WASHINGTON (JTA) — Democratic candidates for the party’s presidential nomination linked, as they have in previous debates, President Donald Trump’s rhetoric to white supremacist violence.
“He didn’t pull the trigger but he’s certainly been tweeting out the ammunition,” Sen. Kamala Harris, D-CA., said of Trump Wednesday evening at the debate in Houston, referring to the Aug. 3 massacre in El Paso. The alleged gunman, who targeted mostly Latinos, believed in theories that migrants were seeking to replace whites.
Other candidates linking Trump’s rhetoric to the attacks were Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman who is from El Paso, and Julian Castro, the former Housing secretary who also is from Texas.
Trump has spoken of migrant “invasions” of the United States without evidence but also has repudiated the racism behind the El Paso killing and other massacres. The gunman who last year murdered 11 Jewish worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue also referred to “replacement” theories.
Blaming Trump for an increase in white supremacist violence has been a feature of virtually every Democratic debate.
Although some 20 or so candidates remain in the race, only ten made the cut for the Houston debate, broadcast on ABC, based on their fundraising and polling. The others were former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, businessman Andrew Yang and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Much of the debate focused on health care and trade policy. Foreign policy barely came up, although Booker faulted Trump for abandoning the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in depicting Trump as mercurial. (Booker, after the debate, speaking on ABC, took issue with critics who faulted candidates for occasionally speaking Spanish. “Thank God, Baruch Hashem, that we’re doing multilingual tonight,” said Booker, who is familiar with Jewish texts.)
In their summaries, the candidates were asked to describe overcoming moments of resilience. Sanders, who is Jewish, recalled “growing up in a rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn New York, the son of an immigrant who came to this country without a nickel in his pocket.”
The debate’s most dramatic moment was when Castro, 44, mocked Biden, 76 for what Castro said was a memory lapse. Other candidates on the stage rebuked Castro.