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Bridging The Gap
Tensions flare between Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren at Democratic debate over big ideas vs. pragmatism
  Tuesday 15 October, 2019
Tensions flare between Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren at Democratic debate over big ideas vs. pragmatism

Warren emerges as top target in feisty debate

Welcome to the lead, Elizabeth Warren.

Throughout a feisty three-hour Democratic debate in Ohio on Tuesday, the Massachusetts senator, who has risen to frontrunner status in recent polls, drew sharp and repeated attacks from other candidates on how to pay for health care, whether to tax the wealthy and what has caused the erosion of American middle class jobs.

“Your idea is not the only idea,” Amy Klobuchar said at one point as she turned to Warren during an exchange over taxing billionaires.

The sixth debate night of the 2020 presidential election cycle came during an inflection point in the race, as Joe Biden’s longstanding status as the frontrunner has been battered by Warren’s momentum. A common and telling refrain from the moderators throughout the debate: “I want to give Senator Warren a chance to respond.”

The piling on began almost immediately, on the issue of health care. After five debates in which health care has been a top issue, the candidates drew sharper battle lines over how they would pay a Medicare-for-All system that has divided the field. Warren once again declined to say explicitly whether more government involvement in health care under Medicare for All would require Americans to pay more in taxes.

“So let me be clear on this,” Warren said. “Costs will go up for the wealthy. They will go up for big corporations. And for middle-class families, they will go down.”

Pete Buttigieg jumped, noting the lack of concrete response.

“Well, we heard it tonight, a yes or no question that didn't get a yes or no answer,” he said in response to Warren. “Look, this is why people here in the Midwest are so frustrated with Washington in general and Capitol Hill in particular.”

Bernie Sanders acknowledged that taxes would go up but said that families would save more than enough money in their health insurance plans to make up for it.

“At least Bernie’s being honest here,” Klobuchar said at one point. “I think we owe it to the American people to tell them where we’re going to send the invoice.”

It was a frontrunner’s debate, with Warren and Biden getting far more airtime than the other candidates on stage. The two had one of their first extended scuffles over a fundamental rift in the field: Whether the nominee should pursue a more ambitious agenda, catering to a progressive wing that wants major change, versus the more pragmatic approach favored by Biden and others on stage.

President Donald Trump remained a central theme throughout the debate. Democrats were unified in their support of the impeachment inquiry launched this month by House Democrats. On the other hand, the flap over Joe Biden’s son – Hunter Biden – and his business ties to Ukraine was addressed quickly in the debate and then dispensed with.

Biden said his son “did nothing wrong” and that his interview on ABC earlier Tuesday “speaks for itself.”

Other Democrats on stage did not seek to attack Biden over the issue. Quite the contrary, in fact.

“That was so offensive," Cory Booker said of Biden having to answer a question on his son’s foreign business.

Another theme in the debate was criticism of Trump's abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria, which cleared the way for Turkey to invade and battle with U.S.-allied Kurds.

The Democratic candidates largely agreed that Trump’s decision was a betrayal of the Kurds, but they disagreed on what to do next. Biden indicated that he would maintain a troop presence in the region.

“I would want those thousand troops to be protected by air cover, those thousand troops that are being – having to withdraw under fire, make it clear that they're not going anywhere, and have them protected, and work my way back toward what, in fact, needs to be done, protecting those Kurds,” Biden said.

The debate about what to do in Syria drew in others into a clash on stage.

“So really what you’re saying, Mayor Pete, is that you would continue to support having U.S. troops in Syria for an extended period of time,” Tulsi Gabbard told Buttigieg.

“You can put an end to endless war without embracing Donald Trump’s policy,” Buttigieg responded. “What we were doing in Syria was keeping our word.”

Eight of the candidates on stage Tuesday had already qualified for the next debate – to be held Nov. 20 near Atlanta. That meant fewer of the lesser-known candidates this time around needed a breakout moment to stay alive. But the Iowa caucuses are fast approaching, and the window for moving from “staying alive” to potentially clinching the nomination is narrowing.

Four candidates who were on stage Tuesday aren’t yet a lock for November: Klobuchar, Tulsi Gabbard, Julian Castro and Beto O’Rourke.

– John Fritze, Maureen Groppe, Ledyard King and Courtney Subramanian

10:47 p.m. EDT
Biden to Warren: ‘You did a hell of a job’

In one of the more tense moments in the debate, Joe Biden sparred with Elizabeth Warren over how to get things done in Washington.

