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In Democratic Debate, Candidates Tangle On Gun Control, Wall Street Reform

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The first Democratic debate for the 2016 presidential election was held Tuesday night in Las Vegas. The first Democratic debate for the 2016 presidential election was held Tuesday night in Las Vegas.
LAS VEGAS -

10:54 p.m. One more question for all the candidates: Which enemy that you've made in your career are you the most proud of?

  • Chafee: "The coal lobby. I've worked hard for climate change and I want to work with the coal lobby."
  • O'Malley: "The National Rifle Association."
  • Clinton: "In addition to the NRA, the health insurance companies, the drug companies, the Iranians, probably the Republicans."
  • Sanders: "As someone who has taken on probably every special interest that there is in Washington, I would lump Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry at the top of my list of people who don't like me."
  • Webb: "The enemy soldier who threw the grenade that wounded me but he's not around right now to talk to."

10:46 p.m. Asked about Nevada's upcoming vote on legalizing marijuana, Sanders said "I suspect I would vote yes," even though he is not a fan of the drug.

"I am seeing in this country too man lives being destroyed for nonviolent offenses," he said.

Clinton declined to take a stand on legalizing recreational marijuana.

"We have the opportunity through the states that are pursuing recreational marijuana to find out a lot more than we know today. I do support the use of medical marijuana," she said.

10:44 p.m. Clinton rails against Republicans in response to a question about paid family leave. When she was asked whether voters would really support another big-government program to mandate it.

"They're fine with big government when it comes to" trying to defund Planned Parenthood, Clinton said.

10:42 p.m. On a question about climate change, O'Malley talked about his plan to move America to a 100 percent clean electric grid by 2050.

"We did not land a man on the moon with an all-of-the-above strategy," he said.

Webb defended his support for coal and offshore drilling, which puts him at odds with the Democratic Party.

"We are not going to solve climate change simply with the laws here," he said, calling for a more international system.

Sanders said he agreed with Pope Francis, who called it a "moral issue."

Clinton touted her work with President Obama to sign a major climate accord with the Chinese.

10:35 p.m. As O'Malley argues for new leadership, Clinton defends her credentials in spite of her last name.

"I would not ask anyone to vote for me based on my last name," she said. "I would ask them to listen to what I'm proposing, to look at what I've accomplished. I am certainly not campaigning to be president because my last name is Clinton."

10:29 p.m. Two questions for all five candidates. First, do you think Edward Snowden is a traitor or a hero?

  • Chafee: "No, I would bring him home...The American government was acting illegally - that's what the federal courts have said. What Snowden did showed that the American government was acting illegally per the Fourth Amendment."
  • Clinton: "He broke the laws of the United States...he could have raised all the issues that he had raised and I think there would have been a positive response to that. In addition he stole very important information that has unfortunately fallen into a lot of the wrong hands...I don't think he should be brought home without facing the music."
  • O'Malley: "Snowden put a lot of Americans' lives at risks. Whistleblowers do not run to Russia and try to get protection from Putin."
  • Sanders: "I think Snowden played a very important role in educating the American people to the degree in which our civil liberties and our constitutional rights are being undermined. He did break the law and I think there should be a penalty for that but I think what he did in educating us should be taken into consideration.
  • Webb: "I would leave his ultimate judgment to the legal system. Here's what I do believe: We have a serious problem."

The other question asked the candidates what they would do that would differentiate them from being a third term of President Obama.

  • Chafee: "Certainly ending the wars. We've got to stop these wars."
  • O'Malley: "I would follow through on the promise that American people thought we made...to protect the main street economy from recklessness on Wall Street."
  • Clinton: "I think that's pretty obvious. I think being the first woman president would be quite a change from the presidents who had up until this point." On policy? "There's a lot I would like to do to build on the successes of President Obama but also, as I am laying out,to go beyond."
  • Sanders: "I have a lot of respect for President Obama...but here's where I do disagree. I believe that the power of corporate America, the power of wall street, the power of the drug companies, the power of corporate media is so great that the only way we really transform America...is through a political revolution when millions of people begin to come together and stand up and say our government is going to work for all of us."
  • Webb: "It would be in the use of executive authority. I came up as a committee counsel in the Congress, used to put dozens of bills on the House floor...I have a very strong feeling about how our federal system works."

10:20 p.m. Neither Chafee nor Clinton says they regret their vote in favor of the PATRIOT Act.

