In their only vbate before the New Hampshire primary, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will square off in their first head-to-head debate.
Sanders and Clinton participated in a town hall event last night where Sanders challenged Clinton’s progressive credentials while Clinton unconvincingly tried to make the case that she never thought she would be running for president. Clinton also cavalierly brushed off the $675,000 speaking fee that Goldman Sachs paid her that big-footed what was a solid town hall performance. When Anderson Cooper pressed Clinton on the speaking-fees issue, she replied, “that’s what they offered.” Though he was reluctant to criticize Clinton at the beginning of the campaign, Sanders has been accusing Clinton of not being progressive enough while hammering her ties to Wall Street as his campaign has been gaining momentum.
MSNBC’s Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow will moderate the debate, and Breitbart News will be providing live updates.
Closing Statements Clinton thanks MSNBC [she should for giving them an informercial format]. She says that she is going to campaign as hard as she can to earn your votes. She says people are deciding whether to vote with their heart or head and she is asking people to bring both to vote on Tuesday. She says they were not able to talk about racism, sexism, discrimination against LGBT, “new Americans” and people with disabilities, and income inequality. She says she has been moved by her heart ever since she was a young woman but “we gotta put our heads together” to solve problems so people will have see real differences in their lives.
Sanders says his dad came to this country from Poland when he was 17. He couldn’t speak English and didn’t have any money. He says he loves this country and his dad (he says it would have been beyond his wildest dreams to see him run for president) loved this country because of what it gave him to be able to raise his family. He says America is the only major county that doesn’t guarantee healthcare and paid family/medical leave. He says America has one of the highest rates of childhood poverty while millions of families are unable to send their kids to college. “I’m running for president because…. it is too late for establishment politics and establishment economics,” he says. Sanders says we “need a political revolution” where millions stand up and say loudly and clearly that “our government belongs to all of us and not just a handful of wealthy contributors.”
11:02: Todd says Clinton doesn’t see a president in Sen. Sanders, and he asks if she sees a vice president in him? Clinton says we should not be getting ahead of ourselves and Sanders will be the first person she calls to talk about how to win the election if she wins the nomination (her answer is good news for Julian Castro).
Sanders agrees with Clinton and says they are 100 times better than any Republican candidate on their worst days.
“That’s true!” Clinton says while laughing.
10:58: Maddow says Republicans always talk about wanting to get rid of departments, and she asks Clinton if there is a department she would want to get rid of or a new one she would create. She says no to both and wants to make what we have now work better. She says she ran the State Department and has an idea about what it takes to make the government work more efficiently.
10:57: Todd instead asks Sanders the same question. He says he is for “comprehensive immigration reform and a path to citizenship” for all of the illegal immigrants. Sanders says Todd missed two critical issues. He says unless there is campaign finance reform, policies that benefit working families will not get passed. Sanders says he has a litmus test for the Supreme Court–no one will be nominated unless they promise to overturn Citizens United.
Sanders says Todd didn’t mention anything about criminal justice reform. And he says these progressive items will only get elected if millions get involved in his political revolution. He says you just can’t negotiate with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)–he says Mitch will have to look out the window and see a whole bunch of people telling him to represent working-class families instead of billionaires.
10:55: Todd says Obama got a lot of ambitions stuff done and he had to make choices. Todd asks Obama chose healthcare over immigration. He asks Clinton about immigration, gun control, climate change and what she would do first. Clinton says “I don’t accept that premise” and she says that she will begin to work immediately on putting together an agenda on how we can push forward on these issue. She talks bout solar panels and bringing down prescription drug costs. She talks about paid family leave and early childhood education (didn’t Maddow say this would not be a talking-point debate?). Clinton continues to check off all the boxes. Todd doesn’t ask her to prioritize. No follow-up question.
10:49: Sanders is proud that he is “absolutely” not supported a trade deal in Congress. Sanders says he believes in fair trade that works for middle-class families and not for “unfettered trade” that only works for corporations. Todd had asked him if opposing all trade agreements will allow China to end up writing all of the rules. Sanders says opposing all of the alphabet-soup trade deals is “not rocket science” because it forces Americans to compete with people in Vietnam who make $.56/hour. He says the current trade agreements were written by corporate America, for corporate America and resulted in the loss of millions of decent-paying jobs.
10: 47: Todd asks Clinton whether she would support agreements like TPP if elected president since she has flip-flopped on so many trade issues. Clinton says she opposed CAFTA and she said she hoped that TPP would put to rest a lot of concerns people have about trade agreements. She says she waited until it has been negotiated and opposed it once she saw what the outcome was. Clinton says we have to trade with the rest of the world “and trade has to be reciprocal” but “we have failed to provide the basic safety-net support that American workers need in order to compete and win in the global economy.”
