Transcript: Read the Full Text of the Primetime Democratic Debate

Updated: Oct 26, 2015 5:01 PM UTC | Originally published: Oct 14, 2015

The Democratic presidential candidates met in Las Vegas for a primetime debate on CNN.

At the debate were former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

The moderators were CNN anchors Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon, political correspondent Dana Bash and CNN en Espanol anchor Juan Carlos Lopez.

Here is a full transcript of what they said, courtesy of CNN.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening everyone. We are live at the Wynn Resort in Las Vegas for the CNN/Facebook Democratic Presidential Debate. Welcome.

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The five major candidates are about to face off for the first time in a primary race that is a lot more competitive than many people had expected.

Welcome. I'm Anderson Cooper. Thanks for joining us. We're just seconds away from introducing the candidates to viewers in the United States and watching right now around the world.

This debate is airing on CNN, CNN en Espanol, and CNN International. It's also being broadcast on the Westwood One Radio Network. I'll be the moderator tonight. I'll also be joined in the questioning by my CNN colleagues, our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash; CNN en Espanol anchor Juan Carlos Lopez, and CNN anchor Don Lemon who will share questions from Democrats nationwide.

We've teamed up with Facebook to send a campaign camper around the country for the past three weeks. Thousands of people stepped inside to record their questions for the candidates on video. Millions more have weighed in on Facebook. Now it's time to meet the candidates.

Joining us on stage, please welcome former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee.

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Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley.

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Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

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And former Senator Jim Webb of Virginia.

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Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Democratic candidates for president of the United States.

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Now, everybody, please rise for our national anthem, performed by nine-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, Sheryl Crow.

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COOPER: I want to thank Sheryl Crow. The candidates are here. The crowd is certainly ready. The first Democratic debate will begin right after this.

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COOPER: There is certainly a lot of excitement in this room tonight, and no doubt around the country. We are back in the Wynn Resort in Las Vegas in the presidential battleground state of Nevada for the first Democratic debate of the 2016 campaign.

I'm Anderson Cooper. Thanks for joining us. We've already welcomed the candidates on stage. They are in place at their podiums. Before we dive into the issues, I want to quickly explain some of the groundrules tonight.

As the moderator, I'll ask questions, followups and guide the discussion. I'll be joined in the questioning by CNN's Juan Carlos Lopez and Dana Bash, a well as Don Lemon who will share questions from Democrats around the country. Each candidate will get one minute to answer questions, and 30 seconds for followups and rebuttals. I'll give candidates time to respond if they have been singled out for criticism.

Our viewers should know that we have lights that are visible to the candidates to warn them when their time is up.

I want the candidates to be able to introduce themselves to our audience. Each candidate will have two minutes to introduce themselves.

Let's begin with Governor Chafee.

Governor?

FORMER GOV. LINCOLN CHAFEE, D-R.I.: Thank you, Anderson.

Thank you, CNN, and thank you Facebook for organizing this debate.

Not only will Americans be electing a new president next year, we also will be electing a world leader. Voters should assess the candidate's experience, character and vision for the future as they make this important decision.

I'm the only one running for president that has been a mayor, a United States senator, and a governor. As mayor, I brought labor peace to my city and kept taxes down. I was reelected three times. As a senator, I earned a reputation for courageous votes against the Bush-Cheney tax cuts the favored the wealthy, against the tragedy of the Iraq war, for environmental stewardship, for protection of our civil liberties. I served on the Foreign Relations Committee and I chaired the Middle East Subcommittee for four years.

As governor, I came in at the depths of the recession and we turned my state around. Rhode Island had the biggest drop of the unemployment rate over my four budgets of all but one state. It happens to be Nevada, where we're having this debate. I'm very proud that over my almost 30 years of public service, I have had no scandals. I've always been honest. I have the courage to take the long-term view, and I've shown good judgment. I have high ethical standards.

As we look to the future, I want to address the income inequality, close the gap between the haves and the have-nots. I want to address climate change, a real threat to our planet. And I believe in prosperity through peace. I want to end these wars.

I look forward to the discussion ahead.

Thank you (APPLAUSE)

COOPER: Thank you very much, Governor.

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Senator Webb, you have two minutes.

FORMER SEN. JIM WEBB, D-VA.: Thank you.

You know, people are disgusted with the way that money has corrupted our political process, intimidating incumbents and empowering Wall Street every day, the turnstile government that we see, and also the power of the financial sector in both parties.

WEBB: They're looking for a leader who understands how the system works, who has not been coopted by it, and also has a proven record of accomplishing different things. I have a record of working across the political aisle. I've also spent more than half of my professional life away from politics in the independent world of being an author, a journalist, and a sole proprietor.

In government service, I've fought and bled for our country in Vietnam as a Marine. I spent years as Assistant Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Navy -- in the Reagan administration.

In the senate, I spoke about economic fairness and social justice from day one. I also wrote and passed the best piece of veterans education legislation in history, the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill. I brought criminal justice reform out of the political shadows and into the national discussion. I led what later became called the Strategic Pivot to Asia two years before President Obama was elected.

I know where my loyalties are.

My mother grew up in the poverty of east Arkansas chopping cotton, picking strawberries. Three of her seven siblings died in childhood. My wife, Hong, came to this country as a refugee from war torn Vietnam -- learned English, a language that was not spoken at home, and earned her way into Cornell Law School. I have five daughters. Amy works with disabled veterans, Sarah is an emergency room nurse, Julia is a massage therapist, Emily and Georgia are still in school. My son Jim fought as an infantry Marine on the bloody streets of Ramadi.