"It was seen at the time as modernizing our ability to do what we've always done, to tap phones, which always required a warrant," Chafee said. "As long as you're getting a warrant under the Fourth Amendment you should be able to do surveillance."

Clinton hit the Bush administration for beginning to "chip away" at privacy protections.

Sanders said he would "absolutely, of course" shut down National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance programs. "That is unacceptable to me. But it's not just government surveillance. I think the government is involved in our emails, is involved in our websites, corporate America is doing it as well. If we are a free country, we have a right to be free."

10:17 p.m. Clinton takes a moment to break away from the debate between the Democrats and hits Republicans for "demonizing" immigrants.

She is also asked about whether she supports states that want to provide in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants.

"My plan would support any state that takes that position," she said.

10:16 p.m. Clinton said O'Malley's plan to allow undocumented immigrants to receive Obamacare subsidies "raises so many issues it would be very difficult to administer" and says that healthcare should be included in a larger comprehensive immigration bill.

O'Malley defends his plan, saying that the costs when immigrants need care still fall on the U.S.

10:14 p.m. Sanders is asked why Latino voters should support him since he voted against the 2007 comprehensive immigration bill that went through the Senate.

"I didn't leave anybody at the alter, I voted against that piece of legislation because it had guest worker provision in it which the Southern Policy Law center talked about being semi-slavery. Guest workers are coming in, they're working under terrible conditions, but if they stand up for their rights they're thrown out of the country. I was not the only progressive to vote against that legislation for that reason," he said. "My view right now...is that when you have 11 million undocumented people in this country we need comprehensive immigration reform, we need a path toward citizenship, we need to take people out of the shadows."

10:10 p.m. Sanders defends his plan to make public college free for everyone - especially since Clinton has said she wouldn't go as far and make college free for Donald Trump's kids.

"Donald Trump and his billionaire friends under my policies are going to pay a hell of a lot more in taxes," Sanders said. "This is the year 2015. A college degree today, Dana, is the equivalent of what a high school degree was 50 years ago and what we said 50 years ago." Since the country once agreed that every child should be able to get a high school education regardless of their ability to pay, the same should be true of college now.

10:07 p.m. Chafee indicates that he regrets his vote to replace Glass-Steagall, but he voted that way because it was the first vote he cast when he was appointed to the Senate and his father had recently died.

10:02 p.m. The discussion turns to Wall Street for several minutes as Sanders, Clinton and O'Malley tangle on fiscal policy. O'Malley noted that he did support Clinton in 2008, but now has a huge difference with her because she does not want to repeal Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era law that separated commercial and investment banking and was repealed in 1999.

Clinton argued that her plan to deal with Wall Street is "more comprehensive and frankly it's tougher" than Sanders' plan -- which made him laugh, and say, "that's not true." She also argued that leaders need to focus on different areas of the financial system like shadow banking that could cause problems.

"If only you look at the big banks you may be missing the forest for the trees," she said.

9:57 p.m. Clinton fields the question about how she can represent the middle class when she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton are so wealthy now.

"Both Bill and I have been very blessed, neither of us came from wealthy families and we've worked really hard our entire lives and I want to make sure every single person in this country has the same opportunities that he and I had," she said.

9:52 p.m. A question from Facebook taped before the debate asks the candidates: Do black lives matter or do all lives matter?

"Black lives matter," Sanders said to cheers from the audience. "The reason those words matter is the African-American community knows that on any given day some innocent person like Sandra Bland can get into a car and then three days later she's going to end up dead in jail or their kids are going to get shot. We need to combat institutional racism from top to bottom and we need major major reforms in a broken criminal justice system."

O'Malley says, "black lives matter and we have a lot of work to do to reform our criminal justice system.

Clinton: "President Obama has been a great moral leader on these issues and has laid out an agenda that has been obstructed by the Republicans at every turn." She also said the U.S. should follow up recommendations from a commission on policing created by the president, and urged people to tackle criminal justice reform.

She called for a "new New Deal" for communities of color.

9:48 p.m. "The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!" Sanders said. "Let's talk about the real issues facing America."

That earned him a handshake from Clinton -- and a standing ovation from the audience.

9:47 p.m. Cooper asked Clinton what her handling of eight months of questions over her use of a home-based server and private email address while she served as secretary of state says about her ability to handle far larger crises.

"I've taken responsibility for it, I did say it was a mistake. What I did was allowed by the State Department but it wasn't the best choice...I've been as transparent as I've been known to be," she said.

