tv CNN Democratic Debate Special CNN January 17, 2016 7:55pm-9:01pm PST
♪ all that i need is the air that i breathe ♪ ♪ yes, to love you ♪ all i need is the air that i breathe ♪ happening now, breaking news. the democratic presidential candidates just faced off in a heated debate. the race getting closer and more contentious. with just two weeks to go before the first contest of this election year. tonight's brawl specifically about two issues dividing the democratic party, guns and money. former secretary of state hillary clinton was on the attack against vermont senator bernie sanders, accusing him of not backing sensible gun control legislation, while sanders fired back at clinton accusing her of being in the back pocket of wall street. all of it playing out in south carolina, a critical early primary state that will be the first test of the candidates' appeal in the south. we're standing by to analyze it
all. i'm wolf blitzer in washington. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. this is cnn's democratic debate special. right now you're looking at gaillard center in the heart of charleston, south carolina. it's where the democratic candidates just squared off in their last debate before the first presidential votes of the 2016 election season are cast. during the debate senator bernie sanders pointed to his surge in the polls in the early voting states and predicted his support will grow. >> as secretary clinton well knows, when this campaign began she was 50 points ahead of me. we were all of 3 percentage points. guess what? in iowa, new hampshire, the race is very, very close. maybe we're ahead in new hampshire. [ applause ] in terms of polling, guess what? we are running ahead of
secretary clinton in terms of taking on my good friend donald trump, beating him by 19 points in new hampshire, 13 points in the last national poll that i saw. to answer your question, when the african-american community becomes familiar with my congressional record and with our agenda and with our views on the economy and criminal justice, just as the general population has become more supportive, so will the african-american community, so will the latino community. we have the momentum. we're on a path toward victory. >> with us tonight our senior washington correspondent jeff zeleny, our senior political reporter nia malika henderson. the former obama senior adviser our cnn senior political commentator david axelrod. and our cnn senior political correspondent dana bash. last week secretary clinton called for a pretty reliable
issue to be debated, namely the issue of guns, her position on immunity for lawsuits for gun manufacturers. all of this unfolding right now. i've got a clip. i want to play a little clip. the secretary of state, hillary clinton, on guns. >> look, i have made it clear based on senator sanders' own record that he has voted with the nra, with the gun lobby numerous times. he voted against the brady bill five times. he voted for what we call the charleston loophole. he voted for immunity from gun makers and sellers, which the nra said was the most important piece of gun legislation in 20 years. he voted -- >> all right. let's bring in jeff zeleny. first of all, your impressions. you've been out there on the campaign trail. your initial impressions of this debate. >> wolf, i think the three central issues tonight was that exchange on guns, on health care, and then on wall street as well. but on guns to start with, one thing that i was struck by in this debate, bernie sanders for the first time was on the
defense. he was being challenged. we've not seen that happen before. up until now the spotlight has been on secretary clinton. the burden has been on her. that changed a little tonight, and i don't think he handled it very well. on issue after issue she pretty much i wouldn't say wiped the floor with him but she pretty much dominated the issues. on guns specifically he did not even respond to her long set of arguments there. on health care she tied herself so tightly to president obama. that's what i was struck by tonight more than anything. she is trying to keep her support among black voters, so important in south carolina and beyond. so she basically said he would blow up the affordable care act, obamacare. and then finally on wall street i think he did score some points on reminding people that she's been paid by goldman sachs and other things. but tonight to not change anything. and it calmed some agitation, some anxiety in democratic circles, supporters of her. i think she had a very strong
night. >> you guys stand by for a moment. i want to introduce some of our other political contributors who are here with us as well. bakri sellers is a former member of the south carolina house of representatives of paul begala adviser to a pro hillary clinton super pac. a political commentator the writer s.e.cup with us. peter beinart with us as well. dana, you've been covering this campaign for a long time. the democrats and the republicans. your initial impressions. >> i was watching it thinking over and over that bernie sanders kind of put himself out there as the dreamer, what he would do if it's possible as a progressive, as a liberal. with every turn hillary clinton said no, i'm the doer, like i'm the pragmatist here. it's really nice to have all those big thoughts and dreams, bernie sanders, but this is what can and can't be done. particularly as you were mentioning, jeff, on health care. she was kind of trying to bring everybody back to reality,
saying sure, you want to have universal health care, but guess what, the president had a super majority in the senate. or i should say he had a 60-vote threshold in the senate of democrats and he couldn't even get universal health care done. so good luck to you. >> it was a pretty fierce exchange on that whole issue of guns. david axelrod. as well as health care. >> yeah. and i agree with jeff. i think bernie sanders doesn't have a good answer on guns because he was voting his state, not his ideology. and he still all these months later still hasn't come up with a good answer on that. on health care i agree with dana. i think the whole strategy for hillary tonight was to position herself as the pragmatic doer, the person who knows how to get things done and to push bernie over to the side of the sort of airy-fairy dreamer. i think she went over the line a little bit. anytime you suggest that he -- that bernie sanders doesn't want
health care or he's going 20 take health care away from people doesn't line up with that notion of him as the airy-fairy dreamer and it's not really consistent with his record. so there are a couple of places where she went over the line but on the whole i think she sort of dominated the terms of the debate. >> she was very, very passionate on these issues. but bernie sanders was extremely passionate as well. >> that's right. a lot i think of yelling tonight from both of them really on that stage. so important that it was in south carolina, right? president obama has a 90% approval rating in south carolina. hillary clinton has about an 80 pefrs approval rating and there you have bernie sanders saying listen, at some point african-americans are going to hear my message and they're going to come on board with the rest of the population, as if they're not part of the population. but it's a tough argument he's got to make there. african-americans were familiar with the clintons. it's about six months he's been really trying to target african-american voters and the clintons have been -- >> you're talking about approval ratings for the president and the secretary among democrats.
