Tonight was the Democratic Debate and it was a lot of fun. Unlike last week’s GOP debate, which focused on security and catered to Americans’ fears, the democratic candidates addressed issues such as racial disparities in the criminal justice system, taxes on the middle class, the recent Sanders data breach, and ISIS. The event went fairly smoothly and there were only a few interruptions and outbursts by all three candidates. By the second half all of them looked worn out, but their commitment to discussing the issues didn’t waver and they brought their A-game until the end.
Perhaps the most passionate candidate on stage, however, was O’Malley, who took off his gloves and threw punches at the GOP, Sanders, and Clinton equally. Clinton and Sanders, of course, responded in equal measure and defended themselves against his assertions, but even during the most tense moments the candidates remained professional and respectful.
If you missed the debate, you can catch up by reading my notes below. Keep in mind that these are my notes. That means I skipped a few questions, lumped a few similar questions together, and have a mix of direct quotes and paraphrasing. I also underlined some of the phrases I thought were important. That said, you should, of course, read the full transcript on your own.
Candidates: Secretary Hillary Clinton, Governor Martin O’Malley, Senator Bernie Sanders
- Clinton: Hits back against Republicans and outlines issues that are important, such as guns.
- O’Malley: Focuses on terror – “the enduring symbol is not the barbwire fence, it is the Statue of Liberty.”
- Sanders: Focuses on economy, campaign finances, and a coalition for foreign policy
Sanders Campaign Data Controversy
Let’s get it out of the way….
- Sanders: Explained the breach, acknowledged wrongdoing but is upset with how the DNC responded by denying access. Apologizes to Clinton and to his supporters.
- Clinton: I have agreed to an independent inquiry and accept the apology.
- O’Malley: The reason nothing gets done in Washington is because of this bickering. (Note: Hitting hard and heavy)
Re: San Bernardino – How do we know there aren’t others flying under the radar and how would you find them?
- Clinton: We need an air campaign, Arab and Kurdish troops on the ground. We have to “do the best possible job” with information, work with our tech companies, and work with Muslim-American communities.
- O’Malley: I am the first post-9/11 governor. Clinton’s ideas are great, but “underscore” our own failures over the years. We need to increase the “battle tempo” and do a better job with our data.
- Sanders: “Our goal is to crush and destroy ISIS.” “I do not believe in unilateral American action.“ Muslims should lead.
- Clinton: Guns will not make us safer. “The first line of defense against radicalization is in the Muslim community.” Trump is sending a message that their is a “clash of civilizations” or “war against Islam.” Guns are a separate issue but we need to deal with this.
- Sanders: Most people believe in “sensible” gun control. We need to eliminate gun show loophole. We have a consensus.
- O’Malley: (asked not to speak by moderators) Points out Sanders’ gun control voting record and Clinton’s inconsistency. “We need comprehensive gun safety legislation.”
- Would you make it illegal for people to own assault guns if they are banned tomorrow?
- O’Malley: I would not confiscate existing guns. Blames it on the “flip-flopping, political approach” of Clinton and Sanders (pointed out Brady bill) – both stepped in to say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa.”
- Sanders: Vehemently defended record.
- Clinton: I agree with O’Malley and applaud his record, but he’s misrepresenting mine. Glad to see Sanders has moved on gun control and asked him to sponsor a bill to close the loopholes.
What would you say to the millions who agree with Trump’s ban on Muslims?
- Clinton: People are anxious. Trump is able to “bluster and bigotry to inflame people.” We need to be united. We need to not marginalize Muslims when we need them most. “He is becoming ISIS’s best recruiter.”
Is it ever okay to profile?
- Sanders: Agrees with Clinton that people are anxious but it’s about economic inequality – people are uneasy and Trump blames the Mexicans and Muslims and people listen to that. “Let’s create an America that works for all of us, not just the handful on top.”
- O’Malley attempts to speak again and is shut down.
Would you force Apple to give up encryption key by enacting a law?
- Clinton: No. I want to bring tech and government together. “I don’t know enough about the technology” to know the answer but maybe “the back door is the wrong door.” We need to “balance liberty an security” but need law enforcement to be able to do their job.
- O’Malley: We should never “give up our freedoms in exchange for a promise of security.”