You may be sure that in a Webb administration, the highest priority will be the working people who every day go out and make this country stronger at home, and who give us the right reputation and security overseas under a common sense foreign policy.

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COOPER: Governor O'Malley, you have two minutes.

FORMER GOV. MARTIN O'MALLEY, D-MD.: My name is Martin O'Malley, former Mayor of Baltimore, former governor of Maryland, a life long democrat, and most importantly, a husband, and a father.

My wife Katie and I have four great kids, Grace, and Tara, and William and Jack. And, like you, there is nothing we wouldn't do to give them healthier and better lives. There are some things that I have learned to do better in life than others. And, after 15 years of executive experience, I have learned how to be an effective leader.

Whether it was raising the minimum wage, making our public schools the best in America, passing marriage equality, the DREAM Act, and comprehensive gun safety legislation, I have learned how to get things done because I am very clear about my principals.

Thanks to President Obama, our country has come a long way since the Wall Street crash of 2008. Our country's doing better, we are creating jobs again. But we elected a president, not a magician, and there is urgent work that needs to be done right now. For there is a -- deep injustice, an economic injustice that threatens to tear our country apart, and it will not solve itself. Injustice does not solve itself.

What I'm talking about is this, our middle class is shrinking. Our poor families are becoming poorer, and 70 percent of us are earning the same, or less than we were 12 years ago. We need new leadership, and we need action. The sort of action that will actually make wages go up again for all American families.

Our economy isn't money, it's people. It's all of our people, and so we must invest in our country, and the potential of our kids to make college a debt free option for all of our families, instead of settling our kids with a lifetime of crushing debt.

And, we must square our shoulders to the great challenge of climate change and make this threat our opportunity. The future is what we make of it. We are all in this together. And, the question in this election is whether you and I still have the ability to give our kids a better future. I believe we do, that is why I am running for president, and I need your help.

Thank you.

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COOPER: Governor O'Malley, thank you very much. Senator Sanders.

SEN. BERNARD SANDERS, I-VT.: Anderson, thank you very much. I think most Americans understand that our country today faces a series of unprecedented crises. The middle class of this country for the last 40 years has been disappearing. Millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages, and yet almost all of the new income and wealth being created is going to the top one percent.

As a result of this disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, our campaign finance system is corrupt and is undermining American democracy. Millionaires and billionaires are pouring unbelievable sums of money into the political process in order to fund super PACs and to elect candidates who represent their interests, not the interests of working people.

Today, the scientific community is virtually unanimous: climate change is real, it is caused by human activity, and we have a moral responsibility to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy and leave this planet a habitable planet for our children and our grandchildren.

Today in America, we have more people in jail than any other country on Earth. African-American youth unemployment is 51 percent. Hispanic youth unemployment is 36 percent. It seems to me that instead of building more jails and providing more incarceration, maybe -- just maybe -- we should be putting money into education and jobs for our kids.

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What this campaign is about is whether we can mobilize our people to take back our government from a handful of billionaires and create the vibrant democracy we know we can and should have. Thank you.

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COOPER: Secretary Clinton?

FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: Well, thank you, and thanks to everyone for hosting this first of the Democratic debates.

I'm Hillary Clinton. I have been proud and privileged to serve as first lady, as a senator from New York, and as secretary of state. I'm the granddaughter of a factory worker and the grandmother of a wonderful one-year-old child. And every day, I think about what we need to do to make sure that opportunity is available not just for her, but for all of our children. I have spent a very long time -- my entire adult life -- looking for ways to even the odds to help people have a chance to get ahead, and, in particular, to find the ways for each child to live up to his or her God-given potential.

I've traveled across our country over the last months listening and learning, and I've put forward specific plans about how we're going to create more good-paying jobs: by investing in infrastructure and clean energy, by making it possible once again to invest in science and research, and taking the opportunity posed by climate change to grow our economy.

At the center of my campaign is how we're going to raise wages. Yes, of course, raise the minimum wage, but we have to do so much more, including finding ways so that companies share profits with the workers who helped to make them.

And then we have to figure out how we're going to make the tax system a fairer one. Right now, the wealthy pay too little and the middle class pays too much. So I have specific recommendations about how we're going to close those loopholes, make it clear that the wealthy will have to pay their fair share, and have a series of tax cuts for middle-class families.

And I want to do more to help us balance family and work. I believe in equal pay for equal work for women, but I also believe it's about time we had paid family leave for American families and join the rest of the world.

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During the course of the evening tonight, I'll have a chance to lay out all of my plans and the work that I've done behind them. But for me, this is about bringing our country together again. And I will do everything I can to heal the divides -- the divides economically, because there's too much inequality; the racial divides; the continuing discrimination against the LGBT community -- so that we work together and, yes, finally, fathers will be able to say to their daughters, you, too, can grow up to be president.

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COOPER: Thank you, all. It is time to start the debate.

Are you all ready?

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All right. Let's begin. We're going to be discussing a lot of the issues, many of the issues, important issues that you have brought up. But I want to begin with concerns that voters have about each of the candidates here on this stage that they have about each of you.

Secretary Clinton, I want to start with you. Plenty of politicians evolve on issues, but even some Democrats believe you change your positions based on political expediency.

