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Democrats Highlight Subtle Distinctions In Third Primary Debate

Razzan Nakhlawi |
December 20, 2015 | 9:48 a.m. PST

Staff Reporter

The stage is a lot sparser at democratic debates this campaign season, with only 3 candidates remaining. (DonkeyHotey/Flickr)
The stage is a lot sparser at democratic debates this campaign season, with only 3 candidates remaining. (DonkeyHotey/Flickr)
Candidates clashed over gun control, sparred on foreign affairs and fought over the middle class at  the third democratic debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire on Saturday night.

A thorough apology from Sen. Bernie Sanders to Secretary Hillary Clinton opened the debate. The Sanders campaign recently came under fire for accessing private voter data belonging to the Clinton campaign. The DNC punished Sanders’ campaign with a two-day ban on accessing all voter data, including their own, which resulted in a short-lived lawsuit for the losses incurred.

Sanders clarified his own knowledge on the scandal, and Clinton accepted his apology and offered to move on with the debate, preventing it from overshadowing the event. Potentially a returned favor for the first debate’s “the American people are sick and tired about hearing about your damn emails,”  exclamation from Sanders.

The actual discussion opened with domestic terrorism and gun control, two concerns that became fatally intertwined in 2015. Former Secretary of State Clinton shunned civilian gun use by mentioning the 33,000 deaths each year at the hand of guns, although over 60 percent of these are suicides.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley sparred with the pro-regulation Sanders, who has the most conservative view on guns of all the candidates. O’Malley picked on Sander’s propensity for voting in favor of pro-gun laws, and showed off his own anti-gun brawn, as he “passed comprehensive gun safety legislation with a ban on combat assault weapons.”

READ ALSO: Republican Candidates Duke It Out Over National Security

All candidates seemed unwavering on economic issues, which included taxes, single-payer healthcare and college tuition hikes. Sanders expanded on his free college promise, and took a shot at existing college expenditures and the “huge amount of money on fancy dormitories and on giant football stadiums.”

While Sanders blasted Clinton for sitting in the pocket of Wall Street, O’Malley injected himself in the conversation to point out that he balanced his state’s budget — not mentioning, though, that doing so is a mandatory requirement of all state governors.

Similarly, both candidates rallied against Clinton’s regime-toppling strategy to combat Syrian Leader Bashar al-Assad as well as fighting ISIS. “The reason we are in the mess we’re in, that ISIS has the territory it has, is because of Assad,” Clinton said, who showed a masterful knowledge of Syrian affairs throughout the debate.

“We’ve got to go after everything from North Africa to South Asia and beyond.” Clinton said earlier in the debate, highlighting her interventionist perspective on the Middle East.

READ ALSO: After Paris Attacks, debate Over Welcoming Syrian Refugees Ignites

“We have a role to play in this world, but it is not the role of traveling the world looking for new monsters to destroy,” O’Malley countered.

Later in the debate, all three of candidates damned Republican front-runner Donald Trump’s bombastic comments on Muslims and immigration. They spoke of his reliance on fear-mongering tactics, and pointed to the unintended effects of his radical, nationalist rhetoric.

“He is becoming ISIS’s best recruiter,” Clinton said.

The last debate of the year showed the deep divisions between the Democratic candidates, despite their sparse numbers. Tensions rose to the surface after Sanders and O’Malley claimed the DNC gave preferential treatment to the leviathan of a candidate, Clinton, through unfavorable debate time slots and other assorted misgivings. The leading candidate herself ended the debate with a light-hearted Star Wars reference, “May the force be with you.” Indeed.

Reach staff reporter Razzan Nakhlawi here.



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