Democratic debate recap: Clinton, Sanders clash over Obama

MILWAUKEE -- Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders vigorously agreed. Except when they didn't.

The rivals spent much of Thursday's sixth Democratic presidential debate in a respectful discussion of their marginal differences on issues like immigration, criminal justice reform and entitlements.

See Full Article

But both were animated when the contest turned to one of fundamental questions facing Democrats: has President Barack Obama gone far enough in his policies and if not, how far should the next president go?

Clinton, who has cast herself as the rightful heir to Obama's legacy, accused Sanders of diminishing the president's record, short-changing his leadership and seeking to wipe away his signature health care law.

"The kind of criticism I hear from Senator Sanders, I expect from Republicans. I do not expect it from someone seeking the Democratic nomination," Clinton said in a sharp exchange near the close of the two-hour debate in Milwaukee. Her biting comments followed an interview in which Sanders suggested Obama hadn't succeeded in closing the gap between Congress and the American people - something Obama himself has acknowledged.

Sanders responded: "Madam Secretary, that is a low blow." And he noted that Clinton was the only one on the stage who ran against Obama in the 2008 presidential race.

Long viewed as the overwhelming front-runner in the Democratic race, Clinton has been caught off guard by Sanders' strength, particularly his visceral connection with Americans frustrated by the current political and economic systems. Clinton's own campaign message has looked muddled compared to his ringing call for a "political revolution," and her connections to Wall Street have given Sanders an easy way to link her to the systems his supporters want to overhaul.

Seeking to stem Sanders' momentum, her campaign has argued that his appeal is mostly limited to the white, liberal voters who make up the Democratic electorate in Iowa and New Hampshire. Clinton's team says that as the race turns now to Nevada, South Carolina and other more diverse states, her support from black and Hispanic voters will help propel her to the nomination.

Attempting Thursday night to boost his own support from minorities, Sanders peppered his typically economic-focused rhetoric with calls to reform a "broken criminal justice system" that incarcerates a disproportionate number of minorities.

"At the end of my first term, we will not have more people in jail than any other country," he said.

In one of many moments of agreement between the candidates, Clinton concurred on a need to fix the criminal justice system, but cast her proposals for fighting racial inequality as broader than his.

"We also have to talk about jobs, education, housing, and other ways of helping communities," said Clinton, who was endorsed earlier in the day by the political action committee of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The candidates both vowed to pursue comprehensive immigration reform, using the emotional issue to draw a contrast with Republicans who oppose allowing many of the millions of people in the United States illegally to stay.

"We have got to stand up to the Trumps of the world who are trying to divide us up," said Sanders, referring to Republican front-runner Donald Trump, who has called for deporting everyone in the country illegally and constructing a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Both Clinton and Sanders also disagreed with raids authorized by Obama to arrest and deport some people from Central America who recently came to the country illegally.

"We should be deporting criminals, not hardworking immigrant families who do the very best they can," Clinton said.

While the Democratic race has become more heated in recent weeks, Clinton and Sanders have cast their disagreements as matters of substance and degree while condemning Republicans for focusing more on personal attacks. The GOP race has been a fiery contest, with Trump levying sharply personal attacks on his rivals and other candidates, including Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, releasing no-holds-barred negative advertisements.

Clinton, who remains the favorite for the Democratic nomination, has a political incentive to keep her disagreements with Sanders focused on policy. She can't afford to alienate the young voters who are overwhelmingly backing Sanders in the primary, if she does become the Democratic nominee.

Still, the former secretary of state sought to discredit some of the proposals that have drawn young people to Sanders, including his call for free tuition at public colleges and universities and a plan for a government-run, single-payer health care system. Clinton said those proposals come with unrealistic price tags. And she accused Sanders of trying to shade the truth about what she said would be a 40 percent increase in the size of the federal government in order to implement his policies.

Sanders didn't shy away from the notion that he wants to expand the size of government.

"In my view, the government of a democratic society has a moral responsibility to play a vital role in making sure all our people have a decent standard of living," Sanders said.