The back-and-forth came during a debate over whether Democrats should pursue a more ambitious agenda, catering liberal elements of the party that want major structure change, versus Biden’s more pragmatic approach and argument that the party should not overreach.

To underscore her argument that Democrats should pursue bold ideas, Warren touted her role in setting up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2010 after the Great Recession and 2007-2009 financial crisis. The effort required a big fight. Republicans bitterly opposed the idea, viewing it as government overreach.

“I went on the floor and got you votes,” a visibly upset Biden told Warren. “I got you votes.”

Warren looked past Biden’s remarks and instead thanked his former boss, President Barack Obama.

“I am deeply grateful to President Obama for fighting so hard,” Warren said.

“You did a hell of job in your job,” Biden acknowledged.

“Thank you,” Warren said.

– John Fritze, Maureen Groppe, Ledyard King and Courtney Subramanian

10:40 p.m. EDT

Democrats name check ... Robert Bork?

The most unusual name check of Democratic debate night: The late conservative jurist Robert Bork.

Cory Booker first invoked his name in mocking proposals to enforce antitrust law, saying that "Robert Bork is just laughing in his sleep."

Numerous commentators pointed out an inconvenient fact.

"Bork has been dead for six years. He’s more than asleep," tweeted political writer Walter Shapiro. (Bork actually died in December of 2012, almost seven years ago.)

Political scientist Jack Pitney invoked the words of writer Raymond Chandler: “You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that, oil and water were the same as wind and air to you.”

Later in the debate, Joe Biden also jumped on the Bork bandwagon.

Biden noted that, in 1987, he led the Senate effort to reject Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court, a pivotal event in the hyper-partisanship that has marked so many judicial nominations.

– David Jackson

10:29 p.m. EDT
Cory Booker, a vegan, calls Trump 'most unhealthy' candidate

In the middle of his criticism of big corporations, Cory Booker playfully chided the moderators for asking older candidates – Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren – about their health.

“I feel qualified to say this as the vegan on the stage,” the New Jersey senator said. “It’s rich to me that we asked three people about their health when, looking at this stage, we know that the most unhealthy person running for the presidency in 2020 is Donald Trump.”

In February, after Trump took his annual physical exam, then White House press secrer Sarah Sanders said Trump is “in very good health and I anticipate he will remain so for the duration of his Presidency, and beyond.”

A Huffpo/YouGov poll released Monday found that voters age 65 and older are more likely (61%) than voters age 18 to 29 (51%) to question a candidate’ physical health.

– Ledyard King

10:15 p.m. EDT
Sanders: 'I'm feeling great'

When pressed about whether he’s “up to the stress” of the presidency after suffering a heart attack earlier this month, Sen. Bernie Sanders responded, “I’m healthy. I’m feeling great.” The 78-year-old canceled several campaign events after undergoing surgery, releasing a video in which he said lying in a Las Vegas hospital “made me feel even more strongly the need for us to continue our efforts to end this dysfunctional and cruel health care system.”

But as the Vermont senator seeks to turn his heart attack into a conversation about Medicare for All, the scare has renewed questions about whether his age will affect his stamina in the race and in the White House should he win in 2020.

A Huffpo/YouGov poll released Monday found that voters age 65 and older are more likely (61%) than voters age 18 to 29 (51%) to question a candidate’ physical health.

Sanders said he’s reassuring Americans about his fitness by “mounting a vigorous campaign” across the country and he plugged a rally in Queens he is planning on Saturday. The Vermont senator also drew cheers after he thanked his supporters and those who sent prayers and well wishes for his recovery.

The same question was put to another septuagenarian – Joe Biden, who would be 78 if elected to office.

“One of the reasons I’m running is because of my age and my experience – with it comes wisdom,” Biden said.

9:55 p.m. EDT
Buttigieg takes on O'Rourke over gun buybacks

Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg got into an extended personal debate in a continuation of an argument they’ve been having over O’Rourke’s proposal to require people to give up assault-style weapons.

Asked how he would enforce a mandatory buyback program, O’Rourke said he expects “my fellow Americans to follow the law.”

Buttigieg, who has called O’Rourke’s proposal a “shiny object” that distracts from taking gun control steps for which there is widespread support, said O’Rourke’s response makes clear that he doesn’t know how the plan would work.

Source: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2019/10/15/democratic-debate-westerville-ohio-event-test-biden-warren-sanders/3978928002/

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 ,New York  Date:Saturday 19 October, 2019

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