Clinton, Sanders Spar in Fierce Democratic Debate

Clinton, Sanders Spar in Fierce Democratic DebateClinton, Sanders Spar in Fierce Democratic Debate

US Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton moved past the latest tempest over a breach of campaign's voter data, shifting Saturday night's debate into a fierce yet civil discussion of the economy, national security and the federal role in legislating gun control.

The candidates also took turns hitting out at Donald Trump, hurling outrage about the Republican presidential candidate's fear-mongering and recent controversial comments about immigrants - in particular, his call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, AP reported.

"Mr. Trump has a great capacity to use bluster and bigotry to inflame people," Clinton said.

Discussing the Middle East, there was broad agreement that the United States should not launch a ground war to defeat the so-called "Islamic State." But the candidates differed in the tactics they would take and whether the nation should seek regime change in Syria. "If the United States does not lead, there is not another leader - there is a vacuum," she said. Sanders - who opposed the 2003 Iraq invasion - disagreed, saying the US should first seek to defeat IS but show caution over toppling governments.

"Secretary Clinton is too much into regime change and a little bit too aggressive without knowing what the unintended consequences might be," Sanders said. "Yes, we could get rid of Assad tomorrow, but that would create another political vacuum that would benefit ISIS."

And O'Malley, who is currently running a distant third in polls, pointedly noted how past US-led regime changes bred chaos. He singled out Libya in 2011, when Clinton was the top US diplomat and supported ousting Moammar Gadhafi, only to see the country become a safe haven for jihadist militants.