"There are no Democrats that I know, or virtually none, who will desert the Democratic party no matter who the candidate is to vote for Donald Trump or some other right-wing Republican. I do not think that will happen," Sanders said after the debate. He was responding to a CNN question about whether the increasingly harsh tone of the Democratic primary could hurt party unity. Sanders may say that, but some of his most outspoken supporters vow they won't vote for Clinton no matter the alternative.
The Democratic candidates for president hadn’t faced off on a debate stage for more than a month before they stepped on to a stage in Brooklyn Thursday night. And by all indications, they’d both been holding back a number of punches they were itching to throw.
The meeting between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton was an often tense, heated affair, with each candidate taking hard swipes at each other. There was none of the kumbayah of previous debates, in which they had criticized each other but taken care to insist that their real opponent was the Republican Party. On Thursday, they targeted each other directly. At one point, Wolf Blitzer, like a disapproving national father, felt compelled to cut in. "You're both screaming at each other,” he implored. “The viewers won't be able to hear either of you."
Clinton pursued a strategy of hugging President Obama close—closer even, perhaps, than she had done in previous debates, which was no mean feat. Sanders, meanwhile, worked to paint Clinton as a mealy-mouthed candidate of a broken status quo. While each candidate outflanked the other at times, Sanders delivered the stronger performance, trapping Clinton repeatedly and delivering sharp lines. But the Vermont senator also pursued a bold and risky line of argument on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one that could be politically hazardous even within his own party.
Sanders’s ties to Israel are complicated. As a young man, he worked on a kibbutz there. Thursday evening, he suspended a Jewish outreach coordinator over remarks she had previously made that were critical of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. During a widely panned New York Daily News interview, Sanders overstated the number of casualties during Israel’s 2014 operation in Gaza. Asked about that interview Thursday, Sanders stuck by the gist of his comments, and said that Israel’s response had been “disproportionate.”
“In the long run, if we are ever going to bring peace to that region ... we are gonna have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity,” Sanders said. “That does not make me anti-Israel, that paves the way for an approach that works.”
Clinton seized on that, implying that Sanders was blaming the victim. “[The Israelis] do not seek this type of attack,” she said. “They do not invite rockets raining down on their towns.”
Of course not, Sanders agreed, but then he criticized Clinton for barely mentioning the needs of Palestinians during her March speech to AIPAC, the influential pro-Israel lobbying group. (She did say, “Palestinians should be able to govern themselves in their own state, in peace and dignity.”) “We’re going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time,” Sanders insisted.
It was a fascinating moment, as it laid bare some of the tensions within the Democratic Party. Among Republican candidates—with the possible exception of Rand Paul—backing Israel to the hilt has been an item of faith. (That’s why Donald Trump’s conflicting and unstudied remarks have raised such a commotion.) Clinton is close to the Republicans on this one, fitting with longstanding American policy of unstinting support for Israel. Obama’s fairly mild criticisms of Israel have been highly controversial; Clinton seems to be more cautious than him. But Sanders is more critical, even as he views himself as pro-Israel. That’s just another way that the Vermonter—despite his comparatively advanced age—is more in step with young Americans, especially on the left, who back Israel but tend to be more sympathetic to Palestinians than are their parents.
It’s hard to predict the political impact of the exchange, in part because it’s rare to see a Democratic leader of Sanders’s stature speaking so bluntly and critically about Israel. It may resonate with younger voters, but might also alienate significant portions of New York’s substantial Jewish population on the eve of the April 19 primary.
The night didn’t start off so well for Sanders. The first few questions offered him little to work with—starting with a demand that he explain whether or not he believed Clinton was qualified for the presidency. He previously said she was not, then reversed course and said she was, but that he questioned her judgment. Sanders mumbled through an answer, but Clinton, given a chance to respond, twisted the knife: She noted that New York voters had elected her twice and that Obama had appointed her secretary of state, then cited Sanders’s disastrous interview with the Daily News. That aggressive response set the tone for the night. A few minutes later, Sanders was asked to name a specific decision on which donations from banks had shifted Clinton’s judgment on a policy. Clinton’s campaign couldn’t have written a better question. Sanders couldn’t do it.
But the next question caught her up short: Why wouldn’t she release the transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs? Clinton has been asked the same question many times now, and she still has no good answer. She will not find one until she releases them. Instead, she meandered her way through a call for Sanders (and other candidates) to release more tax returns.
Then Sanders cornered her again. He has backed a $15 minimum wage, while she has instead focused her support on a $12 federal hourly wage floor, while allowing states and municipalities to enact higher minimums if they want. (She celebrated increases to $15 in New York and California over the past week.) Sanders said that’s not enough: "History has outpaced Secretary Clinton," he said. Clinton tried to explain how she favored both a $12 minimum wage and a $15 wage. Sanders seemed confused; many viewers will also have been puzzled.
