7 Takeaways From Democratic Debate: Terrorism, Wall Street Ties and ‘Carnival Barker’ Trump

Presidential hopefuls in Des Moines juggle the issues with last-minute spotlight on Paris attack

Last Updated: November 14, 2015 @ 11:53 PM

The three remaining Democratic presidential candidates began their second debate Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa, with a moment of silence for those killed during ISIS’ deadly terror attacks in Paris.

Host network CBS shifted its questions to focus on national security and foreign policy at the last minute, putting added attention on debate participants former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

The mood was also set by the audience, who didn’t applaud a single time during the discussion of ISIS, perhaps because they thought it was inappropriate to applaud any response to a question about terrorism.

The first debate on a broadcast network this election season was moderated by CBS’ “Face the Nation” anchor John Dickerson, CBS News congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes, Kevin Cooney, an anchor for KCCI-TV in Des Moines and Kathie Obradovich, political columnist at The Des Moines Register.

Here are the 7 breakout moments from the televised exchange:

1. Candidates stop short of blaming Islam for terrorism

All three Democratic presidential candidates declined to blame Islam or Muslims generally for the deadly terrorist attack in Paris.

Dickerson asked Hillary Clinton whether she agreed with Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio, who said earlier that the U.S. is at war with “radical Islam.”

“We are not at war with Muslims or Islam, we are at war with violent extremism,” Clinton said, though she had opened the debate noting, “We need to have a resolve that will bring the world together to root out the kind of radical jihadist ideology that motivates organizations like ISIS.”

Sanders and O’Malley also declined to use the words “Islam” or “Muslim” in conjunction with the terror attacks that killed at least 128 and left hundreds wounded.

O’Malley called the executions and explosions throughout Paris “the new face of conflict and warfare — there is no nation on the planet better than our nation to adapt to this change. We must anticipate these changes before they happen.”

2. Clinton put on the defensive on Middle East policy

Sanders struck an early blow against Clinton by alluding to her vote to authorize the war in Iraq, which he dubbed the worst foreign policy blunder of his lifetime.

“I would argue that the disastrous invasion of Iraq, something I strongly opposed, has unraveled the region completely and led to the rise of al-Qaeda and ISIS,” he said. “I don’t think any sensible person would disagree that the invasion of Iraq led to the massive level of instability we’re seeing right now.”

O’Malley expanded his criticism of Clinton to U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and foreign locales that took place during her tenure as Secretary of State. “We are not good at anticipating threats and building up stable democracies,” he said.

Sidestepping her vote to authorize the Iraq War, Clinton sought to defend the Obama administration over its involvement in Libya as well as charges that it underestimated the ISIS threat. “Yes, this has developed. I think there are many other reasons why it has,” she said. But I don’t think the United States has the bulk of the responsibility.”

3. Clinton and Sanders trade blows on Wall Street and big donors

Things got heated when Sanders took a shot at Clinton, suggesting that she’s too close to Wall Street.

“I’ve never heard a candidate, never,” the Vermont senator said, “who has accepted sizable contributions from big banks without the presumption of influence in return. “[The Wall Street contributors] expect to get something, everybody knows that,” he added.

Clinton fired back, saying Sanders was trying to “impugn” her integrity, and that she didn’t regret her decision to help banks get back on their feet after 9/11, as the terrorist attack occurred in the heart heart of “New York, and that was good for New Yorkers.”

Clinton also touted her plan to reform the banking system: “My plan is tougher and more effective because I go after all of Wall Street not just the big banks.”

4. O’Malley comes out swinging 

The former Maryland governor has lagged badly in the polls, but he had several moments to stand out from his competitors discussing immigration and border security.

“You’ll never hear this from that immigrant-bashing carnival barker Donald Trump,” O’Malley said, “the truth of the matter is net immigration from Mexico was zero, go ahead, fact-check me.”

Later in the debate, he challenged Clinton’s reference to “boots on the ground” when talking about military action in the Middle East.

“A mom of a service member of ours who has served two duties in Iraq said, ‘Governor O’Malley, please, when you’re with your other candidates and colleagues onstage, please don’t use the term ‘boots on the ground,'” O’Malley said. “‘My son is not a pair of boots on the ground.'”

5. Sanders is no Eisenhower

Sanders admitted that he hoped to raise the tax rate on upper-income Americans to pay for programs like free public college tuition and improved infrastructure repairs. But when asked how high those rates would go, he scored one of his better lines.

“We haven’t come up with an exact number yet, but it will not be as high as the number under Dwight D. Eisenhower, which was 90 percent,” Sanders answered, drawing a surprised looks from the moderators.

“I’m not that much of a socialist compared to Eisenhower,” Sanders quipped, making light of the fact that he refers to himself as a Democratic socialist.

6. The candidates fire at each other on gun rights

Clinton took a dig at Sanders over his vote granting gun manufacturers immunity from prosecution, calling it a “terrible mistake.”

“Let’s reverse the immunity,” she said.

Sanders insisted he’s voted repeatedly for background checks. “I don’t know that there’s any disagreement here,” he said.

But O’Malley disagreed. “We’re the only nation on the planet that buries as many people as we do from gun violence,” the former Maryland governor quipped. “We do need to repeal that immunity.”

But it was Sanders who got the final word. “Baltimore is not one of the safest cities in America,” Sanders said.

7. Bernie Sanders is still sick of Hillary Clinton’s emails

Sanders also scored points when asked (again) about his take on the controversy surrounding Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as Secretary of State.

“[It’s] just media stuff,” Sanders said. “I was sick and tired of Hillary Clinton’s emails, I’m still sick and tired,” adding  he was surprised that his remarks essentially stopped the conversation on the subject. “We’ve gotten off of Hilary’s emails, good… Let’s go to the major issues facing America.”

When Hillary was asked to respond, she said laughing,”I agree completely. I couldn’t have said it better myself.”

Matt Donnelly and Linda Ge contributed to this report. 


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