Hillary consolidates position as Democratic front runner

Updated - December 04, 2021 11:33 pm IST

Published - October 14, 2015 11:16 pm IST - Washington

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton gives a thumbs up to supporters at the end of the first official Democratic candidates debate of the 2016 presidential campaign in Las Vegas, Nevada October 14, 2015.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton gives a thumbs up to supporters at the end of the first official Democratic candidates debate of the 2016 presidential campaign in Las Vegas, Nevada October 14, 2015.

The first Democratic nomination debate for the 2016 U.S. presidential election saw frontrunner and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton consolidate her lead over her four male rivals in a substantive conversation on domestic and foreign policy issues that also saw India and China labelled as “the greatest polluters in the world.”

Squaring off at the Las Vegas, Nevada, venue of the debate against her strongest opponent in the polls, self-described socialist and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, >Ms. Clinton scored big points in a testy exchange on gun control reform, where she blasted the Senator for voting against the Brady Bill for gun control that had prevented more than two million prohibited arms purchases, at a time when 90 people a day died from gun violence in this country.

“It wasn't that complicated to me,” Ms. Clinton said, adding, “It was pretty straightforward to me that he was going to give immunity to the only industry in America. Everybody else has to be accountable, but not the gun manufacturers.”

‘People are tired of your e-mails’

A lighter moment between the two leaders that became an instant Internet meme and was described as a “gift” from Mr. Sanders to Ms. Clinton came, when the Senator called for an end to the >constant references to the email scandal that has engulfed Ms. Clinton’s campaign.

“Let me say something that may not be great politics. But I think… the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails!” prompting laughter from Ms. Clinton and the audience.

India and China were placed front and centre by nearly all the candidates when the conversation turned to climate change, and Ms. Clinton’s record in this regard was called into question.

India and China, the “greatest polluters”

An initial comment on India and China being the “greatest polluters” by former Virginia Senator Jim Webb was picked up by Mr. Sanders, who said the U.S. must be "extremely aggressive" working with China, India and Russia, and then Ms. Clinton narrated how she and President Barack Obama were “hunting for the Chinese” at the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference, discovered they were holding a “secret meeting,” and then extracting a deal on emissions reductions.

“There will be no effective efforts against climate change unless China and India join with the rest of the world,” she said.

Strong points were also scored by former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley at several points in the discussion, particularly his emotional response to a question from debate host and CNN anchor Anderson Cooper about racial violence in Baltimore, and gun violence in other parts of the country.

Edward Snowden: a hero or traitor

The candidates also threw up a broad, if somewhat differentiated, consensus on whether National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden was a hero or traitor, and on bread-and-butter issues for the American middle class including comprehensive immigration reform and universal access to healthcare.

The fourth candidate, former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, along with Mr. Webb, appeared to be marginalised for a significant part of the debate and also experienced several missteps on issues such as financial sector reforms.

Numerous commentators on social media remarked upon the relatively less aggressive and qualitatively more substantive tone of the debate relative to the Republican debates held so far, which some criticised for the sharp attacks by candidates on immigrants, religious minorities, women and African-Americans.

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