Live Blog: Clinton and Sanders Fight to a Draw in Debate
And here are concluding observations from Truthdig contributor Bill Boyarsky:
In the end, the debate came down to an unenlightening argument over who was the stronger candidate. Listening to Sanders brag about his polls and Clinton boast about her accumulation of delegates, I was reminded of one of those pundit panels on cable TV news—people obsessed with the process of getting elected. What didn’t we hear about? The near collapse of the D.C. subway, a symbol of infrastructure near the Capitol? The refugees, the most tragic and important story of the past year? And much more. We didn’t learn anything we didn’t know. In the end, Sanders turned again to Clinton and Wall Street. His closing was a powerful rendition of his familiar themes. And, given the condition of a country of income inequality and pro-business taxation, he undoubtedly resonated with many. Clinton was the well-prepared Clinton. And she was a fierce competitor. It was a heated debate and one that probably didn’t change their standings in the race.
11:10 p.m. EDT:
More from Boyarsky about the candidates and Israel:
The differences between Sanders and Clinton came out clearly in their debate over Israel. Sanders criticized Clinton for having no concern for the Palestinians. While he condemned Hamas attacks on Israel, he said that this country “will have to treat Palestinians with respect and dignity.” He said the United States will have to say that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “is not right all the time.” Clinton was more sympathetic to the Israelis. Did the Israelis overreact to Hamas attacks? Israel, she said, did not seek attacks by Hamas … Gaza, she said, is a terrorist haven. In the end, both favored a two-state solution, and it’s unclear how they would get there.
There was a lot of shouting over each other, making it hard to sort everything out. But this was a clear difference.
11:08 p.m. EDT:
Bernie Sanders’ closing statement. He’s from Brooklyn. He describes his family’s immigrant roots. This country has enormous potential if we have the guts to take on the big-money interests that dominate politics. I disagree with Clinton that you can take money from these interests and do what needs to be done, he said. If we can stand together and not let the Trumps of the world divide us up, we can have universal health care and tuition-free public colleges and universities, break up the large financial institutions, lead the fight against climate change and make sure the rich pay their taxes. We can do that when millions of people stand up and fight back. Sanders finishes strong. And the audience chants his name.
Hillary Clinton says she’s grateful that the people of New York gave her the honor of serving as their senator. I tried to have your back and time and time again you had mine, she said. We took on the challenges of 9/11 together, we got the money to rebuild New York, we came to the aid of brave first responders, we worked to create jobs despite the disastrous policies of George W. Bush and stood up time and time again against vested, powerful interests. I’m asking for your support again to take New York values to the White House. Of course we have economic barriers, I’ve been trying to tear them down my whole life. We have other barriers too. I humbly ask for your support on Tuesday. We won’t just make promises we can’t keep, she says, in a dig at Sanders.
CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer thanks the candidates and announces the end of the debate.
10:58 p.m. EDT: If elected president, Sanders would ask President Obama to withdraw the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, he said. Why? Because a future justice has to make it crystal clear that he or she will vote to overturn Citizens United. The crowd cheers Sanders.
Clinton skillfully changed the subject to women’s rights, drawing large applause from the audience when she said that questions of women’s rights have not been sufficiently covered in Democratic debates. Sanders said the crowd is looking at a senator who has a 100 percent approval rating on women’s issues by a major civil rights group.
Sanders is asked if he’s really a Democrat, as Clinton has suggested he’s not. Sander asks why he would be running as a Democrat if he wasn’t. He adds that a lot of independents are voting for him, suggesting that their support is essential to win the presidency. A host claimed Sanders has not raised enough money for Democrats. He says he’s raised millions and he’s proud that droves of young people are coming into the Democratic Party because of his campaign, which is more important to the party’s future than raising money.
Clinton says she’s gotten more votes than anyone else in the race. She says she has put together “a broad-based, inclusive coalition,” which will defeat whomever the Republicans end up nominating. She’s happy that young people are coming into the party because of Sanders, and it’s going to be important to keep them in the party if she wins the nomination.
Sanders pointed out that Clinton’s major wins came from the Deep South, which is a conservative stronghold. Clinton said she has more delegates and that she’s going to continue to work to win more. Sanders is not so sure, saying that you can never take money from powerful interests and expect the American people to believe that you’re going to take on those interests.
10:45 p.m. EDT: Would Clinton lift the cap on taxable income to extend the life of Social Security? Sanders says that “essentially what you described … is my legislation.” He points out that it was Obama’s idea was to lift the cap. Sanders says, as of tonight, Clinton is now on board with lifting the cap.
