If you missed the first Democratic presidential debate of the 2016 race Tuesday evening, NPR's It's All Politics offered wall-to-wall coverage. If you want a quickie, here's a 100-word recap — and video clip — of what happened:
Bernie Sanders foreshadowed a subdued debate without attacks. But he and Hillary Clinton had many clashes. When Clinton attacked him for voting against the Brady Bill, Sanders shouted, "All the shouting in the world is not going to ... keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have those guns." They disagreed on Clinton's support of a no-fly zone in Syria and Sanders' support for legalizing pot. Sanders declined to score points, backing Clinton over the email issue. Martin O'Malley wedged himself into the debate; Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb did little to stand out. The must-watch moment:
— Eyder Peralta/NPR
5 hits and 5 misses
The first Democratic debate brought out some passionate and, at times, awkward moments from the five candidates on stage. A highlight of the night was when Bernie Sanders decided he'd had enough of Hillary Clinton's email scandal, exclaiming "the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails."
But Sanders later stumbled on foreign policy, and Clinton struggled to defend her changing positions.
Here's each candidate's best and worst moment from Tuesday night:
Best: A progressive
Clinton was asked whether she is a progressive or a moderate — an early question that in many ways got to the heart of the Democratic race.
"I'm a progressive, but I'm a progressive who likes to get things done," Clinton answered.
She went on to say she knows how to find common ground and knows how to stand her ground, "even dealing with Republicans who never had a good word to say about me, honestly."
Worst: Never took a position
"I never took a position on Keystone until I took a position on Keystone," Clinton said as she defended her record on climate change policy. Clinton came out last month against the Keystone XL Pipeline, but had been slammed by environmental groups for her earlier silence on it. In this moment, she had to acknowledge that slow crystallization of her position, especially next to Sanders and O'Malley, who had opposed it earlier.
It wasn't the only moment where she had to wrestle with taking a stance. She was later asked if she was going to take a position on the legalization of marijuana; she simply answered "no."
Best: Clinton's emails
As Clinton ended a response about her email controversy, Sanders jumped in, "I think the secretary is right — that is, that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails." The crowd cheered, and he got a partial standing ovation.
"Thank you. Me, too," Clinton responded.
Sanders finished the response talking about the issues closest to his campaign — the middle class and income inequality.
Worst: Putin will regret it
If Sanders seemed in his element talking about income inequality and poverty, he was out of his element talking about foreign policy.
Talking about Russia, he said "well, I think, um, Mr. Putin, uh, is going to regret, uh, what he is doing." Some in the audience started to laugh. Anderson Cooper remarked that Putin doesn't seem to regret much, and Sanders went on, "I think he is already regretting what he did in Crimea, and what he is doing in the Ukraine; I think he is really regretting the decline of his economy, and I think what he is trying to do now is save some face."
Sanders also addressed Syria, calling it a "quagmire in a quagmire."
Best: Guns legislation
After Sanders and Clinton went back and forth on whether gun manufacturers and store owners should be held legally responsible, O'Malley earned cheers for this response:
"It's fine to talk about all of these things, and I'm glad we're talking about all of these things, but I've actually done them," he said, before introducing the parents of a woman killed in the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting.
"The game was rigged. A man had sold 4,000 rounds of military ammunition to this person that killed their daughter, riddled her body with five bullets, and he didn't even ask where it was going. ... They were slapped with $200,000 in court fees because of the way the NRA gets its way in our Congress and we take a back seat. It's time to stand up and pass comprehensive gun safety legislation as a nation."
Worst: Debating about debates
O'Malley used up some of his precious debate time talking about ... the debate itself. "I believe that now that we're finally having debates, Anderson, that we don't have to be defined by the email scandal and how, what the FBI's asking about," O'Malley said, addressing the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, in the audience. "Look how glad we are actually to be talking about the issues that matter most."
Best: National security
Asked about military force in Libya and whether Clinton should have seen the attack in Benghazi coming, Webb pivoted to the role of Russia in Syria.
Webb comfortably laid out "three strategic failings" in the Middle East and the role of the U.S. in Iraq. He listed his accomplishments, including five years at the Pentagon and his service in Vietnam.
He also spoke about China, calling the U.S. relationship with the country "the greatest strategic threat we have right now."
Worst: Enemy soldier
Webb created an awkward moment when answering the question, "Which enemy are you most proud of?"
Chafee said the coal lobby, Clinton said Republicans and Sanders said special interest groups. Webb, who served in the Marines, answered: "I'd have to say the enemy soldier that threw the grenade that wounded me. But he's not around right now to talk to." He then flashed a wide grin, as the audience started to laugh but then stopped.
Best: No scandal
Right out of the gate, Chafee started with a jab to Clinton, saying in his opening remarks, "I'm very proud that over my almost 30 years of public service, I have had no scandals. I've always been honest, I have the courage to take the long-term view, and I've shown good judgement. I have high ethical standards."
Worst: You're being a little rough
Chafee was asked about his 1999 vote that made banks bigger, Glass-Steagall. He really didn't know how to answer that and said, it was his "very first vote." "I'd just arrived, my dad had died in office, I was appointed to the office," he said.
Anderson Cooper pushed back, "Are you saying you don't know what you voted for?"
"I just arrived in Senate. ... I think you're being a little rough; I just arrived at the United States Senate." He then tried to pivot to income inequality after some audible groans from the audience.
— Amita Kelly/NPR
The debate in 2 minutes
Clinton gets most speaking time
With only five candidates on stage Tuesday night, the presidential candidates had plenty of time to speak compared with the more crowded GOP debates — but it wasn't equal time.
During the two-hour-long debate, each candidate was to have one minute to answer a direct question. If the candidate is brought up in someone else's answer, he or she had 30 seconds for rebuttal. Those were the rules, but in reality moderator Anderson Cooper had discretion to allow more time for an answer, and had said said he's not afraid to go after any statements that don't ring true.
NPR ran its stopwatch Tuesday to track which candidate spoke the longest (in the most recent Republican debate, Trump spoke the longest by far).
Bernie Sanders had a slight lead over Hillary Clinton after the first break, but then Clinton moved ahead. Lincoln Chafee trailed for most of the debate — he didn't speak at all between the second and third breaks. Here is the final tally of how much air time each candidate received:
- Clinton: 30 min 25 sec
- Sanders: 27 min 41 sec
- O'Malley: 17 min 08 sec
- Webb: 15 min 20 sec
- Chafee: 9 min 05 sec
— Barbara Sprunt/NPR
This story has been updated.