The pendulum soon swung back, with a question about gun control, one issue on which Clinton has reliably criticized Sanders from the left. Sanders’s votes on gun bills—most notably, as she repeats at every opportunity, his five votes against the Brady Bill—continue to haunt him. In a recent statement, Clinton appeared to blame Vermont for crime in New York, noting that some guns used in crimes there come from the Green Mountain State, with its looser gun laws. Sanders tried to laugh it out, and Clinton seized on that, saying she took it very seriously. Yet Clinton didn’t stick the landing: She was unable to say for sure whether she blamed Vermont or not, appearing to say both.
And worse was yet to come, with a discussion of the 1994 crime bill, which has dominated the campaign in recent weeks. NY1’s Errol Louis asked her about her advocacy for the bill, and Clinton resorted to the passive voice: “There were decisions that were made that now we must revisit and we need to correct.” But did she regret her advocacy? “Look ... I’m sorry for the consequences that were unintended and that have had a very unfortunate impact,” she said. It was a stunningly noncommittal response. It won’t help her with Black Lives Matter advocates who think Clinton hasn’t adequately addressed the law, which her husband Bill Clinton signed into law. Why not simply apologize? (Sanders, it should be noted, actually voted for the bill, unlike her. Somehow, he has mostly managed to escape blame, and did so again Thursday.)
At almost every opportunity, Clinton cozied up to Obama. In addition to boasting about her relationship with the president, she portrayed Sanders’s critiques of the Dodd-Frank financial-reform bill and of the use of super PACs both as attacks on Obama. But on one notable point, Clinton sharply distanced herself from the president. Obama recently described the failure to plan for post-Gaddafi Libya as his biggest regret. But Clinton defended U.S. intervention in Libya as a well-intentioned and well-planned operation thrown into disarray by forces on the ground. She added that the case of Syria showed the dangers of not intervening. That’s a sharp difference from Obama, who has repeatedly resisted being drawn into major military operations in Syria. It’s hard to understand what political benefit Clinton would see from backing a no-fly zone in Syria. Instead, this seems like a case in which Clinton is simply more hawkish than the president, more hawkish than Sanders, and more hawkish than many Democratic voters.
Elsewhere in the debate, Clinton and Sanders tangled—but mostly agreed—about Social Security, health care, and climate change (though on the latter, Clinton refused to answer Sanders’s question about whether she backs a carbon tax). Notably, yet another debate passed without a question about abortion and women’s reproductive rights, an omission Clinton highlighted from the dais.
Sanders’s problem is that though he delivered a sparkling performance and out-debated Clinton at nearly every turn, it’s not enough. He trails Clinton in popular votes and pledged delegates, to say nothing of superdelegates. The tied national polls he cites are meaningless, since there’s no national primary. Sanders needs a knock-out—though even that probably wouldn’t give him the nomination—and tonight, he won the bout on points.
Three interesting omissions tonight in the debate questions. The first was immigration, although that's been asked about often in past events. As usual, the moderators didn't ask about reproductive rights, although Hillary Clinton—maybe taking a cue from the left-leaning folks who've been pointing this out after previous debates—directly criticized them at one point for leaving it out of this one.
But I thought the most interesting omission was the anti-LGBT "religious freedom" bills passed in North Carolina and Mississippi in recent weeks. It's an issue important to many members of the Democratic base, and I'm surprised Clinton and Sanders weren't given a chance to weigh in on them.
In her closing argument, Clinton delivers a sharp distinction. “Of course we have economic barriers,” she said, adding that she’s worked against them her whole life. “But we also have racial barriers, gender barriers, homophobia barriers, disability barriers….
It’s an argument aimed at the heart of the contemporary Democratic Party. Sanders has consistently stressed the primacy of economic questions—solve those, he argues, and other forms of discrimination will diminish. But Clinton has stressed the persistence of other prejudices, and called for addressing them directly, as she did tonight. Young voters—even young minority voters—tend to think Sanders has the better of the argument. But older voters disagree, and Sanders can’t win without them.
In his closing statement, Sanders pledges that the country will secure: health care as a right, paid leave, tuition-free colleges, transformation in the energy sector, the breakup of big banks, and wealthy people paying more in taxes. It'll happen when people "stand up, fight back, and create a government that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent. That is what the political revolution is about, that's what this campaign is about."
Clinton says she's going to keep campaigning every day until the election. This would be an obvious and pedestrian point, except that Sanders has recently agreed to take a few days off before the New York primary to jet off to Rome. He'll speak at a conference held by a pontifical organization of the Holy See, but he probably won't see the pope. Sanders, who can fairly be called a Francis fan, said he was "moved by the invitation."