Should we halt Syrian refugees?
- Clinton: We don’t need to halt. We should prioritize and stay tough.
- O’Malley: If the crisis continues, we should take in more. We have an “excruciating” process.
- Sanders: (Not able to respond – moderator informed him he’s the one who insisted on rules, Sanders agreed).
You supported troops in Afghanistan against Al Qaeda, why not now with ISIS?
- Sanders: We can’t be the policemen. “This is a war for the soul of Islam” and troops should be Muslim, not U.S.
- Follow up question: What’s your Plan B?: I’ll make it work. Maybe pay attention to ISIS, not the World Cup.
Are you fooling Americans by saying no combat troops in Syria or Iraq?
- Clinton: We need to support Sunni and Kurdish troops against ISIS. ISIS wants us there and we shouldn’t imagine doing that. You don’t want to “alienate” the countries you want a coalition with.
- Follow up question: Are you prepared to launch a bigger war or give up on your goals? That’s a “false choice” – If we can build the coalition I want, we can destroy ISIS.
What isn’t our intelligence community doing that it should be doing?
- O’Malley: We need to be thinking in military terms and need to “dial-up” – I would make head of USAID a cabinet member. We can’t allow “safe havens” and need new alliances – “this will not be the last region where nation-states fail.” This is the “new types of threats we are facing.”
- Clinton: Outlines why her no-fly zone will work. Asked: Would you shoot down a Russian or Syrian aircraft? Isn’t that a decision you should make now? No. I do not. They should focus on ISIS.
- Sanders: I disagree with Clinton on this issue “deeply” – Clinton’s aggressive without knowing the unintended consequences of regime changes.
- Clinton: That’s what I just said and you (Sanders) voted for regime change.
Do you take out Assad now or focus on ISIS?
- Clinton: The point is that we are doing both at the same time. I don’t agree with doing one or the other. It would be a “grave mistake” for more Iranian troops in Syria it’s like pouring gas on a fire.
- Sanders: Assad isn’t attacking us, ISIS is. First priority: Destroy ISIS.
- O’Malley: During the Cold War we undermined regimes unfriendly to U.S. and we need new alliances and to “restrain ourselves.” It’s “antiquated” thinking.
- Clinton: Assad is why we are where we are and I worried about that. That’s why there is no either-or. “If the United States doesn’t lead there is no other leader.”
- Sanders: Leading doesn’t mean we’re the policemen. First task is to destroy ISIS.
Commercial break – 9:30 EST
How would you raise incomes for middle-class families?
- Sanders: Middle class is disappearing – longer hours, lower wages. The top can’t have it all. $15/hr minimum wage. Gender equality in pay. “Rebuild our crumbling infrastructure” and create jobs. Tax on Wall Street speculation to ensure free tuition.
- O’Malley: We did this already. “The way you reinvigorate and make fair market American capitalism” work is inclusion. Touted record on education funding and moving to clean-electric. “They weren’t hopes, they weren’t dreams” and we took action. I have a plan and am the only candidate with plan for cities.
- Clinton: Feeling the game is rigged has consequences. Points out the GOP isn’t talking about this at all. “Of course” we need to raise the minimum wage, incentive profit sharing, pass Paycheck Fairness Act, debt free tuition plans, decreased drug prices, etc. “This is the kind of debate we need to bring to the Republicans in the Fall.”
Should and will corporate America love you? How much of a role should corporate America play in the economy?
- Clinton: “Everyone should!” Supports the “struggling, striving and successful.” If the private sector knows we need to build the economy for everyone, then good.
- Sanders: They won’t love me and Wall Street will like me even less. We have to “break the large financial institutions up” – I don’t have a SuperPAC and don’t want their contributions. “The greed of the billionaire class, the greed of Wall Street, is destroying this economy and is destroying the lives of millions of Americans.”
- O’Malley: Businesses are good but there’s a “better way forward” than the Sanders’ and Clinton’s ways. We can’t replace capitalism with socialism – I have the “backbone” to take on Wall Street and attacks Clinton. Many mergers are bad for competition and it’s mostly the big banks that Clinton told wasn’t responsible and asserts Clinton can’t support breaking up the banks.