Sanders has focused his campaign almost exclusively on a call to break up big Wall Street banks and overhaul the current campaign finance system that he says gives wealthy Americans undue influence. His campaign contends that his message will be well-received by minority voters, arguing that blacks and Hispanics have been hurt even more by what he calls a "rigged" economy.

In the debate's early moments, Clinton found herself having to explain comments by surrogates, including former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, that suggested women had a responsibility to help elect the first female president.

"I'm not asking people to support me because I'm a woman," Clinton said. "I'm asking people to support me because I think I'm the most qualified, experienced and ready person to be the president and the commander in chief."

It was Sanders - a democratic socialist who would be the first Jewish president if elected - who tried to drape his candidacy in a bit of history, saying:

"I think a Sanders victory would be of some historical accomplishment as well."

Pace reported from Washington. AP writer Josh Lederman contributed to this report.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Desperate times obscure Canada's role in Iraq's uncertain future

    Canada News CTV News
    ERBIL, Iraq -- A baby's cry pierces the din as dozens of people wait to see a doctor or nurse at what's surely one of the busiest health clinics in the Middle East: inside a sprawling refugee camp that's home to 18,000 displaced men, women and children. Source
  • U.S. House probe into Russia ties to Trump off to rocky start

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- A simmering dispute between leaders of the House intelligence committee spilled into the public Monday over an investigation into whether President Donald Trump has ties to Russia, even as they pledged to conduct a bipartisan probe. Source
  • Turkey jails reporter from Germany's Die Welt paper

    World News CBC News
    Turkish authorities on Monday arrested a reporter for a prominent German newspaper on charges of propaganda in support of a terrorist organization and inciting the public to violence, Republican People's Party (CHP) lawmaker Baris Yarkadas told reporters outside the courthouse. Source
  • Convicted killer Kelly Ellard allowed temporary escorted prison release

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - Convicted killer Kelly Ellard has been granted temporary escorted absences from prison to attend doctor’s appointments and parenting programs for her baby. Parole board member Alex Dantzer says it’s disturbing that Ellard continues to minimize her crime, but in light of her good behaviour in prison she should be allowed the absences. Source
  • Jewish centres cope with more bomb threats; graves also vandalized

    World News Toronto Sun
    PHILADELPHIA - Money is being raised to repair and restore more than 100 headstones that were vandalized at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia while police hunt for the person who toppled them. A man visiting Mount Carmel Cemetery on Sunday called police to report that three of his relatives’ headstones had been knocked over and damaged. Source
  • Bartender told 911 Kansas man accused of shooting two Indian men thought they were Iranian

    World News Toronto Sun
    OLATHE, Kan. — A bartender at the restaurant where a man was arrested last week for an apparently racially motivated bar shooting of two Indian men told a 911 dispatcher that the suspect admitted shooting two people, but described them as Iranian. Source
  • Ex-Montreal mayor Applebaum won't appeal corruption conviction

    Canada News CTV News
    MONTREAL -- The lawyer for former Montreal mayor Michael Applebaum says there will be no appeal of his client's conviction on corruption-related charges. Pierre Teasdale confirmed the decision Monday but did not give any reasons. Source
  • Mom not getting son, who weighed 132 lbs. at age 5, back

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    SYDNEY, N.S. — A Nova Scotia judge has ruled that a boy who was five years old and weighed 132 pounds when he was taken from his mother will not return to her care, saying living with her was too hazardous to his health. Source
  • Security advisory issued after bomb threats at Jewish schools, centres across U.S.

    World News CTV News
    A national Jewish civil rights organization is urging institutions across the United States to ramp up their security efforts amid a wave of bomb threats phoned into Jewish community centres and schools in as many as 12 U.S. Source
  • 'Just killed two people. Cheers': Murderer sends chilling text to father

    World News Toronto Sun
    A Welsh man sent a bitter text to his father soon after stabbing his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend to death, bizarrely signing off the message by saying “cheers.” Before the double-killing of Zoe Morgan and Lee Simmons in Cardiff, Andrew Saunders took to Google, asking “how long do murderers serve in prison,” according to the Daily Mail. Source