>> exactly. >> not among all south carolinans. >> i have to tell you as someone who worked for barack obama in 2008, it was really interesting to me. in south carolina where we had the fiercest debates with hillary clinton. they were going at it hammer and tong. and to see her cleave as closely as she did to president obama tonight was really fascinating to me. >> very close. peter beinart, your initial impressions. >> what's striking about this campaign is hillary clinton is the front-runner and yet she's much more aggressive in attacking the insurgent bernie sanders than vice versa. that's not usually the way it works. but you can see how it effective it was tonight. the fact that guns has become such a central issue on this campaign where it's the one issue where hillary clinton is more in touch with progressive activists than bernie sanders and that she's made that front and center is a testament to the way she's framed the campaign. he by contrast was not able to make this debate about the issues on which she is out of touch with liberals. he never mentioned her support
for the iraq war. that was a big part of the reason barack obama beat her. she is more hawkish than most democratic voters are on foreign policy and he never exposed that. that's why i think she ended up winning. >> a lot of people say national security, foreign policy issues as far as bernie sanders, s.e. cupp is concerned, not necessarily his strongest point. >> yeah. i think that came across tonight. anytime you're comparing iran to cuba i think it's not going to go over well in general to suggest we need to normalize relations with iran. nor with our ally israel. but what i thought was remarkable piggybacking off what peter said, for guns to be such a big issue and not to be one of the priorities any democrat listed in their list of priorities at the top of the debate is remarkable. also national security foreign policy defeating isis, defeating terrorism, not one of the priorities of any democrat on that stage at the top of the debate. i think what that says is even though hillary clinton i think won this debate, bernie sanders
is setting this agenda for this election. they all talked about raising the minimum wage. they talked about economic issues. they jam-packed the top of the debate with domestic issues. and they also sounded like bernie sanders. when i think very clearly hillary clinton would rather talk about foreign policy and guns. and yet knew at the top of this debate to stick to the sort of bernie sanders line items of the economy. >> paul, you're a hillary clinton supporter. >> i am. >> but bernie sanders in iowa and new hampshire he's doing amazing right now against mer. >> he's running a great campaign and that's why. this is what's interesting. and i'm all for hillary. but just as an analyst he's doing everything right in iowa and new hampshire. evens gauging folks in the grassroots. he's talking about -- as i think nia said about being a dreamer rather than a doer. maybe that was dana. sorry, guys. and i think that's terrific. the problem is he needs a second act. and barack obama had a second act. he was ready to go into nevada and south carolina and the rest of the country. and i think tonight senator sanders a little more tentative
going into that audience. i disagree. i think hillary did dominate the agenda on guns and national security, especially with free advice for bernie, and i mean this, just say i was wrong. >> exactly. >> i was wrong to vote to immunize gone corporations -- i was wrong. hillary was wrong about the iraq war and she said it. that's why it came up. because she candidly admitted she was wrong. >> i think one thing hillary clinton understood is where she was. this debate was held within the same block as emanuel a.m.e. she knows that even if barack obama -- excuse me, i dare not do that. even if bernie sanders wins iowa and new hampshire he still has south carolina but super only in tuesday. and she took the debate to bernie sanders i many of her supporters were waiting for her to do. she dominated the gun issue. no doubt about it. and if bernie sanders -- this is some more free advice. i doubt he'll take it. but if he would come out and say i apologize for my vote in 1993, the charleston loophole, those types of things would change the
