- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 19, 2015

Her fellow Democratic presidential hopefuls accused fellow Hillary Clinton of being too eager to go to war without preparing for the chaos that could follow, as they squared off Saturday night in a debate in New Hampshire, challenging her more adventurous posture on targeting Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

In their final face-to-face showdown of the year, the candidates drew some the sharpest distinctions of the campaign on Mrs. Clinton’s ties to Wall Street and her war policies.

Mrs. Clinton said she fought with President Obama to try to arm Syrian rebels three years ago, saying the world could have avoided the current mess if he’d followed her advice. And she said she would establish a no-fly zone in Syria to protect U.S.-backed rebels and those fleeing violence — though she refused to say whether she would authorize shooting down Russian planes who might challenge the zone.

Her tough talk drew rebukes from both former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who said she sounded like a throwback to the Cold War, and from Sen. Bernard Sanders, who accused her of being too ready to oust foreign leaders without knowing what comes next — such as her support for unseating Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

“Secretary Clinton is too much into regime change and a little too aggressive without knowing what the consequences might be,” Mr. Sanders said.

The debate, hosted by ABC and aired at the odd time of a Saturday night less than a week before Christmas, began with an apology by Mr. Sanders for a campaign operative’s pilfering of some of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign data from voter files held at the Democratic National Committee.

All three candidates said they wanted to move on from that matter, which dominated the news on Friday after the DNC suspended Mr. Sanders‘ access in punishment for his campaign’s actions, he sued the party to get access back, and the DNC then relented and restored his files to him.

Mr. Sanders and Mr. O’Malley both criticized Mrs. Clinton for being too close to major corporate and Wall Street banking interests, with Mr. O’Malley questioning her deflecting questions in the previous debate by citing her role as senator from New York during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Mrs. Clinton said she would be a president for the poor and the wealthy — though she said two wealthy hedge-fund owners running ads against her in New Hampshire are proof she would be tough on Wall Street.

For his part Mr. Sanders said he would not be a president known as a friend to corporations.

“They ain’t gonna like me, and Wall Street is going to like me even less,” he said.

On health care, Mr. Sanders defended his call for a fully government-run system, while Mrs. Clinton, when pressed by the moderators, waved off surging costs to consumers under Obamacare as “glitches.”

“Part of this is the start-up challenges the system is facing,” she said, proposing small tweaks such as having the government negotiate for lower prescription drug prices and a $5,000 tax credit to help consumers with high out-of-pocket costs.

She also vowed to stop any tax hikes on families with incomes under $250,000.

“I don’t think we should be imposing new big programs that are going to raise middle class families’ taxes,” she said.

Neither of her competitors would make the same pledge, with Mr. Sanders saying tax increases will help fund his proposals for free college education, government health care and paid family leave for all employees.

As much as Mrs. Clinton was a target for fellow Democrats, the biggest bullseye of the night was on Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, with Mr. O’Malley calling him a “fascist,” Mr. Sanders saying he was using “bluster and bigotry to inflame people,” and Mrs. Clinton saying his calls for punishing Muslims only aid the terrorists of the Islamic State, also known by the acronym ISIS.

“He is becoming ISIS’s best recruiter. They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists,” she said.

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