Biden Fends Off Attacks on All Sides at Democratic Debate

Former Vice President Joe Biden participates in the second of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN on Wednesday at the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

DETROIT (CN) – The second of two Democratic presidential debates held in Detroit and broadcast on CNN wrapped up Wednesday night with the remaining 10 candidates. Much like Tuesday’s event, viewers watched spirited back-and-forth discussion on issues like health care, racism, gun violence and foreign policy as candidates tried to generate campaign momentum.

Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign said Wednesday it got a post-debate bump after he talked about big changes to Medicare and the U.S. tax code. But lesser-known hopefuls like author and activist Marianne Williamson also made a mark with thoughtful and frank answers to complicated subjects like slavery reparations.

“Anything less than $100 billion is an insult,” Williamson said of reparations during Tuesday’s debate.

On Wednesday, former Vice President Joe Biden shared the stage with California Senator Kamala Harris and eight other candidates. Biden promised he would eschew pleasantries for this round.

“I’m not going to be as polite this time,” Biden said, referring to his sparring with Harris in the first debate. “Because this is the same person who asked me to come to California and nominate her in her convention.”

Once the debate began, the ten candidates had one minute to introduce themselves. Each candidate tried to hook the audience with quick phrases designed to get a reaction.

“Children belong in schools, not cages.” Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet said to slightly delayed applause.

Even though the audience was warned about outbursts by the CNN moderators, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker was interrupted by protesters who screamed so loud the debate stopped for a moment. Booker tried to talk over them but eventually had to pause when they refused to stop.

Healthcare was a hot topic a day ago and it quickly grew heated this evening. Harris and Biden went right at each other with the details of their plans and talked of rising costs and people who are not financially able to obtain health insurance. The insurance companies were called out for their profit-at-all-costs philosophies that cause people to go without coverage. However, Bennet was specifically called out by Harris for what she termed as Republican talking points when he suggested her plan would increase taxes on the middle class.

“You gotta stop with that,” she said.

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang talked about his business experience and how it relates to healthcare. If healthcare obligations were removed from those start-up companies, he said small business could thrive.

Joe Biden appeared to grow angry at all the back and forth with the details of the proposed plans and hit New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Harris for their numbers.

“I don’t know what math you do in New York. I don’t know what math you do in California.”

Protesters were much louder in this debate than last night with two women incoherently screaming during a discussion on immigration when Biden was asked if he would resume the Obama-era border policies. The discussion centered on the idea of what to do with people seeking asylum and if they should be detained as they currently are under the Trump administration.

As Biden grew heated during the discussion, Booker lamented about playing into the hands of Donald Trump with infighting about immigration, saying they were playing right into his hands.

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard was asked about free schooling and how it related to immigration. Gabbard took issue with Bernie Sanders’ proposal for free college for illegal immigrants and said she would not include them in her plan.

Biden invoked Barack Obama again to compliment how he changed the insurance system but said more has to be done to include everyone, including immigrants. That was enough to set Booker off.

Booker called out Biden for using Obama’s name more than anyone else on stage.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., listens as former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the second of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN on Wednesday at the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

“You can’t just use it when it’s convenient.” Booker said to cheers.

Booker seized on the moment and continued to take shots at Biden, moving on to his often criticized crime bill from 1994.

The City of Baltimore was targeted by Trump recently with racist-themed tweets talking about a dilapidated city and the candidates were asked what they would do to heal the seemingly growing racial divide in the country. Gillibrand said Booker and Harris shouldn’t be the only ones talking about systematic racism and how black people are the disproportionate victims of trigger-happy police and private citizens.

Gillibrand also got off a well-received line when she was asked about the Green New Deal.

“The first thing I’m going to do as president is Clorox the Oval Office.” she said to laughs.

“The second thing I’m going to do is…reengage on global climate change,” she said to a cheering crowd.

The City of Flint and consequences of lead-contaminated water was a local story that made international headlines. When the candidates were asked about their plans to prevent anything similar from happening again, de Blasio said there should be an intervention.

“Lead poisoning has gone down 95% after we’ve worked to eliminate it since 2005 (in New York). There should be a federal mandate to do it in Flint and everywhere else,” he said.

Donald Trump won Michigan in 2016 by less than 12,000 votes. It was the first win for a Republican presidential candidate since George H. W. Bush in 1988. When Biden was asked if he was progressive enough to win Michigan, he didn’t hesitate to talk about bailing out General Motors, spending two years in Detroit at the time and helping the auto industry survive.

“We did it…it kept us out of a depression,” he said.

The longest war in American history was the main part of a foreign policy discussion as the candidates were asked how they would handle Afghanistan. The candidates were careful not to promise too much. Booker said foreign policy by tweet would create a dangerous situation for the troops. As the only veteran on stage, Gabbard stressed the need for rational and smart decisions, a question of leadership.

Biden’s history came back to bite him again when he was forced to admit that his vote to authorize the Iraq War was wrong. Biden blamed President George W. Bush for misleading him and made a point to say he opposed the troop surge in Afghanistan.

When the Mueller Report came up, the choice to impeach the president for obstruction of justice was intertwined. Kamala Harris said there was enough evidence of ten instances of obstruction of justice.

“No one is above the law, including the president of the United States,” she said.

Booker and Julian Castro agreed that Trump should be impeached. Castro said he was the first of the candidates to call for impeachment, however de Blasio tried to look at it from a different angle.

“We need more talk about working people and their rights. That’s something every American wants answers on. Yes to impeachment. But the best impeachment is beating him in the election of 2020,” he said.

Confidence in Harris has surged since the last debate as Biden’s poll numbers dropped slightly according to a Morning Consult/Politico poll.

The debate line-ups were set July 18, when names and days were pulled randomly on a special edition of Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN.

Detroit police blocked off Woodward Avenue in front of the historic theater Wednesday where some supporters lingered. In nearby Grand Circus Park, a group of Trump supporters gathered as they did the day before – this time joined by anti-abortion activists. A man wearing a transparent plastic bag over his clothes with mock blood splattered on it yelled at women walking, telling them they were hypocrites since they “voted for murder.”

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