You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Highlights from the First Democratic Presidential Debate

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The top five Democratic presidential candidates met Tuesday night in Las Vegas for their first primary debate, moderated by Anderson Cooper on CNN. Here are the highlights, and check out the New Republic's live-blog for all the details.

Bernie Sanders: We're Sick of Hearing About Hillary’s Emails

After pressing Clinton on Benghazi, Cooper asked her about the other criticism that won't die: The private email server she used for official business while serving as secretary of state. Clinton admitted that she made a mistake, but pointed out that she’d agreed to testify in a public hearing. “This committee is basically an arm of the Republican National Committee,” she said, to applause.

Sanders’s response drew bigger applause.

“I think the secretary is right," he said. "The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.... Enough about the emails! Let’s talk about the real issues facing America.”

Then they shook on it, with big smiles all around.

Sanders Condemns Capitalism ... in Las Vegas

Pressed by Anderson Cooper on whether his economic position as a democratic socialist could interfere with his electability, Bernie Sanders passionately spelled out exactly what “democratic socialism” means: a commitment to changing the country’s massive income inequality and implementing policies like universal healthcare and paid family.

Contrary to popular belief, Sanders is not a socialist, but a democratic socialist. Still, Cooper kept pressing:

"You don't consider yourself a capitalist, though?" he asked.

"Am I part of the casino capitalist culture process by which so few have so much and so many have so little?... No I don't!" said a testy Sanders.

Then, the first Trump-esque moment of the debate. Cooper asked if anyone else on the stage did not consider themselves a capitalist. Hillary didn't raise her hand, but she did speak up, saying that the U.S. doesn't need socialism. Rather, it needs capitalism to be reformed. 

Sanders and Clinton Have a Gun Fight

Anderson Cooper challenged Sanders, whose position on guns is to the right of his competition, about whether he would shield gun companies from legal responsibility for mass shootings. The Vermont senator pointed proudly to his low NRA rating (D-), saying that he supports bans on assault weapons despite the hunting culture engrained in his rural constituency.

Cooper then asked Clinton if Sanders has gone far enough on gun control.

“No. Not at all,” she said, citing Sanders’s lack of support for the Brady Bill.

Sanders insisted that “all the shouting in the world” would not reconcile differences in gun support between rural gun owners and many liberals.

Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley challenged Sanders on this point. “Have you ever been to the Eastern Shore? Have you ever been to Western Maryland?”

Jim Webb Is Tired of Being Ignored

Webb, who announced his candidacy while the rest of America was gone for Fourth of July weekend, complained several times to Anderson Cooper that he wasn't being given any time to speak.

But as the New Republic's Jeet Heer wrote on our live blog, many are questioning what he’s even doing onstage.

Still, Webb wants you to know he is there, whether the moderator and other candidates are listening or not.

Sanders Wants to Go Easy on Edward Snowden

On the subject of National Security Agency surveillance and Edward Snowden, Martin O’Malley said the whistleblower's actions threatened the lives of Americans. But Bernie Sanders, while acknowledging that Snowden broke the law, had a more nuanced answer about how Snowden’s actions:

“I think Snowden played a very important role in educating the American people to the degree in which our civil liberties and constitutional rights are being undermined,” he said. “I think what he did in educating us should be taken into consideration.”