- Clinton: There are hedge funds running against me because they know “I will not let their agenda be America’s agenda.” I have more donations from teachers and students than Wall Street. Pointed out O’Malley’s own involvement with finance. Invoked Sanders.
- Sanders: “Wall Street is a threat to the economy and have got to be broken up.”
Obamacare – What’s broken and how would you fix it?
- Clinton: It does a lot of good but out-of-pocket and prescription costs have gone up and there are “glitches” – Medicare needs to be able to negotiate lower prices.
- Sanders: It’s a step forward but there are still those uncovered. Why are we the only major country without a right to healthcare? We need a Medicare for all – single payer system and saves families thousands each year.
How do your plans reduce costs rather than shifting costs to taxpayers?
- Sanders: We don’t need fancy dorms and football stadiums – let’s pay our faculty better. We need an educated workforce to compete. Put a speculation tax on Wall Street and make colleges tuition free, lower interest rates on student loans – treat colleges like high schools.
- O’Malley: I’ve done this and my plan goes further than Sanders. Increase Pell Grant investments, make refinancing easier, and create block grants for states – do income-based repayments. “We were proud on graduation day – and we’ll be proud every month.” Clinton borrowed my proposals.
- Clinton: New College Compact: States are de-investing. We need to support those who need it. Send healthcare to the states.
- Sanders: Clinton is wrong and we need to explain the details. “Now this is getting to be fun!”
Will taxes go up? You say it’s a goal, but is it a promise?
- Clinton: Yes. No candidate should have a middle-class tax increase.
- Sanders: When Clinton says we won’t raise taxes on middle class, she’s disagreeing with most Democrats who are fighting to “end the disgrace of the U.S.” not providing paid family leave with a $1.61 week investment.
- Clinton: I can pay for it by making the wealthy pay for it.
- Sanders: Everyone else wants this.
- O’Malley: I never make promises like that. We should have paid family leave and should expand Social Security but we can’t afford entitlements such as capital gains and lower taxes on wealthy.
How will you bridge the divide between civilians law enforcement?
- Clinton: “We have systemic racism…. in our justice system.” We need a bipartisan commitment and to rebuilt trust.
- O’Malley: I did this and had results. We need to make our “departments more open, more transparent, and more accountable” – they should be required to report on themselves.
- Sanders: “We spend $80 billion a year locking up our fellow Americans” – let’s end institutional racism, reform a broken criminal justice system. “Police officers should not be shooting unarmed people, predominantly African Americans.” and rethink the War on Drugs by removing marijuana from Controlled Substance Act, and end minimum sentences.
What will you do to address the heroin crisis?
- Sanders: We need to reduce the number of opiates out there to prevent addiction. “Addiction is a disease, not a criminal activity.”
- Clinton: We need to prescribe less opiates and be ready when people want help. Every law enforcement professional should carry the antidote.
- O’Malley: How would we react if this was Ebola? We need to do more. (Note: His plea was somber and passionate?)
How much responsibility does Clinton bear for Libya?
- Clinton: Listed all of the successes but isn’t giving up on Libya. Of course there were mistakes made – hindsight is 20/20.
- Sanders: It’s easy to overthrow a dictator but not easy to deal with the consequences. “Clinton and I have a fundamental disagreement” and I don’t love regime change like she does.
- O’Malley: We don’t have the intelligence. We need to
Is it time to change the role of a president’s spouse? (Author note: I’m irritated that the words “flower arrangements” made it into a presidential debate. Way to go, gender stereotypes.)
- Clinton: “The role is defined by each person who held it.”
- Sanders: My wife is smarter than me – praises her immensely. Thanks Clinton for redefining the role of first lady.
- O’Malley: Jokes – my wife never lets her husband’s professional choices get in her way and she got that from her mother.
- Sanders: I will bring a political revolution – this country belongs to all of us, not just a handful.
- O’Malley: We need to have more people involved. The Republicans can have their fear and anger. We invest in our citizens. Let’s “Square our shoulders to the great challenges of our times.” We also need to address climate change with 100% clean electric.
- Clinton: Outlined the risks of a republican president – Planned Parenthood, women’s rights, worker pay, and more will all be at risk. This is a “watershed election” and May the Force Be With You.