south carolina debate
February 25, 2020

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) watched Tuesday night's Democratic debate, and one thing stood out to her.

"Not a single climate change question," she tweeted. "Horrifying." One of the participants, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), agreed, responding, "A disgrace." The Democratic candidates don't shy away from talking about climate change on the campaign trail; billionaire investor and environmentalist Tom Steyer told voters in South Carolina on Tuesday that climate change is his "No. 1 priority," and if elected, he will declare a climate emergency on his first day in office.

Poll after poll has shown that climate change is a key issue for voters; last week, the Pew Research Center released a survey showing that for the first time in two decades, a majority of Americans believe that tackling climate change should be a main priority for the president and Congress.

Another poll released last week by the nonpartisan nonprofit Climate Nexus found that for Democrats, climate change is one of the two most important issues facing the country right now. "This is the first time in American political history where climate change is not just a top-tier issue, it is the top-tier issue," Anthony Leiserowitz, a senior research scientist at Yale who helped conduct the poll, told The Atlantic. Catherine Garcia

February 25, 2020

In her response to why she would make a better president than Democratic frontrunner Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) during Tuesday night's debate in South Carolina, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) compared their plans to expand Medicare-style health care to all Americans. Sanders let his body do the disagreeing, and if this whole president thing doesn't work out, his face has enough expressiveness to anchor, say, an HBO show about a curmudgeonly old man who frequently throws up his hands at the world.

Here's Warren's full answer on why plans and legislative strategy matter, with her face included. Peter Weber

February 25, 2020

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) defended himself against accusations that he is not "pro-Israel" enough, saying he is "very proud of being Jewish" but fully aware of the "suffering of the Palestinian people."

If elected, Sanders would be the first Jewish president. During Tuesday night's debate in South Carolina, he said he once briefly lived in Israel, and "what I happen to believe is that right now, sadly, tragically, in Israel, through [Prime Minister] Bibi Netanyahu, you have a reactionary racist who is now running that country. And I happen to believe that what our foreign policy in the Mideast should be about is absolutely protecting the independence and security of Israel. But you cannot ignore the suffering of the Palestinian people. We have got to have a policy that reaches out to the Palestinians."

Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who is also Jewish, said "the only solution here is a two-state solution. The Palestinians have to be accommodated. The real problem here is you have two groups of people, both of whom think God gave them the same piece of land. And the answer is to obviously split it up." Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) agreed that there has to be a two-state solution, and said President Trump favors Israel by "putting a thumb on the scale on just one side." Israelis "have a right to security," she said, just like Palestinians "have a right to be treated with dignity and have self-determination. ... But it's not up to us to determine what the terms of a two-state solution are. We want to be a good ally to everyone in the region." Catherine Garcia

February 25, 2020

Media insiders are labeling the South Carolina Democratic debate a "disaster" following a messy and often out-of-control evening that frequently devolved into shouting matches between the candidates. The event marked CBS News' first foray into hosting a debate this election cycle, and the moderators — CBS Evening News anchor Norah O'Donnell and CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King — often appeared to be overpowered by the seven candidates they were supposed to be keeping in line.

TV regulars at rival networks, including former DNC head and Fox News contributor Donna Brazile, Morning Joe's Mika Brzezinski, and The View's Meghan McCain, expressed horror over how the night unfolded:

Brian Stelter, the chief media corespondent for CNN, confirmed the industry's general reception of the debate:

Sean Illing of Vox was even blunter: "These are the worst moderators in the history of moderation," he tweeted. Jeva Lange

February 25, 2020

The recent comments made by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) about Cuba and its former leader Fidel Castro were bound to come up during Tuesday's Democratic primary debate in Charleston, South Carolina.

When the topic eventually made its way into the chaos, Sanders' fellow candidates zeroed in on his past praise for certain aspects of the Cuban government, such as its literary program and health care system. Sanders once again clarified he was merely pointing a few good things about the Castro regime, which he describes as otherwise authoritarian. But that wasn't good enough for his competitors.

Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, for example, said such comments could have consequences for Democrats down the line, suggesting the party could lose House and Senate races because of them. "We're not going to win these critical, critical House and Senate races if people in those races have to explain why the nominee of the Democratic Party is telling people to look at the bright side of the Castro regime," Buttigieg said.

Sanders once again argued he has routinely condemned authoritarianism before pointing out that the U.S. government supports Saudi Arabia despite its human rights violations. Tim O'Donnell

February 25, 2020

If he didn't get his message across during the debate, all former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg had to do was wait for the commercial break.

During Tuesday night's Democratic debate in South Carolina, 60-second ads for Bloomberg aired during the first two commercial breaks. This didn't go over well on Twitter, where people, like former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, were upset at CBS for letting Bloomberg purchase the ad time:

Over the last three months, Bloomberg has spent more than $500 million of his own money on campaign advertisements. Catherine Garcia

February 25, 2020

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg may have been pummeled at a Democratic debate less than a week ago, but the crowd in South Carolina sounded surprisingly sympathetic to the billionaire candidate on Tuesday night. Attacks on Bloomberg often spurred the audience to loudly boo, while his attacks on his opponents would receive enthusiastic cheers:

The tone was so markedly different from that of the debate in Nevada that many viewers were suspicious of the authenticity of the hecklers:

Tickets to attend the South Carolina debate were prohibitively expensive, some have pointed out; the only way to obtain a ticket was to sponsor the debate, with such sponsorships ranging from $1,750 to $3,200 each. Whether that meant the demographic of the attendees naturally skewed toward a group that was more tolerant of billionaires — or if the hecklers' seats were being paid for by someone else — wasn't immediately clear. Jeva Lange

February 25, 2020

The shouts of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the screeches of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and the shrieks of former Vice President Joe Biden ricocheted around the stage during Tuesday night's Democratic debate in South Carolina.

Right from the start, it was a raucous affair, with the candidates consistently — and loudly — interrupting each other and ignoring the time limits to respond. At one cacophonous point, it sounded like all of the candidates were trying to answer a question, but no one could understand what they were saying. When things settled down a bit, billionaire investor Tom Steyer tried to get a word in, but was scolded by Sanders; later, an annoyed Sanders tried to get former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg to stop talking by saying, "Hellllooo!" It didn't work.

Biden cracked the code about 30 minutes into the debate, saying, "I guess the only way to do this is jump in and speak twice as long as you should." He then attacked Steyer for once investing in private prisons, said Sanders hasn't passed "much of anything" during his time in the Senate, and refused to yield any of his time to the other candidates. "I'm gonna talk," he snapped, which got the crowd cheering. Expect none of these people to have a voice tomorrow. Catherine Garcia

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