This debate did not fundamentally shift the Democratic presidential race, which means Hillary Clinton won this debate.
"I applaud all of those who are applauding you, Senator Sanders, we're happy that they are supporting you, that they are passionately committed to you and to the issues," Clinton says, adding "but let me also say it is going to be important that we unify the Democratic party.when the nomination process has been completed." There really was no need for Clinton to add the "but" in that phrasing, given that her remarks applauding Sanders's fans were in and of themselves a play for party unity. Clinton well knows that she'll need to work hard to win over the Vermont senator's supporters if she makes it to the general election. So hard in fact, that she's starting now.
“That is the most conservative part of the country," Sanders remarked about Clinton's early gains in the Deep South. Except, this isn't the general election, and the South is the most diverse and fastest-growing region in the country. It is reflective of the broad coalition of Democrats, with swelling ranks of people of color. As a North Carolinian, it is just plain offensive to hear a candidate so willingly write off an entire region as worthless, especially from a Yankee.
Oooh, is Hillary mildly Millennial-shaming Bernie? Meta-point to her meta-address to Sanders's evident crowd of young boosters at the debate: Young people vote at much lower rates than their older peers. Clinton, subtly, seems to be making a dig at their turn-out rates.
Does "Secretary Clinton cleaned our clock in the Deep South” constitute a humblebrag in Democratic primaries elsewhere?
Speaking of gay marriage: Sanders reps the fact that he hails from Vermont, the state that led the way on the same-sex marriage fight. True: Vermont was the first state to create civil unions, in 2000, and the first to legalize same-sex marriage by statute without it later being overturned by a court, in 2009. That was four years before Clinton came out in support of same-sex marriage.
Are you even a Democrat, Bernie Sanders? "Why would I be running for the Democratic nomination" if I wasn't? Sanders asked. He then pivots to talking about the polls, noting that he does better against Donald Trump than Clinton in general-election match-ups and particularly among independents, who make up a growing portion of the electorate.
That question about whether Bernie Sanders is a Democrat or not reminded me of the witch scene in Monty Python. If thrown into a well does he float?
Hillary comes in on reproductive health and women's issues. Her ire? Aimed at the moderators. "We've not had one question about a woman's right to make her own decisions about reproductive health care. And in the meantime, we have states, governors, doing everything they can to restrict women's rights. We have a presidential candidate by the name of Donald Trump saying, 'Women should be punished,' and we have never been asked about this."
A difference on the Supreme Court: Sanders says that if he wins in November, he would ask Obama to withdraw the nomination of Merrick Garland so he could pick a more liberal choice. Clinton would not address the hypothetical. Both say the Senate should confirm Garland before then.
“I’m not going to contradict the president’s strategy on this,” Clinton says, on whether she would withdraw the nomination of Merrick Garland. Sanders targets Republicans, saying even third graders know the president has the power to nominate a justice.
Clinton charges that whenever she disagrees with Sanders on specifics, he labels her a member of the establishment. She’s a former first lady. A former senator. A former secretary of state. There is no conceivable definition of the political establishment that doesn’t include her as a charter member.
What’s interesting is that she’s unwilling to defend herself in those terms. Why deny it? After all, her whole campaign is built around her decades of experience.
Clinton just hates to be pinned down on a specific policy when she's not ready to come out and endorse it, and it's hurting her here, as she comes across as overly parsing.
Hillary Clinton, you are a member of the establishment!
"We are in vigorous agreement here, Senator," Clinton says as the two go back and forth on Social Security and whether the cap on taxable income should be lifted. "Welcome onboard. I'm glad you're here." But they're talking past each other. Clinton just agrees that they should shore up Social Security, but she's unwilling to endorse a specific plan to do it.
Hillary Clinton says the other side wants to privatize Social Security. Not the guy who is winning on the other side.
Sanders did sort of back into an important point. The fiscal impact of a universal health-care reform is pretty much unclear. We aren't those other "major countries," and our health problems are different. We also wouldn't be able to get away with some universal systems like England's that are relatively austere. A true universal care system like Sanders' "Medicare-for-all" would likely be relatively benefit-rich and still plugged into our very expensive sick-care infrastructure. That costs a lot of money. A lot. But the end outcomes of coordinating care, guiding it towards a more public health-oriented perspective, reducing unpaid care, and making people healthier could make lots of money too. Even with estimates of the ACA, we still just don't quite know what the final financial impact will be.
Sanders bringing some love for Canada. "It's not some communist, authoritarian country. They're doing ok!"
