"Hispandering," Benghazi and Bernie's brown suit: 7 big moments from the testiest Democratic debate yet

After Sanders' surprise upset in Michigan, Clinton dropped her focus on Trump to go after Bernie, again

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published March 10, 2016 5:28PM (EST)

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders at the Democratic U.S. presidential candidates' debate in Flint, Michigan, March 6, 2016.    (Reuters/Jim Young)
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders at the Democratic U.S. presidential candidates' debate in Flint, Michigan, March 6, 2016. (Reuters/Jim Young)

Just three days after their last face-off, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton dueled during yet another Democratic presidential debate Wednesday night. This time, however, instead of being a tired drag, the debate hosted by Spanish-language television network Univision revealed new policy positions and illuminated rising tensions in what turned out to be the testiest debate, so far.

Here is a rundown of some of the night's best moments, but first, the trivial.

Bernie's brown suit: 

Yes, it was topic of debate on Twitter because everything is a topic of debate on Twitter:


Every debate, Twitter releases the top moments based on Tweets per minute, and the Benghazi section was it last night.

“Secretary Clinton, on the night of the attacks in Benghazi, you sent an e-mail to your daughter Chelsea saying that al-Qaeda was responsible for the killing of the Americans," debate moderator Jorge Ramos began to ask to a round of audible boos. "However, some of the families claim that you lied to them. … Secretary Clinton, did you lie to them?”

Clinton responded has she has for months now, denying any initial wrongdoing and slamming the politicization of a tragedy, but the sharpness of the question and the force of the moderator's follow-ups set the tone for the night.

"Would you drop out of the race if you get indicted?"

After being grilled by Fox News over her use of a personal server to send emails while secretary of state during a Michigan town hall Monday, Clinton was again pressed by the Univision moderators.

"So who specifically gave you permission to operate your email system as you did?" Ramos pressed. "Was it President Barack Obama?"

When Ramos twice asked Clinton if she planned to drop out of the race if she were indicted on criminal charges, noting the current FBI investigation, Clinton flipped.

"Oh, for goodness -- that's not going to happen. I'm not even answering that question."

Bernie calls himself “dangerous” for Wall Street, hits Clinton over transcripts: 

OK, fine, so no new ground was covered in the Wall Street section but it did provide for some of the loudest applause lines of the night and Twitter's top moment (tied with Benghazi).

"I would think a speech so great, that you got paid so much for it, you would want to share with the American people," Sanders quipped, slamming Clinton for failing to release the transcripts for her paid Wall Street speeches in what was perhaps the best zinger of the night.

“I am proud that the gentleman who is head of Goldman Sachs, now, he didn’t give me $225,000 for speaking fees,” Sanders continued. “He said I was dangerous, and he’s right. I am dangerous for Wall Street.”

Sanders: Americans will never elect a birther like Trump

When the candidates were asked if Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump is a racist, they both managed to avoid a personal castigation but Sanders used the opportunity to pivot to why the blustery billionaire is unelectable:

I think that the American people are never going to elect a president who insults Mexicans, who insults Muslims, who insults women, who insults African-Americans. And let us not forget that several years ago, Trump was in the middle of the so- called birther movement, trying to delegitimize the president of the United States of America.

You know, I find it very interesting, Karen, my dad was born in Poland. I know a little bit about the immigrant experience. Nobody has ever asked me for my birth certificate. Maybe it has something to do with the color of my skin.

"Hispandering" and the Minutemen militia: The immigration debate

If you need a clear example of how far apart the two parties are on key issues, the immigration debate taking place on both sides is a great place to start. (Republicans refuse to even acknowledge the problems with the criminal justice system and our environment so there isn't much to compare there.)

In the most newsworthy section of the debate, both candidates pledged to go further than Obama to protect undocumented immigrants and to create a pathway to U.S. citizenship.

Clinton criticized Sanders for opposing the 2007 immigration bill, pointing to his varied and inconsistent explanations for doing so.

Clinton also claimed that in 2006, Sanders “stood with the Minutemen vigilantes in their ridiculous, absurd efforts to, quote, ‘hunt down immigrants,’" citing his 2006 vote for a Republican amendment to a larger Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bill which would have prohibited U.S. Customs and Border agents from interfering with the anti-immigrant Minutemen militia group who also voluntarily patrolled the border at the time.

Sanders denied the accusation, claiming he did “not support vigilantes” and calling Clinton's charge “horrific” and “unfair.”

"There was a piece of legislation supported by dozens and dozens of members of the House which codified existing legislation," Sanders said, attempting to explain his vote. "What the secretary is doing tonight and has done very often is take large pieces of legislation and take pieces out of it."

The amendment passed but was not ultimately included in that year's DHS funding bill.

Sanders then went after Clinton for her 2014 statements on unaccompanied minors from Central America:

“I will not deport children. I do not want to deport family members, either,” Clinton also pledged, after being pressed by debate moderators if she was merely "hispandering" to win Latino votes in Florida. “Stop the raids. Stop the roundups,” Clinton insisted.  

Clinton attacked Sanders for siding with the Koch Brothers: 

"I just think it’s worth pointing out that the leaders of the fossil fuel industry, the Koch brothers, have just paid to put up an ad praising Senator Sanders," Clinton threw out without much other context but apparently referring to recently released a web ad bythe  Koch-funded Freedom Partners that highlights Sanders' past opposition to the Export-Import in an effort to sell the existence of a bipartisan push to defund the federal agency.

“You sided with the Koch brothers," Clinton charged. Google searches for both "Sanders" and "Koch" skyrocketed shortly thereafter.

Sanders, of course, fought back: “There is nobody in the United States Congress who has taken on the Koch brothers — who want to destroy Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and virtually every federal program passed since the 1930s — more than Bernie Sanders.”

But Clinton identified another politician she thought Sanders hadn't criticized enough.

“I wish he would criticize – and join me in criticizing – President George W. Bush,” Clinton suggested, chiding him for repeated critiques of Obama's record.

“I gather Secretary Clinton hasn’t listened to too many of my speeches,” Sanders quipped back.
Watch full video of the Democratic debate hosted by Univision below:

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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