The second Democratic presidential debate Saturday night was marked by a lively discussion of issues and even some sparing. The debate, moderated by CBS, was held in Des Moines. Missing, however, were the hallmarks of the Republican debates—personal attacks, name calling, and candidates complaining about the questions and the media in general. There were, however, several instances of the candidates vigorously pointing out their differences on issues.
The Democratic National Committee, headed by Rep. Wasserman-Schultz, scheduled its Iowa debate on a Saturday night—at the same time as the Iowa Hawkeye’s were playing. The time slot insured that viewership would be low as possible. The DNC has limited the number of debates to limit TV exposure to Senator Sanders and Governor O’Malley. Many Democrats have protested the debate schedule including the vice-chair of the DNC, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. She was un-invited from attending the first debate for her criticism.
According to CNN, the debate was the most-watched show in that time slot Saturday night with 8.5 million viewers, but a large portion of the audience watched for only a half an hour midway through. This was only half the audience of the first Democratic debate and a third as large as the Republican debates which were all held on weeknights.
The voters who tuned in, however, were treated to a real debate The candidates had lively exchanges on key issues including the Iraq War, Wall Street Banks, campaign finance, Super PACS, and gun control.
National defense received special attention in the aftermath of recent attacks. Pundits predicted that would advantage Clinton since she is the most hawkish. Instead, Bernie Sanders and Gov. O’Malley put Clinton on the defensive over her vote to authorize the Iraq War. Both candidates said that war was the worst blunder in history. Clinton admitted she made a mistake voting for it. Sanders said that the Muslim states, not the U.S., needed to take the lead. Clinton said that criticism was not valid, since many Muslim states are on the front lines. Everyone in a CBS focus group felt Clinton would be tougher on terrorists, however.
O’Malley and Sanders blasted Clinton for taking millions of dollars from Wall Street for speeches and campaign contributions. Sanders asked why Wall Street gives millions in contributions if they did not expect to get something for it. Clinton said Sanders had impugned her integrity. She said that she represented Wall Street on 911 and makes no apologies for helping Walls Street rebuild, stating it was a rebuke to the terrorists. A viewer tweeted that he had never seen 911 used to justify campaign contributions before.
The candidates also differed over the repeal of Glass Stiegel, which happened under President Bill Clinton. Sanders and O’Malley said it needed to be reinstated to break-up Wall Street banks and give market share back to community banks. Clinton disagreed. She said her proposal would be tougher on Wall Street than reinstating Glass Stiegel, citing economist Paul Krugman.
Another issue on which the candidates differed was the minimum wage. Hillary Clinton said she favors raising the minimum wage to $12 and hour and blasted Sanders for proposing $15 an hour saying that is too high and would kill jobs, citing economist Paul Krugman. Bernie Sanders disputed the job killing argument saying if more people had more disposable income, they would spend it in the economy, and that would create jobs. O’Malley joined in saying that was the experience of Maryland.
The candidates sparred over gun control with Clinton once again calling Sanders weak on guns. He shot back indicating that with the exception of the gun manufacturer liability bill, he has voted for every proposal Clinton is advocating on guns. He said that he thinks he is better suited to get gun safety legislation passed. O’Malley accused Clinton of being on both sides of the gun issue saying she used to be “Annie Oakley” and now she is anti-gun.
Clinton deflected a gotcha question over the FBI investigation of her emails saying that after 11 hours, she was not concerned. That was a reference to the Benghazi hearing, not the investigation of her emails. Sanders brought down the house when he said he was not as much of a socialist as Eisenhower when it comes to tax rates. O’Malley got the most applause when he called Donald Trump a carnival barker.
The debate shows the differences between the Democratic candidates and all the Republicans on many issues. The question is, which set of candidates do Americans agree with more? Stay tuned.