Hillary Clinton came to Thursday’s Democratic debate armed with the Daily News to take on rival Bernie Sanders over his positions on Wall Street and guns.
The highly contentious and spirited debate at the Brooklyn Navy Yard turned into an old-fashioned donnybrook with each candidate going after the other aggressively as they jockeyed for positioning just days before the state’s April 19 primary.
Time and time again, Clinton used Sanders’ own words against him, repeatedly pointing to the transcript of his April 1 interview with the New York Daily News editorial board as evidence that he simply wasn’t prepared to lead the country, carry out his campaign’s central promises, and take on the gun lobby in the U.S.
“He voted for the most important NRA priority,” Clinton said, referring to Sanders’ 2005 vote in Congress in support of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which protects gun manufactures from most lawsuits stemming from illegal use of their products.
“Then he doubled down on that in the New York Daily News interview,” she continued, pointing to the transcript of the Vermont senator’s sit-down with “New York’s Hometown Newspaper.”
Once the debate got started, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders wasted little time to start pouncing on one another.
“When asked whether he would support the Sandy Hook parents suing to try to do something to rein in the advertising of the AR-15, which is advertised to young people as being a combat weapon, killing on the battlefield. He said they didn’t deserve their day in court” — a reference to efforts by the families of the 2012 Newtown, Conn., shooting to sue the manufacturer of the weapon used in the massacre.
“I could not disagree more, this is the only industry in America … that has this kind of special protection. We hear a lot from Senator Sanders about the greed and recklessness of Wall Street, but what about the greed and recklessness of gun manufacturers and dealers in America,” she added in a response punctuated by loud cheering.
“The law that Senator Sanders voted for and that I voted against,” Clinton said, pointing to her vote as a U.S. senator from New York, “is an absolute abdication of responsibility on the part of those who voted for it.”
When asked by CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer whether he owed the Sandy Hook families an apology, Sanders gruffly responded in the negative.
“No, I don’t think I owe them an apology,” he said, prompting some booing, and another Clinton retort.
“This is a unique gift given to only one industry in the world … by the U.S. Congress,” she said.
The exchange came just hours after a ruling by a Connecticut judge not to dismiss a lawsuit by families of the Newtown massacre victims.
Clinton, who has opened up a double-digit lead over Sanders in New York, didn’t stop with guns, though. She also ripped into Sanders over his perceived inability to explain how he would break up large financial institutions deemed “too big to fail” — one his most prominent campaign promises — and she again cited The News in doing so.
“Look, we have disagreements on policy. There’s no doubt about it. But if you go and read, which I hope all of you will before Tuesday, Senator Sanders’ long interview with the New York Daily News, talk about judgment and talk about the kinds of problems he had answering questions about even his core issue, breaking up the banks. When asked, he could not explain how,” Clinton railed after being asked to respond to Sanders’ claim that she was unqualified to be President.
“When asked about a number of foreign policy issues, he could not answer about Afghanistan, about Israel, about counterterrorism, except to say if he’d had some paper in front of him, maybe he could. I think you need to have the judgment on day one to be both president and commander-in-chief,” Clinton said, prompting more cheering.
As loud as Clinton and Sanders grew at times Thursday night, the excited — and divided — crowd grew louder, playing a boisterous role over the course of the amped-up event.
Clinton’s vigorous offensive Thursday, however, failed to throw Sanders off his game. He quickly shot back, taking aim at Clinton’s acceptance of money from special interests, lucrative speeches to Goldman Sachs and her support for the 2003 Iraq War.
“Let us talk about the worst foreign policy blunder in the modern history of this country,” he said. “And do we really feel confident about a candidate saying that she’s going to bring change in America when she is so dependent on big money interests?”
Coming just five days before New York’s primary, Thursday’s debate was likely Sanders’ only remaining opportunity to cut into Clinton’s growing lead in the Empire State — and in the overall Democratic race.
The latest RealClearPolitics average of polling in New York shows Clinton leading Sanders 53%-39% in the state.
Meanwhile, the primary itself could also end up being Sanders’ last chance to make a substantial dent in Clinton’s lead in the total delegate count for the nomination.
As it stands, Clinton has 1,758 delegates to Sanders’ 1,069, including superdelegates. New York’s 291 delegates will be allocated proportionally, based on the election results, meaning Sanders would have to win Tuesday’s contest by a wide margin to eat into his rival’s lead.
Despite the tensions occurring throughout it, Thursday’s debate represented a unique common denominator for both candidates: Brooklyn.
Sanders, who was born in Brooklyn, and Clinton, who represented New York in the U.S. Senate from 2001-2008 and resides in Chappaqua, and whose campaign headquarters are based in the borough of kings and churches, have both emphasized their years-long ties to the area.
With Alfred Ng