Clinton and Bernie Sanders scrambled constantly on Sunday night at the last Democratic debate before caucuses in 2 weeks. Both were ready to clash as polls showed the race tightening. It was the last Democratic matchup before voting begins in two weeks, and both sides were eager to rumble since the polls show the race tightening in the leadoff states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
Clinton knocked Sanders, Vermont Senator, for voting frequently with the NRA and then welcomed his weekend reverse position to back legislation that would deny manufacturers of guns legal immunity. Clinton rattled off a list of provisions that she said Sanders had supported together with the NRA.
The debate over gun control –ongoing conflict between Clinton and Sanders – took on importance because of the setting. The debate took place just blocks from the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church where nine parishioners were killed during Bible study last summer. Gun control has emerged as a central theme in the race, with Clinton citing the issue as one of the major differences between the candidates.
On healthcare, Sanders plan for government run single- payer -plan that some refer to as Medicare for All only hours before the debate, and used his being statement to call for healthcare “for every man, woman and child as a right.” Clinton urged less sweeping action building on President Barack Obama’s healthcare plan by decreasing out-of-pocket costs and control payments on prescription drugs.
Clinton advocated Sanders’ plan was dangerous – and ‘pie-in-the-sky’ unworkable.
“With all due respect, to start over again with a whole new debate is something that would set us back,” stated Clinton who has been working for healthcare since she was ‘First Lady’.
Clinton suggested Sanders’ health care plan would force a heavier tax load on the middle class, saying “I want to raise incomes, not taxes.” In return Sanders upheld that taxpayers would come out ahead with lower overall costs.
The two scrambled over financial policy, too, with Sanders proposing Clinton won’t be tough enough on Wall Street giving the big contributions and large fees for speaking that she’s accepted. Clinton, in turn, faulted Sanders’ past votes to decontrol financial markets and ease up on federal oversight. “We’re at least having a vigorous debate about reining in Wall Street,” she stated. “The Republicans want to give them more power.”
Clinton worked aggressively to link herself with President Obama, asserting credit for her role in the run-up to the Iran nuclear agreement as well as praising the healthcare law.
The tone of the debate was substantially more heated than the past three debates. But it also included moments of humor. At different points, both Sanders and Clinton prefaced their criticism of one another with the phrase “in all due respect.” Sanders took note that he was copying Clinton on that verbiage, drawing a chuckle from his rival.
More on healthcare
Then he finished his thought on healthcare, telling Clinton “in all due respect, you’re missing the main point.”
Clinton, playing most to her liberal audience, cast Sanders’ criticisms of Obama for being too weak in taking on Wall Street” as unfair, and declared, “I’m going to defend President Obama for taking on Wall Street and getting results.”
“The Republicans just voted last week to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and thank goodness, President Obama vetoed it and saved Obamacare for the American people,” Clinton said.
Turning to national security, both Sanders and Clinton voiced strong backing for Obama’s diplomatic approaches to Iran and opposition to sending U.S. boots on the ground in Syria. Clinton defended her outreach to Russia early in her time as secretary of state, but wavered when asked to describe her relationship with Vladimir Putin, whose return to the Russian presidency foreshowed the worsening of U.S.-Russian relations.
Clinton and Putin
“My relationship with him – it’s interesting,” Clinton said to laughs in the hall. “It’s one, I think, of respect.” But she added it was perilous to constantly stand up to Putin, describing him as a bully who “will take as much as he possibly can.”
Clinton and Clinton
Clinton also showed light on what role her husband, former President Bill Clinton, would play in her administration. Kitchen table adviser, perhaps? “It’ll start at the kitchen table – we’ll see where it goes from there,” she said with a laugh.
Then, pointing to the successes of her husband’s administration, she added: “You bet I’m going to ask for his ideas. I’m going to ask for his advice”.
The third person in the debate, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, tried to put himself into the conversation. He concentrated on his record as Maryland’s governor and accused both Clinton and Sanders of being erratic on gun control.