You were against same-sex marriage. Now you're for it. You defended President Obama's immigration policies. Now you say they're too harsh. You supported his trade deal dozen of times. You even called it the "gold standard". Now, suddenly, last week, you're against it.

Will you say anything to get elected?

CLINTON: Well, actually, I have been very consistent. Over the course of my entire life, I have always fought for the same values and principles, but, like most human beings -- including those of us who run for office -- I do absorb new information. I do look at what's happening in the world.

You know, taker the trade deal. I did say, when I was secretary of state, three years ago, that I hoped it would be the gold standard. It was just finally negotiated last week, and in looking at it, it didn't meet my standards. My standards for more new, good jobs for Americans, for raising wages for Americans.

And I want to make sure that I can look into the eyes of any middle-class American and say, "this will help raise your wages." And I concluded I could not.

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, though, with all due respect, the question is really about political expediency. Just in July, New Hampshire, you told the crowd you'd, quote, "take a back seat to no one when it comes to progressive values."

Last month in Ohio, you said you plead guilty to, quote, "being kind of moderate and center." Do you change your political identity based on who you're talking to? CLINTON: No. I think that, like most people that I know, I have a range of views, but they are rooted in my values and my experience. And I don't take a back seat to anyone when it comes to progressive experience and progressive commitment.

You know, when I left law school, my first job was with the Children's Defense Fund, and for all the years since, I have been focused on how we're going to un-stack the deck, and how we're going to make it possible for more people to have the experience I had.

You know, to be able to come from a grandfather who was a factory worker, a father who was a small business person, and now asking the people of America to elect me president.

COOPER: Just for the record, are you a progressive, or are you a moderate?

CLINTON: I'm a progressive. But I'm a progressive who likes to get things done. And I know...

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...how to find common ground, and I know how to stand my ground, and I have proved that in every position that I've had, even dealing with Republicans who never had a good word to say about me, honestly. But we found ways to work together on everything from...

COOPER: Secretary...

CLINTON: ...reforming foster care and adoption to the Children's Health Insurance Program, which insures...

COOPER: ...thank you...

CLINTON: ...8 million kids. So I have a long history of getting things done, rooted in the same values...

COOPER: ...Senator...

CLINTON: ...I've always had.

COOPER: Senator Sanders. A Gallup poll says half the country would not put a socialist in the White House. You call yourself a democratic socialist. How can any kind of socialist win a general election in the United States?

SANDERS: Well, we're going to win because first, we're going to explain what democratic socialism is.

And what democratic socialism is about is saying that it is immoral and wrong that the top one-tenth of 1 percent in this country own almost 90 percent -- almost -- own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. That it is wrong, today, in a rigged economy, that 57 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent.

That when you look around the world, you see every other major country providing health care to all people as a right, except the United States. You see every other major country saying to moms that, when you have a baby, we're not going to separate you from your newborn baby, because we are going to have -- we are going to have medical and family paid leave, like every other country on Earth.

Those are some of the principles that I believe in, and I think we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people.

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COOPER: Denmark is a country that has a population -- Denmark is a country that has a population of 5.6 million people. The question is really about electability here, and that's what I'm trying to get at.

You -- the -- the Republican attack ad against you in a general election -- it writes itself. You supported the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. You honeymooned in the Soviet Union. And just this weekend, you said you're not a capitalist.

Doesn't -- doesn't that ad write itself?

SANDERS: Well, first of all, let's look at the facts. The facts that are very simple. Republicans win when there is a low voter turnout, and that is what happened last November.

Sixty-three percent of the American people didn't vote, Anderson. Eighty percent of young people didn't vote. We are bringing out huge turnouts, and creating excitement all over this country.

Democrats at the White House on down will win, when there is excitement and a large voter turnout, and that is what this campaign is doing.

COOPER: You don't consider yourself a capitalist, though?

SANDERS: Do I consider myself part of the casino capitalist process by which so few have so much and so many have so little by which Wall Street's greed and recklessness wrecked this economy? No, I don't.

I believe in a society where all people do well. Not just a handful of billionaires.

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COOPER: Just let me just be clear. Is there anybody else on the stage who is not a capitalist?

CLINTON: Well, let me just follow-up on that, Anderson, because when I think about capitalism, I think about all the small businesses that were started because we have the opportunity and the freedom in our country for people to do that and to make a good living for themselves and their families.

And I don't think we should confuse what we have to do every so often in America, which is save capitalism from itself. And I think what Senator Sanders is saying certainly makes sense in the terms of the inequality that we have.

But we are not Denmark. I love Denmark. We are the United States of America. And it's our job to rein in the excesses of capitalism so that it doesn't run amok and doesn't cause the kind of inequities we're seeing in our economic system.

But we would be making a grave mistake to turn our backs on what built the greatest middle class in the history...

COOPER: Senator Sanders?

CLINTON: ... of the world.

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SANDERS: I think everybody is in agreement that we are a great entrepreneurial nation. We have got to encourage that. Of course, we have to support small and medium-sized businesses.

But you can have all of the growth that you want and it doesn't mean anything if all of the new income and wealth is going to the top 1 percent. So what we need to do is support small and medium-sized businesses, the backbone of our economy, but we have to make sure that every family in this country gets a fair shake...

COOPER: We're going to get...

SANDERS: ... not just for billionaires.

