Target on Biden in Thursday debate
by Kyle Ziemnick
Posted 6/28/19, 11:25 am
Another set of Democratic presidential hopefuls debated Thursday night in Miami, this time taking aim at the current front-runner in the race, former Vice President Joe Biden. Biden, Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Kamala Harris of California, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, and Michael Bennet of Colorado, Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., former Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado, businessman and activist Andrew Yang, and self-help author Marianne Williamson made up Thursday night’s lineup. Ten other Democratic candidates, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, squared off Wednesday night.
The candidates debated taxation, healthcare, immigration, abortion, gun control, and foreign policy in a two-hour contest that drew more than 15 million TV viewers, according to Nielsen.
In one of the most memorable moments of the night, Harris hammered Biden on his civil rights record, criticizing him for comments “defending segregationists” in the Senate. She also called out his opposition to federally mandated busing to desegregate public schools, saying she had been bused as a young girl in the 1970s. Biden responded that Harris mischaracterized his record.
The candidates largely agreed on immigration: Everyone raised a hand when NBC moderators asked whose healthcare plan would cover illegal migrants.
“How about taking care of American Citizens first!? That’s the end of that race!” President Donald Trump responded on Twitter.
All the candidates besides Bennet argued for decriminalizing illegal border crossing and converting it to a civil offense. Buttigieg launched into a criticism of the “hypocrisy” of Republican Christians who support immigration enforcement, saying they believe “that God would smile on the division of families at the hands of federal agents.”
The candidates also presented a unified front on abortion. Buttigieg has long opposed government protections for the unborn. Sanders called abortion a constitutional right and floated the idea of rotating judges in and out of the Supreme Court over the issue. Gillibrand decried Republican state measures that protected babies in the womb.
Perhaps the most offbeat candidate was Williamson, who said her first call as president would be to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to tell her that the United States would surpass the island nation as the best place for a child to grow up, saying: “Girlfriend, you are so on.”
The next Democratic debates, in Detroit, will air on CNN July 30-31.
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Kyle is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.