DETROIT: The much-anticipated second debate among the 21 Democrat members aiming to challenge United States President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential elections ended with one clear conclusion — the bets are divided and no concrete solutions to the most crucial issues hounding the US and its people.
From the beginning, former vice president Joe Biden knew he would take heat at the presidential debate. He was right, but he was not alone.
The evening marked some of the toughest attacks California Sen. Kamala Harris has faced as a candidate. The exchanges were part of a broader ideological fight for the future of the Democratic Party.
Most candidates claimed to be “Democrats of the future.” Biden found himself defending “Democrats of the past.”
The former vice president repeatedly found himself defending Barack Obama’s policies on immigration and healthcare when they came under withering attack, a continuation of his near-constant efforts to highlight his service to the first black president.
While his rivals saber-rattled for “Medicare for All,” which would scrap Obama’s signature health care law, Biden called for a more modest public option that would build on the Affordable Care Act.
When former Obama Housing secretary Julián Castro criticized the high number of deportations under Obama, Biden retorted that Castro’s passion about the issue appeared newfound.
“I never heard him talk about this when he was the secretary,” Biden said. But he also deflected when asked why he didn’t do more to stop the deportations, saying it was Obama’s call. And that gave Cory Booker an opening.
“You invoke president Obama more than anybody in this campaign,” Booker retorted. “You can’t do it when it’s convenient and then dodge it when it’s not.” Harris’ rising profile made her a target for the first time.
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet derided her recently released “Medicare for All” plan, which he said was not “honest” and would raise taxes to the middle class “to the tune of $30 trillion.” Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard went hard after Harris’ record on criminal justice from her time as California’s attorney general.
“Sen. Harris says she’s proud of her record as a prosecutor and that she’ll be a prosecutor-president, but I’m deeply concerned about this record,” Gabbard said. “Too many examples to cite, but she put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana.”
Harris has shown her deft ability to prosecute a case. But at least at the beginning of the night, she seemed rattled by some of the attacks. She took some of the later hits in stride, reorienting attention back to her criticism of Biden.
Booker needed a good debate to breathe new life into his flagging campaign. He largely succeeded.
The New Jersey senator avoided getting into nitty-gritty policy fights. But he came armed with zingers, talked about big issues and delivered many of the night’s most memorable lines often at Biden’s expense.
“Mr. Vice President, there’s a saying in my community: You’re dipping into the Kool-Aid and ya don’t even know the flavor,” Booker said to Biden when he criticized his criminal justice record as mayor of Newark.
Booker went after Biden for his role in passing a 1994 crime bill that disproportionately impacted African Americans. He also spoke memorably about voter suppression, race and the Democrats’ loss in Michigan to Trump in 2016.
“We lost the state of Michigan because everyone from Republicans to Russians were targeting the suppression of African American voters we need to say that,” Booker said.
Though he faced attacks from multiple candidates, Biden had a vocal ally in Bennet, who, at times, made the former vice president’s arguments more effectively than Biden himself.