Dems debate in Des Moines

The three remaining Democratic candidates, Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, squared off in the second Democratic debate in Des Moines, Iowa on Nov. 14. CLICK TO READ MORE

Erika Ward

 DES MOINES, Iowa — Drake University played host to the second Democratic Presidential Debate on Saturday, Nov. 14 where the three candidates, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley faced off in attempt to separate themselves from each other.

 With immediate reports naming O’Malley as the winner, newer reports show more confusion as to which performed the best.  The Washington Post reports that O’Malley was the winner simply because of the notoriety he began experiencing during the debate from viewers searching his name.

 On the other hand, CNN’s Julian Zelizer believes that the debate was still mainly between Clinton and Sanders and O’Malley simply couldn’t get enough traction to pull ahead of the two leaders.

 While the general consensus as to the winner is unclear, one thing was certain:  The recent attacks in Paris played a major part in the debate, including the cancellation of all the pre-debate coverage and the slot being filled with more analysis of the terrorist situation with the United States’ longest ally.

 All three candidates had watch parties in the Des Moines area.  Clinton’s party was at the Olmsted Center on Drake University’s campus.  She also made an appearance after the debate to address her fans. Sanders’ watch-party was held at Varsity Theatre, which is just off the east side of Drake’s campus.  O’Malley’s watch party took place in a different type of location:  Saints Pub and Patio, which is located on the north of the Drake campus.

 There were five main points that the moderators (John Dickerson — CBS News, Nancy Cordes — CBS News correspondent, Kevin Cooney — KCCI-TV and Kathie Obradovich — Des Moines Register) brought up with the candidates. The issues were ISIS and foreign policy plans in response to the Paris terror attacks, college tuition and gun control.

ISIS/Foreign policy plans

 Each candidate received one minute at the beginning of the debate to introduce themselves and express their responses to the terrorist attacks in Paris that left at least 129 dead and 352 injured with 99 in critical condition.

 Sanders was the first to respond.

 “Together, leading the world, this country will rid our planet of this barbarous organization called ISIS,” Sanders said.

 Sanders was later asked if his previous stance on the number one national security threat to the United States had changed, and his response was that it had not and that climate change is directly related to terrorism.

 “I would argue that the disastrous invasion of Iraq, something that I strongly opposed, has unraveled the region completely and lead to the rise of Al Qaeda and to ISIS,” Sanders said.

 Sanders later went on to say that the invasion of Iraq “was one of the worst foreign policy plunders in the modern history of the United States.”

 Sanders also made a comment about the current situations facing the Middle East.

 “We have to understand that the Muslim nation in the region, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Jordan, all of these nations, they’re going to just have to get their hands dirty and their boots in the ground,” he said.

  O’Malley responded to Sanders’ comment by telling a story of a woman he met earlier in the campaign.

 “I was in Burlington, Iowa and a mom of a service member of ours who served two duties in Iraq said, ‘Gov. O’Malley, please, when you’re with your other candidates and colleagues on stage, please don’t use the term ‘boots on the ground.’ My son is not a pair of boots on the ground,’” O’Malley said.  “These are American soldiers and we fail them when we fail to take into account what happens the day after a dictator falls.”

 The former governor also made it clear he believes that the way to achieve peace is not by hating a specific group of people.

 “Let’s not fall into the trap of thinking that all of our Muslim-American neighbors in this country are somehow our enemies here,” O’Malley said.  “They are our first line of defense, and if we are going to be able to defeat ISIS on the ground there, as well as in this world, (it’s) because of the Muslim-Americans in our country and throughout the world who understand that this brutal and barbaric group is perverting the name of a great world religion.”

“Now, like never before, we need our Muslim-American neighbors to stand up to and be a part of this,”
O’Malley said.

O’Malley also said that the United States needs to have a reaction to the Paris attacks.

“This isn’t a new face of conflict and warfare, not in the 20th century, but the new face of conflict of warfare in the 21st century,” O’Malley said.  “And there is no nation on the planet better able to adapt to this change than our nation.  We must be able to work collaboratively with others.  We must anticipate these threats before they happen.”

Clinton took a strong stance regarding the issues with ISIS and terrorism.

“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, the barbaric, ruthless, violent, jihadist terrorist group,” Clinton said. 

