Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders castigated President Donald Trump’s management of the coronavirus epidemic in a Democrat Debate on Sunday and offered competing views of leadership during a crisis that has deepened and disrupted the everyday life of Americans.
In their first one-on-one debate, the two Democratic candidates faced with Trump in the November elections clashed over the correct approach to the pandemic and other pressing issues, Biden arguing that his approach to leadership would get quick results and Sanders pushing for more, more fundamental changes.
Biden, the favorite in the Democratic race, promised for the first time during the debate to choose a woman as a running mate if he is the Democratic candidate.
“If I am elected president, my cabinet, my administration will be like the country, and I am committed to appointing and choosing a woman as vice-president,” said Biden.
Sanders was less willing to commit to choosing a woman, saying he would “in all probability”.
The debate came two days before Tuesday’s nomination competitions in the big states of Ohio, Illinois, Florida and Arizona, where another Biden winning streak would give him an almost unassailable lead among the delegates on Sanders.
But the hope that the debate would be a first step towards party unity before the November 3 election against Trump seemed to wane during the showdown, as the two candidates repeatedly bickered over their leadership approach.
“People are looking for results, not a revolution,” said Biden, drawing on Sanders’ promises to lead a political revolution to wipe out his anti-business economic agenda.
Sanders, a Democratic socialist senator from Vermont, said his long-standing support for far-reaching economic and social reforms was in fact evidence of his leadership ability and contrasted with what he saw as the sometimes changing views of Biden.
“I don’t have to rethink my position,” said Sanders. “This is what leadership is.”
The two candidates assaulted Trump over his management of the coronavirus epidemic, saying he had helped raise concerns by spending weeks minimizing the threat before declaring a national emergency on Friday.
The debate, originally scheduled for Phoenix, took place in a Washington studio without an audience, a decision made to limit possible exposure to the virus – a sign of the depth with which the campaign routine has been reshaped by the global pandemic. .
When the two candidates spoke, they smiled and elbowed – heeding the advice of public health officials to avoid handshakes.
“Like a war”
Biden recounted his experience as vice president in the administration of President Barack Obama in the fight against the Ebola outbreak in 2014. He presented a coronavirus plan to make the tests free and widely available, establish mobile sites and driving facilities in each state and provide more help for small businesses affected by the resulting economic downturn.
He said he was willing to call the military to help local officials build hospitals and take other necessary emergency measures.
“It’s like a war, and in a war, you do everything that needs to be done to take care of your people,” said Biden.
Sanders suggested that the first step in responding to the epidemic would be “to silence this president now” because he was undermining the response of public health officials.
“We must learn that you cannot lie to the American people. You cannot be less than frank about the nature of the crisis,” said Sanders, adding that the crisis demonstrated the need for his signature on the proposal for Medicare for All health, which would replace private health insurance with a government-run system.
“Let us be honest and understand that this coronavirus pandemic exposes the incredible weakness and dysfunction of our current health system,” he said.
Biden opposed the Medicare for All plan, saying it is too costly and prefers to rely on the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, by adding a public option for those who wish.
“It has nothing to do with the legitimate concern about income inequality in America. It is real. But it does not affect the need for us to act quickly and very thoroughly and in concert with all the forces that we have to exert, “he added. said.
Biden, 77, and Sanders, 78, were forced to cancel public events and quit the election campaign during the crisis. They said they were taking personal steps to stay healthy – avoiding crowds, washing their hands, and putting campaign workers to work at home.
The two candidates promised to support the possible candidate, and in a bitter exchange, the repeated criticisms which had been raised on the electoral campaign previously, Sanders affirming that Biden was indebted to special interests and Biden accusing Sanders of being too favorable to the gun industry.
Earlier today, Biden’s campaign wooed progressive Sanders supporters and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who dropped his offer to the White House earlier this month but did not approve of anyone, promising to support a Sanders plan to make public colleges free for families with incomes below $ 125,000 per year.