Joe Biden defends Obama legacy under attack from liberals at Democrat debate

Joe Biden defends Obama legacy under attack from liberals at Democrat debate

Joe Biden parried attack after attack from liberal rivals on everything from health care to immigration in a debate that showcased profound ideological divides between the Democratic Party’s moderate and progressive wings.

The prime-time debate also elevated several struggling candidates, giving them a chance to introduce themselves to millions of Americans who are just beginning to follow the race.

Mr Biden dominated significant parts of the evening, responding strongly when the liberal senators who are his closet rivals, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, assailed him and his policies.

I stand with Barack Obama all eight years, good bad and indifferent

Unlike prior debates, where Mr Biden struggled for words and seemed surprised by criticism from fellow Democrats, he largely delivered crisp, aggressive responses.

He called Mr Sanders “a socialist”, a label that could remind voters of the senator’s embrace of democratic socialism.

And Mr Biden slapped at Elizabeth Warren’s proposed wealth tax.

A two-term vice president under Barack Obama, Mr Biden unequivocally defended his former boss, who came under criticism from some candidates for deporting immigrants and not going far enough on health care reform.

“I stand with Barack Obama all eight years, good bad and indifferent,” Mr Biden declared.

His vulnerabilities surfaced, however, in the final minutes of the debate, when he was pressed on a decades-old statement regarding school integration.

Barack Obama (Jeff J. Mitchell/AP)
Barack Obama (Jeff J. Mitchell/AP)

Mr Biden rambled in talking about his support of teachers, the lack of resources for educators and at one point seemed to encourage parents to play records for their children to expand their vocabulary before changing the subject to Latin America.

“That’s quite a lot,” quipped Julian Castro, the former housing secretary who was Mr Biden’s frequent foe during the debate.

The candidates debated with polls showing a strong majority of voters believe the country is heading in the wrong direction under the first-term president’s leadership.

But nine months into their nomination fight, divided Democrats have yet to answer fundamental questions about who or what the party stands for beyond simply opposing President Donald Trump.

The party’s 2020 class, once featuring two dozen candidates, has essentially been cut in half by party rules requiring higher polling and fundraising standards.

Just 10 candidates qualified for Thursday’s affair, though more than that have qualified for next month’s round.

Those in the second tier, after Mr Biden, Ms Warren and Mr Sanders, are under increasing pressure to break out of the pack.

They all assailed Mr Trump.

New Jersey senator Cory Booker called Mr Trump a racist.

Former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke called him a white supremacist.

Kamala Harris, a California senator, said Mr Trump’s hateful social media messages provided “the ammunition” for recent mass shootings.

“President Trump, you have spent the last two-and-a-half years full time trying to sow hate and vision among us, and that’s why we’ve gotten nothing done,” Ms Harris charged.

In addition to Mr Trump, Mr Biden’s rivals also turned against Mr Obama’s legacy at times as they sought to undermine the former vice president’s experience.

Mr Sanders insisted that Mr Biden bears responsibility for millions of Americans going bankrupt under the “Obamacare” health care system.

Mr Castro raised questions about the Obama-Biden record on immigration, particularly the number of deportations that took place.

Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?

Mr Castro, a 44-year-old Texan, appeared to touch on concerns about Mr Biden’s age when he accused the former vice president of forgetting a detail about his own health care plan.

At 76, Mr Biden would be the oldest president ever elected to a first term.

The winner of the primary contest will likely face Donald Trump in next year’s election (Evan Vucci/AP)
The winner of the primary contest will likely face Donald Trump in next year’s election (Evan Vucci/AP)

“Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?” an incredulous Mr Castro asked, challenging Biden on health care.

“I can’t believe that you said two minutes ago that you have to buy in and now you’re forgetting that.”

He added: “I’m fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama and you’re not.”

- Press Association

More on this topic

Piers Morgan denies letting Donald Trump off the hook in interviewsPiers Morgan denies letting Donald Trump off the hook in interviews

Trump calls new border wall a ‘world-class security system’Trump calls new border wall a ‘world-class security system’

Trump names hostage negotiator as national security adviserTrump names hostage negotiator as national security adviser

Trump’s former campaign manager rebuffs questions at ‘impeachment hearing’Trump’s former campaign manager rebuffs questions at ‘impeachment hearing’

More in this Section

Canadian PM Trudeau begs forgiveness for brownface photo as new incidents emergeCanadian PM Trudeau begs forgiveness for brownface photo as new incidents emerge

Woman, 81, who fought off mugger in UK says attacker ‘picked wrong one’Woman, 81, who fought off mugger in UK says attacker ‘picked wrong one’

Alcohol-making gut bacteria ‘may cause liver damage even in non-drinkers’Alcohol-making gut bacteria ‘may cause liver damage even in non-drinkers’

Supreme Court to rule on suspension of UK Parliament: What you need to knowSupreme Court to rule on suspension of UK Parliament: What you need to know


Lifestyle

There are literally hundreds of free events on offer this evening for kids and adults on Culture Night. Marjorie Brennan selects the best of them, in Cork and beyondCulture Night: Get out and make the most of it

The American heritage brand has put together a collection inspired by the most stylish Friends character.This is why Rachel Green’s style is the epitome of Ralph Lauren – as a new collection is announced

When starting out as a comedian, Cork man Andrew Ryan decided to go to straight to London, sidestepping the usual starting ground of Irish clubs and pubs.Cork comedian Andrew Ryan is 'a cross between Ardal O’Hanlon and Ed Byrne'

Rachel Marie Walsh knows the best eyeliners to try this season.Beauty is in the eye of the beholder: Essential eyeliners for a killer look

More From The Irish Examiner