Sanders disputes a study that found his domestic plans would blow up the budget, but he doesn't really address their fiscal impact. Clinton picks up on that and says, "You should be accountable for whether or not the numbers add up."
As a New Yorker, I try to tell people that we use expletives like exclamation marks and other assorted punctuation. "Damn right!" from Sanders just illustrated that so brilliantly.
I really wish Sanders would stop saying that "major countries" all offer universal health care. First, the term doesn't signify much. Second, it's pretty clear he means certain parts of Western Europe.
In taking a (very slightly) harder line on Israel than Clinton, Sanders seems to be once again more in step with younger voters, who tend to be more willing to criticize Israel than their parents.
It’s really something to hear Bernie Sanders repeatedly castigate Clinton for not taking advantage of her address to AIPAC to advocate for the rights of Palestinians when Sanders declined the opportunity to show up and address the group at all. If he felt there would’ve been real value in such an exercise, why didn’t he do it himself?
Why does Clinton seem fed up with Sanders so often? It's because she clearly sees him as someone who stands on the sidelines and complains about problems, while she has been in office actually working to solve them. It's the same with Middle East policy as it is on climate change.
Bernie Sanders: Israel has a right to defend itself but isn’t always right.
Hillary Clinton: Israel has a right to defend itself!
Sanders is in dangerous territory on Israel tonight; just today, his campaign suspended his Jewish outreach advisor, Simone Zimmerman, after an article inThe Washington Free Beacon showed she had posted on Facebook about Prime Minister Netanyahu using vulgarities. The campaign was already facing criticism for her hire: Zimmerman has been involved in left-wing advocacy on Israeli politics for years, and has strongly criticized the country's actions in Gaza.
As Sanders defends his statement that Israel made "a disproportionate" attack on Gaza, it's noteworthy than on Israel policy, he is probably closer to Obama than the more hawkish Clinton is.
Israel has a right to defend itself, and live in peace without fear of attack, Sanders says. But "in the long run ... if we are ever going to be bringing peace to that region ... we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity."
Hillary Clinton: “I will stay in NATO. We will continue to look for missions.” It’s that second part I’m worried about.
The Peloponnesian League would like a word.
NATO: Best military alliance in history?
"Right now, our fight is to defeat ISIS." Sanders makes first reference to the terrorist organization over an hour into the debate. That's quite a measure of restraint.
Yes, Emma, Clinton is having it both ways a bit right now vis a vis Obama and Libya. "The decision was the president's," she says. In other words, don't try to hang with the disaster in Libya. And Sanders catches it. "I know you've been talking about Barack Obama all night here," he begins while criticizing her call for a no-fly zone in Syria, which Obama opposes.
"Nobody stood up to Assad and removed him." Welp, Hillary's cozying up to Obama appears to be over for the evening.
Republicans should take note of the way that Bernie Sanders criticizes Hillary Clinton on Libya. It’s much more persuasive than repeating the word “Benghazi” in conspiratorial tones for years on end.
For most of the night, Clinton has tried her best to align herself with Obama, positioning herself as the custodian of his legacy. On Libya, though, the differences couldn’t be more stark. As Obama made clear to my colleague Jeffrey Goldberg, he now regrets both the intervention in Libya and listening to Clinton as she pushed for it:
But what sealed Obama’s fatalistic view was the failure of his administration’s intervention in Libya, in 2011. That intervention was meant to prevent the country’s then-dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, from slaughtering the people of Benghazi, as he was threatening to do. Obama did not want to join the fight; he was counseled by Joe Biden and his first-term secretary of defense Robert Gates, among others, to steer clear. But a strong faction within the national-security team—Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice, who was then the ambassador to the United Nations, along with Samantha Power, Ben Rhodes, and Antony Blinken, who was then Biden’s national-security adviser—lobbied hard to protect Benghazi, and prevailed. (Biden, who is acerbic about Clinton’s foreign-policy judgment, has said privately, “Hillary just wants to be Golda Meir.”) American bombs fell, the people of Benghazi were spared from what may or may not have been a massacre, and Qaddafi was captured and executed.
But Obama says today of the intervention, “It didn’t work.” The U.S., he believes, planned the Libya operation carefully—and yet the country is still a disaster.
Clinton is plainly not ready to acknowledge, as Obama did, that it was a mistake not to plan for "the day after" the U.S.-backed military mission to oust Muammar Gaddafi.
Wolf Blitzer says he's starting in on national security and foreign policy. Clinton's ears perk up.
Sanders just asked Clinton a very simple question: Does she support a carbon tax or not? She notably did not answer the question.
"I don't take a backseat to your legislation that you've introduced but haven't been able to get passed." High marks for shades awarded to Hillary Clinton, with a mild penalty for incomprehensibility.