10:45: Sanders says that Clinton described the situation appropriately and says he doesn’t go around asking for governors to resign every day but points out Governor Snyder’s irresponsibility was “so outrageous” that he has called for his resignation. He says it is “beyond comprehension” that there has not been a significant response. Sanders wonders what kind of response there would have been if Flint were a “white, suburban community.” He says Flint is a poor community that is disproportionately African-American and it is an “outrage” what happened there.
10:43: The debate turns to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Maddow asks if the state is failing, will Clinton order a federal response to get it right. “Absolutely,” Clinton says. Clinton thanks Maddow for holding a town hall in Flint (another softball question for Clinton after Clinton gave Maddow some exclusive interviews). Clinton says that
10:42: Sanders says too many minorities, particularly African-Americans, have been executed when they were not guilty. He says though there are “barbaric acts out there…. in a world of so much violence and killing, I don’t believe that government should be a part of the killing.” He says “you lock them up and toss away the key” when someone commits heinous crimes.
10:40: Clinton says she still supports the death penalty and hopes that the Supreme Court will make clear that any state that uses the death penalty cannot continue it if those on death row did not get adequate council. She says she believes in the death penalty for terrorists like Timothy McVeigh. She is for it for “very limited, heinous crimes.” But she deeply disagrees with how many states are implementing it.
10:35: In a question meant to help Clinton in Nevada and New Hampshire, Maddow asks about some shenanigans some associated with his campaign have been involved in in New Hampshire and Nevada. When Maddow asks about whether Sanders tried to mislead New Hampshire voters about whether he got an “endorsement” from one of the state’s paper, Sanders said that was only meant to be seen online. Sanders campaign senior adviser Tad Devine apologized for using the word “endorsement” in that online ad in question.
10:34: Sanders says he will not politicize the email scandal because “there is a process under way.” Sanders says there is not a day that goes by where he is not asked to attack Clinton on the issue and he will “refrain from doing that.”
10:32: Todd asks a velvet-glove question about Clinton’s email scandal. Clinton says she testified for 11 hours and Republicans basically said “didn’t get her. We tried.” Though she is comparing apples and oranges, Clinton says Secretary Powell and aides to Secretary Rice received some classified material that had been retroactively classified on their email accounts. Clinton says she has “absolutely no concerns about it whatsoever.”
Todd notes that there is an open FBI investigation into this matter and Clinton says she is “100% confident” that nothing will come from the investigation.
10:30: Maddow asks Clinton whether Democrats will suffer nationwide if Sanders is the nominee and if Sanders would win a general election if he is the nominee. Clinton dodges the question and says, with great respect for Sanders’s campaign, that she is the strongest candidate for Democrats in the general election. Clinton says she’s been vetted and “there’s hardly anything you don’t know about me” [what about medical issues?]… she says she is the person who can best take it to the Republicans. She says at the end of the day it’s less about electability and who the American people think can keep them safe, raise wages, and preserve Obama’s accomplishments [Obama’s approval ratings have been tanking, though].
10:28: Maddow notes that McGovern and Goldwater got activists excited but got smoked in the general election. Maddow wonders how strong Sanders will be in a general election [She doesn’t mention Sanders’s spokeswoman’s comments: re: “radical, revolutionary change” that was made on the MSNBC earlier in the day]. Sanders says Democrats win when there is a large voter turnout and he is best able to get young voters and working-class voters to turn out “who will get involved in the political process” to increase voter turnout to retain the White House and win governorships across the board.
MSNBC is clearly the homer network for Democrats, and this debate is proving it.
10:25: Todd asks Sanders about the Iowa results and the Des Moines Register’s call for an audit. Sanders says he agrees with the Des Moines Register when asked if he believes if Clinton won Iowa. He says “this is not a winner-take-all thing” and says Clinton has one more delegate than he does right now. Sanders says he may have two more delegates and calls Iowa a “fairly chaotic type of situation.” He says he loves and respects the caucus process in Iowa and loves New Hampshire too. He says “people are blowing this stuff out of proportion” but the process needs improvement. Clinton says “whatever they decide to do is fine” re: potential audits.
10:18: Sanders accuses Republicans of not wanting to fund programs to help vets and he touts his VA healthcare bill and also slams the Koch Brothers for wanting to destroy Social Security, Medicare, etc.
10:17: Maddow asks Clinton how she will win the argument against Republicans re: VA/veterans issues. She says she doesn’t believe in privatizing the VA and speaks about wait times and services that have to be fixed. She accuses the Koch Brothers of trying to privatize the VA and she says she will “fight that as hard as we can” and says “we will never let it be privatized. And that is a promise.”
[Maddow never asks Clinton about why she tried to downplay the issue on her show last year.]
10:14: Clinton says we have to worry about North Korea’s nuclear/ballistic weapons plans. She says Russia is constantly putting pressure on America’s European allies and trying to move the boundaries of post-WWII Europe while being deeply engaged in supporting Assad.
[Clinton not asked about her “reset” strategy with Russia. Some tough questioners here.]
10:11: Sanders is asked about North Korea, Iran, Russia and what country is the top threat to America. He says North Korea is a “strange situation” because it is an isolated country with nuclear weapons run by a handful of dictators or one paranoid one. He says we should put pressure on China to control North Korea. Sanders says he does not agree that Russia is the top threat and seems to be saying that North Korea is the top threat because it is isolated while China and Russia “live in the world.” Todd never presses Sanders for a clarification.
10:10: Sanders claims he never said he wants to normalize relations with Iraq tomorrow and just meant he hoped it would happen someday. Sanders says it is not naive to talk to our enemies and those are the people we have to talk with. Clinton calls out Sanders for wanting to meet with Iran without conditions and implies that he naive re: foreign policy.
10:08: Maddow asks Clinton why America should not normalize relations with Iran, contrary to what Sanders has advocated. Clinton says she is pleased we got the nuclear agreement that she claims “puts a lid” on Iran’s nuclear program but Iran is destabilizing governments in the region while supporting Hezbollah/Hamas against Israel. She says she believes that “you have to get action for action” and says if we were to normalize relations now, we’d lose a big piece of leverage we have to get Iran to change its behavior in the Middle East.
10:06: Clinton says a sign that she has good judgment is Obama chose her to be his Secretary of State. She says she exercised her judgment in advising Obama to take out Clinton.
10:02: Todd asks Sanders about his foreign policy advisers. He points out that Sanders never gives foreign policy speeches and has not proactively laid out a foreign policy doctrine. Sanders says he gave a speech at Georgetown that talked about Democratic Socialism and foreign policy. Sanders says he thinks that what’s important is that we learned the lessons of the Iraq War and that lesson is intrinsic to his foreign policy… He says the United States cannot do it alone and be the world’s policemen.
“No, we cannot continue to do it alone. We need to work in coalition,” Sanders says his foreign policy doctrine would be.
Clinton says national security experts have criticized Sanders for wanting to invite Iranian troops into Syrian and moving them closer to Israel. Clinton says questions have been raised and questions need to be answered because voters are voting for a president and a Commander-in-Chief. She says this is a big part of the job interview they are conducting with voters.
Sanders concedes that Clinton has more experience in foreign affairs, but “experience is not the only point. Judgment is.” Sanders calls out Clinton for voting for the Iraq war.
10:00 Sanders reiterates his point that Muslim troops on the ground must destroy ISIS.
9:55: The debate turns to national security, and Maddow asks whether Obama is right to keep escalating the number of U.S. troops fighting ISIS.
Clinton says Obama understands that we have to support the Arab/Kurdish troops fighting on the ground and she says that given the threat that ISIS poses in the region and beyond, it is important to keep the Iraqi Army on a path where they can work with the Sunnis to take back territory.
“They’re doing the fighting. We’re doing the supporting and enabling,” she says. Clinton says we have to do more to combat ISIS online and prevent foreign fighters from joining to ISIS.
Clinton says she is not okay with the number of U.S troops fighting ISIS increasing but says she is opposed to more boots on the ground in Syria.
Sanders says Clinton voted for the Iraq War and ISIS filled the vacuum.
Sanders–not the moderators–calls out Clinton for helping to create ISIS. Neither Maddow nor Todd has asked Clinton whether her foreign policy created ISIS or whether she and Obama underestimated ISIS’s threat when it was forming.
9:49: Maddow says Sanders has been railing against corporations but some have helped advanced progressive goals. She asks Sanders if he could work with big business to advance progressive goals.
“Of course I can work with them,” he says.
Sanders says when he was talking about Boeing/General Electric, he was slamming their use of loopholes to avoid paying taxes and putting their profits in the Cayman Islands, etc.
Sanders says there are many corporations that have turned their backs on the American worker to make another nickel and he vows to take on the corporations re: trade policy.
