CNN Democratic Debate: Highlights From Night 2


Harris and Gillibrand take swings at Biden on gender equity, abortion rights.

In the debate’s second hour, Ms. Gillibrand and Ms. Harris both unfurled prepared attacks on Mr. Biden and his women’s record, with Ms. Gillibrand first quoting an op-ed he wrote about child care nearly four decades ago and Ms. Harris hitting him for federal funding for abortion.

Ms. Gillibrand, who has built her candidacy around being an advocate for women, read repeatedly a line she said Mr. Biden wrote saying women who work outside the home would “create the deterioration of family.”

“I just want to know what he meant when he said that,” Ms. Gillibrand said. She pressed further: “Under Vice President Biden’s analysis, am I serving in Congress resulting in the deterioration of the family because I had access to quality affordable day care?”

Mr. Biden said Ms. Gillibrand’s concerns were newfound. “You came to Syracuse with me and said it was wonderful that I’m passionate about the concern making sure women are treated equally,” he said. “I don’t know what happened except you’re running for president.”

Mr. Biden eventually said he never believed the line that Ms. Gillibrand had quote.

Then Ms. Harris jumped in about the Hyde Amendment, questioning why Mr. Biden only recently came out for repealing the prohibition of federal funds going to support abortion. Mr. Biden said most members of Congress voted for the Hyde Amendment at times.

Biden is pressed hard on free trade.

Mr. Biden also had to answer for another piece of Mr. Obama’s legacy: the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, from which Mr. Trump withdrew.

Mr. Biden was pressed by one of the moderators on whether he would rejoin the trade pact. He said he would not rejoin it “as it was initially put forward.”

Mr. Biden soon had more to answer for on the subject of trade. Mr. de Blasio invoked another part of Mr. Biden’s record in that area, citing Mr. Biden’s support for the North American Free Trade Agreement. Their exchange:

De Blasio: Are you ready to say here and now that you will oppose a new NAFTA and what you believe in, is trade treaties that empower organized labor across the boundaries of the world and give working people power again? Not just corporations.

Biden: Yes.

Moderator: That’s it?

Biden: Well he said, would I insist that labor be engaged. The answer is yes.

De Blasio: I consider that a victory.

Biden: Well, I love your affection. You spend a lot of time with me.

De Blasio: You know what — we believe in redemption in this party.

Biden: I tell you what, I hope you’re part of it.

Who’s speaking the most?Booker blames suppression of black vote for 2016 loss.

There are many disagreements among Democrats for why Hillary Clinton lost in 2016. Ms. Gabbard, for one, said it was because “too many people in the country felt like they have been left behind.”

Mr. Booker, who is seeking traction among black voters and planning an upcoming tour of cities in key general election swing states, delivered his answer: black voter suppression.

“Everybody from Republicans to Russians were targeting the suppression of African-American voters. We need to say that,” Mr. Booker said. “The truth will set us free.”

“We need campaign that is ready for what’s coming: An all-out assault. Especially on the most valuable — in fact the highest performing voter group in our coalition, which is black women,” he said to audience applause. “And I will be a person who tries to fight against voter suppression and tries to activate and engage voters and coalitions that will win Michigan and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.”

Those just happen to be the states on his upcoming tour.

Gillibrand: ‘I can talk to those white women in the suburbs.’

Ms. Gillibrand gave an impassioned pitch for why, as a white woman “of privilege,” it is her responsibility, along with candidates of color, to heal racial divisions in the nation.

“I can talk to those white women in the suburbs that voted for Trump and explain to them what white privilege is,” she said.

“When their son is walking down the street with a bag of M&Ms wearing a hoodie, his whiteness protects him from not being shot.”

Gabbard hammers Harris over A.G. record.

Ahead of the debate, Ms. Gabbard had begun attacking Ms. Harris. She did so — and then some — onstage, lacing into her record as a district attorney in San Francisco and later as California attorney general.

While Ms. Harris now supports legalizing marijuana, Ms. Gabbard said she had “put over 1500 people in jail for marijuana violations and laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked.”

That was just the start. Ms. Gabbard accused Ms. Harris of keeping “people in prison beyond their sentences to use them as cheap labor for the state of California, and she fought to keep cash bail system in place that impacts poor people in the worst kind of way.”

Ms. Harris shook her head in disbelief, ignoring the specifics of Ms. Gabbard’s accusations, including that she “blocked evidence” to free an “innocent man from death row.”

Ms. Harris said, “When I was in the position of having to decide whether or not to seek a death penalty on cases I prosecuted, I made a very difficult decision that was not popular to not seek the death penalty. History shows that and I am proud of those decisions.”

Harris and Biden and busing, round 2.

After confronting Mr. Biden onstage in the first round of debates, Ms. Harris once again took aim at him on the subject of school busing. Asked by one of the moderators about her own position on busing, Ms. Harris put the focus on Mr. Biden.

“The vice president has still failed to acknowledge that it was wrong to take the position that he took at that time,” Ms. Harris said.

Referring to Mr. Biden’s past praise of Southern segregationists as civil partners in the Senate, Ms. Harris said: “Had those segregationists their way, I would not be a member of the United States senate, Cory Booker would not be a member of the United States Senate and Barack Obama would not have been in a position to nominate him to the place he holds.”

Mr. Biden hit back by raising questions about Ms. Harris’s record.

