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Clinton, Sanders Joust, Shout in Debate over Guns and Wall Street

Image: Clinton, Sanders Joust, Shout in Debate over Guns and Wall Street

Thursday, 14 April 2016 11:15 PM

Senator Bernie Sanders went on a quick attack against Hillary Clinton from the start of their debate in Brooklyn Thursday as both candidates revived the personal and rancorous arguments that have marked the campaign leading up to next week's New York Democratic primary

From the first question, Sanders questioned Clinton's judgment for her votes to authorize the Iraq war and in favor free-trade deals that he said have hobbled the American working class. 

"I don't believe that is the kind of judgment we need to be the kind of president we need,'' Sanders said.

Clinton shot back that Sanders hasn't been able to fully answer questions about how he'd carry out his proposals on the economy and foreign policy. She also said Sanders's attacks on her are attacks on President Barack Obama, who remains broadly popular among Democrats, and chided him for calling her unqualified.

"I've been called a lot of things in my life. That was a first,'' Clinton said.

The debate between the two Democratic presidential candidates at the Brooklyn Navy Yard was the first face-to-face meeting since the campaign moved into the state for what will be a pivotal primary on April 19.

Sanders returned to criticizing Clinton over her paid speeches to banking groups and her support from special interest groups and big donors. Asked to come up with an example of Clinton being influenced by the financial industry, Sanders gave Clinton an opening to defend herself when he couldn't point to a specific instance.

"He cannot come up with an example because there is no example because there is no example,'' Clinton said. ``It may be inconvenient but it’s always important to get the facts straight."

However Clinton was forced to retreat to her previous answers when asked if she would release transcripts of her paid speeches to banks: only if everyone else, including Republican candidates, agreed to do so. Sanders countered that he's given no speeches to release.

The two also clashed over how much to raise the federal minimum wage, gun control and criminal justice. Clinton, who has accused Sanders of standing in the way of gun control legislation while serving as the senator from Vermont, said he rails against Wall Street, but ``what about the greed and recklessness of gun manufacturers?''

Sanders defended his record, saying he got poor marks from the National Rifle Association, and his vote against a measure that would make firearms manufacturers and dealers liable for gun crimes.

New York, with 247 Democratic delegates, has become a crucial proving ground for the two Democrats. Sanders has been arguing that he has momentum after a string of several wins in predominantly white states with primaries and caucuses that are open to independent voters. But in New York, with a Democrats-only primary, he's hitting resistance. Clinton held a lead over Sanders in New York ranging from 10 percentage points to 18 points in polls taken since the beginning of the month.

She is is seeking a decisive win next Tuesday, by 10 points or more, that would shift public perceptions of the race as the campaign moves into its final phase.

Clinton already has a commanding lead in delegates needed to claim the Democratic presidential nomination, with 1,758 of the 2,383 required to be the nominee, according to an Associated Press tally. That includes superdelegates, who aren't bound by caucus or primary results. Sanders has 1,069 delegates and anything short of a surprise blowout victory over Clinton in New York won't help him begin to close the delegate gap.

Just a week after New York votes, five other states in the northeast hold primaries. Pennsylvania is the largest prize with 210 delegates and is a closed primary, as are the votes in Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland. Only Rhode Island, with 33 proportionally awarded delegates, holds a Democratic primary in which independents can vote.

Clinton has been attempting to turn attention to the general election and has been laying rhetorical groundwork for a likely campaign against Republican front-runner Donald Trump. But Sanders has made clear he plans to stay in the race through the Democratic National Convention in July and has sharpened his approach toward Clinton as he tries to gain ground.

Clinton and Sanders have traded barbs over a host of national issues that have particular resonance in the Empire State, including fracking, immigration and gun control. But it's the back-and-forth over Wall Street that has been the most persistent and rancorous topic of debate through weeks of campaigning in the state.

The issue gained new currency on Wednesday when federal regulators said five major U.S. banks don't have adequate contingency plans for how they could go bankrupt without disrupting the U.S. financial system, as required under the Dodd-Frank regulatory overhaul enacted after the 2008 financial crisis.

Clinton said federal regulators may need to consider breaking apart big banks if they can't adequately address the issue.

Earlier in the week, Sanders seized on the announcement that Goldman Sachs Group Inc. will pay $5.1 billion to resolve U.S. allegations that it failed to properly vet mortgage-backed securities before selling them to investors as high-quality debt.

He called the settlement “the latest evidence that the business model on Wall Street is fraud” and said that bankers failing to be prosecuted is an example of “the corruption of our criminal justice system.” 

In an unusual move just days before the primary, Sanders is set to leave New York immediately after the debate to attend a Vatican-sponsored conference on economic and social issues in Rome.

Sanders will travel back and forth across the Atlantic for what is on paper at least a 10-minute speech entitled "The Urgency of a Moral Economy." The visit is however about far more than that, as it brings the candidate to the heart of the Roman Catholic Church, led by a pope whose views are especially admired by the political progressives who play an outsized role in Democratic primaries.

The chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, extended the invitation to Sanders on March 30. However, it put Sanders in the middle of a Vatican dispute. Margaret Archer, the president of the academy, criticized the invitation, saying it put a political cast on the gathering.

The Vatican said there are no plans for Pope Francis to meet with Sanders.

John Thavis, who was the longtime Rome bureau chief for Catholic News Service and author of two books about the Vatican, said the invitation isn't a political statement.

"The Vatican has tried to keep out of political races -- papal trips have been cancelled because of elections,'' Thavis said. "But when all is said and done, the fact that they invited Sanders says something -- ironically it is the Jewish candidate who sounds most like the Pope.''

© 2018 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and rival Bernie Sanders battled fiercely on Thursday over Wall Street, guns and the minimum wage and questioned each other's judgment in a contentious and at times high-volume U.S. presidential debate. Five days before New Yorkers...
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Thursday, 14 April 2016 11:15 PM
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