The Latest: Democratic debaters tackle China, Israel policy


LOS ANGELES (AP) – The Latest on the Democratic presidential debate (all times local):

9:20 p.m.

A possible boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympics? South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg says “any tool should be on the table” in dealing with China.

Buittigieg and other Democrats seeking their party’s presidential nomination are advocating a mix of policies in response to China’s mass detention camps for Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities.

Billionaire Tom Steyer is stressing the need for a relationship with China, a “frenemy,” to combat the global challenge of climate change.

Asked specifically about Chinese military buildup, former Vice President Joe Biden says China would need 17 years to achieve the status of the U.S. military. He also says it must be clear the U.S. will not abide by any human rights abuses on the part of China.

The Chinese government has long struggled with its 11 million-strong Uighur population, an ethnic Turkic minority native to Xinjiang province, and in recent years has detained 1 million or more Uighurs and other minorities in the camps.


9:15 p.m.

Bernie Sanders is calling for a U.S. policy toward Israel that makes space for both Israeli security and a “pro-Palestinian” perspective.

Sanders, who would be the first Jewish president if he wins the Democratic nomination in 2020 and bests President Donald Trump, has called for the United States to consider conditioning aid to Israel as a means to nudge its government away from expanding settlements in the West Bank and other moves that have impeded Israel-Palestinian relations.

Two of the other Democratic presidential candidates debating in Los Angeles on Thursday, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg, have joined Sanders in leaving the door open to such conditions on U.S. aid to Israel.


9:05 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is pushing back against criticism that it’s naive to suggest a Democratic president could negotiate with some Republicans.

Harking back to his eight years as former President Barack Obama’s trusted adviser, he says it’s time to build on that work and invite Republicans to participate. Besides, he says, with a Democrat in the White House Republicans won’t have President Donald Trump “to intimidate those half a dozen Republicans we may need.”

Subtly jabbing Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Biden says he refuses “to accept the notion, as some on this stage do,” that compromise is a thing of the past. He says, “If that’s the case, we’re dead as a country.”

Given the impeachment proceedings that have touched on Trump’s questions about Biden’s tenure and his son’s work in Ukraine, Biden says he should be the one angriest with Republicans for “the way they’ve attacked me, my son and my family.”


9 p.m.

Race took the debate stage toward the end of the first hour, as questions of diversity were posed to candidates.

Asked why he was the lone minority candidate on the debate stage, Andrew Yang said most people of color don’t donate to political campaigns because they lack the disposable income.

Yang, who is Asian American, lamented the absence of California Sen. Kamala Harris – who suspended her campaign earlier this month despite qualifying for the debate – and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, whom Yang predicted would return to the debate stage.

He then turned the issue into a pitch for his candidacy, telling moderators his proposed “freedom dividend,” which would give every American $1,000 a month, would “guarantee” he would not be the only minority candidate on stage.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar was asked what she would say to white Americans uncomfortable with the idea of becoming a racial minority. She responded that the country must “strive for a more perfect union,” which means including people of color in economic progress and fighting voter suppression.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said climate change is also part of addressing racial inequality, and said all candidates “have an obligation” to speak to issues such as criminal justice, the economy and the environment. particularly in the absence of candidates of color.


8:50 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is acknowledging that the blue-collar workers whose causes he champions may suffer in a push to make American business greener.

Biden was asked at Thursday night’s Democratic presidential debate if such jobs will likely be lost with a move toward cleaner energy. He responded that “the answer is yes.”

But Biden says those same workers would benefit from the higher-paying jobs created in such an economy.

Billionaire Tom Steyer agrees with Biden on job creation, while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is pushing for a declaration of a national emergency on the need to address climate change.


8:35 p.m.

Democratic senators are demonstrating divergent views on free trade, with Vermont’s Bernie Sanders vowing to vote against the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement and Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar promising to support it.

Though Sanders says it would make “modest” improvements in the economy, he says nowhere in the agreement do the words “climate change” appear. What’s more, the Democratic Socialist says, it’s “not going to stop corporations from moving to Mexico” to take advantage of cheaper labor.

However, Klobuchar says the agreement includes improved environmental and labor standards, and a better agreement for the U.S. on pharmaceutical sales.

Klobuchar says the agreement can “encourage work made in America.”


8:20 p.m.

As the national impeachment debate turns toward the U.S. Senate, the Democrats vying for their party’s nomination to replace President Donald Trump are united in pushing for his removal from office.

On the debate stage Thursday night, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota says Trump’s situation is even more serious than the events that brought down Richard Nixon, calling Trump’s alleged misdeeds “a global Watergate.” Referencing the 1974 book by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, Klobuchar wondered of Trump, “If he is so innocent, then why doesn’t he have all the president’s men testifying?”

Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren – who, along with Klobuchar, will likely participate in an impeachment trial early next year – are focusing on the need to eradicate what they see as Trump’s corruption. Former Vice President Joe Biden is calling Trump’s removal “a constitutional necessity.”


7:55 p.m.

Seven candidates are taking the stage for the final Democratic presidential debate of 2019.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren are clustered at the top of the field. They are being joined by South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, entrepreneur Andrew Yang and billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer.

The Los Angeles debate in the heart of the holiday season is overshadowed by Congress’ historic impeachment vote, raising the prospect that it may draw the smallest audience yet. But the stakes are not small in the broader tug-of-war between passionate progressives and pragmatic moderates who are battling over the party’s positions on core issues like health care, immigration, education and trade.

Democratic presidential candidate South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during a Democratic presidential primary debate Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)