Things got fiery at the eighth Democratic debate hosted by ABC News Friday, which is to be expected given it comes right after the Iowa caucus debacle and just before the New Hampshire primary on Monday.
Among the highlights, Bernie Sanders doesn’t seem to think Trump will be able to make an issue out of socialism, Joe Biden paid tribute to a recently fired Trump administration employee, and both Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren went in on Pete Buttigieg — with Warren delivering one of the night’s most memorable, and shortest, moments in the process.
Here are five of the biggest moments of the night.
1) Bernie Sanders Doesn’t Think Being a Socialist Is a Liability in the General Election
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders says he isn’t worried that Trump will go after him for identifying as a Democratic Socialist because, as he put it, “Donald Trump lies all the time.”
“It doesn’t matter what Donald Trump says,” he said, pointing out that the president has disparaged multiple people on the stage, too. “It’s a sad state of affairs. It really is. People say terrible things about Joe — he has — ugly, disgusting things about Elizabeth, about Amy, about anybody else who’s up here.”
The moment got the first big cheers of the night — though left unmentioned, Trump spent a great chunk of his state of the union address bashing socialism, also to big cheers from his supporters.
Asked why Democrats shouldn't be worried about Pres. Trump's attacks on him with the "socialist" label, Bernie Sanders says, "Because Donald Trump lies all the time." https://t.co/93QauZSK6e #DemDebate pic.twitter.com/v6JxiNp7qb
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) February 8, 2020
2) Klobuchar Clowns Mayor Pete Over for Wanting to “Watch Cartoons” Instead of the Impeachment Trial
One particularly intense moment came when Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar confronted Pete Buttigieg directly over his apparent dismissal of the impeachment trial. “What you said, Pete — as you were campaigning through Iowa as three of us were jurors in the impeachment hearing — you said it was exhausting to watch and that you wanted to turn the channel and watch cartoons,” she said.
She wasn’t making that up, by the way. He said it during a town hall campaign stop in Ames, Iowa, on Jan. 29.
Klobuchar then used her criticism of Buttigieg’s comments to make a larger point about Donald Trump, dinging Mayor Pete’s pitch as a Washington outsider in the process. “It is easy to go after Washington, because that’s a popular thing to do,” she said. “We have a newcomer in the White House, and look where it got us. I think having some experience is a good thing.”
Amy Klobuchar praises Mitt Romney's "courage" for impeachment vote, then turns to Pete Buttigieg: "You said it was exhausting to watch and that you wanted to turn the channel and watch cartoons." https://t.co/93QauZSK6e #DemDebate pic.twitter.com/O4wFL1cfZR
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) February 8, 2020
3) Joe Biden Requests Standing Ovation for Alexander Vindman
“Stand up and clap for Vindman,” the former vice president said at one point, referencing Ukraine expert Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a key witness in the House’s impeachment inquiry into Trump who was fired from the White House Friday. (For those keeping score, it’s just two days after Trump was acquitted in his Senate impeachment trial.)
Biden then dinged Trump for awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh during Tuesday’s State of the Union address. “He should be pinning a medal on Lt. Col. Vindman and not on Rush Limbaugh.”
4) Elizabeth Warren’s One-Word Dismissal of Pete Buttigieg
Mid-way through, moderator Linsey Davis made Pete Buttigieg stumble when she asked him point blank about the high rate of misdemeanor arrests of black citizens after he became mayor of South Bend, Indiana in 2012. Then she handed the floor to Elizabeth Warren, who shut Buttigieg down with a single word.
“How do you explain the increase in black arrests in South Bend under your leadership for marijuana possession,” Davis asked.
“Again, the overall rate was lower,” Buttigieg said.
“No, there was an increase. The year before you were in office it was lower. Once you became in office in 2012, that number went up,” Davis interjected. “In 2018, the last number year that we have a record for, that number was still up.”
Buttigieg didn’t actually address the specifics of the question. Instead, he appeared to attempt to continue his previous talking points. “And one of the strategies that our community adopted was to target where there were cases when there was gun violence, and gang violence, which was slaughtering so many our community,” he said. “Burying teenagers, disproportionately black teenagers. We adopted a strategy that said that drug enforcement would be targeted in cases where there was a connection to the most violent group or gang connected to a murder. These things are all connected. But that’s the point. So are all of the things that need to change, in order for us to prevent violence and remove the effects of systemic racism, not just from criminal justice but from our economy, from health and housing, and from our democracy itself.”
That’s when Davis turned t0 Elizabeth Warren and asked “Senator Warren, is that a substantial answer from Mayor Buttigieg?”
“No,” Warren said. Ouch.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg struggles to explain why there was an increase in Black arrests in South Bend, Indiana, under his leadership for marijuana possession. And Sen. Elizabeth Warren was not impressed by his answer. pic.twitter.com/9bv3LOj075
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) February 8, 2020
5) Tom Steyer Calls Out Joe Biden Supporter
Things took a slightly personal turn at one point when Steyer called on Biden to publicly disavow one of his supporters, South Carolina state senator Dick Harpootlian, who recently suggested that SC state representative Jerry Govan, a Steyer ally, had been bought by Steyer’s campaign.
“Is he pocketing the dough or redistributing the wealth?” Harpootlian tweeted Wednesday.
During the debate, Steyer called Harpootlian’s comments racist and said to Biden, “I’m asking you to join us, be on the right side.”
Biden didn’t disavow Harpootlian, but he did offer that “I believe he’s sorry for what he said.”