Key takeaways from Democratic presidential debate in Iowa

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Democratic presidential candidates former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, left, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., talk while Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., heads off stage at a break Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020, during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

DES MOINES – Some key takeaways from Tuesday's Democratic presidential debate in Des Moines, the final forum before the Iowa caucuses:

CIVILITY AND SUBSTANCE OVER FIGHTING AND FRICTION

After the United States’ killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Democrats were bracing for fights over foreign policy. Instead, a whole lot of substance broke out.

There was a brief skirmish between Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who opposed the Iraq War, and former vice president Joe Biden, who apologized for supporting for it. But most of the opening 30-minute discussion — one-quarter of the time set for the debate — focused on the future.

Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and California businessman Tom Steyer tried to argue that their outside-the-Beltway resumes would be benefits in the Oval Office. “What we are hearing is 20 years of mistakes by the American government in the Middle East,” Steyer said. “It’s time for someone from the outside having a strategic view on what we’re trying to do.”

The two liberals, Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, argued the United States needed to pull its troops entirely from the Middle East and Afghanistan. “The American people are sick and tired of endless wars that have cost us trillions of dollars,” Sanders said.

Warren said generals keep arguing the United States is “turning the corner” in its fights. “We’ve turned the corner so many times we’re going in circles in these regions,” she quipped.

The two voices backing traditional foreign policy were Biden and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who both argued for at least a small military presence remaining in the Middle East.