tenor of the debate. but he had no response to hillary clinton. >> it's not very often, dana, ire going to hear a candidate say i was wrong. >> no. and bernie sanders his whole kind of brand would be to be the person who should say that. he's coming across as he's supposed to be the authentic one in the democratic race, right? but he hasn't done that. and i think it just goes to show that even bernie sanders is -- he's a politician and he's somebody who has lived for -- you know, he's sort of the fresh face in politics, which is kind of ironic. i was going to say he's been in politics for a long time and he has represented vermont for a long time, where that was the vote you that take. period, end of story. >> it's a rural state. guns are an important issue. >> exactly. >> but you know iowa, you know new hampshire, you know south carolina which is the third contest. the democratic caucusgoers, the democratic primary voters in these three states, they have different agendas by and large. >> they do. and i think this is important,
wolf, because before we go down the road too far on bernie bashing we should point out that there was a poll in the "des moines register" this week in which voters more than 40% said they identify with the word socialist. it's a very left caucus. i think they heard a lot of things -- i think s.e. is right. he has a very clear message. it's about banks and billionaires and injustice and inequality. it comes across clearly. i thought there were a few bad moments for secretary clinton. one of them was when he went after her on her goldman sachs money. and she never really gave a very good answer. and she seemed a little bit torqued up at that point by it. so he really scored and he scored on his turf. and my guess is that among his supporters bernie did fairly well tonight. >> let me chime in real quick. one thing -- and i will never disagree pu. we've been on a team together before. >> i give you leave to do so. >> thank you. however, i will say that one thing that nobody really points out is that iowa and new hampshire don't look like the rest of the democratic primary.
>> right. of course. >> when you go into south carolina you're talking about 50% african-american turnout. you go into alabama, arkansas, georgia, tennessee, texas, virginia. you're talking about this african-american turnout that's going to be very robust. and one thing that no one said yet that hillary clinton did say, she used the correct language today. she talked about systemic racism in the criminal justice system. i mean, that was the phrase that stuck out to me. that's going to be the phrase that sticks out to millennials. that's going to be the phrase that sticks out to african-american voters. and i think she understood nap and that is the language bernie sanders has been using along the campaign, but today she just outdebated him. >> and that's really the impact of black lives matter. >> exactly. >> you saw the way in which black lives matter has made race and criminal justice a top issue, kind of subject in this debate. it's not for the republicans at all. it doesn't come up. but it is and they have really changed this debate. >> bakari, hillary clinton does well with democratic african-american voters. bernie sanders largely unknown to black, african-american democratic voters. they don't really know him. so they don't have much of a
sense of him. >> well, that's true. and bernie is doing the correct things. bernie's campaign is amazing. i mean, the things he's doing are actually correct. i know nia just wrote an article about the things bernie sanders was actually doing in south carolina. he's starting an hbcu tool. he's going to barbershops. but he's doing it now. he's doing it in january. >> it actually looked like he's been to a barbershop. >> no, it's true. >> what does he need to do? >> in some ways he is running out of time. i think that's going to be a big areaer here. i think also the socialism tag is a bit of a barrier. talking about south carolina, they're much more moderate -- they're much more conservative democratic voters. you see i think from hillary clinton she's got a tousurrogat. she went down there with eric holder. a lot of her surrogates fanned out to african-american churches. maybe that's something bernie sanders has to do. he's got to spend time. even on this tour of hbcus.