Maybe I’m confused, Sanders said, after Clinton said more. Are you not supporting legislation to lift the tax on taxable income and extend Social Security? Yes or no? She then said she would pursue what she described as the best course of action. “Ahh,” Sanders said, suggesting Clinton’s answer was equivocal.
10:39 p.m. EDT: How will Sanders’ proposed expansion of social programs be funded when some economists say it can’t be, Blitzer asks. Economists’ opinions may differ, Sanders said, but in one of the richest nations in the world, the economy can be reconfigured to provide Americans with the services they need.
Reprising the theme that details are super-important, Clinton claimed that economists say Sanders’ proposed medical plan would be a wreck for working people. Sanders said we are not currently a country that has the courage to stand up to major corporations. How can every other major country on earth provide health care to all of its people while spending significantly less than the U.S. does? Canada has a system that guarantees health care to all people, we can do the same. Regarding college, please do not tell me that we cannot do what other countries are doing, that we should punish kids with debt for trying to get an education.
10:29 p.m. EDT: Does Israel have a right to defend itself? I lived there when I was young, Sanders said. I have family there. Of course. But was Israel’s latest attack on Gaza disproportionate? Yes. If we’re ever going to have peace in that region, we’re going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity. Right now in Gaza, unemployment is around 40 percent. Houses and schools are decimated. Saying we should pursue these options doesn’t make me anti-Israel, he says—it paves the way for peace led by the U.S. and the rest of the world.
Saying she brokered peace between the two parties, Clinton said simply that Hamas should stop launching rockets at Israel.
Clinton evades the issue, Sanders says. The question is not whether Israel has a right to defend itself, it’s whether Israel’s military response was disproportionate. Clinton said precautions had to be taken, but insisted that Gaza was becoming a terrorist haven. Sanders said Palestinians were not represented in a major speech on peace in the region that Clinton gave. Clinton said that wasn’t true.
There comes a time when we pursue justice and peace, that we’re going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time, Sanders said. I’m not saying that, Clinton said. The Israeli leader has a difficult position, trying to seek the conditions of peace while under attack from Hamas. Sanders reiterated that she did not represent Palestinians in her speech, and that what he is saying is simply that they and their interests must be represented in efforts to bring peace to the region, and they have not been.
10:15 p.m. EDT: On Libya and regime change, Sanders said Clinton in the Obama administration did not think about what would come after she engineered regime change there, and that the consequence was disastrous as Islamic State seized the area as a stronghold. Clinton said Sanders voted for action by the U.S. Sanders said he supported Libya moving toward democracy, but not her “active effort for regime change without contemplating what happened the day after. Totally different issue.”
Clinton responded that there was a reference to the U.N. Security Council in the vote. Sanders reiterated his point. Voting for democracy is very different from getting actively involved in regime change. Furthermore, in Syria she wanted a no-fly zone, which neither Obama nor Sanders supports because it runs the risk of getting us further into perpetual war in the region.
10:08 p.m. EDT: Boyarsky observes:
Neither Sanders nor Clinton gave much comfort to anyone concerned about overcrowded prisons, with populations, overwhelmingly minority, jailed by a criminal justice system stacked against them. They had both voted for the 1990s crime bill that bears much responsibility for the prison situation. That law severely damaged poor neighborhoods, largely African-American and Latino, where huge numbers of young men were jailed long-term for offenses that warranted lesser penalties, or who were convicted by a so-called criminal justice system that is unjust. She noted that her husband, then-President Bill Clinton, had apologized for elements of the bill. And she said she was sorry for unintended consequences of the bill. Sanders said we should “rethink the criminal justice system from the bottom up.” And we should “invest in jobs and education, not jails and incarceration.” Of course we should. But her partial apologies and his very broad solutions are no answer to what the country faces. What about police shooting African-American youths without cause? What about the failure to finance rehabilitation for drug addicts? What about cracking down on the drug companies flooding cities and countryside with opiates? This illustrates the trouble with this debate so far. It’s a rerun of familiar themes and words by two candidates unwilling to venture into new territory.
10:07 p.m. EDT:
The discussion turned to climate change. Clinton criticized Sanders for saying the climate deal brokered under Obama didn’t go far enough. He pointed out that when she was secretary of state she peddled fracking around the world, and said that the deal was a good start, but we need to get past paper and into action.
A host confirmed that as secretary of state, Clinton pioneered a program to promote fracking around the world, but now she’s opposing it. Why? She described her support of fracking as a “bridge” to make the transition to renewable energy. “I have big, bold goals, but I know how to get from where we are” to where we need to go.
