NEW YORK -- After the circus of hatred, nativism and burlesque that characterised the recent Republican debates, the Democratic Party held their presidential opener at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas on Tuesday, with four men and one woman looking to position themselves as President Obama’s successor.
Hillary Clinton, the current frontrunner, went into the debate as favourite, despite a pair of scandals (mostly manufactured) surrounding her private emails and the Benghazi attack. Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist who has built huge support peddling a message of reducing inequality and improving education, proved Clinton’s main rival.
Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, former Virginia Senator Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee, a former governor and senator from Rhode Island, made up the numbers.
Remarkably, the two-hour event featured a substantive examination of many of the issues confronting America… as opposed to talk of building walls or reforming the tax code based on Biblical tithing. Here are some of the quotes from the debate that suggest not all is lost in Washington:
- ON WALL STREET:
Sanders: "Congress does not regulate Wall Street. Wall Street regulates Congress. Saying ‘please do the right thing’ is kind of naïve."
Clinton: "I represented Wall Street when I was a senator from New York. I went to Wall Street and said, 'Cut it out.'"
- ON CLIMATE CHANGE:
Sanders: "The scientific community is telling us if we do not address the global crisis of climate change, transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to sustainable energy, the planet that we're going to be leaving our kids and our grandchildren may well not be habitable. That is a major crisis."
Clinton: “When we met in Copenhagen in 2009, President Obama and I were literally hunting for the Chinese, because we knew we had to get them to agree to something... They supposedly had left for the airport. We found out they were having a secret meeting. We marched up, we broke in, we said we’ve been looking all over for you... and we did get an agreement.”
O’Malley: "We did not land a man on the moon with an all-of-the-above strategy. We can get there as a nation, but it's going to require presidential leadership."
- ON GUN CONTROL:
Clinton: “Look at the fact that we lose 90 people a day to gun violence. This has gone on for too long. It's time the entire country stood up against the NRA.”
Sanders: "There are thousands of people in this country today that are suicidal and are homicidal, but can't get the health care they need, the mental health care, because they don't have insurance or they're too poor."
- ON EDWARD SNOWDEN:
Chafee: “Bring him home. He did a service.”
Clinton: “He broke the laws of the United States. He could’ve been a whistleblower... He could’ve raised all the issues that have been raised... He stole very important information that has fallen into the wrong hands. I think he should not come up without being made to face the music.”
Sanders: “He did break the law, and I think there should be a penalty to that. But I think what he did in educating us should be taken into account.”
Webb: “I would leave it to the legal system.”
- ON IMMIGRATION:
O’Malley: "We need to understand that our country has been made stronger in every generation by new arrivals."
Clinton: There is such a difference between what you’re hearing on this stage, and what you’re hearing from Republicans, who have demonised hard-working immigrants, who have insulted them.”
- ON VOTING TO LEGALISE POT:
Sanders: “I suspect I would vote yes… we have a criminal justice system that lets CEOs walk away and yet we are giving prison sentences to young people who smoke marijuana.”
Clinton: "I agree completely with the idea that we've got to stop imprisoning people who use marijuana."
- ON NOT PROVIDING PAID FAMILY LEAVE:
Sanders: “It’s an embarrassment.”
Clinton: “This is typical Republican scare tactics. We can design a system and pay for it in a way that does not put the burden on small business.”
Sanders: “Today in America, we have more people in jail than any other country on Earth. African-American youth unemployment is 51 percent. Hispanic youth unemployment is 36 percent. It seems to me that instead of building more jails and providing more incarceration, maybe -- just maybe -- we should be putting money into education and jobs for our kids.”
Webb: “Every life in this country matters. At the same time, I believe I can say to you I have had a long history of working with the situation with African-Americans.”
During the debate, O’Malley referred to Republican frontrunner Donald Trump as a "carnival barker." The business tycoon watched the debate, live-tweeting his take on the Democratic event.
And then there was this choice piece of tweeting from Republican candidate Mike Huckabee: