If, as some political navel-gazers suspect, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz scheduled tonight’s Dem debate (and the one after this, on the Saturday before Christmas) to minimize voter viewing of Hillary-bashing by other candidates, last night’s tragic news may have thwarted that strategy.
The attacks in Paris that killed at least 129 and injured more than 300 others, guarantee that the emotional high point of tonight’s debate will be about foreign policy, most likely at the top of the broadcast. That will put the spotlight squarely on the former secretary of state who helped shape President Obama’s ISIS strategy. ISIS has taken responsibility for last night’s attacks and Obama’s probably wishing he hadn’t told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, in a Good Morning America interview just hours earlier, that the terrorist org was “contained.” Clinton has been saying she’d be more aggressive than Obama on this front, but she may say it a lot louder tonight.
“Last night’s attacks are a tragic example of the kind of challenges American Presidents face in today’s world and we intend to ask the candidates how they would confront the evolving threat of terrorism,” CBS News Vice President and Washington Bureau Chief Christopher Isham promised this morning, stating the painfully obvious.
Face the Nation host John Dickerson and CBS News’ Nancy Cordes are moderating, starting at 9 PM ET, from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
Setting the tone for tonight’s post-Paris debate, CBS This Morning co-host Norah O’Donnell anchored a Paris Under Attack edition of 48 Hours from CBS in New York. CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley anchors from Paris. It included a profile of the U.S. band Eagles of Death Metal, which had been playing at the Bataclan concert hall when the attacks occurred (West Coast viewers will see the special after the debate).
CBS News also changed plans for Dickerson’s Sunday Beltway show. Originally, he was going to remain in Des Moines to take a post-debate victory lap. But Paris changed those plans, and Dickerson is flying back to Washington to do the show there and focus on Paris. Dem candidate Bernie Sanders will follow and be among his guests, also including House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes; Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr; and former deputy director of the CIA and CBS News Senior Security Contributor Michael Morell.
The debate is being broadcast live from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, by CBS, in conjunction with CBS’s Des Moines affiliate KCCI, the Des Moines Register and Twitter.