“When Senator Harris was the attorney general for eight years in the state of California, there were two of the most segregated school districts in the country, in Los Angeles and in San Francisco,” he said. “”I didn’t see a single solitary time she brought a case against them to desegregate.”

Booker and Biden argue over criminal justice records.

In an intense several minute exchange over criminal justice, both men slammed each other’s record, with Mr. Biden citing the continuance of stop-and-frisk in Newark under Mr. Booker and Mr. Booker citing Mr. Biden’s authorship of crime legislation for decades in the Senate.

“Since the 1970s, every crime bill, major and minor, has had his name on it,” Mr. Booker said, accusing him of “locking people up and not lifting people up.”

“This is one of those instances where the house was set on fire and you claimed responsibility for those laws. And you can’t just now come out with a plan to put out that fire,” Mr. Booker said.

Mr. Biden went on the attack on Mr. Booker’s mayoralty, as he stumbled in accidentally referred to Mr. Booker’s “presidency.” Of Mr. Booker, Mr. Biden said, “The Justice Department came after you.”

“If you want to compare records and, frankly, I’m shocked that you do,” Mr. Booker replied, adding of his record, “There’s a saying in my community, you’re dipping into the Kool-Aid and you don’t even know the flavor.”

Booker and de Blasio hit Biden, invoking Obama.

Mr. Biden is fond of invoking President Obama and citing the legacy of the Obama administration. Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Booker tried to turn the tables on him.

In a display of debate stage persistence, Mr. de Blasio tried to pin down Mr. Biden on deportations that occurred during the Obama presidency and whether he thought they were a good idea or should have been stopped.

“You want to be president of the United States, you need to be able to answer the tough questions,” Mr. de Blasio said. “I guarantee you, if you’re debating Donald Trump, he’s not going to let you off the hook.”

Mr. Biden sidestepped the question. “I was vice president,” he said. “I am not the president. I keep my recommendation to him in private.”

Mr. Booker quickly picked up the baton from Mr. de Blasio.

“You can’t have it both ways,” he told Mr. Biden. “You invoke President Obama more than anybody in this campaign. You can’t do it when it’s convenient and then dodge it when it’s not.”

Castro and Biden spar over illegal border crossings.

Mr. Castro defended the idea of decriminalizing crossing the border illegally, an argument he made at the June debate that helped boost his candidacy.

“Open borders is a right-wing talking point, and frankly I’m disappointed that some folks, including some folks on the stage, have taken the bait,” he said.

But Mr. Biden dissented: “If you cross the border illegally, you should be able to be sent back. It’s a crime.”

As Mr. Biden began speaking on immigration, protesters in the crowd started shouting about deportations during the Obama administration. Mr. Biden criticized Mr. Castro for not airing his complaints when they served in that administration together.

“I never heard him talk about any of this when he was secretary,” Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Castro shot back, to applause: “It looks like one of us has learned from the lessons of the past and one of us hasn’t.”

“What we need are some politicians that have some guts on this issue,” Mr. Castro said.

Mr. Booker rounded back to Mr. Biden: “No, Mr. Vice president, we are not going to let people cross the border. An unlawful crossing is an unlawful crossing,” whether the immigrants were subjected to civil or criminal courts.

Favorite Democratic talking point: Slamming ‘Republican talking points.’

Elizabeth Warren did it first last night against the moderates onstage. Then Ms. Harris did it again on Wednesday to stop short one of her Democratic rivals. And then Mr. Castro did, too.

What was it? Accuse their opponents and critics of invoking “Republican talking points.”

It may have been effective once, or even twice. But the longer it goes on the more it sounds like … a talking point.

Harris is on the defensive early in the debate.

Expectations heading into the debate were that most of the fire would be aimed at Mr. Biden. But in the opening half-hour, it was Ms. Harris taking most of the incoming onstage, as Mr. Biden, Ms. Gabbard, Mr. Bennet and Mr. de Blasio all took turns dissecting various elements of her recent health care proposal.

“We need to be honest about what’s in this plan,” Mr. Bennet said in one exchange, “It bans employer-based insurance and taxes the middle class.”

Ms. Harris, who had been such an aggressor in Miami, appeared in a far more defensive posture.

“We cannot keep with the Republican talking points on this,” Ms. Harris said, echoing a line from Elizabeth Warren last night. “We’ve got to stop,” she sighed.

Mr. Biden soon hit back: “This is not a Republican talking point, the Republicans are trying to kill Obamacare.”

Harris and Biden spar over her new health care proposal.

Ms. Harris received the first question of the debate, and she was asked about criticism from the Biden campaign about her new health care plan and her various positions as a “have it every which way approach.”

They clashed immediately, even if the tone was civil.

“They’re probably confused because they haven’t read it,” Ms. Harris said, outlining her 10-year plan to create a Medicare for All plan that would still include private insurers.

Mr. Biden pounced, saying “The senator has had several different plans,” after she had previously signaled supporting eliminating private insurers.

Of the 10-year timeline in Ms. Harris’s plan, he added, “You should wonder why it takes ten years.”

When her turn came again, Ms. Harris accused Mr. Biden’s plan of leaving out “almost 10 million Americans.”

He hit hers for its cost, that middle class taxes would rise and that it would not be fully implemented after two full terms as president.

“The cost of doing nothing is far too expensive,” she responded.

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