COOPER: We're going to have a lot more on these issues. But I do want to just quickly get everybody in on the question of electability.

Governor Chafee, you've been everything but a socialist. When you were senator from Rhode Island, you were a Republican. When you were elected governor, you were an independent. You've only been a Democrat for little more than two years. Why should Democratic voters trust you won't change again?

CHAFEE: Anderson, you're looking at a block of granite when it comes to the issues. Whether it's...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: It seems like pretty soft granite. I mean, you've been a Republican, you've been an independent.

CHAFEE: Did you hear what I said? On the issues. I have not changed on the issues. I was a liberal Republican, then I was an independent, and now I'm a proud Democrat. But I have not changed on the issues.

And I open my record to scrutiny. Whether it's on the environment, a woman's right to choose, gay marriage, fiscal responsibility, aversion to foreign entanglements, using the tools of government to help the less fortunate.

Time and time again, I have never changed. You're looking at a block of granite when it comes to the issues. So I have not changed.

COOPER: Then why change labels?

CHAFEE: The party left me. There's no doubt about that. There was no room for a liberal moderate Republican in that party. I even had a primary for my reelection in 2006. I won it. But the money poured in to defeat me in Rhode Island as a Republican. That's what we were up against.

COOPER: Governor O'Malley, the concern of voters about you is that you tout our record as Baltimore's mayor. As we all know, we all saw it. That city exploded in riots and violence in April.

The current top prosecutor in Baltimore, also a Democrat, blames your zero tolerance policies for sowing the seeds of unrest. Why should Americans trust you with the country when they see what's going on in the city that you ran for more than seven years?

O'MALLEY: Yes, actually, I believe what she said was that there's a lot of policies that have led to this unrest.

But, Anderson, when I ran for mayor of Baltimore in 1999...

COOPER: She actually -- just for the record, when she was asked which policies, to name two, she said zero tolerance. I mean, there's a number of old policies that we're seeing the results of. That distress of communities, where communities don't want to step forward and say who killed a 3-year-old, it's a direct result of these failed policies.

O'MALLEY: Well, let's talk about this a little bit. One of the things that was not reported during that heartbreaking night of unrest in Baltimore was that arrests had actually fallen to a 38-year low in the year prior to the Freddie Gray's tragic death.

Anderson, when I ran for mayor of Baltimore back in 1999, it was not because our city was doing well. It was because we allowed ourselves to become the most violent, addicted, and abandoned city in America.

And I ran and promised people that together we could turn that around. And we put our city on a path to reduce violent crime, or part one (ph) crime by more than any other major city in America over the next 10 years.

I did not make our city immune to setbacks. But I attended a lot of funerals, including one for a family of seven who were firebombed in their sleep for picking up the phone in a poor African-American neighborhood and calling the police because of drug dealers on their corner.

We've saved over a thousand lives in Baltimore in the last 15 years of people working together. And the vast majority of them were young and poor and black. It wasn't easy on any day. But we saved lives and we gave our city a better future, improving police and community relations every single day that I was in office.

COOPER: In one year alone, though, 100,000 arrests were made in your city, a city of 640,000 people. The ACLU, the NAACP sued you, sued the city, and the city actually settled, saying a lot of those arrests were without probable cause.

O'MALLEY: Well, I think the key word in your followup there was the word "settle." That's true. It was settled. Arrests peaked in 2003, Anderson, but they declined every year after that as we restored peace in our poorer neighborhoods so that people could actually walk and not have to worry about their kids or their loved ones of being victims of violent crime.

Look, none of this is easy. None of us has all the answers. But together as a city, we saved a lot of lives. It was about leadership. It was about principle. And it was about bringing people together.

COOPER: Thank you, Governor.

O'MALLEY: Thank you. COOPER: Senator Webb, in 2006, you called affirmative action "state-sponsored racism." In 2010, you wrote an op/ed saying it discriminates against whites. Given that nearly half the Democratic Party is non-white, aren't you out of step with where the Democratic Party is now?

WEBB: No, actually I believe that I am where the Democratic Party traditionally has been. The Democratic Party, and the reason I've decided to run as a Democrat, has been the party that gives people who otherwise have no voice in the corridors of power a voice. And that is not determined by race.

And as a clarification, I have always supported affirmative action for African Americans. That's the way the program was originally designed because of their unique history in this country, with slavery and the Jim Crow laws that followed. What I have discussed a number of times is the idea that when we create diversity programs that include everyone, quote, "of color," other than whites, struggling whites like the families in the Appalachian mountains, we're not being true to the Democratic Party principle of elevating the level of consciousness among our people about the hardships that a lot of people who happen to be have -- by culture, by the way.

COOPER: Senator Webb, thank you very much.

Let's move on to some of the most pressing issues facing our country right now, some of the biggest issues right now in the headlines today. We're going to start with guns. The shooting in Oregon earlier this month, once again it brought the issue of guns into the national conversation. Over the last week, guns have been the most discussed political topic on Facebook by two to one.

Senator Sanders, you voted against the Brady bill that mandated background checks and a waiting period. You also supported allowing riders to bring guns in checked bags on Amtrak trains. For a decade, you said that holding gun manufacturers legally responsible for mass shootings is a bad idea. Now, you say you're reconsidering that. Which is it: shield the gun companies from lawsuits or not?