"Let's just take a minute here and point out that [the House Benghazi] committee is basically an arm of the Republican National Committee. It is a partisan vehicle as admitted by the House Republican Majority Leader, Mr. McCarthy, to drive down my poll numbers. Big surprise," she said. "I am still standing, I am happy to be part of this debate and I intend to keep talking about the issues that matter to the American people."

9:44 p.m. The candidates are asked about the greatest national security threat.

  • Chafee: Chaos in the middle East
  • O'Malley: "Nuclear Iran remains the biggest threat, along with the threat of [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria].
  • Clinton: "Continuing threat from the spread of nuclear weapons, nuclear material that can fall into the wrong hands."
  • Sanders: "The scientific community is telling us if we do not address the threat of climate change...the planet that we're going to be leaving our kids and grandkids may well not be habitable."
  • Webb: "Our greatest long-term strategic challenge is our relations with China. Our greatest day-to-day threat is cyber warfare against this country. Our greatest military operational threat is resolving the situation in the Middle East."

9:39 p.m. Sanders is asked about his status as a conscientious objector that allowed him to avoid fighting in the Vietnam War.

"When I was a young man I strongly opposed the war in Vietnam, not the brave men like Jim [Webb] who fought in that war but the policy that got us involved in that war. That was my view then. I am not a pacifist," he said.

9:36 p.m. Clinton responds to Webb's remarks on the campaign trail that the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was inevitable.

"Unless you believe the United States should not send diplomats to any place that is dangerous, which I do not,...there is always the potential for danger and risk," she said.

O'Malley argued that Benghazi showed, "We need to do a much better job as a nation of having human intelligence on the ground so that we know who the emerging next generation leaders are who are coming up to replace a dictator when his time on this planet ends." He argued Amb. Christopher Stevens, who was killed, was trying to do that but did not have the necessary tools.

9:34 p.m. Sanders says he thinks Russian President Vladimir Putin regrets his intervention in eastern Ukraine and will come to regret Russian intervention in Syria as well.

"When Russians get killed in Syria and he gets bogged down I think the Russian people are going to give him a message," he said.

9:33 p.m. Clamoring to get in on the debate, Webb points to China as a major strategic threat to the United States.

9:32 p.m. Clinton reminds voters that O'Malley endorsed her in 2008.

9:28 p.m. Chafee, who has premised part of his presidential bid on his opposition to the Iraq War, was given the first chance to go after Clinton on her 2002 vote against the war.

"You're looking at someone who made that poor decision...when there was no real evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," he said. "I know, because I did my homework."

In her 2014 memoir, "Hard Choices," Clinton reiterated that she wished she had voted against the resolution to go to war in 2002.

"I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had. And I wasn't alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple," she said.

Last year, Clinton said she didn't apologize for her 2002 vote during the 2008 campaign because she didn't want to tell men and women in the military it was a mistake for them to be there.

In the debate, Clinton cited her judgment on issues like taking out al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and putting together a coalition to impose sanctions on Iran.

Sanders jumped in to voice his objections to a no-fly zone in Syria. He also hit Clinton over her 2002 Iraq War vote, saying he heard the same evidence and came to a different conclusion -- and accurately predicted the chaos that followed.

Asked in what circumstances he would use military force, Sanders cited his support to stop ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and his vote in favor of the war in Afghanistan.

"I do not support the United States getting involved in unilateral action," he said.

O'Malley also weighed in, saying, "No commander-in-chief should take the military option off the table."

9:23 p.m. Asked whether the Russian reset was a mistake, Clinton said, "We got a lot of business done with the Russians when Medvedev was president," referring to former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. "When Putin came back in and said he was going to be president that did change the relationship," she said.

Regarding Russian involvement in Syria, Clinton said, "I think it's important too that the United States make it very clear to Putin that it's not acceptable for him to be in Syria creating more chaos, bombing people on behalf of Assad and we can't do that if we don't take more of a leadership position," she said.

9:21 p.m. Chafee said there needs to be more dialogue with the NRA to get them to stop telling people Congress is trying to take away their guns.

"I would bring the gun lobby in and say, 'We've got to change this,'" he said.

9:19 p.m. Sanders argues that part of his position stems from representing a rural state that has different views on guns.

"It is not about rural and urban," O'Malley argued, citing the Eastern Shore and western Maryland, two rural parts of the state. "We were able to pass this and still respect the hunting traditions of people who lived in our rural areas."

Sanders responded, "You have not been in the united states Congress...check it out and if you think that we can simply go forward and pass something tomorrow without bringing people together you are surely mistaken."