9:42: Clinton claims it is just not enough to restore Glass-Steagall and she claims her plan to regulate Wall Street is the toughest. She accuses Sanders of being “narrowly focused” on just one part of the problem her plan goes further. Sanders says that we do need a 21st-century Glass-Steagall regulation and says Teddy Roosevelt, were he alive today, would say to break up the banks. “Time to break them up,” he says.
“Look at my record,” Clinton insists.
She says she wants to regulate companies like Johnson Controls and the pharmaceutical industry in addition to Big Oil companies. She says she has a record of going after problems that actually exist.
Sanders says the “business model of Wall Street is fraud.” He says corruption is rampant and if we don’t start breaking up the banks, we will have to bail them out again.
Clinton says he appreciates Sanders’s advocacy but we have a law in place to regulate the banks. She says Obama took Wall Street money but still passed a law regulating them and she insists her plan goes much further to prevent Wall Street from using their economic power to hurt the country again. She cites people like Paul Krugman and Barney Frank. Sanders says he also has a number of people supporting his plans when Todd points out that Clinton’s plan has a lot more endorsers.
9:45: Todd reads a question from a questioner about whether she is willing to release the transcripts of all of her paid speeches. “I will look into it,” she says. Clinton says she spoke to a lot of different groups about issues that had to do with world affairs
9:40: Sanders rails against Goldman Sachs and blasts the rigged economy/broken criminal justice system. He says not one executive on Wall Street has been charged with anything while a kid who gets caught with marijuana gets a criminal record. He says Wall Street executives who destroyed the economy, though, do get a criminal record.
9:38: Clinton is asked whether she has been too dismissive of the speaking fees Wall Street paid her. She claims that she called Wall Street out before the housing crisis and claims she was out in front re: carried interest/CEO pay. She says the best evidence of Wall Street being afraid of her are the billionaires making “smart investments” running ads against her. She says she also has a pretty good understanding about how to stop Wall Street.
9:36: Sanders says being “the establishment” is having a super PAC that has raised $15 million from Wall Street while having accepted millions from special interest over a lifetime.
Clinton says that though Sanders says he wants to run a positive campaign, “time and time again–by innuendo, by insinuation–there is this attack that he is putting forth.” Clinton says Sanders is claiming that anybody who has taken donations from interest groups has to be bought. “I reject that,” she says. “Enough is enough. If you have something to say, say it directly.”
Clinton claims she has never changed a vote because of a donation she has received and asks Sanders to end the “artful smear” that his campaign has been engaging in recent weeks. She is insisting that politicians who take money from interest groups are not being bought.
Sanders asks why did Wall Street get deregulated in the 1990s. He asks if that occurred because Wall Street made millions in campaign donations. Sanders asks whether campaign contributions have anything to do with high drug prices. He blasts the Koch Brothers/Exxon Mobile for pouring in billions into the political process and blocking climate change bills. “There is a reason why these people are putting in huge amounts of money into our political system,” Sanders says.
Clinton claims no person has been the target of special-interest money than she has. She accuses Sanders of having voting to deregulate swaps and derivatives, which helped cause the financial crisis.
Sanders says “there is nobody who fought harder” against deregulation.”
Maddow says “obviously we touched a nerve.”
9:35: Todd says Sanders rails against big money in politics but there is a public financing system in place re: running for president. He asks why Sanders is not participating in the public financing system. Sanders says it is a “disaster” because it doesn’t work for candidates who want to run in Iowa, New Hampshire and other early states and only works for candidates who can make it to California. Todd wonders why Sanders is then criticizing Clinton for Super PACS. Sanders says the public financing system is antiquated and nobody can become president under the current system. He says instead of having Super Pacs, he wanted to ask working families to contribute to his political revolution.
9:20: Hillary Claims She Is Not the Establishmet
Maddow says that Sanders has a long history of running against Democrats as third-party candidate in Vermont. She asks how Sanders can lead the Democratic party nationally if he has not been a Democrat until recently. Sanders says he has caucused with the Democrats in Congress. “I am running for president as a Democrat and if elected not only do I hope to bring forth a major change in national priorities,” Sanders says before saying he wants to bring in young people and working people into the Democratic Party. He says he wants the Democrats to represent all 50 states.
Clinton notes that Howard Dean was the one who first talked about the 50-state strategy and he has endorsed her.
Sanders says will admit that Clinton has the support of establishment governors and mayors. But he says he is proud that “we have over a million people who have contributed to our campaign averaging twenty-seven bucks apiece.” He says his campaign “represents ordinary Americans” while Clinton represents the establishment.