SANDERS: Let's begin, Anderson, by understanding that Bernie Sanders has a D-minus voting rating (ph) from the NRA. Let's also understand that back in 1988 when I first ran for the United States Congress, way back then, I told the gun owners of the state of Vermont and I told the people of the state of Vermont, a state which has virtually no gun control, that I supported a ban on assault weapons. And over the years, I have strongly supported instant background checks, doing away with this terrible gun show loophole. And I think we've got to move aggressively at the federal level in dealing with the straw man purchasers.

Also I believe, and I've fought for, to understand that there are thousands of people in this country today who are suicidal, who are homicidal, but can't get the healthcare that they need, the mental healthcare, because they don't have insurance or they're too poor. I believe that everybody in this country who has a mental crisis has got to get mental health counseling immediately. COOPER: Do you want to shield gun companies from lawsuits?

SANDERS: Of course not. This was a large and complicated bill. There were provisions in it that I think made sense. For example, do I think that a gun shop in the state of Vermont that sells legally a gun to somebody, and that somebody goes out and does something crazy, that that gun shop owner should be held responsible? I don't.

On the other hand, where you have manufacturers and where you have gun shops knowingly giving guns to criminals or aiding and abetting that, of course we should take action.

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, is Bernie Sanders tough enough on guns?

CLINTON: No, not at all. I think that we have to look at the fact that we lose 90 people a day from gun violence. This has gone on too long and it's time the entire country stood up against the NRA. The majority of our country...

(APPLAUSE)

... supports background checks, and even the majority of gun owners do.

Senator Sanders did vote five times against the Brady bill. Since it was passed, more than 2 million prohibited purchases have been prevented. He also did vote, as he said, for this immunity provision. I voted against it. I was in the Senate at the same time. It wasn't that complicated to me. It was pretty straightforward to me that he was going to give immunity to the only industry in America. Everybody else has to be accountable, but not the gun manufacturers. And we need to stand up and say: Enough of that. We're not going to let it continue.

(APPLAUSE)

COOPER: We're going to bring you all in on this. But, Senator Sanders, you have to give a response.

SANDERS: As a senator from a rural state, what I can tell Secretary Clinton, that all the shouting in the world is not going to do what I would hope all of us want, and that is keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have those guns and end this horrible violence that we are seeing.

I believe that there is a consensus in this country. A consensus has said we need to strengthen and expand instant background checks, do away with this gun show loophole, that we have to address the issue of mental health, that we have to deal with the strawman purchasing issue, and that when we develop that consensus, we can finally, finally do something to address this issue.

COOPER: Governor O'Malley, you passed gun legislation as governor of Maryland, but you had a Democratic-controlled legislature. President Obama couldn't convince Congress to pass gun legislation after the massacres in Aurora, in Newtown, and Charleston. How can you?

O'MALLEY: And, Anderson, I also had to overcome a lot of opposition in the leadership of my own party to get this done. Look, it's fine to talk about all of these things -- and I'm glad we're talking about these things -- but I've actually done them.

We passed comprehensive gun safety legislation, not by looking at the pollings or looking at what the polls said. We actually did it. And, Anderson, here tonight in our audience are two people that make this issue very, very real. Sandy and Lonnie Phillips are here from Colorado. And their daughter, Jessie, was one of those who lost their lives in that awful mass shooting in Aurora.

Now, to try to transform their grief, they went to court, where sometimes progress does happen when you file in court, but in this case, you want to talk about a -- a rigged game, Senator? The game was rigged. A man had sold 4,000 rounds of military ammunition to this -- this person that killed their daughter, riddled her body with five bullets, and he didn't even ask where it was going.

And not only did their case get thrown out of court, they were slapped with $200,000 in court fees because of the way that the NRA gets its way in our Congress and we take a backseat. It's time to stand up and pass comprehensive gun safety legislation as a nation.

(APPLAUSE)

COOPER: Senator Sanders, I want you to be able to respond, 30 seconds.

SANDERS: I think the governor gave a very good example about the weaknesses in that law and I think we have to take another look at it. But here is the point, Governor. We can raise our voices, but I come from a rural state, and the views on gun control in rural states are different than in urban states, whether we like it or not.

Our job is to bring people together around strong, commonsense gun legislation. I think there is a vast majority in this country who want to do the right thing, and I intend to lead the country in bringing our people together.

O'MALLEY: Senator -- Senator, excuse me.

(CROSSTALK)

O'MALLEY: Senator, it is not about rural -- Senator, it was not about rural and urban.

SANDERS: It's exactly about rural.

O'MALLEY: Have you ever been to the Eastern Shore? Have you ever been to Western Maryland? We were able to pass this and still respect the hunting traditions of people who live in our rural areas.

SANDERS: Governor...

O'MALLEY: And we did it by leading with principle, not by pandering to the NRA and backing down to the NRA.

SANDERS: Well, as somebody who has a D-minus voting record...

(CROSSTALK)

O'MALLEY: And I have an F from the NRA, Senator.

SANDERS: I don't think I am pandering. But you have not been in the United States Congress.

O'MALLEY: Well, maybe that's a healthy thing.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: And when you want to, check it out. And if you think -- if you think that we can simply go forward and pass something tomorrow without bringing people together, you are sorely mistaken.

COOPER: Let me bring in somebody who has a different viewpoint. Senator Webb, your rating from the NRA, you once had an A rating from the NRA. You've said gun violence goes down when more people are allowed to carry guns. Would encouraging more people to be armed be part of your response to a mass shooting?