9:16 p.m. Clinton and Sanders tangle over the issue of gun control when Sanders is asked about his opposition to the Brady Bill. He says it was a complicated bill.

Clinton was asked if he's tough enough on gun manufacturers.

"No, not at all," Clinton said, urging the entire country to stand up against the National Rifle Association.

"He was going to give immunity...Everybody else has to be accountable, but not the gun manufacturers," she said.

9:13: Webb reaffirms his support for affirmative action for African Americans, but says it doesn't make sense for all people of color.

"The idea that when we create diversity programs that include everyone, quote, of color other than struggling whites like the families in the Appalachian mountains, we're not being true to the Democratic party principle of elevating the level of consciousness in our people" about the hardships that some, including whites, face.

9:10 p.m. O'Malley gets question about the high arrest rate when he was mayor of Baltimore. He defended his work there, saying they saved a lot of lives.

"The vast majority of them were young and poor and black. It wasn't easy on any given day," he said.

9:08 p.m. Chafee, explaining his switch from being a Republican to a Democrat, said, "The party left me, there's no doubt about that."

9:06 p.m. Debate moderator Anderson Cooper asks if anyone on the stage in addition to Sanders wouldn't consider themselves a capitalist.

Clinton jumped in. "I don't think we should confuse what we have to do every so often in America which is save capitalism from itself," she said.

9:04 p.m. Sanders is asked about the large percentage of Americans who say they won't elect a socialist.

"We're going to explain what democratic socialism is," Sanders said. He proceeded to rail against rising income inequality and the fact that the U.S. stands alone in not guaranteeing healthcare as a right to its people.

"Democrats...will when when there's a large voter turnout," Sanders said, arguing that people would turn out to vote for him.

9:01 p.m. First question is about some concerns from voters. Clinton is asked about flipping on issues such as same-sex marriage and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

"I have been very consistent over the course of my entire life, I have always fought for the same values and principles but like most human beings...I do absorb new information, I do look at what's happening in the world," she said.

Pressed on whether she changes her position for political expediency, she said, "No, I think like most people that I know I have a range of views but they are rooted in my values and my experience and I don't take a backseat to anyone when it comes to progressive experience and progressive commitment."

8:58 p.m. Clinton introduces herself as the granddaughter of a factory worker and the grandmother of a wonderful one-year-old child, her granddaughter, Charlotte.

"I have spent a very long time, my entire adult life, looking for ways to even the odds, to help people have the chance to get ahead and in particular to find the ways for each child to live up to his or her god-given potential," she said. "At the center of my campaign is how we're going to raise wages."

8:54 p.m. O'Malley said, "After 15 years of executive experience I have learned how to be an effective leader," and ticked off several of his progressive accomplishments as Maryland governor, including a DREAM Act and comprehensive gun safety legislation.

Sanders started off by railing against the campaign finance system.

"Our campaign finance system is corrupt and is undermining American democracy," he said. He also talked about the need for clean energy and the high incarceration rates.

8:50 p.m.Chafee seemed to take a shot at Clinton with this line in his opening statement: "I have had no scandals. I've always been honest, had the courage to take the long-term view and I've shown good judgment. I have high ethical standards."

Webb touted his record in government and work on issues like veterans' affairs.

8:30 p.m.Five people take the stage in Las Vegas Tuesday night for the first of six debates arranged by the Democratic National Committee: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, former Sen. Jim Webb and former Rhode Island Gov. and Sen. Lincoln Chafee.

Vice President Joe Biden, who is considering whether to jump into the Democratic primary race, will not take place in the debate. He's hosting a high school reunion and then watching the debate from his home in the Naval Observatory.

The sixth Democratic presidential candidate, Harvard Professor Larry Lessig, won't be on the debate stage because he failed to meet CNN's polling requirements.

The national party has faced increasing pressure from contenders like former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley to increase the number of debates. But last month, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, R-Florida, said the party is "not changing the process."

Among the questions that will be answered Tuesday evening: Will Clinton go after her Democratic rivals the way she has attacked potential Republican opponents? Will Sanders disavow his promise not to attack Clinton? And can O'Malley, Webb or Chafee finally break through pull in enough support to get them past the low single digits?

The latest CBS News national poll has Clinton leading Sanders by 19 points. If Biden decides not to enter the race, her lead would grow and she would have 56 percent support compared to 32 percent for Sanders. Nearly six in 10 Democratic primary voters see her as the most electable.

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