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Sanders defends socialism while Bloomberg receives fire. The 5 best moments from Wednesday’s debate.

Some of the debate’s biggest moments could have been foreseen. Others came as a surprise on Wednesday night.
From left, Democratic presidential candidates, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas, hosted by NBC News and MSNBC. (AP Photo/John Locher)
From left, Democratic presidential candidates, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas, hosted by NBC News and MSNBC. (AP Photo/John Locher) [ JOHN LOCHER | AP ]
Published Feb. 20, 2020|Updated Feb. 20, 2020

Everybody knew it was coming.

Mike Bloomberg was attacked from all sides during Wednesday night’s ninth Democratic debate in Las Vegas. He was accused by his opponents of being a sexist who’s trying to buy the presidency, while being constantly pushed on past comments and controversial policies he implemented while mayor of New York City.

Bloomberg’s response wasn’t great to the attacks. Instead, it was progressive candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren who had a standout night in the desert, both for the defense of their views to the way they were able to hurl attacks at their moderate opponents.

Here’s a list of some of the more memorable exchanges from the night.

Warren takes on Bloomberg: “fat broads and horse-faced lesbians.”

Every candidate, at some point, hurled an attack at Bloomberg.

Perhaps the most memorable of the night, however, came from Warren in the opening minutes of the debate. Wasting no time, she compared the former mayor to President Donald Trump for his past comments.

Her statement in full:

I’d like to talk about who we’re running against. A billionaire who calls women “fat broads and horse-faced lesbians.”

And, no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump, I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.

Democrats are not going to win if we have a nominee who has a history of hiding his tax returns, of harassing women. And of supporting racist policies like redlining and stop and frisk. Look, I’ll support whoever the Democratic nominee is, but understand this: Democrats take a huge risk if we just substitute one arrogant billionaire for another.

Sanders faces transparency questions over his health

Sanders is leading in a number of national polls after a strong showing in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Now the 78-year-old is starting to be treated like the front runner he is — facing fire from his more moderate opponents, like former Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Talk of the heart attack he had briefly slowed as Sanders appears healthy on the campaign trail. But the issue reappeared for the senator on Wednesday night, with moderators and candidates pushing Sanders for the transparency he promised about sharing his medical records.

If Sanders were to win the presidency, he’d be the oldest man ever elected to the job.

When asked whether the physician letters he’s released are sufficient in lieu of releasing his full medical records — which he once promised he’d do — Sanders responded with this:

I think we did. Let me tell you what happened. First of all, you’re right, and thank you, Las Vegas, for the excellent medical care I got in the hospital two days. And I think the one area maybe that Mayor Bloomberg and I shared, you have two stents as well. Well, we both have two stents, it’s a procedure that is done about a million times a year. So we released the full report of that heart attack.

Second of all, we released the full — my whole 29 years in the Capitol, the attending physician, all of my history, medical history. And furthermore, we released reports from two leading Vermont cardiologists who described my situation, and by the way, who said, “Bernie Sanders is more than able to deal with the stress and the vigor of being president of the United States.” They follow me around the campaign, three, four, five events a day; see how you’re doing compared to me.

Sanders defends socialism after Bloomberg compares him to a communist

Bloomberg, who is billing himself as a moderate alternative to Joe Biden, pushed Sanders on his electability after an exchange between Buttigieg and Sanders about raising taxes to fund new policy ideas.

“I can’t think of a way to make it easier for Donald Trump to get reelected than listening to this conversation. This is ridiculous,” Bloomberg said. “We’re not going to throw out capitalism. We tried that. Other countries tried that. It was called communism and it just didn’t work.”

Sanders didn’t like being compared to a communist. He defended his stance as a socialist and pointed to his lead in a majority of polls.

“What was the result of that poll? Who was winning?” Sanders asked.

Sanders then moved on to speak about “socialism for the rich” and how America’s current system has benefited billionaires like Bloomberg at the expense of the working and middle-class Americans.

More from Sanders:

Let’s talk about democratic socialism. Not communism, Mr. Bloomberg. That’s a cheap shot.

Let’s talk about what goes on in countries like Denmark, where, people correctly pointed out, they have a much higher quality of life [...] than we do. What are we talking about? We are living in many ways in a socialist society right now. The problem is, as Dr. Martin Luther King reminded us, we have socialism for the very rich. Rugged individualism for the poor.

When Donald Trump gets $800 million in tax breaks and subsidies to build luxury condominiums, that’s socialism for the rich. We have to subsidize Walmart workers on Medicaid and food stamps because the wealthiest family in America pays starvation wages; that’s socialism for the rich. I believe in democratic socialism for working people. Not billionaires. Health care for all.

Bloomberg pressed for not releasing women from confidentiality agreements

In what was a night full of pointed attacks at Bloomberg, candidates called on the billionaire to release women from nondisclosure agreements they signed regarding allegations of workplace misconduct.

“I hope you heard what his defense was: ‘I’ve been nice to some women,’” Warren, Bloomberg’s biggest critic on Wednesday, said. “That just doesn’t cut it. The mayor has to stand on his record.”

Warren further pushed Bloomberg, saying that the stories, if they were to come out slowly during a general election, would further ruin the former mayor’s electability in defeating Trump.

This is how Bloomberg responded:

None of them accuse me of doing anything. Other than maybe they didn’t like a joke I told. They signed the agreements and that’s what we’re going to live with. I have no tolerance for the kind of behavior that the Me Too movement has exposed. We’re not going to end these agreements because they were made consensually.

Tensions between Klobuchar and Buttigieg reach a peak

Standing side by side, it was Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar who had the night’s most heated argument.

The back and forth began with Buttigieg calling out Klobuchar for forgetting the name of Mexico’s president during a TV interview last week. It continued with Klobuchar saying: “I wish we were all as perfect as you, Pete.”

Klobuchar then went on to speak of her time ‘in the arena’ in Washington, which she implied Buttigieg doesn’t know about having only been a mayor. She then defended her votes to confirm a Trump-nominated head of Customs and Border Protection and the president’s judicial nominees.

“You’ve memorized a bunch of talking points and a bunch of things,” Klobuchar said to Buttigieg.

He responded.

“I’m used to senators telling mayors that senators are more important than mayors,” he said. “You don’t have to be in Washington to matter.”


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