Highlights of the Democratic debate: Warren accumulates, questions about age

© Reuters. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Cory Booker speaks as billionaire activist Tom Steyer and Senator Kamala Harris listen during the fourth election debate of the 2020 US Democratic presidential candidates in Westerville, Ohio.

By Trevor Hunnicutt and Jarrett Renshaw

WESTERVILLE, Ohio (Reuters) – The 12 Democrats gathered for the fourth presidential debate Tuesday night immediately found one unifying message: Republican President Donald Trump is a corrupt president who must go.

Democrats used some of their harshest language yet against Trump in their first confrontation since the launch of an impeachment inquiry in Congress into Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his main rival Joe Biden.

The drive ushered in some sharp shocks later in the debate over health care and a wealth tax. Democrats also found a new target: US Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has reached a virtual tie with Biden in many Democratic opinion polls.

Here are some highlights:

CALLED TO ACCUSATION

Biden, a former vice president, joined US Senator Bernie Sanders in calling Trump “the most corrupt president in modern history.”

Warren said he called for Trump’s impeachment after former special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

Congress did not move to impeach him, he said, “and look what happened: Donald Trump broke the law again.”

Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, who has invested millions in an impeachment fund against Trump since 2017, put his hat to his rivals in his first debate.

“Every candidate here is more decent, consistent and patriotic than that criminal in the White House,” said Steyer, the latest candidate to run.

A WARREN PILOT

Warren’s reward for getting close to Biden? She became the punching bag.

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, turned on the Massachusetts senator after she answered a question about whether taxes would go up under the government’s Medicare-for-all health bill saying “costs” would go up.

That was “a yes or no question that didn’t get a yes or no answer,” Buttigieg said.

Sanders chided Warren for not making it clear whether Medicare for All plans, based on the government-run Medicare for Americans 65 and older program, would raise taxes, resorting to his favorite line about writing the “damn bill”. He said most people would save money on their health care costs, but “I think it’s appropriate to acknowledge that taxes will go up.”

Amy Klobuchar, a US senator from Minnesota, was quick to tell Warren, “You are making Republican talking points” by proposing a plan that would eliminate private insurance. She added: “The difference between a plan and a pipe dream is something that can be achieved.”

As if it were a signal, the Trump campaign quickly issued a press release criticizing Warren’s response. The Buttigieg campaign followed suit.

TAX OR NON-TAX

Businessman Andrew Yang said that taxing wealth, rather than income, was bad policy, attacking a position supported by several Democrats, including Warren and Sanders.

“We should not look for the mistakes of other countries,” Yang said. “Instead we should look at what Germany, France, Denmark and Sweden still have, which is a value added tax and we give Americans a small portion of every Amazon (NASDAQ 🙂 sale, every Google search ( NASDAQ :), every robot truck mile, every Facebook (NASDAQ 🙂 ad, we can generate hundreds of billions of dollars and then put it in our hands because we know better how to use it. “

Warren explained his plan, which he said would give young Americans better economic opportunities: taxing 2% of people’s net worth above $ 50 million and 3% above $ 1 billion.

“My question is not why Bernie and I support a wealth tax,” Warren said. “This is why … does everyone else in this scenario think it is more important to protect billionaires than to invest in an entire generation?”

GUN CONTROL GOT PERSONAL

In an exchange about gun control, Buttigieg and former US Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas renewed a long-standing rivalry.

The two have a history of disagreeing on the issue. Buttigieg does not support O’Rourke’s proposal to force people to sell some of their assault weapons and pistols to the government.

During the debate, O’Rourke described gun violence as a crisis and said politicians should follow the lead of activists pushing for mandatory gun buybacks.

“Let’s follow his inspiration and leadership, and let’s not limit ourselves to polls, consultants and focus groups,” O’Rourke told Buttigieg.

“The problem is not the polls; the problem is politics,” Buttigieg replied. “And I don’t need lessons from you on courage, political or personal.”

BATTLE OF VETERANS

Military veterans Buttigieg and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard argued over Trump’s abrupt decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria, opening the door for Turkey to cross the border and attack the Kurds, a long-time ally of the United States. .

Gabbard, a veteran of the Iraq war and a major in the US National Guard, said the assault on the Kurds was part of a failed US policy of seeking “regime change” in the Middle East.

“Donald Trump has the blood of the Kurds on his hands, but so do many of our country’s politicians from both parties who have supported this ongoing regime change war in Syria that started in 2011, along with many in the main media “. she said.

Buttigieg, who served in Afghanistan as part of the Naval Reserves, challenged Gabbard, saying he was pointing his finger in the wrong direction.

“The massacre that is taking place in Syria is not a consequence of the American presence, it is a consequence of a withdrawal and a betrayal by this president of American allies and American values,” Buttigieg said.

HOW OLD IS TOO OLD?

The top three candidates in Democratic opinion polls, Biden, Warren and Sanders, who are 70 years old, were asked about their health.

Sanders, 78, recently suffered a heart attack that prompted a hiatus from the election campaign. You answered the first question about how you would reassure voters that you can handle the stress of the presidency.

“Let me invite you all to a major rally that we are having in Queens, New York,” Sanders said, noting that there would be a “special guest” shortly before his campaign confirmed the endorsement of Liberal first-year US Representative Alexandria. Ocasio. Cortez. “We’re going to mount a vigorous campaign across this country, that’s how I think I can reassure the American people.”

Biden, 76, said he knows he could handle the demands of the presidency because he knows what the job entails. “One of the reasons I’m running is because of my age and my experience,” Biden said, promising to release his health records before the first nomination contest in early February.

Warren, 70, was asked to respond to a statistic that 40% of Democratic primary voters say they believe a candidate under 70 is more likely to defeat the 73-year-old Trump.

“I’ll work harder than anyone, I’ll organize more than anyone else, and that includes Donald Trump, (Vice President) Mike Pence, or whoever the Republican problem is,” Warren said.

FRONT TUSSLE

When asked to describe his vision for the presidency, Warren cited his creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) as an example of how he would fight for the people against big business. It revived a decades-long discussion between the two pioneers regarding consumer bankruptcies.

“I had an idea for a consumer agency that would stop the giant banks from misleading people and all the Washington insiders and strategic geniuses said, ‘Don’t even try it,'” said Warren, whom former President Barack Obama chose to serve. create the CFPB. after the financial crisis of 2008.

Biden chimed in: “I went to the room and got votes for you guys, got votes for that bill, convinced people to vote on it, so let’s clear those things up as well.”

Warren paused.

“I am deeply grateful to President Obama, who fought so hard to make sure the agency became law,” she said with laughter from the audience. “And I am deeply grateful to all the people who fought for it.”

Before the CFPB was created, Warren had lobbied against legislation that she said unfairly targeted families buried in debt. Biden, then a US senator from Delaware, where many credit card lenders are based, supported the bill.