Climate change is probably not a good area for Clinton to pick a fight with Sanders. Clinton has pledged forceful action on climate change, sure, but Sanders has been viewed as an environmental champion for years, and is beloved by the most ardent of environmentalists. Plenty of progressive environmentalists, meanwhile, view Clinton’s record with deep skepticism.“We did say natural gas is a bridge,” Clinton says when asked to explain the government's push for natural gas abroad. “We want to cross that bridge as quickly as possible, because in order to deal with climate change, we have got to move as rapidly as we can.” In a way, the debate over global warming highlights the central difference between the two candidates. Clinton is the pragmatist, while Sanders is the policy purist.
Hillary Clinton’s answer on Fracking sounds persuasive to me: natural gas isn’t sunshine or wind, but it’s better than coal. What still amazes me is that nuclear isn’t part of the conversation among candidates who purport to believe—and do on some level—that there’s looming global catastrophe.
Sanders proposes an all-out war on climate change, and it's one of the scenarios I've been considering in some early attempts to think about solving climate policy with game theory. What we've found so far? Agreements or not, without consistent engagement between states and the federal government in domestic policy, and between countries in international policy, the natural play is for each actor to do nothing, even if the risks of a climate catastrophe are understood. Whether this is a prisoner's dilemma or a game of chicken, in this case leadership is paramount because it is the only way to avoid a logical outcome: catastrophe.
"It's easy to diagnose the problem. It's harder to do something about the problem," Clinton says. Subtext: "I'm a doer. He's a talker," which was also her argument against Obama eight years ago. Then, the talker won.
On the topic of climate change, Clinton touts her work as secretary of state to lay the groundwork for the Paris accord that the Obama administration secured after her departure, and she criticizes Sanders for his lukewarm statement saying it didn't go far enough. Sanders responds that Clinton also promoted fracking as secretary of state. Again, this is a debate over the Obama record: Clinton staunchly defends it, and Sanders is more, "Eh."
Bernie Sanders repeated his stance that marijuana be taken out of the Federal Controlled Substance Act. The Drug Enforcement Administration categorizes marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning that it is a drug “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” In 2014, the Justice Department estimated that the most serious offense of 3.6 percent of all inmates is drug possession. Earlier this month, Sanders reminded a crowd that “blacks are four times more likely to get arrested for marijuana than are whites.”
I wouldn't underestimate the power of federal policy on pace-setting for states. Several states passed much stronger sentencing laws after the ‘94 crime bill, and beyond providing a rhetorical framework, it provided funds through Truth in Sentencing and prison grants to further incentivize locking people up more often and for longer. The thing is that despite some snap analyses going around, it's impossible to point out the true impact of a bill passed in October 1994 with six-year grant horizons by finding 1994 on a graph of the prison population. Given that mandatory minimums, three-strike laws, and building prisons are efforts that take years to have effects, we may not have even passed the time horizon to even assess the effects of the bill.
I think the impression is that Hillary Clinton and her husband presented themselves as “tough-on-crime” Democrats, whereas not so much with Bernie Sanders—in this telling, it’s more about their cultural signaling than it is about policy. It’s a mode of analysis that fits with the larger cultural moment, where there’s often greater emphasis on what people say, in judging their ostensible degree of cultural enlightenment, than what they do.
What I wish these candidates would pledge, with respect to the criminal-justice system, is much, much more aggressive scrutiny of local police departments, prosecutors, and crime labs by the Department of Justice’s Office of Civil Rights, which they'd quintuple if I had my way.
For the life of me, I still can't figure out how Sanders has largely evaded the scrutiny over the Crime Bill that has been levied towards Clinton, whose "superpredators" remark came a year after its passage and who, of course, did not vote for the bill. Regardless of his defense of begrudging support of the bill in order to pass assault weapons, domestic violence, and death penalty reforms, he still remains the one candidate in the presidential race who is on the record as having voted for it.
This discussion of the 1994 Crime Bill is necessary. But it would be nice to see the candidates reckon with the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which gutted habeas corpus in the federal courts, and the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which drastically reduced inmates' power to challenge prison conditions. Both are essential to understand the harsh punitive turn taken by the criminal-justice system under the Clinton administration.
Errol Louis asks a good question to Sanders: How would he fulfill his promise to release some 500,000 prisoners, given than many are under state jurisdiction? Sanders says he’d work with states. This is a favorite Sanders mechanism; it’s the same one he promises to use to fund free college tuition. But as President Obama’s experience with the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, saying you’ll get states to cooperate is a lot easier than actually doing so.
Clinton ends her crime-bill semi-apology with a callout to white privilege: "I want white people to recognize that there is systemic racism. It's also in employment, it's in housing, but it's in the criminal justice system as well."
