Democrats Square off in Debates

Clinton Shows Poise


Hugh Pebworth, Staff Writer

The Republican contenders for the White House in 2016 have already had two debates to square off on the issues, and on October 13th the Democrats had their first debate between their five candidates.  

Frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders debated alongside contenders hoping to establish a presence in the race: Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley,  former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, and former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee.  The issues under debate divided the candidates and their supporters between the moderate Democratic base, represented by Clinton and others, and the more progressive wing of the party led by Bernie Sanders.

The five candidates were questioned about their positions on a multitude of issues including gun control, national security, the Clinton email scandal, global warming, and foreign policy.  Secretary Clinton looked poised and confident when answering questions about her email scandal, stating that, “I have been as honest as I know how to be.”

Perhaps the biggest round of applause of the night followed directly after when Senator Sanders said in response to a question about the Clinton email scandal,“Enough of the emails… The American People are sick and tired of hearing about your emails.”  Clinton thanked him and the two shook hands on stage as the crowd applauded.  

Clinton escaped relatively unscathed from criticism for her carelessness in sending and receiving emails to a private server, and Lincoln Chafee was the only candidate to press her on this issue and presented himself as the most ethical value-based candidate among the five who were present at the debate.  

From only the first Democratic debate there is much to learn about how this race will shape up and continues to do so.  Secretary Clinton came into Tuesday’s debate with much to prove and her performance may represent a turning point in her campaign, with help from Bernie Sanders to put the email controversy behind her.  She was able to land blows on Senator Sanders’ and his calls for the US to emulate Northern Europe saying that, “I love Denmark, but we are the United States of America, we are not Denmark.”  She also was able to escape without much damage on her stands on the Iraq War, Libya, and inability to take a side on the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement.  

Bernie Sanders continued his attacks on big money with specific calls for reining in Wall Street, repealing the Citizens United court case that led the way for Super-PAC fueled political campaigns, and income inequality between the top 1% and the rest of America. 

Martin O’Malley was the candidate that looked to break out in the debate as he was expected to provide the stiffest competition to Hillary Clinton before the campaign season.  He touted his record as Baltimore’s mayor and Maryland’s Governor and stressed the importance of combating climate change.  He also said that the greatest threat to American national security was a nuclear Iran. O’Malley later said that the debate was a success for his campaign and that “We’ve seen a big uptick in interest since the debate.”

Jim Webb’s experience as a Vietnam veteran, Secretary of the Navy, and as a DC outsider were his main points as why he would make the best President come 2016.  It is his experience as a lifelong military man that he says makes him the best choice to fulfill what he called the President’s most vital duty as commander-in-chief.  

Lincoln Chafee argued that it was his morals, ethics, and unique experience as a mayor, senator, and then governor that made him alone the most attractive for the Democrats to nominate.  He spent much of his time trying to attack the others, especially Secretary Clinton over her email scandal, saying that, “I think that these emails are a huge issue and they show that she has a credibility problem.”  Clinton when asked if she wished to respond simply said, “No.”
Tuesday’s debate on CNN generated excitement in what had become a stagnant cycle of reports about Hillary Clinton’s emails, Bernie Sanders rise in the polls, and questions about Vice-President Joe Biden’s potential run for president.  After the candidates collided in Las Vegas Americans were shown there is sure to be more action to come.