Clinton, Sanders trade blows in high-stakes New York debate

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Apr 16, 2016 07:31 IST
Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and senator Bernie Sanders speak during a debate at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York. (REUTERS)

There was a time when Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were extremely civil to each other, in stark contrast to the Republicans brawling across the room. They can barely stand each other now.

Clinton and Sanders clashed furiously and frequently at the Democratic debate on Thursday, that got so scrappy one TV network said, “October civility gives way to April anger.”

The New York Times was surprised by the contempt they showed each other and said the debate was packed with “sarcasm, snideness and smackdowns”.

When Clinton said she had stood up to Wall Street, a reference to big banks and financial institutions, Sanders shot back: “They must have been very, very upset by what you did.”

After leaving office as secretary of state, Clinton received massive sums of money for speaking at some of these banks and is battling perception she will bat for them when elected.

In another exchange, Clinton said anyone who doesn’t agree with Sanders is promptly described by him as the establishment, something he rails against constantly.

At one point during one of their exchanges that went out of control, moderator Wolf Blitzer of CNN cute said, “If you’re both screaming at each other, the viewers won’t be able to hear either of you.”

The two candidates are locked in a bitter fight for the Democratic nomination with the silver-haired senator from Vermont winning seven of the last eight nominating contests. Clinton still leads Sanders 1,289-1,038 in the count of pledged delegates (Democrats also have super-delegates), and is likely to sweep New York, but is struggling to shake him off. The Thursday night debate is unlikely to change the race, most experts agreed, but it was clear Sanders was prepared to fight till the last, and was not likely to give Clinton a pass.

He questioned her judgment — for supporting the Iraq War as a senator, and, as secretary of state, not preparing adequately for the aftermath of the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.

Clinton slammed him on gun control as she has in the past on his ambivalence, his inability to explain how he will deliver on his campaign promises, such as breaking up big banks.

They differed vigorously on Israel with Sanders, who is Jewish, insisting the Jewish state reacts with disproportionate aggression to provocations from Palestine. Clinton sided with Israel.

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