he's not going. he's sending cornel west, who has criticized president obama. that might not be the right surrogate to necessarily send. >> and he needs to do one thing. he needs to win iowa and new hampshire. if he does he get a second look in south carolina. no question at all. that's why secretary clinton tonight was hugging 9 president so tightly. she wants to keep this obama coalition we've talked so much about. bernie sanders is doing really well among the independent voters, among younger voters. she needs tlok in that support. if he wins in iowa and new hampshire he does get a second look. i was in south carolina over the weekend and i was impressed by how many african-american editors leaders and voters as bakari said who are open to supporting sanders. >> there's been a lot of hand wringing in the clinton camp this week and it's spilled into the newspaper, which is a problem i think. and the fact is it's not warranted because iowa was always going to be tough for her, new hampshire was always going to be tough for her. and she was going to do better as she moved on. so she could lose those two
states and still -- >> let's listen to this statement. this is bernie sanders speaking about the president of the united states. >> set the record right. in 2006 when i ran for the senate senator barack obama was kind enough to campaign for me. 2008 i did my best to see that he was elected. and in 2012 i worked as hard as i could to see that he was re-elected. he and i friends. we've worked together not many issues. we have some differences of opinion. >> i think since senator sanders followed up on this -- >> 30-second response. >> your profusion of comments about your feelings toward president obama are a little strange given what you said about him in 2011. >> does anybody remember -- >> the fact is that bernie sanders was -- yes, i have some memory of that. he was part of a group on the left that felt that barack obama was insufficiently defiant, that
he'd compromised too much and there ought to be a challenge from the left in the primaries. that is the history. and it's hard to walk -- >> i think this is where bernie sanders we will failed to not invoke iraq. the strongest answer in a democratic primary to that is which side were you on on the iraq war and which side was i on? i think david is absolutely right, that sanders is to obama's left, but he needs to remind people that there was an ideological division between barack obama and hillary clinton in 2008. >> that was 12 years ago and she did say she was wrong about that. and obama won the primary in large measure because of that vote. but i was there in iowa. one of the great events in iowa is the tom harkin steak fry. i was inted to speak there as was bernie sanders. so bernie and i spoke there. he was great. i was okay. he was great. just what you see. fiery and authentic. it was a rainy day and i thought the field was going to catch fire. but you know what he was not? he was not teeing up the obama re-election in 2012. that was my thinking, i've got to go out there and start laying
the groundwork in a swing state for my guy, the president. i called my friends in the white house that day i said this guy could run against you. he's that unhappy with barack obama. there's nothing wrong with that. david's right, there's some very principled opposition from the left. but hillary was not part of this. she ran against him in the primary, joined his government and has been a key ally. >> or member, s.e., bernie sanders is an independent senator from vermont. he's not a democrat senator from vermont. >> yeah. like i said, i think hillary did great tonight but i think she overdid it on the obama embracing a couple of times. and i think it looked a little petty, a little small, a little desperate actually. when they were talking about health care. and you know, bernie sanders just a couple hours before the debate revealed his health care plan. and all she had to say was your plan is going to raise taxes on middle-class americans. that's all she had to say. you know, your plan outtaxes sweden is all she had to say. and instead she decided to make it about obama.
she decided to say your plan is a vote against obama's plan. i thought that was an opportunity to take a very easy shot against what a lot of progressives will like coming -- >> bakari, listen to this. this is the secretary of state talking about bernie sanders raising taxes. >> i'm the only candidate standing here tonight who has said i will not raise taxes on the middle class. >> what is correct -- and i'm disappointed that secretary clinton's campaign has made this criticism. it's a republican criticism. secretary clinton does know a lot about health care. and she understands, i believe, that a medicare for all single payer program will substantially lower the cost of health care for middle-class families. >> do you buy that explanation? >> i thought hillary clinton in that debate, in that back and forth, channeled a lost bill
clinton. i heard a lot of dlc. i heard a lot of blue dog talking points in the back and forth. one of the things that struck me in that debate was when she attacked bernie sanders on raising taxes, to go to s.e.'s point, which he did do, was he talked about the fact he was going to raise taxes to pay -- not just pay family leave but he was going to raise taxes to now pay for health care. and for me talk about how he was going to raise taxes just channeled so much bill clinton that i thought that bernie depth do a good job of bouncing back from -- >> and jeff, only two hours or so before the debate senator sanders released his initiative, his health care initiative, medicare for all, as he likes to call it. >> right. and he's been -- he's had a tough week on this actually because the clinton campaign has been after him to say how would you pay for all of this? so i think he did not, you know -- he released his plan right before the debate but he didn't solve this. this is going to go on and on and on. i think the reason she did not ask him about taxes is because it was in south carolina. i believe she will keep doing that this week when she
campaigns in iowa but this was all about embracing obama. but as david said earlier, the attack might have been overboard because people don't believe that bernie sanders wants to take away their health care. and the reality is depending on who's controlling the house or the senate, probably republicans, this is a tough, tough -- >> dan, you covered congress for a long time. the democrats had a hard enough time getting the affordable care act, obamacare, through, let alone medicare for all. >> of course. and that was hillary clinton's point. i still think there are democrats who actually most of them are not even in the senate now, but who still have kind of marks on their arms -- >> scars. >> -- from being twisted. >> because they lost. >> and these are democrats. democrats. who just were not sharp. that even what the president did, they thought it was too far. >> we're only getting started. we have a lot more coming up. former president bill clinton's past suggestion loomed large in this debate.
we're going to tell you what was said. that's coming up. >> you called bill clinton's past transgressions "totally, totally, totally disgraceful and unacceptable." senator, do you regret saying that? >> i was asked a question. you know, one of the things -- t...to help sense danger before7 was engiyou do. .
