STORY BY SYDNEY PRICE
The terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday night were a somber backdrop to Saturday’s Democratic debate. But by the end of the night, the debate turned into politics as usual, as Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley grappled for position in the race for the Democratic nomination.
Candidates observed a moment of silence for Paris before questions opened up at the Democratic debate that took place at Drake University Saturday night. The first half hour focused heavily on foreign policy and national security in light of yesterday’s attacks before moving on to cover economic issues, immigration, and, yet again, Hillary’s emails.
Moderator John Dickerson of CBS began the debate by inviting the candidates to share their thoughts on the Paris attacks and introduce themselves. Sen. Sanders started it off by expressing shock at the events and condemning ISIS. He then launched into economics, denounced our financial system and said his campaign is one of “political revolution.” Sec. Clinton offered her prayers to France and wanted to bring the world together to root out “radical jihadism.” She expressed a desire to better coordinate efforts against terrorism. Gov. O’Malley also shared sentiments of prayer and called for collaboration between nations on this issue. He emphasized that this “new kind of threat” requires “new approaches.”
O’Malley and Clinton disagreed on how the U.S. should be involved in the fight against ISIS. Clinton said that the US will support those fighting ISIS and should provide leadership and intelligence. O’Malley contested her on her point that “this is not America’s fight,” saying that it is America’s fight but should not be solely ours. He again stressed the importance of collaboration.
Dickerson then turned to Sanders and asked if he still believed climate change was the biggest threat to national security, a comment made in a previous debate. Sanders concurred, saying that terrorism and environmental insecurity are intertwined. He then said that the US invasion of Iraq led to current instability, calling it one of the “worst foreign policy blunders” in recent history.
Clinton’s rebuttal in defense of her vote for the invasion implored a look at the historical context surrounding the events. She agreed that it was a mistake, however. O’Malley jumped in and said that he advocates a policy that would closely examine the repercussions of, for example, toppling a dictator.
O’Malley fielded further questions challenging his lack of foreign policy experience and Clinton faced questioning about her use of the term “radical jihadism,” which sparked a controversy over terminology in which candidates generally agreed that the term used wasn’t what was important to the issue at hand.
The conversation turned to refugees. All of the candidates agreed that we should be helping refugees, although there was some disagreement on specifics. Sanders kept his stance vague and called for reform in military spending. O’Malley went back and forth with Dickerson over exact numbers, of which he would not give a value. Clinton said that if we take a higher number of refugees, we should intensify screening procedures.
Economic issues came up next. Clinton and Sanders both criticized the pharmaceutical industry. and supported lowering healthcare costs. Clinton advocated giving Medicare negotiating power in drug prices. Sanders placed a heavy focus on income inequality and pushed higher taxes for the wealthy, although he would not specify an amount.
O’Malley elucidated longest on immigration, garnering applause for calling Donald Trump an “immigrant-bashing carnival barker.” He backed opening up a path to citizenship for the undocumented to stop these immigrants from living in a “shadow economy.”
Candidates agreed that the minimum wage should be raised, but disagreed on how much. Sanders urged for $15/hour despite admitting that it might lead to some loss of jobs. Clinton took up the lowest amount of the three contenders and said $12/hour but flexible by city. O’Malley pointed out his past successes, as his home state of Maryland was the first to implement a minimum wage of $10.10.
The debated heated up when Clinton was questioned about her ties to Wall Street. Sanders called her answer “not good enough” and O’Malley said “I won’t be taking my orders from Wall Street.” Clinton took further heat when she referenced the 9/11 attacks while defending her Wall Street connections. Twitter immediately picked up on the statement and it became a flashpoint on social media.
Clinton called for universal background checks and tougher restrictions on sellers during the gun control segment. Sanders blamed losing a past election on his anti-assault weapon stance. O’Malley accused Clinton of inconsistency, saying she’s been on “three sides” of the gun control debate.
The candidates also discussed racial inequality and education briefly towards the end of the two-hour segment, but any time spent on these issues was likely edged out by the heavy focus on foreign policy.
And yes, Clinton agreed that she’s tired of talking about the emails.