The former Secretary of State also believes that ISIS is the leading threat as an international terror network, but that military force should not be used unless all other resources have been exhausted.

“It cannot be an American fight,” she said.  “And I think that what the president (Barack Obama) has consistently said — which I agree with — is that we will support those who take the fight to ISIS. That is why we have troops in Iraq that are helping train and build back up the Iraqi military, why we have special operators in Syria working with the Kurds and Arabs so that we can be supportive. But this cannot be an American fight, although American leadership is essential.”

Costs of Higher Education

Clinton, who wishes to make community college free and public college debt-free, discussed her plan for the payment of the expenses.

“I will pay for it by, yes, taxing the wealthy more, closing the corporate loopholes, deductions and other kinds of favorable treatment and I can do it without raising the debt, without raising taxes on the middle class and making it reasonably manageable within our budget so that we can be fiscally responsible at the same time,”Clinton said.

O’Malley, with a similar view, wants to also make public college debt-free but also freeze tuition.  In Maryland, O’Malley made these changes by raising the sales tax, gas tax and the taxes on families making over $150,000 a year.

“We did, in fact, raise the sales tax by a penny, and we made our public schools the best schools in America for five years in a row with that investment,” O’Malley said. “Yes, we did ask everyone in the top 14 percent of earners in our state to pay more in their income tax, and we were the only state to go four years in a row without a penny’s increase to college tuition.

“So while other candidates will talk about the things they would like to do, I actually got these things done in a state that defended not only a AAA bomb rating, but the highest median income in America.”

O’Malley went on to say that the reason Maryland was so successful in this endeavor is because of the realization that the wealthiest people in the country should not receive special treatment and that they should instead be investing in the state’s resources and young people.

Sanders, with a more radical view, has a plan to make public college completely free. He believes he can do this by raising the taxes for the top earners to pay more.

“We bailed out Wall Street, it’s their time to bail out the middle class,” Sanders said.  “Help kids be able to go to college, tuition-free.  So we pay for this, by demanding that the wealthiest people and the largest corporation, who have gotten away with murder for years, start paying their fair share.”

Sanders said that he would not go over 90 percent taxation.

Gun Control

Clinton began the discussion of gun control by contrasting the differences in her views from Sanders.

“I know Senator Sanders had a different vote than I did when it came to giving immunity to gun makers and sellers, that was a terrible mistake,” Clinton accused.  “It basically gave the gun lobby even more power to intimidate legislators, not just in Washington but across the country.”

Clinton went on to give statistics reflecting gun-related crimes.

“Since we last debated in Las Vegas, nearly 3,000 people have been killed by guns, 21 mass shootings, including one last weekend in Des Moines when three were murdered, 200 children have been killed,” she reported.  “This is an emergency. There are a lot of things we need to do in this country.  Reigning in Wall Street is certainly one of them, I agree with that, that’s why I’ve got such a good plan, but we have to also go after the gun lobby. Ninety-two percent of Americans agree that we should have universal background checks.”

Sanders, defending himself, said that he even though he voted in favor of the immunity law he still wants there to be stricter rule when it comes to the distribution of weaponry.

“I have voted time and again for the background check and I want to see it improved and expanded,” Sanders said.  “I want to see us do away with the gun show loophole.  In 1988, I lost an election because I said we should not have assault weapons on the streets of America.”

Sanders also called for “radical changes in mental health in America” to protect people who are suicidal and homicidal from purchasing firearms and instead encourage them to receive much needed help.

O’Malley, who is very open about being against the National Rifle Association (NRA), was quick to make his stance on gun control known.

“We have a lot of work to do and we’re the only nation on the planet that buries as many of our people from gun violence as we do,” he began. “In my own state, after the children in that Connecticut classroom (Sandy Hook Elementary School) were gunned down, we passed comprehensive gun safety legislation, with background checks, a ban on assault weapons.”

O’Malley also then called for the repeal of the immunity law for gun makers and sellers.  He, like Clinton, accused the law of causing more harm.  He also named instances of Clinton’s change in status on gun safety laws.

“There’s a big difference between leading by polls and leading with principle,” he said. “We got it done in my state by leading with principle and that’s what we need to do as a party for comprehensive gun safety.”

The next Democratic debate will be held on Saturday, Dec. 19 in Manchester, New Hampshire.