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i'm wolf blitzer in washington. former president bill clinton, his name came up during the course of this debate. the former secretary of state hillary clinton was asked what role he might play in a clinton administration. >> this is the first time that a spouse of a former president could be elected president. you have said that president clinton would advise you on economic issues. but be specific if you can. are you talking about a kitchen table role on economics or will he have a real policy role? >> well, it will start at the kitchen table. we'll see how it goes from there. [ applause ] i'm going to have the very best advisers that i can possibly have. and when it comes to the economy and what was accomplished under my husband's leadership in the '90s, especially when it came to raising incomes for everybody and lifting more people out of poverty than at any time in recent history, you bet, i'm
going to ask for his ideas. i'm going to ask for his advice. and i'm going to use him as a goodwill emissary to go around the country to find the best ideas we've got because i do believe, as he said, everything that's wrong with america has been solved somewhere in america. >> david axelrod, pretty good answer, especially for a democratic audience. >> bill clinton is broadly popular. he's remembered as someone who led us through very strong economic times, where incomes were growing. so to put him in that role, as she did, but not to do it in a formal way, i thought it was very deft. i had the suspicion that maybe they thought that question might come up. >> let me talk about president clinton. i think it's going to be interesting because we do remember, especially in south carolina, where president clinton came in and after barack obama won he said it was a fairi tale and even jesse jackson won south carolina. we also have to remember that especially in this black lives
matter movement one of the looming issues with secretary clinton is mass incarceration, is the clinton bill that was signed in 1994. so yes, there are some serious issues that we have to delve into with president clinton but i compare president clinton to michael jordan wearing the 45. he's still the best player in the game. so you've got to use him. he's the consummate politician. he's the best player we have on our democratic bench. and it's the best player that hillary clinton has. so you've got to trot him out there and see what happens. >> once he came back, michael jordan, he went back to number 23 and won three championships. >> exactly. >> senator sanders was also asked to explain some comments he made about former president bill clinton's transgressions, as he called it. let's listen to this. >> you called bill clinton's past transgressions "totally, totally, totally disgraceful and unacceptable." senator, do you regret saying that? >> i was asked a question -- you know, one of the things, andrea, and that question annoys me. i cannot walk down the street --
secretary clinton knows this. without being told how much i have to attack secretary clinton. want to get me on the front pages of the paper? i make some vicious attack. i have avoided doing that. trying to run an issue-or yented campaign. [ cheers and applause ] i was asked a question -- >> you didn't have to answer it that way. why did you? >> then i don't answer it that is another front page -- yes. and i mean this seriously. you know that. we've been through this. yes, his behavior was deplorable. have i ever once said a word about that snish issue? no, i have not. i'm going to debate secretary clinton and governor o'malley on the issues facing the american people, not bill clinton's personal behavior. >> paul begala, you served in the white house under president bill clinton. you remember those days. >> very few people probably spent more time with him during that period than i did. morning, noon, and night. what bernie said was mild
compared to what bill clinton said about himself. this is a totally unfair question. and i love andrea mitchell. she's a great journalist. totally unfair question. bernie, i thought he knocked it out of the park. he is not going at hillary or her husband personally. he wants to run on issues, he's going to run on issues. i thought that was true. carville, my old partner, james carville, one of his old laws, if there's something too dirty or vile to raise in a campaign, don't worry, some journalist will do it. and that's what happened here. i'm sorry. it had no place in the debate. these two wanted to debate wall street and guns and iran and taxes, health care. nobody wants to talk about something like that -- >> but that moment was so uncomfortable for smm reasons. one, the idea that a 74-year-old man is having to talk about sex in any way so really offputting. the other that he's doing it about someone's husband. she's right next to him. she's standing right there. and saying what he did was deplorable. which is not controversial, by
the way. the other is she was just effusively singing bill's praises about what role he'd play and how valuable he'd be. this is why for someone like me and i think a lot of other people she's a very uncomfortable feminist. i know that doesn't matter to her supporters. but for that moment encapsulated all of the reasons why she is a very uncomfortable feminist for women -- >> but i thought -- >> hold on. one at a time. go ahead, peter. >> it also encapsulated why people like bernie sanders. because bernie sanders' selling point is athen advertisety. the fact he doesn't go for the cheap shot but he stays true to who he is. you could argue he would benefit if there were more people in the race and some other people were going after hillary clinton and cutting her up a little. because there are issues of character and authenticity according to the polls. but he cannot do that because it's not who he is and he's running on who he is. that's the reason he's doing well. >> dana, if hillary clinton is the democratic nominee-l republicans, the republican opposition, whoever the republican nominee is, will they be reluctant to talk about bill
clinton and transgressions during the course of the campaign? >> what about donald trum s&p would ? would he -- >> everybody would except donald trump. yes. he's doing it now. i don't know that anybody else really would because i'm not sure neighbor else thinks it would work. i mean, look, there are a lot of people who were around, maybe around this table, who were around in the '90s -- >> not so much. >> were you even born in the '90s -- >> you were too young at the time to even be included in this conversation. >> bill and hillary clinton, these are some live pictures. they're at a debate watch party in charleston. we'll see if they show up, if they make some comments. we'll listen in live. >> real quickly, when it was bill clinton's problem, almost in the moment republicans tried to make it an issue and if didn't work. so why is it going to work 20 years later with his wife? i just don't see it. >> leaving aside the question of a 74-year-old man talking about