Hillary throws Bill under the bus over the crime bill: “He was the president who actually signed it.”
At the end of the sparring over gun control, Sanders finally mentioned the word "rural." Clinton and Sanders both seemed to take it for granted that the NRA is a boogeyman, and that people who like guns, and want to use guns, are suspect. In certain progressive circles, Sanders's gun-control positions certainly aren't a boon. But why not speak frankly about the community he was coming from and the people he was representing, who likely don't see guns as unambiguously evil?
"It had some important aspects to it," Clinton says of the 1994 crime bill, which burst back into the Democratic race when her husband battled Black Lives Matter protesters earlier this month. She mentions the assault weapons ban and the Violence Against Women Act, but says the tougher criminal sentencing parts went too wrong and need to be redone.
Sanders saying that coming from Vermont , which has "virtually no gun-control" laws positions him to create a consensus on the issue is not convincing. The physical vastness, low population, and general rural culture of Vermont have relatively little in common with the areas of the country where most illegal gun sales, and the resulting crimes, occur.
"I don’t think I owe them an apology,” Sanders says when asked about the daughter of the Sandy Hook Elementary School principal who was killed in the Newton shooting and called for Sanders to issue an apology "for putting the gun lobby above our families.” The Vermont senator stumbled in his response, perhaps providing further evidence that gun control continues to be a tough topic for him to navigate on the debate stage.
So is Clinton standing behind her statement or not? “Most of the guns that are used in crimes and violence and killings in New York come from out of state,” she said at a roundtable. “And the state that has the highest per capita number of those guns that end up committing crimes in New York come from Vermont.”
Tonight, she insists she doesn’t blame Vermont, but at the same time reiterates that guns from neighboring states are a major problem in the Empire State.
Bernie is basking in his Brooklyn-ness. "Point being." "Excuuuuse me."
Hillary Clinton noted a few minutes ago that she's been endorsed by Barney Frank, co-author of the 2010 Wall Street reform legislation known colloquially as Dodd-Frank. It's a convenient endorsement for someone looking to prove she's not cozy with the banks, an accusation she's received from the Sanders camp. Frank, a prominent progressive and former Massachusetts congressman, is no fan of Sanders, despite similarities in their values and shoot-from-the-hip public personas. He told Slate last month that Sanders "has been in Congress for 25 years with little to show for it in terms of his accomplishments." Frank has worried, too, that Sanders's campaign hurts Democrats' chances in the fall, as he argued in a Politico op-ed last year. In that pro-Clinton piece, Frank even gave her cover for her Iraq War vote, another common Sanders criticism, saying it was "a response to a given fraught political situation rather than an indication of their basic policy stance."
On guns, unless I’ve missed some wrinkle, there won’t be any significant difference between an America with Hillary Clinton in the White House and a country with Bernie Sanders in the White House.
Wolf Blitzer says that the debate is going to discuss gun control now. Clinton must be happy. This has been one of the few policy areas where she has been able to credibly attack Sanders from the left.
"History has outpaced Secretary Clinton," Sanders says, which is the core of his argument that Clinton is late to the fight for a $15 minimum wage. Her argument is essentially that she's always supported the "Fight for 15" but that she took her cue from Democratic senators, who only proposed a $12 federal minimum wage.
In fact, David, it’s not just Republicans who took a state’s rights approach to gay marriage—it’s precisely how Clinton herself approached the issue! On that issue, like the minimum wage, she hinted that she could see further changes coming, but also said that it needed to be up to states.
And then, as now, it was those of more activist dispositions who changed the political terrain in a way that ultimately had her embracing the cause after it moved to the mainstream of the Democratic Party.
Clinton’s view on the minimum wage is not that different from what Republicans were saying about gay marriage just a few years ago, when they could see that full legalization was coming but couldn’t say so: Let the states decide!
I wish that Bernie Sanders would say, “We need a guaranteed minimum income for all Americans.” It would be a lot more substantively defensible.
“You're both screaming at each other,” Wolf Blitzer chastises. “The viewers won't be able to hear either of you.”
Tax season seems to be on Senator Sanders's mind, although perhaps less so than his wife's, who is evidently the household accountant. With April 15 coming up tomorrow, he emphasized the old progressive saw of effective tax rates, creating a stark contrast between multi-million dollar companies that pay relatively little to the government and what many Americans are probably groaning at at home.
Clinton has only backed a $12 federal minimum wage, not $15. But she says that if a Democratic Congress somehow put a bill raising the federal floor to $15 on her desk as president, she would sign it.
