For two whole hours, six Democratic presidential candidates took to the stage at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, for the Democratic presidential primary candidates’ last debate before the February 3 caucuses – the first nominating contest in the Democratic Party presidential primaries for the 2020 presidential election. This means the six Democrats – Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer – had their last chance to have a game-changing moment to boost their campaigns or solidify a front-runner status.
Among the topics discussed in the capital and the most populous city in the US state of Iowa, healthcare, the question of electability on how and whether a woman could defeat Donald Trump, and foreign policy.
After the Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad on 3 January, and the escalating tensions between the United States and Iran, the debate was supposed to kick off with foreign policy. And it did: for more than half an hour, candidates fielded a number of questions about why they were best prepared to be commander-in-chief, whether they would withdraw US troops in Iraq, and how they will prevent the spread of Islamic State terrorism and international trade agreements.
However the beginning of the discussion was led by Biden and Sanders, the latter called former vice president out for his support of the Iraq War in 2002.
Only few days ago, Bernie Sander’s campaign unleashed a full–throated attack on Joe Biden over the 2003 American invasion of Iraq: Vermont Senator accused former vice president of “rewriting history” over his vote for the war.
“The war in Iraq turned out to be the worst foreign policy blunder in the modern history of this country,” Sanders said during the debate in Des Moines. “Joe and I listened to what (former Vice President) Dick Cheney and George Bush and (Secretary of Defense Donald) Rumsfeld had to say. I thought they were lying. I didn’t believe them for a moment. I took to the floor. I did everything I could to prevent that war. Joe saw it differently.”
During his campaign, Biden has struggled to give an explanation on his vote for the Iraq war, not only on the stages. “I said 13 years ago it was a mistake to give the President the authority to go to war if, in fact, he couldn’t get inspectors into Iraq to stop what was thought to be the attempt to get a nuclear weapon. It was a mistake,” Biden said Tuesday night. But once Obama was elected, he said, “he turned to me and asked me to end that war.”
Back in July, Biden acknowledged he did make a bad judgment, trusting the president saying he was only doing that to get inspectors in and get the UN to agree to put inspectors in. The same happened in September 2019 when the former senator from Delaware, who is favorite to win Iowa caucus race, explained he was opposed to Bush’s invasion from the get-go.
“Joe Biden voted and helped lead the effort for the war in Iraq, the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in the modern history of this country,” Sanders added during an interview with CNN earlier this month; his senior campaign adviser Jeff Weaver also expressed his judgement on Biden, “he tried to distort his record on the Iraq War.”
Meanwhile, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced the House she will call a vote on Wednesday to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate. In Des Moines, the city in Iowa that hosted the debate, voters are split on the U.S. House of Representatives’ decision to impeach President Donald Trump, but nearly half say the president should not be removed from office. According to the latest Des Moines Register together with CNN and Mediacom Iowa Poll, 45 percent registered Iowa voters disapprove of the House decision to impeach the president, 43 percent approve of it and 12 percent aren’t sure.