Bernie Sander’s campaign committed the only fumble before tonight’s debate, when they threw a fit over the CBS plan to shift the focus of the discussion substantially to the devastating Paris attacks that took place on Friday. Per reports, the Sanders campaign said they “won” that battle, but at what cost? At the very least, the moment made the Democrat widely considered to be the weakest on foreign policy look like he was trying to dodge the issue—only one day after the one of the most fatal terrorist attacks on a major city we’ve seen in a decade.
Sanders led the round of opening remarks; despite being uncontested, he offered no significant words beyond his condolences and a pledge to rid the planet of ISIS. He pivoted within seconds to his hobbyhorse, domestic economic populism, emphasizing that in his nationwide travels, people tell him that the economy is rigged and that campaign finance has been corrupted. It was a strange note to sound on the day following the Paris attacks.
WNYC host Brian Lehrer predicted before the debate that Sanders would use Iraq to get to Paris:
But Dickerson needed to prod Sanders to clarify his subtle dig at Hillary Clinton for signing off, initially, on George W. Bush’s war on Iraq. And while Sanders said that the invasion of Iraq wrecked the security of the region is something that is undeniably true, Clinton now agrees with that. So does pretty much every Democratic voter, I’d wager.
After his campaign made a stink of having to talk about Paris at length, Sanders did not use the issue to offer any real separation between himself and the only candidate he has to catch: Hillary Clinton.