sex, which is an uncomfortable subject for me as an aging man, i will say i agree with peter. i think that was maybe bernie sanders' best moment of the whole night. and that was one i think every democrat was cheering when he gave that answer. and everyone who cares about civility in politics was cheering when he gave that answer. >> nia, what was your reaction? >> i think that's right. but the reality is you do have donald trump who did bring up this topic about bill clinton's infidelities and indiscretions and to me it looks like republicans want to go somewhere else with this, which is if hillary clinton is such a great feminist, if she's such a great role model for women, if she's such a champion of women, then what was her sort of role in demonizing those women or not standing up for them? i think that would be something that possibly comes up now in a different way because we are in a different period in terms of how we talk about women and how
they are treated in the workplace than we were in the '90s. >> i think the question about whether or not she played a role in demonizing the women is totally fair game. >> yeah. >> i think questioning why she stayed -- like who cares? >> were you there? she got that question. she got that question at a town hall meeting and she didn't handle it particularly well. >> let's listen in, see if we can get some audio. we'll eavesdrop. here's the former president and the former secretary of state. >> she didn't say, well, what am i -- let me say a couple of things seriously. it was a great spirited debate. i think if you just listened carefully and watched them, first, i was glad to be a democrat because they had no total air of unreality when discussing a lot of these issues. and i give credit to the other candidates. but having done that job and seeing the pitfalls if you make
the wrong decisions about who gets to do it, there was only one person i could imagine being president of the united states. [ cheers and applause ] i thought it was evident in her discussion of health care policy, her discussion of economic policy, and her discussion of foreign policy. and that's a big part of the job. and everybody here in south carolina knows that a democrat has to be credible on protecting the united states of america. [ applause ] but if we had just turned in for the last question on the lead in the water in flint, michigan, and you heard the three answers, you would have no doubt that hillary answered that question the way you would want any president to -- [ cheers and applause ] thank you for being with her and staying with her. let's keep the enthusiasm going
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the democratic presidential candidates just completed their final debate before the first voting begins. let's take a look at some of the highlights. >> guess what? in iowa, new hampshire, the race is very, very close. maybe we're ahead in new hampshire. in terms of national polls, guess what? we are running ahead of secretary clinton in terms of taking on my good friend donald trump. >> sadly it's reality. and it has been heartbreaking and incredibly outraging to see the constant stories of young men like walter scott, as you said, who have been killed by police officers. there needs to be a concerted effort to address the systemic racism in our criminal justice system. >> we have a criminal justice system which is broken. >> we finally have a path to
universal health care. we've established so much already. i do not want to see the republicans repeal it, and i don't want to see us start over again with a contentious debate. i want us to defend and build on the affordable care act and improve it. [ applause ] >> senator sanders. >> secretary clinton didn't answer your question. because what her campaign was saying, bernie sanders, who has fought for universal health care for my entire life, he wants to end medicare and medicaid and the children's health insurance program. that is nonsense. tell me why we are spending almost three times more than the british, who guarantee health care to all of their people. can you really reform wall street? when they are spending millions and millions of dollars on campaign contributions. and when they are providing
speaker fees to individuals. so it's easy to say i'm going to do this and do that. but i have doubts when people receive huge amounts of money from wall street. i am very proud. i do not have a super pac. i do not want wall street's money. i'll rely on the working class and -- >> that's time. i have a question for you. >> i think since senator sanders followed up -- >> 30-second response. >> your profusion of comments about your feelings toward president obama are a little strange given what you said about him in 2011. but look, i have a plan that most commentators have said is tougher, more effective and more comprehensive. >> that's not true. >> it builds on the dodd frank -- yes, it is. >> it is beyond my comprehension how we can elect a president of the united states, somebody like trump, who believes that climate
change is a hoax invented by the chinese. >> our first line of defense against lone wolf attacks is among muslim americans. and it is not only shameful, it is dangerous for the kinds of comments you're hearing from the republican side. >> if donald frump wants to start a registry in our country of people by faith, he can start with me. and i will sign up as one who is totally opposed to his fascist appeals that wants to vilify american muslims. >> yes, his behavior was deplorable. have i ever once said a word about that issue? no, i have not. i'm going to debate secretary clinton and governor o'malley on the issues facing the american people, not bill clinton's personal behavior. >> jeff zeleny, the accusation that the senator makes against hillary clinton is that she's basically in the back pocket of wall street. >> and that is what's driving a lot of his supporters. and that's one of the reasons that i think that -- even though i think she was stronger overall in the debate tonight, i think his supporters, they love when
