from a state that does not have gun control. He wants to bring people together. Clinton said that Sanders can provide “the leadership in the Senate” to get gun control done.

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Dickerson asked Sanders to compare his political revolution to what was going on with  the Republican party. Sanders said his revolution would be for the American people, and it would include policies favored by most of the population.

When Obradovich then brought up Sanders’ famous email comment from the first debate, he said he is “still sick and tired of them,” and that he wants the conversation to be “about the major issues.”

She then turned to Clinton, who agreed with Sanders, and she gave the senator credit for getting younger people involved in politics while the Republicans are turning people away. She also gave Obama credit for what he has been able to get done, despite Republican opposition.

Dickerson then asked about the emails, specifically the FBI investigation, and she said that nothing more will come of it because everything was covered in the 11-hour hearing. She wanted to focus on the problems of the middle class.

The moderator then asked O’Malley about police departments. The former governor, said “We should all feel a sense a responsibility as Americans” to find ways to save lives that would have been lost by crime. He touted what he did in Maryland, which includes “a civilian review board.” He said he has the most experience on this issue. He finished with “Black lives matter.”

Dickerson then asked Sanders about African American hope in the United States. The senator went through the statistics that show the justice system is unfair toward African Americans, and he said police officers “should be held accountable.” He said he wants to change “minimum sentences,” and he wants states to be able to “legalize marijuana.”

Dickerson asked Clinton about the activism at the University of Missouri, which he said was successful, and whether there should be more of it. She said what is happening “reflects the concern” that people have. She then went through stories of African Americans who had been killed on the streets of this country. She said all children should be able to “live up to their God given potential.”

Cooney then asked Sanders whether his free college plan would waste money if one-third of people do not finish college. The senator said no, and that it would be an “investment.” He then reiterated his plan to make college tuition free. When asked a followup about states with budget cuts, because states would need to cover some of the costs, Sanders said it would cost states a lot of money if they are not smart, and do not find a way to pay for it.

O’Malley hopped in next, and he said “debt-free college,” is the goal. He said that he was the only person on the stage to not increase the cost of college because as governor, public tuition did not increase. “We can have debt-free college in the United States,” O’Malley said.

Clinton was next, and she said she would use the Pell Grant to make college affordable. She does not think people should pay for wealthy people’s children to go to college.

Cordes asked Sanders a question about his healthcare plan, and he said change to the healthcare industry would not be immediate. He asked why the United States is only developed country that does not guarantee healthcare. He advocated a single-payer system, and he said that if people stand up, healthcare will change.

Cordes then asked Clinton about her 1994 comments about a single-payer system. She said “the revolution never came,” and she said the Affordable Care Act should be reformed, and not argued about on a stage of Democrats. “I think as Democrats, we ought to proudly support the Affordable Care Act and improve it,” she said.

Sanders then went into a deeper explanation about “expanding Medicare.”

SEE ALSO: Twitter Reacts To First Democratic Presidential Debate

The next question was about crises the candidates have faced, and how that would prepare them for their first “unexpected challenge.” Clinton used advising Obama to go after Bin Laden as her example because it “gave her an insight into” what presidents face.

O’Malley was second, and he said that governors do not face crises like presidents face. He said, though, that he learned “threats changed,” and how to form cabinets. He said “knew how to lead…how to govern in a crisis.”

Sanders was third, and he used the VA crisis. He said the challenge was generating the most comprehensive VA healthcare bill, but that he could only get two Republicans to vote for it, so he had to craft a bill he did not want.

That led to closing statements. O’Malley was first that touched on all of the issues, with an emphasis on threats. He said “there is no challenge too great that the United States cannot front,” with the right leadership.

Clinton was second, and said it is the president’s job “to lift up the people of this country.” She also said she would “work [her] heart out.”

Sanders went last, and he used his time to call on the people of the United States to get the political system back from the wealthy and big business.

The Democrats will debate for the third time on Dec. 19.

Reach Associate News Editor Max Schwartz here; follow him on Twitter here.

This article has been corrected to replace Paul Krugman's name with Alan Krueger's. Krueger was mentioned during the debate, not Krugman.



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