WEBB: Look, there are two fundamental issues that are involved in this discussion. We need to pay respect to both of them. The first is the issue of who should be kept from having guns and using firearms. And we have done not a good job on that.

A lot of them are criminals. And a lot of the people are getting killed are members of gangs inside our urban areas. And a lot of them are mentally incapacitated. And the shooting in Virginia Tech in '07, this individual had received medical care for mental illness from three different professionals who were not allowed to share the information.

So we do need background checks. We need to keep the people who should not have guns away from them. But we have to respect the tradition in this country of people who want to defend themselves and their family from violence.

COOPER: Senator...

WEBB: May I? People are going back and forth here for 10 minutes here. There are people at high levels in this government who have bodyguards 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The average American does not have that, and deserves the right to be able to protect their family.

COOPER: Senator -- Governor Chafee, you have an F rating from the NRA, what do you think about what Senator Webb just said?

CHAFEE: Yes, I have a good record of voting for gun commonsense safety legislation, but the reality is, despite these tragedies that happen time and time again, when legislators step up to pass commonsense gun safety legislation, the gun lobby moves in and tells the people they're coming to take away your guns.

And, they're successful at it, in Colorado and others states, the legislators that vote for commonsense gun safety measures then get defeated. I even saw in Rhode Island. So, I would bring the gun lobby in and say we've got to change this. Where can we find common ground? Wayne Lapierre from the NRA, whoever it is, the leaders. Come one, we've go to change this. We're not coming to take away your guns, we believe in the Second Amendment, but let's find common ground here.

COOPER: I want to...

O'MALLEY: ...Anderson, when the NRA wrote to everyone in our state -- when the NRA wrote to members in our state and told people with hunting traditions lies about what our comprehensive gun safety legislation is, I wrote right back to them and laid out what it actually did. And that's why, not only did we pass it, but the NRA didn't...

SANDERS: ...Excuse me...

O'MALLEY: ...dare to petition a referendum...

SANDERS: ...I want to make...

O'MALLEY: ...Because we built a public consensus... COOPER: ...I want to move on to another issue, which is in the headlines right now, another crisis making headlines.

Secretary Clinton, Russia, they're challenging the U.S. in Syria. According to U.S. intelligence, they've lied about who they're bombing. You spearheaded the reset with Russia. Did you underestimate the Russians, and as president, what would your response to Vladimir Putin be right now in Syria?

CLINTON: Well, first of all, we got a lot of business done with the Russians when Medvedev was the president, and not Putin. We got a nuclear arms deal, we got the Iranian sanctions, we got an ability to bring important material and equipment to our soldiers in Afghanistan.

There's no doubt that when Putin came back in and said he was going to be President, that did change the relationship. We have to stand up to his bullying, and specifically in Syria, it is important -- and I applaud the administration because they are engaged in talks right now with the Russians to make it clear that they've got to be part of the solution to try to end that bloody conflict.

And, to -- provide safe zones so that people are not going to have to be flooding out of Syria at the rate they are. And, I think it's important too that the United States make it very clear to Putin that it's not acceptable for him to be in Syria creating more chaos, bombing people on behalf of Assad, and we can't do that if we don't take more of a leadership position, which is what I'm advocating.

COOPER: Senator Sanders, what would you do differently.

SANDERS: Well, let's understand that when we talk about Syria, you're talking about a quagmire in a quagmire. You're talking about groups of people trying to overthrow Assad, other groups of people fighting ISIS. You're talking about people who are fighting ISIS using their guns to overthrow Assad, and vice versa.

I'm the former chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee, and in that capacity I learned a very powerful lesson about the cost of war, and I will do everything that I can to make sure that the United States does not get involved in another quagmire like we did in Iraq, the worst foreign policy blunder in the history of this country. We should be putting together a coalition of Arab countries who should be leading the effort. We should be supportive, but I do not support American ground troops in Syria.

COOPER: On this issue of foreign policy, I want to go to...

CLINTON: ...Well, nobody does. Nobody does, Senator Sanders.

COOPER: I want to go to Dana Bash. Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Governor Chafee, you were the only Republican in the Senate to vote against the Iraq war. You say Secretary Clinton should be disqualified from the presidency because she voted in favor of using force in Iraq. She has since said that her vote was a mistake. Why isn't that good enough? CHAFEE: Well, we just heard Senator Sanders say that it's the worst decision in American history. That's very significant, the worst decision in American history, I just heard from Senator Sanders.

So, as we look ahead, if you're going to make those poor judgment calls, a critical time in our history, we just finished with the Vietnam era, getting back into another quagmire -- if you're looking ahead, and you're looking at someone who made that poor decision in 2002 to go into Iraq when there was no real evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq -- I know because I did my homework, and, so, that's an indication of how someone will perform in the future. And that's what's important.

(APPLAUSE)

BASH: Secretary Clinton, he's questioning your judgment.

CLINTON: Well, I recall very well being on a debate stage, I think, about 25 times with then Senator Obama, debating this very issue. After the election, he asked me to become Secretary of State.

He valued my judgment, and I spent a lot of time with him...

(APPLAUSE)

...in the Situation Room, going over some very difficult issues.

You know, I -- I agree completely. We don't want American troops on the ground in Syria. I never said that. What I said was we had to put together a coalition -- in fact, something that I worked on before I left the State Department -- to do, and yes, that it should include Arabs, people in the region.

