Moderator John Dickerson of CBS’s Face the Nation kicked off the debate by asking the candidates to share their thoughts on the attacks in Paris and to lay out their vision in one minute.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) began by saying that “Together, leading the world, this country will rid our planet of this barbarous organization called ISIS,” and then moved to speak about the economy and how he would change it as president.
Sanders said he’s running for President because as he travels and talks to voters, “what I hear is people’s concern that the economy we have is a rigged economy. People are working longer hours for lower wages, and almost all of the new income and wealth goes to the top one percent.”
“What my campaign is about is a political revolution, millions of people standing up and saying enough is enough. Our government belongs to all of us, and not just the handful of billionaires,” Sanders said.
Former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton focused more on foreign affairs. “Well, our prayers are with the people of France tonight, but that is not enough,” she said. “We need to have a resolve that will bring the world together to root out the kind of radical jihadist ideology that motivates organizations like ISIS, a barbaric, ruthless, violent jihadist terrorist group.”
“This election is not only about electing a president. It’s also about choosing our next commander-in-chief,” Clinton said. “And I will be laying out in detail, what I think we need to do with our friends and allies in Europe and elsewhere to do a better job of coordinating efforts against the scourge of terrorism. Our country deserves no less, because all of the other issues we want to deal with depend upon us being secure and strong.”
In his response to the question, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said his heart goes out to the “parents, and sons, and daughters and family members” in France in their moment of loss, and noted that “as our hearts go out to them and as our prayers go out to them, we must remember this, that this isn’t the new face of conflict and warfare, not in the 20th century, but the new face of conflict and warfare in the 21st century.”
“As a former mayor and a former governor, there was never a single day, John, when I went to bed or woke up without realizing that this could happen in our own country,” O’Malley said. “We have a lot of work to do, to better prepare our nation and to better lead this world into this new century.”
Dickerson pointed out that just hours before the attacks in Paris, President Obama said he does not think ISIS is gaining strength. He asked Clinton whether she thinks the legacy of the Obama administration, in which Clinton served as Sec. of State from 2009 to 2013, will be one of underestimating ISIS.
“I think that we have to look at ISIS as the leading threat of an international terror network,” Clinton responded. “It cannot be contained, it must be defeated.”
Clinton said she believes the U.S. “can bring people together,” but noted that it “cannot be an American fight,” which is why she supports having “troops in Iraq that are helping to train and build back up the Iraqi military,” along with “special operators in Syria working with the Kurds and Arabs, so that we can be supportive.”
[pull_quote_center]But this cannot be an American fight, although American leadership is essential.[/pull_quote_center]
Dickerson responded by saying that Clinton did not answer the direct question, which was whether the Obama administration underestimated ISIS.
Clinton said that “with the revolution against Assad,” she thought the U.S. should “try to find a way to train and equip moderates very early so that we would have a better idea of how to deal with Assad because I thought there would be extremist groups filling the vacuum.”
“So yes, this has developed,” Clinton said. “I think that there are many other reasons why it has in addition to what happened in the region, but I don’t think that the United States has the bulk of the responsibility. I really put that on Assad and on the Iraqis and on the region itself.”
When asked to weigh in on Clinton’s comments, O’Malley said he disagreed.
[pull_quote_center]This actually is America’s fight. It cannot solely be America’s fight. America is best when we work in collaboration with our allies. America is best when we are actually standing up to evil in this world. And ISIS, make no mistake about it, is an evil in this world.[/pull_quote_center]
Dickerson noted that Sanders previously named “climate change” as the biggest threat to national security, and asked if, even with the threat of ISIS, Sanders stands by his statement.
“Absolutely,” Sanders replied.
[pull_quote_center]In fact, climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism. And if we do not get our act together and listen to what the scientists say, you’re going to see countries all over the world – this is what the CIA says – they’re going to be struggling over limited amounts of water, limited amounts of land to grow their crops ask you’re going to see all kinds of international conflict.[/pull_quote_center]
Sanders went on to say he disagrees with Clinton about the “bulk of the responsibility” not belonging to the U.S.
“I don’t think any sensible person would disagree that the invasion of Iraq led to the massive level of instability we are seeing right now. I think that was one of the worst foreign policy blunders in the more than history of the United States,” Sanders said, and he also advised that “what we need to do is lead an international coalition which includes very significantly the Muslim nations in that region who are going to have to fight and defend their way of life.”
Clinton acknowledged that invading Iraq was a mistake, “But I think if we’re ever going to really tackle the problems posed by jihadi extreme terrorism, we need to understand it and realize that it has antecedents to what happened in Iraq and we have to continue to be vigilant about it.”
Dickerson noted that GOP candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) said that the attacks on Paris were a sign that “we are at war with radical Islam,” and asked if Clinton agreed with that characterization.
“I don’t think we’re at war with Islam,” Clinton responded. “I don’t think we’re at war with all Muslims. I think we’re at war with jihadists who have…”
Dickerson interrupted, and said, “He didn’t say all Muslims. He just said radical Islam.”
“We are at war with violent extremism,” Clinton replied. “We are at war with people who use their religion for purposes of power and oppression. And, yes, we are at war with those people. But I don’t want us to be painting with too broad a brush.”
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