Clinton interjects and says “honestly, Sen. Sanders is the only person who would characterize me–a woman running to the be the first woman president–as the establishment.”
She says people support her because they know her and they know her life’s work. She says they are endorsing her because she can get things done and not make promises she can’t speak.
9:17: Clinton accuses Sanders of cherry-picking her record and claims she is a progressive who gets things done. Sanders pointed out that this debate started when Sanders merely quoted Clinton verbatim on what she said in Ohio about pleading guilty to being a moderate. Clinton says Sanders is trying to distinguish himself and says “let’s not be… in an unfair way… making an accusation or making an attack on where I stand and where I’ve always stood.” She says she doesn’t know anybody who fits Sanders’s definition of progressivism and slams him for being the self-proclaimed gate-keeper of progressivism.
Sanders says we should “not only talk the talk but walk the walk.” He says he is the only candidate on the stage who does not have a Super Pac and does not take donations from Wall Street.
9:16: Todd asks Sanders whether Obama is a progressive for supporting things like the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. This is a tough question for Sanders. He says that Obama, Biden, and the Democratic leadership have done a fantastic job of moving the country forward the last seven years. “Do I think President Obama is a progressive? Yeah, I do,” he says while pointing out that he disagrees with Obama on TPP.
9:14: Sanders: My Ideas Are Not Radical
Sanders says the reality is there has been trillions of dollars of wealth going from the middle class to the top one-tenth of one percent. He again blasts the corrupt campaign system and says “we have to wage a political revolution” and bring in millions who have given up on the political process. Sanders says his ideas are not radical.
[It is worth nothing that Sanders’s spokeswoman told MSNBC earlier in the day that the definition of “progressive” was believing in “radical, revolutionary change.”
9:12: Clinton says she is a progressive who gets things done when Maddow asks why liberals should pick her over Sanders. Clinton, as she said at the town hall, under Sanders’s definition of what being a “progressive” is, Democrats like Joe Biden, Jeanne Shaheen, and the late Paul Wellstone would not have been considered “progressive.”
Clinton says she doesn’t think it was progressive of Sanders to vote against the Brady Bill and against Ted Kennedy’s comprehensive amnesty legislation.
9:10: Clinton says there is no difference between the two on wanting universal coverage. But she does not want to “plunge back in” to another national debate on health care.
Sanders says that he is on the Health, Education, Labor Committee and that committee wrote Obamacare. He says the idea that he would dismantle Obamacare while trying to pass “Medicare for All” is “just not accurate.” He says 29 million people do not have health insurance while millions are still underinsured under Obamacare. He says he wants to rally the American people for his “Medicare for All” program.
9:09: Todd asks Sanders why he thinks he can achieve all of his left-wing promises. Sanders says the issue is “every major country on earth… has managed to provide health care for all people as a right and they are spending significantly less per capita on health care than we are… so I do not accept the belief that the United States of America can’t do that.” He also talks about standing up to the drug industry. Regarding his education proposals, Sanders says public education can no longer be K-12 and public colleges should be tuition free. He says “we pay for it on a tax on Wall Street speculation. The middle class bailed out Wall Street in their time in need. Now it’s time for Wall Street to help the middle class.”
9:07: As if on cue, Todd asks Clinton why she thinks Sanders cannot achieve things like “Medicare for All” and free public college tuition. Clinton says she wants to build on the progress of the Obama administration and does not want to rip away the security that people have, she claims, under Obamacare. She says she believes in “affordable” not “free” college. She says she “wants to get the economy going again” and touts her plan to create new jobs in manufacturing/infrastructure/clean energy. She says “the numbers don’t add up” re: Sanders’s proposals. “Let’s go down a path where we can actually tell people what we will do. A progressive is someone who makes progress. That’s what I intend to do.”
9:05: Clinton says Americans can only live up to their values if “Americans can succeed.” Clinton talks about racism, sexism, and discrimination against the LGBT community and says “we can get back on the right track” and she wants to imagine a country where wages reflect people’s hard work and everybody has health care. “I’m not making promises I cannot keep,” she says in what is not-so-subtle shot at Sanders.
9:03: Sanders says “millions of Americans are giving up on the political process” because they thin the economy is rigged while they are working longer hours. He says all of the income is going to the top one percent and a “corrupt campaign finance system” that is undermining American democracy is sustaining the rigged economy. Sanders says “our job together is to end the rigged economy” and “create an economy that works for all” while overturning Citizens United.
9:02: Maddow says “we’re not here for talking points.” Let’s see if Todd and Maddow hold Sanders and Clinton accountable when they go into their talking points or try to evade questions.