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Sanders takes on Biden over Iraq war vote during Democratic debate

FOX News logo FOX News 1/15/2020 Gregg Re
Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders are posing for a picture: Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders trade dueling accounts of a December 2018 conversation on her presidential aspirations; Ellison Barber reports from Des Moines. © Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders trade dueling accounts of a December 2018 conversation on her presidential aspirations; Ellison Barber reports from Des Moines.

The final Democratic presidential debate before the pivotal Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses quickly erupted Tuesday night, as Bernie Sanders directly challenged former Vice President Joe Biden's initial support for the Iraq war, which he called "the worst foreign policy blunder in the modern history of this country."

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"Joe and I listened to what Dick Cheney and George Bush and [Donald] Rumsfeld had to say," Sanders said. "I thought they were lying. ... Joe saw it differently."

Biden acknowledged that his vote for the war was a "mistake" but emphasized that former President Obama still felt that he had the foreign policy credentials to serve as vice president.

“I think my record overall, on every other thing we’ve done, I’m prepared to compare it to anybody on the stage," Biden said.

Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who served in the war in Afghanistan, added: “The next president is going to be confronted with national security challenges different in scope and kind than any we have seen before. ... For me, those lessons of the past are personal."

The party's top six contenders were squaring off amid a pending Senate impeachment trial and white-hot tensions between Elizabeth Warren and Sanders.

The forum began amid unconfirmed reports that Sanders told Warren at a December 2018 meeting that he thought a woman couldn’t win the White House in 2020. Some commentators accused Warren's team of planting the story as Sanders has surged in the polls, and Sanders has vigorously denied the claim in question.

Following a media frenzy, Warren said in a statement that "I have no interest in discussing this private meeting any further because Bernie and I have far more in common than our differences on punditry.”


The brouhaha smashed the more than yearlong non-aggression pact between the two. And they bring gender back into the spotlight and open up Sanders to allegations of sexism. This, after the independent senator earlier this cycle survived a controversy over claims of sexual harassment by some of his male staffers on his 2016 presidential campaign.

The feuding was likely to expand to include nearly every candidate on stage -- although several previous crowd favorites won't be returning. The CNN debate at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa debate marks the first forum with an all-white lineup. Businessman Andrew Yang, an Asian American candidate who appeared in the December debate, failed to hit the polling threshold for Tuesday's event.

And New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker ended his campaign on Monday after he didn't make the debate stage, leaving just one black candidate — former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick — in the race.


Sanders, meanwhile, has recently stepped up his attacks on Biden over his past support of the Iraq war, broad free-trade agreements and entitlement reform, among other issues. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who has had several strong debates, will be looking for another opportunity as she remains mired in the middle of the pack in polling.

Billionaire Tom Steyer will have to answer criticism that he's trying to buy his way to the White House. And with two surveys showing Buttigieg losing support in Iowa, the former mayor of South Bend will need a breakout moment to regain strength before the caucuses.

“This is one of the last times Pete will be on national television before caucusgoers need to make up their minds,” an email from Buttigieg’s campaign stressed to supporters.

The showdown takes place as the latest polls indicate a very close contest among former Biden, Sanders, Warren and Buttigieg both in Iowa and New Hampshire, which holds the first presidential primary in the White House race just eight days after Iowa’s caucuses. Surveys in both states show plenty of voters remain undecided or willing to change their minds on whom they’re supporting.

“All the polling data that I’ve read and seen is … it’s a toss-up,” Biden told campaign volunteers at a Des Moines field office on the eve of the debate.

Fox News' Paul Steinhauser in Des Monies, Iowa, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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