The top ten candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination squared off Thursday night at Texas Southern University, a public historically black college in Houston, Texas.
Here are the highlights.
Julian Castro Takes A Dig At Joe Biden’s Age After Mischaracterizing Biden’s Statements
Former secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro took a shot at former vice president Joe Biden’s age as the two sparred over Biden’s comments on health care. When touting his plan for health care early in the evening, Biden, 76, said under his plan people would be able to choose government-run health insurance if they lose their existing coverage.
“If you want Medicare, if you lose the job from your insurance – from your employer, you automatically can buy into this. You don’t have – no pre-existing condition can stop you from buying in.”
Castro however, claimed that Biden said consumers would be forced to buy into Medicare.
“The difference between what I support and what you support, Vice President Biden, is that your require them to opt in and I would not require them to opt in. They would automatically be enrolled,” Castro said.
Biden challenged Castro’s statement on stage.
“They do not have to buy in. They do not have to buy in,” Biden repeated.
“You just said that. You just said that two minutes ago. You just two minutes ago that they would have to buy in,” Castro said, mischaracterizing Biden’s statements and taking a jab at Biden’s recent forgetfulness on the campaign trail.
Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago? Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago? I mean, I can’t believe that you said two minutes ago that they had to buy in and now you’re saying they don’t have to buy in. You’re forgetting that.
Klobuchar Tries to Sow Unity On Stage
As Castro and Biden went after each other, with Castro launching jabs at the former vice president, the moderators began to bring in other candidates who were unable to speak because of the shouting match ensuing on stage.
South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg chimed to say the shouting alienates Americans from engaging in the political process.
“This is why presidential debates are becoming unwatchable,” Buttigieg said. “This reminds everybody of what they cannot stand about Washington, scoring points against each other, poking at each other, and telling each other that — my plan, your plan. Look, we all have different visions for what is better…”
Castro clapped back.
“Yeah, that’s called the Democratic primary election, Pete. That’s called an election… This is what we’re here for.”
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar interrupted, borrowing a famous line from former President Abraham Lincoln (and the Bible). “Yes, but a house — a house divided cannot stand. And that is not how we’re going to win this.”
Biden Reminisces about Record Players
Yet the 76-year-old front-runner did show his age at the prime-time event. When answering a question on how Americans can repair the legacy of slavery, Biden said part of the solution would be for children to listen to the record player.
“They don’t — they don’t know quite what to do,” Biden said referring to parents not knowing how to raise their kids. “Play the radio, make sure the television — excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night, the — the — make sure that kids hear words.”
Joe Biden on how American families should spend evenings:
"Play the radio, make sure the television — excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night." pic.twitter.com/ghmbdSu5Am
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) September 13, 2019
Health Care Dominates The Discussion
As with previous debates, health care dominated as the primary topic of debate for the first portion of the evening.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) were once again put on defense as the farthest left candidates on stage, defending their signature health care plans from other candidates on stage whose proposals were no doubt still leftist but slightly less so.
Biden, who has tried hard to frame himself as the sensible moderate in the race, slammed the two senators’ proposals as unaffordable, labeling Sanders a “socialist” on stage.
“I know that the senator says she’s for Bernie, well, I’m for Barack,” Biden said. “How are we going to pay for it?
“If you notice, nobody’s yet said how much it’s going to cost the taxpayer,” Biden said on stage, throwing his arms open. “My friend from Vermont thinks that the employer’s going to give you back if you negotiated as a union all these years, got a cut in wages because you got insurance. They’re going to give back that money to the employee? … for a socialist, you’ve got a lot more confidence in corporate America than I do.”
Both senators dismissed the criticisms launched at them over the costs of their plans and stuck to their message that overall health-care costs would decline for consumers under a single-payer plan through higher taxes for the rich.
“How do we pay for it? We pay for it, those at the very top, the richest individuals and the biggest corporations, are going to pay more,” Warren said. “And middle-class families are going to pay less. That’s how this is going to work.”
But when pressed by the moderators on whether Warren would raise middle class taxes to pay for her health plan, Warren dodged the question.
Other candidates lobbed criticisms of Sanders’ and Warren’s proposals. Klobuchar called Sanders’ plan a “bad idea” and Buttigieg said it was wrong to strip choice from consumers.
“I trust the American people to make the right choice for them… Why don’t you?” Buttigieg inquired.
Cory Booker: A Documentary Film About My First Run For Mayor Lost An Oscar To ‘March of the Dagnab Penguins’
At the end of the night, the moderators asked the candidates to share their largest setbacks. Booker shared the time he lost his first major run for public office running for mayor of Newark in 2002.
Booker shared a brief story that the campaign was fraught with dirty tactics from his political opponents but was captured on the documentary film “Street Fight” that was nominated for an Oscar.
The New Jersey senator then complained that the documentary lost the Academy Award for best documentary feature film to “March of the Dagnab Penguins.” The actual title of the film, “March of the Penguins,” was a 2005 film narrated by Morgan Freeman.
Buttigieg Shares His Story Coming Out
In his closing statement, Buttigieg shared his story of coming out gay as an example of resilience.
“At a certain point, when it came to professional setbacks, I had to wonder whether just acknowledging who I was, was going to be the ultimate career ending professional setback,” Buttigieg said. “I came back from deployment and realized that you only get to live one life and I was not interested in not knowing what it was like to be in love any longer, so I just came out.”
Pete Buttigieg: "I came back from the deployment and realized that you only get to live one life and I was not interested in not knowing what it was like to be in love any longer, so I just came out." https://t.co/INdRXlIwFs #DemDebate pic.twitter.com/QXEgmjcm8d
— ABC News (@ABC) September 13, 2019
Kamala Harris Compares Donald Trump to The Wizard Of Oz
When criticizing the president on trade, California Sen. Kamala Harris likened Donald Trump to the Wizard of Oz.
“The bottom line is this: Donald Trump, in office on trade policy, you know, he reminds me of that guy in ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ you know, when you pull back that curtain, it’s a really small dude?”
“Okay,” ABC moderator George Stephanopoulos said to an audience breaking out in laughter. “I’m not even going to take the bait Senator Harris.”
“Oh, George, that wasn’t about you!” Harris assured Stephanopoulos, who is famously short.
Kamala Harris: "The bottom line is this: Donald Trump, in office on trade policy, you know, he reminds me of that guy in "The Wizard of Oz," you know, when you pull back the curtain, it's a really small dude?" pic.twitter.com/jxNtJLGlZf
— Axios (@axios) September 13, 2019
Read the full transcript of the third Democratic presidential primary debate here.