Sanders said this is a real difference between him and Clinton. The difference is in understanding that we have a crisis of historical consequence, and “incrementalism and … little steps are not enough.” Right now we have got to tell the fossil fuel industry that their short-term profits are not more important than the future of this planet, Sanders said. He then asked Clinton if she was in favor of a tax on carbon. She didn’t answer.
Sanders said we needed to approach the problem of energy and climate change with the same force and urgency with which the U.S. fought the Nazis.
9:58 p.m. EDT: An observation during the commercial break: The national media is working very hard to convince Americans that a discussion of the finer details of policy is required to determine whether a candidate would make a good president. The intention by many is to cast Sanders, who has spent more than three decades in public office and is running a campaign on the broad idea that the system is broken and only radical change can make it serve Americans, as irresponsible for not descending to the level of detail when he speaks publicly about his proposals.
9:49 p.m. EDT: Clinton is asked about the 1994 crime bill that she supported and her husband signed into law. She answered that there were some positives but that much needed to be changed. Pressed, she said, “I’m sorry for the consequences that were unintended” and had a negative impact on people’s lives. The “consequences” were written about extensively at the time.
A host asked why Sanders called out Bill Clinton for recently defending his wife’s use of the term “superpredator” to describe black children in the 1990s. Because it’s a racist word, he answered. We have to invest in jobs and education, not jail, and rethink the war on drugs. “Too many lives have been destroyed because people possess marijuana,” and that’s why we should reduce the penalties, or eliminate them altogether, Sanders answered.
A host asked Sanders how he will make good on his campaign promise to release up to a half-million prisoners as president. Sanders said he would work with state governments.
9:41 p.m. EDT: Boyarsky says, “It would be so easy for Hillary Clinton to release the transcript of her well-paid speeches to Wall Street powers”:
It’s inconceivable she won’t. If she had followed the conventions of the paid-speech genre, they would have been boring, nothing to excite or upset the financial titans paying for the privilege of hearing her drone on. Unless, of course, the speeches weren’t boring and gave the Wall Street crew something to make them really happy. Her failure to answer the simple questions of releasing the transcripts was the most noteworthy moment of the first half. Except at the 30-minute mark, when moderator Wolf Blitzer had to tell them to stop screaming at each other in an argument over the minimum wage. Sanders, before the shouting match, jumped on Clinton over the paid-speech issue, as he has done in the past. She didn’t answer it in a satisfactory manner. Instead, she dinged Sanders for not releasing his income tax returns. He relied on a familiar excuse—my wife did it. Jane Sanders, overwhelmed with campaign travel, hadn’t finished the income tax, he said. It may have made more sense to working people than Clinton refusing to talk about those big speaking fees.
9:39 p.m. EDT:
Blitzer asked Clinton if she still believed Vermont was a key culprit in gun violence committed in New York, a claim she made in the days before the debate that even supporters said was inaccurate. Gun crimes are horrific, she said. Sanders said she didn’t answer the question. Blitzer asked her again and she replied that most guns used in crimes in New York come from out of state.
9:34 p.m. EDT: Host Wolf Blitzer said Sanders has contempt for American businesses. How would he promote trade worldwide? How would he bring back jobs to the United States? We’ll raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, Sanders said. We may pay a few cents more for a hamburger, but we’ll restore millions of decent-paying jobs.
Clinton laughed and said she had “a comprehensive plan to create more jobs.” She again cast herself as being more concerned with details than is Sanders.
Blitzer asked if she would sign a $15 hourly minimum wage bill as president. She would, and said she had supported the effort to raise the minimum wage throughout her career. Sanders began talking, Clinton interrupted him and Blitzer chided both of them. Sanders said her previous targets and efforts were not sufficient.
The record disagrees with Clinton. BuzzFeed reported in an article published in July 2015 titled “Hillary Clinton Declines To Support A National $15 Minimum Wage“:
Hillary Clinton on Thursday wouldn’t commit to supporting a $15 national minimum wage but said she is working with Democrats in Congress who are determining how high it can be set.
“I support the local efforts that are going on that are making it possible for people working in certain localities to actually earn 15,” Clinton said in a response to a question from BuzzFeed News during a press availability in New Hampshire on Thursday.
“I think part of the reason that the Congress and very strong Democratic supporters of increasing the minimum wage are trying to debate and determine what’s the national floor is because there are different economic environments. And what you can do in L.A. or in New York may not work in other places.”
9:22 p.m. EDT:
Sanders was asked if he could name a decision Clinton made as senator that shows she favored banks because of money she received. Yeah, he replied. When the crash happened, he introduced legislation to break up the banks while Clinton accepted money for speeches from Goldman Sachs.
“It may be inconvenient, but it’s always important to get the facts straight,” Clinton chided. She reiterated a point she made in previous debates: that she called out the big banks for their behavior. Sanders playfully mocked this response and promised again that he would break up the banks as president.
