Saturday’s Democratic debate provided three key lessons: 1. Regardless of party, a three-candidate debate is more likely to be substantive than an eight or ten-candidate debate; 2. CBS host John Dickerson and the rest of the debate moderators showed that it’s possible to have a tough yet fair debate (though it helps when candidates don’t whine about fair questions, as in the first GOP debate); 3. Hillary Clinton will still be the Democratic nominee. On the whole, Clinton did nothing to change the majority of Democrats’ belief that she is the most acceptable, electable and competent candidate in the race. Nevertheless, there was one answer that Clinton will probably regret.

That moment came about halfway through the debate, when Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) attacked Clinton’s many donations from Wall Street. Four of Clinton’s top five donors in her campaigns for elected office are associated with big Wall Street banks. Sanders, relatively reluctant to attack Clinton in the last debate, pounced this time, asking, “why do they make millions of dollars of campaign contributions? They expect to get something.” Clinton took offense, complaining that Sanders “basically used his answer to impugn my integrity.” And then she dropped the following:

Wait a minute, senator. You know, not only do I have hundreds of thousands of donors, most of them small. And I’m very proud that for the first time a majority of my donors are women, 60 percent. [Applause]
So, I represented New York, and I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked. Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is. I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild. That was good for New York. It was good for the economy and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists who had attacked our country.

Where to begin? It’s bad enough that Clinton seems to think that the gender breakdown of her donors has anything to do with the fact that she’s Wall Street’s favored candidate among the Democrats. But to invoke terrorist attacks and the subsequent rebuilding as any sort of defense for Wall Street having such potential influence is unbelievably tone deaf at best, and wildly offensive at worst. It’s one thing to invoke Sept. 11, 2001 in the context of the Paris attacks or in a discussion about foreign policy and national security in general. But on issues not obviously connected, Sept. 11 has its own Godwin’s Law: The first person to evoke it immediately loses the debate. It won’t stop her from winning the nomination, but this was far from Clinton’s finest moment.