Total Bern? Sanders lays smackdown on Kissinger and Clinton, moderator gasps (VIDEO)

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discuss an issue at the PBS NewsHour Democratic presidential candidates debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, February 11, 2016. © Jim Young
Given his pacifist background, Democratic senator Bernie Sanders’ ability to be commander-in-chief is still under scrutiny. But a conflict the 74 year old has no qualms about discussing is the Vietnam War - drawing a gasp of “Oh God” from a Democratic debate moderator Thursday.

Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff were making history by being the first female duo to handle a presidential debate.

One of the hosts couldn’t help but sigh once the ill-fated Vietnam war campaign, fought to contain communism, was broached. No amount of coughing into her microphone could disguise it.

During the debate - where many viewers found it hard to differentiate the candidates’ policies - former anti-war activist Sanders rolled out the V-word.

Discussing foreign policy on PBS News Hour, Sanders zeroed in on rival Clinton’s apparent pride at getting a great big pat on the back by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

More than 40 years after the doomed military campaign ended, uttering the words ‘Vietnam War’ can still provoke a winch from some Americans.

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Which is probably why, when Sanders brought up the conflict and Kissinger’s role in destabilising the region, the moderator was caught off guard.

Kissinger is a Nobel Peace Prize winner; an amazing feat given he backed the secret bombing of Cambodia and effectively paved the way for a murderous dictator to take over.

Speaking about Kissinger’s apparent support for Hillary Clinton, Sanders let rip: “I find it rather amazing, as I happen to believe that Henry Kissinger was one of the most destructive Secretaries of State in the modern history of this country.”

“I am proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend. I will not take advice from Henry Kissinger,” the Vermont senator added.

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“Kissinger’s actions in Cambodia when the United States bombed that country… created the instability for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge to come in, who then butchered some 3 million innocent people - one of the worst genocides in the history of the world. Count me in as somebody who will not be listening to Henry Kissinger.” Ouch.

Clinton attempted to fire back, saying she listened to “a wide variety of voices” when assessing foreign policy.

She also launched a defence of her predecessors, saying Kissinger’s relationship with Chinese leaders is “incredibly useful”.

The internet has not quite settled on who won the debate, though.

But the advice for Clinton is to get some ice for those third-degree burns.