Bernie Sanders suggests that if the minimum wage goes to $15 we may have to pay a few cents more for a hamburger at McDonalds. Alternatively, we might go to a McDonalds where we order on an iPad rather than from a cashier, who is laid off and unable to find work as all the other burger chains automate.
When the question to Hillary Clinton is about her money-grabbing Wall Street speeches (“Why not release them?") the only decent answer is, “Here they are.” But Clinton won’t say that. Or she can’t say it—not without revealing to populist Democratic voters how she cuddled with and/or cowered before monied elite.
Her answer—I’ll release them when Republicans do—is silly and shameless. She’s running against Bernie Sanders, and he didn’t get paid by Wall Street, like she did, to suck up to Wall Street. And if Clinton wants voters to believe she and her party are better than Republicans, she can’t use the GOP as cover.
Bernie Sanders wants more investment by corporations in inner cities in America. I fear that the movement toward a $15 minimum wage—and its success in New York and California—is causing more and more corporations to decide that automation and outsourcing are the better economic bet.
Sanders is really throwing his wife under the bus here on the taxes. "Jane does them," he has now said twice. Is he saying she lost them, too?
"Of course we will release our taxes. Jane does our taxes, and we've been a little busy. You'll have to excuse us," Sanders says. He then says he'll release last year's taxes tomorrow but promises they'll be very boring.
Clinton still has no good answer to why she won’t release the transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs. That’s probably because there is no good answer. She tries to change the subject by talking about tax returns and calling on others to release their tax returns, including Sanders. He’s ready to turn on that: He quickly vows to release every speech he gave to banks behind closed doors. That’s zero, of course.
Hillary Clinton takes Sanders's requests for her Goldman Sachs speech transcripts and raises him some tax returns, which he hasn't fully released.
To Conor's point, what percentage of Americans even have an idea of what "breaking up the banks" would mean? Both candidates themselves struggle with providing a coherent picture of what a post-big-banking Wall Street might look like. How would the shadow-banking industry be regulated, and how would strong regulations be passed in a way that doesn't immediately cause economic damage?
It's interesting that Sanders, a proponent of big government, seems to believe that if big banks are broken up, it should not necessarily be up to the feds to decide how that should happen, or what happens next. "What the government should say is you are too big too fail, you have got to be a certain size," Sanders says, adding "the banks themselves can figure out what they want to sell off. I don't know that it's appropriate for the Department of Treasury to be making those decisions."
I have to imagine that every time either of these candidates says “Dodd-Frank” the vast majority of viewers just hear white noise. What percentage of Americans could describe what that legislation did?
If I'm Donald Trump, Ted Cruz or any Republican determined to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House, I'm watching tonight's debate with Bernie Sanders with a knot in my stomach. If she is willing to be this tough and blunt and harsh against a 74-year-old socialist nearly mathematically eliminated from the Democratic nomination fight, consider how ruthless she’ll be with a Republican.
Sanders is asked to identify an instance in which donations swayed Clinton’s judgment, and demurs. But it’s not a fair question. Sanders’s point isn’t that there’s a direct quid pro quo. It’s that when legislators take large sums from industries they regulate, they’re influenced whether they wish to be or not. It’s the same principle that leads physicians groups to bar payments from pharmaceutical firms, or judges to recuse themselves from cases in which they have financial interests.
Sanders is asked to name a specific decision where Clinton’s judgment was affected by donations from banks. Sanders mostly whiffs—he says she should have argued for breaking up big banks in 2008, or something. In any case, this is the another very tough question for Sanders—the first few have been fairly hostile toward him.
“I love being in Brooklyn. This is great,” Clinton says. I can’t help but wonder if this well be a regular line of the night, as each candidate touts their roots to—and their love for—New York.
What are Sanders and Clinton fighting about here? As K. Sabeel Rahman wrote back in February, there’s a substantive disagreement that stretches far beyond banking. Clinton believes in the promise of regulatory reform—that government can effectively police the excesses of capitalism, reining in the abusive practices of big business, and harnessing its potential to drive economic growth.
Sanders disagrees. He tends to argue that when business gets too big, it captures regulators, and it influences legislators. The solution, to his mind, is to break monopolistic businesses up into more manageable pieces.
Hillary Clinton’s connection to Wall Street has been a regular point of attack for Sanders, but in light of this week’s revelation that five of the nation’s eight largest banks might still be “too big too fail,” it might carry additional weight. Earlier this week, the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation said that five major banks did not have adequate plans in place in the event of a financial crisis. Sanders often decries big banks, saying it’s time to break them up and recalling the speeches Clinton made to Goldman Sachs—and in this case, it may help his message resonate.
I wonder where Vegas would peg the over-under for number of big banks that Hillary Clinton would break up if elected president. Can you have an over-under when the odds favor zero?
