Democratic Presidential Candidates Engage in War of Words Over Fighting ISIS

A heated debate ensued over the relationship between terrorism and Islam.

In saying so, Clinton offered a contrast to President Obama’s assertion in an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos before Friday’s attacks took place that “we have contained” ISIS.

“It cannot be an American fight,” Clinton said. “And I think what the president has consistently said, which I agree with, is that we will support those who take the fight to ISIS.”

O’Malley disagreed.

“This actually is America's fight,” he said. “It cannot solely be America's fight. America is best when we work in collaboration with our allies.”

Sanders, who has emerged as Clinton’s most vexing adversary, also took the opportunity to draw a contrast with the former secretary of state.

“Now, in fact, what we have got to do -- and I think there is widespread agreement here -- is the United States cannot do it alone. What we need to do is lead an international coalition which includes very significantly the Muslim nations in that region who are going to have to fight and defend their way of life.”

But the specific role America would take, whether it be leading or directing from the sidelines, was blurred.

"I don't think we're at war with Islam. I don't think we're at war with all Muslims,” Clinton said. “I think we're at war with jihadists.”

Sanders wasted no time skipping this discussion of semantics. "I don't think the term is what's important. What is important to understand is we have organizations, whether it is ISIS or al Qaeda, who do believe we should go back several thousand years."

Clinton argued that screening Syrian refugees is the “number one requirement,” and said that “only if we have as careful a screening and vetting process as we can imagine” should the United States raise the number of refugees allowed into the country to 65,000.

"I think that is the number one requirement,” she said. “I also said that we should take increased numbers of refugees. The administration originally said 10. I said we should go to 65, but only if we have as careful a screening and vetting process as we can imagine, whatever resources it takes. I do not want us to in any way inadvertently allow people who wish us harm to come into our country.”

O’Malley stood by his suggestion of welcoming 65,000 refugees with proper screening, touting "I was the first person on this stage to say that we should accept the 65,000 Syrian refugees that were fleeing the sort of murder of ISIL,” another term for ISIS.

"Libya is now a mess. Syria is a mess. Iraq is a mess. Afghanistan is a mess,” he said. "Americans, we have shown ourselves to have the greatest military on the face of the planet, but we are not so very good at anticipating threats and appreciating just how difficult it is to build up stable democracies.”