The biggest takeaway from the foreign policy section of tonight’s debate is that Bernie Sanders is still struggling to sound authoritative about issues that haven’t been close to his heart for decades. Sanders was particularly good at the end of this portion when he was talking about veterans’ affairs—one of his core issues while in Congress—but sounded like he was reading off cards when talking about North Korea and the Middle East.
Clinton’s answers mostly stayed to a familiar script—but not just this election cycle’s script. Sure, she touted her achievements as secretary of state and got into some nuances of global affairs, but her central argument on foreign policy is exactly the same as it was in 2008: Who do you want to answer the phone at 3 a.m.?
Sanders’s main attack on Clinton’s foreign policy could still overcome her authority on the issue. Sanders has continually questioned Clinton’s judgment, which essentially flanks her claim that she has the experience to handle crises—it worked for Barack Obama in 2008, and Sanders is using the same line of reasoning in 2016.