“This is not only an attack on me, this is an attack on President Obama,” Clinton says. The former secretary of state has moved back and forth between distinguishing herself in the race and acknowledging her former employer. Tonight, it looks like she’s standing by him. At the end of March, Obama’s approval rating reached 53 percent, according to Gallup.
Hillary Clinton says that Bernie Sanders is unqualified, pointing to his interview with the New York Daily News editorial board, and his lack of specificity about breaking up big banks. Bernie Sanders retorts that Hillary Clinton is unqualified because she voted for the biggest foreign policy catastrophe in modern American history. I award that round to Bernie Sanders.
It took about 5 minutes for Clinton to raise Sanders's tough interview with the editorial board of the New York Daily News. "I think you need to have the judgment on Day One to be president and commander in chief."
About that judgement remark from Sanders? “Well the people of New York voted for me twice for me to be the senator and President Obama trusted me enough to be secretary of state,” Clinton retorts.
Sanders is defending the statement that Clinton was not qualified by referring to a Washington Post headline that said she had questioned his qualifications. In fact, the headline was always misleading: Morning Joe’s Joe Scarborough had tried fruitlessly to get her to say he was not qualified, and she had declined. It’s amazing that this single, ill-thought-out headline set off Sanders’s fit of pique and threw the Democratic campaign into acrimony.
"Does Secretary Clinton have the experience and the intelligence to be president? Of course she does," Sanders says when asked about Clinton's "qualifications." But then he adds, "But I do question her judgment."
Did you know that Hillary Clinton represented New York in the Senate for eight years and served during 9/11? If not, she made sure to remind everyone right at the start.
Sanders cites a series of recent victories in state contests and his performance in opinion polls in his opening statement, attributing his success to individual contributions and “telling people the truth.” Sanders refrained from delivering an attack against Clinton, but the tenor of the race has changed since the two last met, following rising tension between the two candidates. For much of the presidential primary, Sanders has touted his positive approach to the campaign; it remains to be seen whether that changes tonight.
Bernie Sanders points out that two polls show him ahead. The most recent poll he’s talking about is our PRRI/The Atlantic poll, in which he led Clinton 47 to 46 percent, nationwide. In truth, that’s less a lead than a statistical tie, but it’s no less remarkable to see a challenger surge into a tie just as the front-runner is on the cusp of securing a large enough lead in pledged delegates to lock up the nomination.
After the national anthem they should have a drone flyover at the indoor debates.
All eyes are on Brooklyn tonight as Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders face off. But across the East River, all three Republican candidates are gathering in a Midtown hotel to raise moola for the New York State GOP. The Journal News notes that none of the contenders, including hometown boy Donald Trump, has received the backing of the state party committee or its chairman, Ed Cox. The Wall Street Journal reports that Cox disapproved of Trump's threats to run as an independent last year and his anti-Muslim statements. Before the sold-out gala was to start, though, Cox didn't betray any dislike of the front-runner. “I love all our candidates,” Cox said. “We are having our big New Hampshire moment.” In Brooklyn, the Democrats may or may not be feeling the same.
Where are the candidates headed after the debate? Bernie Sanders, for one, is off to the Vatican to speak at the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences on the “moral economy.” As Emma noted, “there is a somewhat uncanny overlap between the way Bernie and Francis talk about economic issues.” It’s an unexpected move from a non-Catholic and ahead of a tight contest in New York on April 19. But the Sanders campaign is standing by the decision. “When the invitation came for the Vatican, it was an invitation he felt that he needed to accept immediately,” said Sanders campaign manager, Jeff Weaver on CNN. According to the Vatican spokesman, the trip will not include a meeting with the pope.
About an hour before the debate’s 9 p.m. start time, the Clinton campaign sent reporters a release that asked: “Will Sanders answer tough questions at the debate?” It highlighted recent interviews in which Sanders has struggled with the specifics behind some of his trade and Wall Street reform proposals, and on foreign policy issues, particularly during an editorial board meeting with the New York Daily News. One question for tonight is, will Clinton try to press Sanders on these topics herself? Or will she focus her attacks on Donald Trump and trust the moderators to be tough on Sanders? Clinton clearly wants to shift her focus to the general election, but she might see tonight’s debate—and the New York primary—as a prime opportunity to put away Sanders for good.
Heading into Thursday night’s debate in Brooklyn, the Democratic race arrives in uncharted territory. Hillary Clinton appears all but certain to secure a majority of the pledged delegates. But just as she’s poised to sew up the nomination, Bernie Sanders has pulled even. Last week, a PRRI/The Atlantic poll found Sanders drawing 47 percent support, and Clinton 46 percent, nationwide.