he calls that out. and it's why they are suspicious of her. i think she did a better job handling it tonight. she didn't say that she supported wall street because of 9/11. a couple of debates ago she said that. which was kind of awkward and -- >> terrible. >> not true. >> right. >> that is one of the things that is driving his supporters and will keep them -- the clinton campaign knows that bernie sanders has a lot of support out there. they want to try to keep it at about 40% or so. we'll see if they can do it. in iowa bernie sanders still has some supporters. i don't think this debate probably changed anything at all. so that means that this race is still deadlocked in those two early states. >> hold on. >> he's always able to turn it back to money, right? and big money corrupting politics. even when they were talking about bringing washington together. hillary clinton had this, you know, very typical answer which is she's worked across the aisle with republicans, people like tom delay and people like john
mccain. and he said listen, you can't really get anything done, you can't even move washington forward unless you throw the big money out of politics. this is what people love. this is what people are tweetig all about bernie sanders and they're such rabid bernie sanders fans because he's got this passion to take it to the billionaires. >> yeah, i just -- you know, ax, you and i have had this debate before about whether bernie needs to start taking hillary on a little more decisively, and i just don't understand. hillary has through herself and surrogates at one time or another on the campaign trail, you know, she had joaquin castro saying he doesn't care about the hispanic community. she kind of alleged that he was sexist for saying she was shouting about guns. she had chelsea talking about how he wanted to dismantle health care, which i know you thought was the wrong tone. between the racism and the sexism and the -- he's a gun toter and he hates medicare, between all of that -- >> but she means it in a nice way. >> don't you think bernie sanders needs to say enough with
this, have you no sense of decency -- >> hillary clinton is blessed with an opponent who doesn't want to go full throttle -- >> that's his appeal. >> -- against her. and that is part of his appeal. but the question is -- >> shouldn't he call this out? >> -- would he go beyond where he's been before? and he did sort of incrementally. but you could really go to town with $600,000 in speakers' fees from goldman sachs. and he just -- that's not his inclination. >> he's also not that well prepared. one of the things you see is she is -- and this is always something that's true for hillary clinton. she's always very well prepared. she had that bill to throw out there about the fact he voted for this derivatives bill to deregulate derivatives. he wasn't able to respond. bill clinton signed that very bill. he didn't have the level of policy homework. she knew to mention flint. she knew that would be very well received. he didn't have an answer in his back pocket on that last question, throw out something new. i think that's been part of the difference here. >> but i think that's true. but i do think that he went a
lot further in this debate than he ever has before in trying to kind of chip away at some of her weak spots. but i think that probably is as far as he probably will go. but to bernie sanders supporters i don't know that they will want him to be that aggressive. >> she gets the nomination, she has to make sure that bernie sanders' base is there for her. >> bingo. absolutely. and vice versa, by the way. i think bernie has a very good chance, likelihood even, of winning iowa and new hampshire but i still think hillary is by far the prohibitive favorite to be the nominee. both of them know that, though. back in the day working for bill clinton he was running against a lot of people, one of them was paul stongas, who i couldn't stand, god rest his soul. all kinds of hyperbolic vicious attacks. but you know what bill clinton used to say? i might just win and then where will we be? don't burn any bridges. i know s.e. is trying to make it
seem like there are personal attacks in the democratic party. they're not. the contrast between the republican party and their debate and the vicious personal insults which i love, it's the marcus of queensbury rule, it's just extraordinary. >> for a long time people were wanting hillary clinton to actually engage an opponent. for a long period of time she was on this course, on this track to the nomination, and s.e. and everyone else was saying why don't you all actually have a primary? and now hillary clinton is running in political circles as a full kakt sport. and that is what she's doing. >> she went from 0 to 60 awfully fast. and it does bespeak some concern -- >> yeah, i think it could have been done more artfully. >> a little bit. >> but i don't think -- 15 miles an hour. >> you think in terms of -- >> do you think it's fair that bernie sanders doesn't care about the -- >> when you see bernie sanders trying to take away your medicaid -- children's health --
>> no, let me answer. she cleaned that up tonight. basically what she's saying is -- >> she doubled down. >> i'm more practicing mattic and he's more idealistic. >> yeah. >> let's let the python swallow the pig. okay? >> explain that one to me. >> we'd just done this huge thing of obamacare. let's let it move through the system, it might actually work. rather than scrap the whole thing and -- which is what he's calling for. >> she's not like barack obama a candidate who inspires democrats the way -- and the danger is that bernie sanders could inspire some democrats. so for her to take him down a peg like this is very important for her to win. she can't win the way barack obama won in 2008 by making -- >> but sometimes you can take a person down, try to -- and the way you do it is you end up elevating them and hurting yourself. >> it was a spirited lively debate but it could have been more spirited, more lively. that's what a lot of people are sucking. still ahead our reality check team has been looking into some of the claims made by the candidates tonight. if a denture were to be
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our reality check team has been looking into some of the claims made by the candidates tonight. let's bring in our tom foreman. what are you looking at, tom? >> one of the big issue was the idea of big banks out there. both martin o'malley and bernie sanders said that hillary clinton is in the pocket of the big banks and they are not. listen. >> the first difference is i don't take money from big banks. i don't get personal speaking fees from goldman sachs. >> and martin o'malley jumped in and he said he doesn't take even a penny from these sorts of things. sought basic claim about hillary clinton here, when she left the secretary's job she did make a lot of money from speaking to these big banks, including goldman sachs, some other big firms out there. more than $3 million in 2013 alone. they've also been big contributors to her. beyond that, though, let's ask about what these fellows have been up to.
