It Was Clinton's Best Debate, but Big Loser Wasn't Bernie

Henry Kissinger came under merciless attack from Bernie Sanders
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 12, 2016 4:25 AM CST
Updated Feb 12, 2016 6:25 AM CST
Critics Call Debate for Clinton
Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton shake hands after a Democratic presidential primary debate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.   (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

After Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders faced off in the first Democratic debate since Sanders' big win in New Hampshire, critics agreed there was one big loser: Henry Kissinger, who came under merciless attack from Bernie Sanders. "I'm proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend," Sanders told Clinton. Here's what people had to say about the candidates' performances:

  • "This was Clinton's best debate of the election," decides Chris Cilliza at the Washington Post. She was "in total control all night" and scored plenty of points against Sanders, he writes, while Sanders stumbled despite an improved command of foreign policy—and will probably regret claiming that he will be better on race relations than President Obama.

  • Clinton didn't score any home runs but she still won, according to Matthew Yglesias at Vox. Nothing happened that would cause Clinton supporters to think twice, he writes, while voters getting a first look at Sanders would not have been impressed: The candidate turned in a "dangerously complacent debate performance" and failed to assuage "doubts about his electability" or add anything new to his critique of Clinton.
  • Scot Lehigh at the Boston Globe also calls the debate for Clinton. She came out on top by "presenting herself as a deeply knowledgeable candidate whose progressive stands are tempered by real-world practicality," he writes. This was the case in her attacks on Sanders' plan for a single-payer health care system, where Clinton stressed that the "focus should be on expanding coverage and care to those who still lack it, rather than starting from scratch and overhauling the entirety of the system."
  • Both candidates "performed well initially in talking about systemic racism and reforming the criminal justice system," but the "calm, cool, and collected" Clinton prevailed, writes Lucia Graves at the Guardian. Sanders, she writes, "was oddly on the defensive despite what has been momentum in his favor, starting out the night more combative than Clinton and wasting his time on petty one-liners."
Click for some of the debate's best lines. (More Democratic debate stories.)

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