Democrats Clash on Health Care, War

10 White House hopefuls face off in Houston
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 12, 2019 7:41 PM CDT
10 Democrats Face Off in Houston
Democratic presidential candidates are introduced for the Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by ABC on the campus of Texas Southern University Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019, in Houston.   (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Ten Democratic presidential candidates are debating in Texas tonight—including front-runners Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren, together in the same debate for the first time. Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Cory Booker, Beto O'Rourke, Andrew Yang, Julian Castro, and Amy Klobuchar are also taking part in the ABC debate in Houston. Harris got one of the biggest cheers during her opening statement, when she directly addressed President Trump, accusing him of using "hate, intimidation, fear, and over 12,000 lies as a way to distract from your failed policies and your broken promises." The former prosecutor said the only reason Trump hadn't been indicted because of a rule against indicting sitting presidents—then told him to "go back to watching Fox News. " More:

  • Andrew Yang, a tech entrepreneur campaigning on a promise to give every American $12,000 a year, said the universal basic income would be given to 10 people who visited his campaign website. "That’s quite a way to build your list—you have to sign up to enter the raffle to get the money," notes Clare Malone at FiveThirtyEight.
  • The candidates clashed over "Medicare for all," with Biden saying his plan would give people the option of keeping their current plans, the Guardian reports. "I've never actually met anybody who likes their health-insurance company," Warren told him. Sanders recycled his line about "writing the damn bill" on Medicare for all. In her answer, Klobuchar said it was a bad idea to end private health insurance. "While Bernie wrote the bill, I read the bill," she said.
  • The gloves came off when Castro and Biden clashed on health care, with Castro telling Biden: "I'm fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama and you're not." He also made Biden's age an issue, accusing him of contradicting himself and saying: "Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?"

  • Harris, who served as California's attorney general, faced a tough question about her criminal justice plan. "When you had the power, why didn't you try to affect change then?" asked moderator Linsey Davis. Harris argued that she tried to change things from the inside.
  • On racism, Beto O'Rourke delivered what Politico's Christopher Cadelago calls his best answer from all three debates. "We have a white supremacist in the White House and he poses a mortal threat to people of color all across this country," said O'Rourke, who promised to sign a slavery reparations bill into law.
  • The candidates were more unified on the issue of gun control. Biden pointed to his record, saying he was the "only one up here who's ever beat the NRA," the Guardian reports. Biden and Harris praised O'Rourke for his efforts after the mass shooting last month in his hometown, El Paso. O'Rourke called for the confiscation of "battlefield" weapons like assault rifles. "Hell, yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47," he said. "We're not going to allow it to be used against a fellow American anymore."
  • Castro and Biden clashed again on immigration, with Castro accusing the former vice president of cherry-picking Obama administration policies, the AP reports. " I stand with Barack Obama all eight years, good, bad, indifferent," Biden replied. Yang shared his own story. "My father grew up on a peanut farm in Asia with no floor and now his son is running for president," he said. "That is the immigration story that we have to be able to share with the American people."
  • When the debate turned to trade policy after a break, Harris slammed Trump's "fragile ego," comparing him to the Wizard of Oz, the Washington Post reports. "When you pull back the curtain it's a really small dude," she said. Buttigieg quipped that Trump had said he'd like to see him do a deal with Xi Jinping, but "I'd like to see him make a deal with Xi Jinping."
  • A hoarse Sanders drew a contrast between himself and Biden on Iraq. "I never believed what Cheney and Bush said about Iraq. I voted against the war in Iraq," Sanders said. Biden admitted that it had been a mistake to vote to authorize the 2003 invasion. Warren said she would be willing to bring the US out of Afghanistan without a deal. Buttigieg, who served in Afghanistan in 2014, said he would do the same.
  • Sanders said it was "extremely unfair" to compare the democratic socialism he believes in to the systems in Venezuela and Cuba. "I agree with what goes on in Canada and in Scandinavia," he said.
  • A strong line from Klobuchar during a segment on climate change: "You know that movie, The Day After Tomorrow? It’s today." O'Rourke promised to spend $5 trillion on the issue. Booker, a vegan, said he would not tell voters in Texas and Iowa to stop eating meat.
  • Biden, asked what resilience means to him, was interrupted by shouts from protesters—but since they failed to shout in union, what they were saying was unclear. Biden went on to talk about the deaths of his wife, daughter, and son.
  • In answer to the resilience question Buttigieg talked about serving in the military as a gay man under "Don't Ask Don't Tell"—and about being an elected official in Indiana when Mike Pence was governor, the New York Times reports. He said he wondered whether coming out of the closet would be "the ultimate professional setback." Sanders spoke about running for the Senate in the 1970s and getting just 1% of the vote.
(More Democratic debate stories.)

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