- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 27, 2019

MIAMI — Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. blamed President Trump for “enormous income inequality” in the U.S. and Bernie Sanders called Mr. Trump a “pathological liar and a racist,” as the top Democratic presidential candidates met on the debate stage Thursday.

The candidates quickly launched attacks on Mr. Trump and the economy, despite the strong economy so far being the president’s chief argument for re-election.
And they didn’t shy away from calls for higher taxes, including Mr. Biden vowing to repeal the Trump tax cuts “for the rich.”

The former vice president said that Mr. Trump thinks that Wall Street built the nation when it was built by the middle-class.

“Donald Trump has put us in a horrible situation. We do have enormous income equality,” he said.

Pressed by the moderators, Mr. Sanders conceded that his plans for Medicare for All government-run health care and other benefits would require a tax increases for the middle class.

“People who have health care under Medicare for All — no premiums, no deductible, no co-payment, no added out-of-pocket expenses — yes they will pay more in taxes, but less in health care,” he said.

SEE ALSO: Democrats embrace health care for illegal immigrants

Sen. Kamala Harris of California also hit Mr. Trump for favoring Wall Street and passing taxes that she said mostly benefited the top 1%.

“Working families need support, they need to be lifted up,” she said.

Scoring early points, Rep. Eric Swalwell of California said that he became interested in politics as a 6-year-old boy after hearing a Democratic politician call for the “passing of the torch” to a new generation.

He identified that politician as Mr. Biden and then called on the now 76-year-old former vice president to follow his own advice and pass the torch.

“I’m holding onto the torch,” shot back Mr. Biden, drawing laughs from the crowd.
As the front-runner, Mr. Biden walked onto the stage with a big target on his back and the most to lose in the first faceoff with his lesser-known rivals.

Expectations have been high for Barack Obama’s former sidekick since even before he formally threw his hat into the ring. Mr. Biden has sat atop the polls with a wide lead since joining the crowded field in late April.

But he has been plagued by missteps and gaffes. He suffered criticism about his handsy treatment of women, flip-flopping on his longtime opposition to taxpayer funding of abortion, and fond recollections about his working relationships with staunch segregationist Democratic senators in the 1970s, including joking about their use of the racially charged epithet “boy.”

The campaign goofs fueled doubts about his age and concerns that his old-school style and centrist politics don’t play in the post-Obama Democratic Party.

All eyes were on Mr. Biden Thursday to gauge his vitality and look for gaffes, though he had the most debate experience of anyone on stage after two runs as vice president and failed presidential bids in 1988 and 2008.

“The biggest risk is you say something dumb that people remember. It can become a meme for your campaign,” said Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida.

Looking to score points in the second night of debate were three other leading contenders, most prominently Mr. Sanders.

Mr. Sanders, a socialist who often places second in polls, has been calling Mr. Biden on his record of being a reliable establishment vote during 36 years in the Senate.

Ms. Harris of California and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg also have taken shots at the front-runner.

Still, for everyone on stage other than Mr. Biden, the debate was their best chance to get noticed by voters.

Indeed, the rhetoric on stage appeared as much aimed at donors and activists in TV land than at the 1,500 people in the audience in the Knight Concert Hall at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

The candidates on stage embodied various fissures in the Democratic Party. They stood on opposing sides of a generational divide and an ideological split between Mr. Biden’s moderate brand and Mr. Sanders‘ democratic socialist policies that have pushed the party to the far left.

The party, however, remained unified in its fierce disgust of President Trump and a determination to oust him in November 2020.

The Democratic National Committee capped the number of candidates in the debates at 20 and split them between two nights, with randomly selected 10 candidates on stage each night.

That left five candidates watching from the sidelines.

Mr. Biden, who has consistently topped the polls, was center stage. He was flanked by Mr. Sanders, Ms. Harris and Mr. Buttigieg.

They were joined by New Age guru Marianne Williamson, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado and Mr. Swalwell.

In Wednesday night’s debate, sparks flew between some of the candidates, but they refrained from jabs at Mr. Biden.

The fireworks, however, illuminated the same divisions on the second night, including how far left to go with government-run health care, immigration and free tuition at public colleges.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren took the center podium on the first night. She was flanked by former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas, and Sens. Cory A. Booker of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. On the edges of the stage Wednesday stood New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, former Obama administration Housing Secretary Julian Castro, Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

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