Because what I worry about is what will happen with ISIS gaining more territory, having more reach, and, frankly, posing a threat to our friends and neighbors in the region and far beyond.

So I think while you're talking about the tough decision that President Obama had to make about Osama bin Laden, where I was one of his few advisers, or putting together that coalition to impose sanctions on Iran -- I think I have a lot of evidence...

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: Senator Sanders -- Senator Sanders, I want to bring you in here. My question for you is, as a congressman, you voted against the Iraq War. You voted against the Gulf War. You're just talking about Syria, but under what circumstances would a President Sanders actually use force?

SANDERS: Let me just respond to something the secretary said. First of all, she is talking about, as I understand it, a no-fly zone in Syria, which I think is a very dangerous situation. Could lead to real problems.

Second of all, I heard the same evidence from President Bush and Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld about why we should overthrow Saddam Hussein and get involved in the -- I would urge people to go to berniesanders.com, hear what I said in 2002. And I say, without any joy in my heart, that much of what I thought would happen about the destabilization, in fact, did happen.

So I think... BASH: All right.

(APPLAUSE)

SANDERS: I think the president is trying very hard to thread a tough needle here, and that is to support those people who are against Assad, against ISIS, without getting us on the ground there, and that's the direction I believe we should have (inaudible).

COOPER: But, Senator Sanders, you didn't answer the question. Under what -- under what circumstances would you actually use force?

SANDERS: Well, obviously, I voted, when President Clinton said, "let's stop ethnic cleansing in Kosovo," I voted for that. I voted to make sure that Osama bin Laden was held accountable in Afghanistan.

When our country is threatened, or when our allies are threatened, I believe that we need coalitions to come together to address the major crises of this country. I do not support the United States getting involved in unilateral action.

(UNKNOWN): You're at work with our allies.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I'm gonna bring you all in on this. Governor -- Governor O'Malley, Secretary Clinton...

SANDERS: I don't believe that any...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Secretary Clinton voted to authorize military force in Iraq, supported more troops in Afghanistan. As Secretary of State, she wanted to arm Syrian rebels and push for the bombing of Libya. Is she too quick to use military force?

O'MALLEY: Anderson, no president -- no commander in chief -- should take the military option off the table, even if most of us would agree that it should be the last option.

What disturbed people so much about -- and I would agree with Senator Sanders on this -- leading us into Iraq under false pretenses and telling us, as a people, that there were weapons of mass destruction there was -- was one of the worst blunders in modern American history.

But the reason why people remain angry about it is because people feel like a lot of our legislators got railroaded in a war fever and by polls. And I remember being at a dinner shortly before that invasion. People were talking at -- and saying, "it'll take us just a couple years to rebuild democracy," and I thought, "has this world gone mad?"

Whenever we go -- and contrary to John Quincy Adams' advice -- "searching the world for monsters to destroy," and when we use political might to take a -- at the expense of democratic principle, we hurt ourselves, and we hurt our (inaudible).

COOPER: Does she -- does she want to use military force too rapidly?

O'MALLEY: I believe that, as president, I would not be so quick to pull for a military tool. I believe that a no-fly zone in Syria, at this time, actually, Secretary, would be a mistake.

You have to enforce no-fly zones, and I believe, especially with the Russian air force in the air, it could lead to an escalation because of an accident that we would deeply regret.

I support President Obama. I think we have to play a long game, and I think, ultimately -- you want to talk about blunders? I think Assad's invasion of Syria will be seen as a blunder.

COOPER: Governor O'Malley, just for the record, on the campaign trail, you've been saying that Secretary Clinton is always quick for the -- for the military intervention. Senator -- Secretary Clinton, you can respond.

CLINTON: Well, first of all, I...

WEBB: Anderson, can I come into this discussion at some point?

COOPER: Well -- yes, you'll be coming in next, but she was directly quoted, Senator.

WEBB: Thank you. I've been standing over here for about ten minutes, trying.

COOPER: OK.

WEBB: It's just -- it's gone back and forth over there.

COOPER: Secretary?

CLINTON: Well, I am in the middle, here, and...

(LAUGHTER)

Lots of things coming from all directions.

WEBB: You got the lucky (inaudible).

CLINTON: You know, I have to say, I was very pleased when Governor O'Malley endorsed me for president in 2008, and I enjoyed his strong support in that campaign. And I consider him, obviously, a friend.

Let me say -- because there's a lot of loose talk going on here -- we are already flying in Syria just as we are flying in Iraq. The president has made a very tough decision. What I believe and why I have advocated that the no-fly zone -- which of course would be in a coalition -- be put on the table is because I'm trying to figure out what leverage we have to get Russia to the table. You know, diplomacy is not about getting to the perfect solution. It's about how you balance the risks.

COOPER: Thank you.

CLINTON: And I think we have an opportunity here -- and I know that inside the administration this is being hotly debated -- to get that leverage to try to get the Russians to have to deal with everybody in the region and begin to move toward a political, diplomatic solution in Syria.

COOPER: Thank you, Secretary.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Senator Webb, you said as president you would never have used military force in Libya and that the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was, in your words, "inevitable." Should Secretary Clinton have seen that attack coming?

