DES MOINES, Iowa – “I give Bernie Sanders credit for lighting a fire under Americans young and old,” Hillary Clinton said here at the second debate between candidates for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president.
Clinton praised Sanders for getting people involved in the electoral process at a time when “Republicans are doing the opposite; they’re stopping people from voting.”
Throughout the debate, Sanders, Clinton and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley each made substantive arguments for their views. Not once did they sink to the schoolyard brawls typical of the Republican debates. Not once did they insult each other’s looks nor bash minority groups.
Viewers of the debate actually learned more about issues of today.
The debate took place in the wake of the horrible, murderous attacks in France. At the beginning of the evening, the candidates were very subdued and shared their ideas about how to rid the planet of terrorism.
Sanders said that what’s needed is not more troops, but better intelligence and more effective diplomacy to forge a coalition of Mideast governments that will fight ISIS and al-Qaeda.
He also pointed out that “climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism.” As water dries up, “fights intensify over land and water to grow crops.”
O’Malley said that “as Americans, we have shown ourselves to have the greatest military on the face of the planet, but we are not good at … re-development.”
Sanders added: “America must take primary responsibility for having destabilized the Mideast. Our disastrous invasion of Iraq … has unraveled the region completely and has led to the rise of al-Qaeda and ISIS.”
As senators, Sanders voted against the invasion of Iraq; Clinton supported it.
Clinton defended the record of the U.S. in helping re-develop Iraq and Afghanistan and disagreed that America should bear primary responsibility for the current chaos in the Mideast. She said “it’s very complicated, very complex.”
However, Clinton agreed that the main role of the U.S. should now be to put together a coalition of Mideast governments to fight terrorism.
Turning to domestic issues, Sanders and Clinton agreed that the minimum wage should be raised, the debt burden carried by students should be relieved and that America’s health care system should be improved. But they disagreed about how to address each issue.
- On the minimum wage: Sanders said that to be secure from sinking into poverty, workers today need a $15 an hour minimum wage. Clinton maintained a $15 minimum would force employers to cut jobs. She favors a minimum wage of $12 an hour. Both Sanders and Clinton agreed that the minimum wage should be “indexed,” that it should rise automatically as the cost of living goes up.
- On health care: Sanders said that “health care should be a right, not a privilege. It’s embarrassing that the U.S. is the only developed country in the world not to provide health care for all.” He proposed a national health system not based on producing huge profits for the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. He also said he knows this can’t be done overnight. Clinton said that as president she would seek to improve the Affordable Care Act.
- On education: Sanders is for free public education from pre-K through college. Clinton supports “debt free education.” Under her plan, families would pay a share and so would government.
O’Malley described how he addressed these issues as governor of Maryland, but later said that responding to crises at a state level did not necessarily prepare you for dealing with them as president.
The sharpest exchange between the candidates came over breaking up big Wall Street banks. Sanders is for it. Clinton said she had a “very aggressive plan to rein in all of Wall Street, not just the banks.”
Sanders said that huge campaign contributions have “corrupted” the political process, because “politicians listen to their biggest campaign contributors, not to the people.”
He refuses to take campaign contributions from corporations.
Clinton’s campaign fund is currently three times larger than that of any other Democratic or Republican candidate, according to the Wall Street Journal. The amount of “outside money” she has received lags only behind Bush, Cruz and Rubio.
Her largest contributors are Wall Street firms, but during the debate Clinton denied that this has any influence on her proposals. She implied that Wall Street firms support her because she supported re-building of the Wall Street area of Manhattan after it was devastated by the 9-11 attacks.
She said she has made clear to her Wall Street contributors that “unless they play by the rules,” she would “rein them in.”
Sanders countered that the rules Wall Street follows are based on “fraud” and “greed.”
He urged Americans to join in a “political revolution” to wrest the nation back from the billionaires.
Clinton said “Our disagreements [between Democratic candidates] pale when compared to our disagreements with the Republicans, who are putting forth alarming plans” that would destroy democracy in America.
“We have to answer that,” she said. “We all agree about equal pay for equal work, funding Planned Parenthood, and that climate change is real.”