If there’s no problem with the speeches she gave to the banks, Clinton was asked, “why don’t you release the transcripts?” She ignored the question and reiterated points of her platform. The host asked again. Clinton raised her hands and deflected the issue, saying Sanders should release his tax returns. The host tripled down, saying Democratic voters want to see the transcripts. Sanders said he is in the process of releasing his tax returns, but his campaign has been a little busy lately. He said the transcripts would be released tomorrow.
9:15 p.m. EDT: A host asked Sanders why he would allow banks to restructure themselves after a breakup. It’s the government’s job to tell the banks that they are too big, not to tell them how to structure themselves, he said.
I love being in Brooklyn, Clinton said, smiling and striking a pose of respectability. She cited details about what she would do with the banks.
9:11 p.m. EDT: Blitzer asked Sanders about his recent criticisms of Clinton’s judgment. Does she have the qualifications? Of course, Sanders said to loud applause. “But I do question her judgment.” Trade deals she supported cost Americans millions of jobs and accepting money from wealthy corporations undermined her credibility, he said.
Clinton responded that the people of New York approved of her judgment enough to elect her twice. She cited the New York Daily News’ widely criticized interview as evidence that Sanders didn’t understand his core platform. Sanders again questioned her judgment. “This is not just a criticism of me, this is a criticism of President Obama,” she replied. “This is a phony attack that is designed to raise questions.” That Obama passed Dodd-Frank is proof that his super PAC did not corrupt him, she said.
9:04 p.m. EDT: The debate starts with mighty applause for Sanders, who touted the progress his campaign has made in the year since it began. “The reason our campaign has done so well is because we’re doing something very radical,” he said. “We’re telling people the truth, and the truth is that this country is not going to move forward in a significant way for working people unless we overturn this disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision and unless we have real reform so billionaires and super PACs cannot buy elections.”
Clinton began to loud applause as well. She recounted her tenure as senator of New York and claimed a record of helping people “get ahead.” She expressed concern for responders to the 9/11 attacks, praised New York values and said her campaign was offering progressive goals.
8:22 p.m. EDT: Unhappy with criticisms of Clinton that Sanders and his supporters made during Wednesday’s rally in Washington Square Park, Daily Beast staff reporter Lizzie Crocker published a mean-spirited report about the crowd titled, “New York’s Doped Up Beatniks, Hippies, and Freaks Love Bernie Sanders”:
A crowd of student radicals, wannabe beatniks, hippies, freaks, and limousine liberals came out to support the democratic socialist candidate and his political revolution. They lugged around peace sign posters, giant handmade Bernie dolls, and cardboard eyeglasses resembling those worn by the Vermont senator. Young women whose cheeks were painted with hearts and planet Earth sang along to Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World.”
By the time the rally kicked off around 7 p.m., legions of besotted Berniacs spilled out of the park and funneled into side streets. Sanders’s campaign estimated that 27,000 people attended the rally.
Clinton fans have cause to find the rally upsetting, as evidenced by a photo Facebook user Alex Turner posted of the overflow crowd:
8:10 p.m. EDT: The day before the debate, Sanders scored a powerful endorsement in New York City. Wired reported Wednesday:
… [L]ess than a week before the New York primary, the Transit Workers Union Local 100 endorsed Bernie Sanders at a press conference in Brooklyn. The meeting was attended by hundreds of New York City transit workers, all dressed in matching T-shirts and baseball hats, carrying signs that read, “TWU says Feel the Bern.”
The reason this endorsement matters so much is because it’s not just coming from a single powerful individual or publication. The Local 100 is 42,000-members strong. With immediate family included, their reach stretches to roughly 100,000 people. They’re already organized, and they understand full well the importance of turning out the vote, as they’ve done so many times before to protect transit workers’ interests in New York City.
As union president John Samuelsen told WIRED, “It’s tens of thousands of dependable votes.”
* * *
CNN will host a debate between Sanders and Clinton in Brooklyn on Thursday night, and Truthdig will follow along right here between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. EDT.
The April 19 primary here will come as Clinton — whose campaign has been dogged by Sanders’ unexpected endurance — is on an urgent mission to widen her delegate lead and lock up her party’s nomination.
Next week’s contest will serve as one of Sanders’ last opportunities to change the dynamics of the Democratic race. And in turn, it will offer Clinton a crucial opening to once and for all shake the pervasive narrative that her rival — even as he lags behind in the delegate count — continues to enjoy real momentum; tens of thousands of Sanders supporters rallied in Washington Square Park in Manhattan Wednesday night.
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
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