WEBB: Look, let's start -- I've been trying to get in this conversation for about 10 minutes -- let's start with why Russia is in Syria right now. There are three strategic failings that have allowed this to occur. The first was the invasion of Iraq, which destabilized ethnic elements in Iraq and empowered Iran. The second was the Arab Spring, which created huge vacuums in Libya and in Syria that allowed terrorist movements to move in there. And the third was the recent deal allowing Iran to move forward and eventually acquire a nuclear weapon, which sent bad signals, bad body language into the region about whether we are acquiescing in Iran becoming a stronger piece of the formula in that part of the world.

Now, I say this as someone who spent five years in the Pentagon and who opposed the war in Iraq, whose son fought in Iraq, I've fought in Vietnam. But if you want a place where we need to be in terms of our national strategy, a focus, the greatest strategic threat that we have right now is resolving our relationship with China. And we need to do this because of their aggression in the region. We need to do it because of the way they treat their own people.

COOPER: Senator...

WEBB: And I would say this. I've been waiting for 10 minutes. I will say this.

COOPER: You're over your time as of now.

WEBB: I will -- well, you've let a lot of people go over their time. I would say this...

COOPER: You agreed to these debate rules.

WEBB: ... to the unelected, authoritarian government of China: You do not own the South China Sea. You do not have the right to conduct cyber warfare against tens of millions of American citizens. And in a Webb administration, we will do something about that.

COOPER: Senator Sanders, I want you to be able to respond. SANDERS: Pardon me?

COOPER: I'd like you to be able to respond and get in on this.

SANDERS: Well, I think Mr. Putin is going to regret what he is doing. I think that when he gets into that...

COOPER: He doesn't seem to be the type of guy to regret a lot.

SANDERS: Well, I think he's already regretting what he did in Crimea and what he is doing in the Ukraine. I think he is really regretting the decline of his economy. And I think what he is trying to do now is save some face. But I think when Russians get killed in Syria and when he gets bogged down, I think the Russian people are going to give him a message that maybe they should come home, maybe they should start working with the United States to rectify the situation now.

COOPER: Secretary Clinton, on the campaign trail, Governor Webb has said that he would never have used military force in Libya and that the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was inevitable. Should you have seen that attack coming?

CLINTON: Well, let's remember what was going on. We had a murderous dictator, Gadhafi, who had American blood on his hands, as I'm sure you remember, threatening to massacre large numbers of the Libyan people. We had our closest allies in Europe burning up the phone lines begging us to help them try to prevent what they saw as a mass genocide, in their words. And we had the Arabs standing by our side saying, "We want you to help us deal with Gadhafi."

Our response, which I think was smart power at its best, is that the United States will not lead this. We will provide essential, unique capabilities that we have, but the Europeans and the Arabs had to be first over the line. We did not put one single American soldier on the ground in Libya. And I'll say this for the Libyan people.

COOPER: But American citizens did lose their lives in Benghazi.

CLINTON: But let -- I'll get to that. But I think it's important, since I understand Senator Webb's very strong feelings about this, to explain where we were then and to point out that I think President Obama made the right decision at the time.

And the Libyan people had a free election the first time since 1951. And you know what, they voted for moderates, they voted with the hope of democracy. Because of the Arab Spring, because of a lot of other things, there was turmoil to be followed.

But unless you believe the United States should not send diplomats to any place that is dangerous, which I do not, then when we send them forth, there is always the potential for danger and risk.

COOPER: Governor O'Malley?

WEBB: Can I...

(CROSSTALK)

O'MALLEY: Anderson, I think we are learning...

(CROSSTALK)

O'MALLEY: Anderson, I think there's lessons to be learned from Benghazi. And those lessons are that we need to do a much better job as a nation of having human intelligence on the ground so that we know who the emerging next generation leaders are that are coming up to replace a dictator when his time on this planet ends.

And I believe that's what Chris Stevens was trying to do. But he did not have the tools. We have failed as a country to invest in the human intelligence that would allow us to make not only better decisions in Libya, but better decisions in Syria today.

And it's a huge national security failing.

COOPER: Senator Webb, I want you to be able to respond.

WEBB: Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Senator Webb? WEBB: This is not about Benghazi per se. To me it is the inevitability of something like Benghazi occurring in the way that we intervened in Libya. We had no treaties at risk. We had no Americans at risk. There was no threat of attack or imminent attack.

There is plenty of time for a president to come to the Congress and request authority to use military force in that situation. I called for it on the Senate floor again and again. I called for it in Senate hearings.

It is not a wise thing to do. And if people think it was a wise thing to do, try to get to the Tripoli airport today. You can't do it.

COOPER: Secretary (sic) Webb, you served in Vietnam. You're a marine. Once a marine, always a marine. You served as a marine in Vietnam. You're a decorated war hero. You eventually became secretary of the navy.

During the Vietnam War, the man standing next to you, Senator Sanders, applied for status as a conscientious objector. Given his history, can he serve as a credible commander-in-chief?

WEBB: Everybody makes their decisions when the time there is conscription. And as long as they go through the legal process that our country requires, I respect that. And it would be for the voters to decide whether Senator Sanders or anyone else should be president.

I will say this, coming from the position that I've come from, from a military family, with my brother a marine, my son was a marine in Iraq, I served as a marine, spending five years in the Pentagon, I am comfortable that I am the most qualified person standing up here today to be your commander-in-chief.

COOPER: Senator Sanders, tell an American soldier who is watching right now tonight in Afghanistan why you can be commander-in- chief given that you applied for conscientious objector status.