Second Democratic Debate Night 2 Recap: Kamala Harris Attacked Over Record As Prosecutor
Unlike the candidates who took the stage in Detroit for night one of the second batch of Democratic debates, the second round of presidential hopefuls showed no mercy to their colleagues. Wednesday night’s debate proved to be tough for the Democrats to maintain any sense of unity as they tirelessly went after each other’s policies on health care, immigration, criminal justice reform, and past actions in politics.
Here are some of the biggest moments from the night.
After outshining her competition in round one of the Democratic debates, Kamala Harris was expected to face tough attacks from other candidates on night two. However, it appeared not even the California senator expected to be on the defensive for most of the evening.
One of the worst moments for Harris came when Rep. Tulsi Gabbard challenged her over her past record as a state prosecutor.
“Senator Harris says she's proud of her record as a prosecutor and that she'll be a prosecutor president. But I'm deeply concerned about this record. There are too many examples to cite, but she put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana,” Gabbard said.
“She blocked evidence, she blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row until the courts forced her to do so. She kept people in prison beyond their sentences to use them as cheap labor for the state of California,” she added.
Instead of directly addressing Gabbard’s claims, Harris instead focused on her future plans for criminal justice reform.
“I am an advocate for what we need to do to not only decriminalize, but legalize marijuana in the United States,” Harris said.
“There is no excuse for that and the people who suffered under your reign as prosecutor owe -- you owe them an apology,” Gabbard retorted.
Joe Biden v. Kamala Harris
The fiery rematch between former Vice President Joe Biden and Harris began before the debate moderators could even ask the first question.
On stage, Biden, who was the first candidate introduced, had a quick exchange with Harris when she joined him at center stage.
"Go easy on me, kid," Biden could be heard telling Harris.
"You good?" Harris asked.
"I'm good,” Biden responded.
Within seconds, Harris’ national press secretary, Ian Sams, tweeted, "Kid?"
During the actual debate, Harris referred to Biden as “senator” instead of “vice president,” which may have been an intentional response to the “kid” comment.
"In response to Senator Biden about the Affordable Care Act, it’s important you understand our 'Medicare for All' plan has actually, by the architect of the Obama Affordable Care Act, been described as one of the most effective ways to bring health care to all,” Harris said at one point during the debate.
“Senator Biden, your plan will keep and allow insurance companies to remain in status quo, doing business as usual," Harris said later.
Andrew Bates, the “rapid response” director for Biden’s campaign, fought back against the comments by tweeting, “Fact check: @JoeBiden is not a ‘Senator.'”
Harris also continued to go after Biden for his past record as the former senator for Delaware, saying if the segregationist senators Biden worked with in the past had their way, he never would have worked with the nation’s first Black president.
Joe Biden v. Cory Booker
Another moment that made waves during the debate was a standoff between Biden and Senator Cory Booker, who went after the former vice president for supporting several crime bills that resulted in the mass incarceration of Black people.
“We have a system right now that's broken. And if you want to compare records -- and, frankly, I'm shocked that you do, I am happy to do that. Because all the problems that he [Biden] is talking about, that he created, I actually led the bill that got passed into law that reverses the damage that your bills, that you were, frankly -- to correct you, Mr. Vice President -- you were bragging, calling it the Biden crime bill, up until 2015,” Booker said directly to Biden.
When Biden fired back at Booker by accusing him of introducing a “zero tolerance policy of stop and frisk” and hiring “Rudy Giuliani's guy in 2007,” the New Jersey senator was quick with one of the top trending lines of the night.
“Mr. Vice President, there's a saying in my community, you're dipping into the Kool-Aid and you don't even know the flavor. You need to come to the city of Newark and see the reforms that we put in place,” Booker said.
Joe Biden v. Kirsten Gillibrand
During the debate New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand went after Biden for a 1980s op-ed on the child care tax credit.
"I want to address the vice president directly. When the Senate was debating middle-class affordability for child care, he wrote an op-ed,” Gillibrand said. “He voted against it, the only vote. But, when he — he wrote an op-ed, was that he believed that women working outside the home would create the 'deterioration' of family. He also said that women who were working outside the home were avoiding 'responsibility.'"
"Am I, serving in Congress, resulting in the deterioration of family because I had access to quality, affordable day care? I just want to know what he meant when he said that,” she said directly to the senator.
Biden responded by saying he voted against the expansion of the child care tax credit because he did not believe couples earning more than $30,000 in 1981 (which equals just over $88,000 in today's dollars), should receive a tax break.
"That was a long time ago, and here's what it was about. It would have given people making today $100,000 a year a tax break for child care. I did not want that,” he answered.
In the op-ed, Biden argued the expansion of the tax credit "puts the federal government in the position, through the tax codes, of subsidizing the deterioration of the family. That is tragic."
"What I do not accept as legitimate is social policy that encourages a couple making $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 or more a year to evade full responsibility for their children by granting them a tax credit for day-care expenses …” he wrote in the op-ed.
"I do not believe that the federal government should be a party to a system which encourages couples to place their children in day-care centers in order to acquire material possessions that go far beyond any family basic necessities. ... We do not take care of our own families these days; we want someone else to bear that responsibility,” he wrote in the 1981 op-ed.
As Gillibrand continued to hammer Biden for voting against working women, he responded saying she’s never attacked him on the issue in the past.
"I'm passionate about the concern, making sure women are treated equally," he said on stage. "I don't know what's happened except you're now running for president."
Joe Biden v. Himself
One of the biggest flubs of the night happened during Biden’s closing remarks when he mistakenly directed people to a website for South Bend Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
“Four more years of Donald Trump [would] go down as an aberration... eight more years of Donald Trump [would] change America in a fundamental way," but it was his campaign plug at the end that drew the most ridicule.
"If you agree with me, go to Joe3-0-3-3-0 and help me in this fight, thank you very much," Biden said.
While Biden probably meant for Americans to text the number 30330 to support his campaign, a quick Google search revealed that Joe30330.com and Joe3030.com were redirected to websites supporting Buttigieg.
However, one of the sites has a disclaimer at the top the reads: "Hey! If Joe Biden sent you here, we just want to make something clear: we're not affiliated with any presidential campaign. We're just having some good fun (maybe a little bit at the expense of Joe) :) This site, and its content, have been around since April 1st, 2019.”
The other site directed readers to Buttigieg's campaign page, peteforamerica.com.
Winners And Losers
Despite facing tough criticism from nearly everyone on the debate stage, Biden appeared more confident and strong in his rebuttals than he did on his first go-round.
Harris also seemed to falter slightly when challenged about her past and did not walk away as the crowd favorite, as she previously did.
Sen. Gillibrand had one of the funniest lines of the night when she was asked about what her first order of business will be if she’s president.
“So the first thing that I’m going to do when I’m president — is I’m going to Clorox the Oval Office,” she said.
She then went on to say: “The second thing I’m going to do, is I will re-engage on global climate change.”
“And I will not only sign the Paris global climate accords, but I will lead a worldwide conversation about the urgency of this crisis. The greatest threat to humanity is global climate change,” she concluded.
Booker did have some of the best lines of attack during the night, but even he had to admit no one on stage wins when they all attack each other.
"The person that's enjoying this debate most right now is Donald Trump, as we pit Democrats against each,” Booker said during a fight over health care.
“Fact check: True,” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh responded to Booker’s remark.