the record seems to indicate that bernie sanders really doesn't get any money from these folks. martin o'malley got into a mistake, though wherks said he doesn't get a penny. he doesn't get much from them but he does get a little bit. so in the end our verdict has to be that what bernie sanders said is true, what martin o'malley said is false. if we move on to this one, though, this is interesting. at issue, president obama. hillary clinton said that bernie sanders has been really harsh on president obama, and i want you to watch bernie sanders' face while she's saying this. >> senator sanders called him weak, disappointing. he even in 2011 publicly sought someone to run in a primary against president obama. >> so did he really do all of this? was he really that harsh in his attacks on president obama? in fact, he did use those words. he did not say them directly. he said many americans feel that way about president obama. and he did say it might be a good idea if somebody out there were challenging him to push his political agenda more toward the
left. he didn't exactly do it. so she's a little bit off on that. but the simple truth is if you add it all up you have to say that what she said was mostly true. you can find out a whole lot more about all of our reality checks on everything the candidates said. cnn.com/realitycheck. wolf? >> tom foreman, thanks very much. david axelrod, that look on bernie sanders' face, that was priceless, i should say. >> yes. that's what you look like when someone just hit you with a pie. but he knows how damaging that is in a democratic primary. and particularly in south carolina. it's a real vulnerability for him. >> and they're going to keep this up. the hillary clinton campaign was blasting, you know, just stories about sanders attacking president obama. so i think this is going to continue. >> president obama, among democrats, still remains very, very popular. >> very, very popular. and the clinton campaign realizes they have a touch of work to do. >> there are still long memories there from what happened eight years ago.
so some south carolina voters i talked to this weekend say they are open to supporting senator sanders. what she is trying to do is to remind them that she is the sort of inheritor of the obama legacy, not bernie sanders. >> peter beinart, national security. only at the end of the debate that came up. what were the major differences that you heard between these two democratic candidates? >> the major differences, that hillary clinton is comfortable talking about national security and bernie sanders is not. now, there is a very powerful critique of hillary clinton that would be compelling to a lot of liberals, because she is significantly more hawkish, not just the fact she supported the iraq war but even today on her positions on iran, for instance, than a lot of democrats are. but bernie sanders, there's a certain rigidity to him. he's great when he's in his lane, which has to do with economics and class. when he's pushed off of that onto national security, he called king abdullah a hero. if you're a democratic socialist appealing to progressives, you don't call a monarch a hero. those are not actually progressive values, and it seems to show to me the fact he's basically at sea.
>> he was talking about king abdullah of jordan, not king abdullah of saudi arabia. but go ahead. >> i'd already mentioned his idea we normalize relations with iran like cuba, which exports terrorism like cigars tom people. a lot of what he said would not play well in a general, but a lot of what she said as -- even though it was more informed than him will not play well in a general. her defense of the russian reset was a moment i can imagine being played over and over and over again among the conservative candidates. really sort of suggesting she might try that again because she really respects vladimir putin. this is not good jumping -- >> i know that in the precincts in which you travel there's a real -- there's a real eagerness to take her on on these -- >> hey, i've got new york values. i'm from new york. >> there's an eagerness to take her on on these issues. i think that was -- any republican candidate who watches these debates should be put on notice.
she is utterly comfortable talking about these things. she has no problem. i'm sure she'd love to join that debate. and as for bernie, he just can't wait to get back to banks and billionaires every time the subject comes up. and that's a big problem for him. >> he doesn't wait. he turns it no matter what the question. he turns it into climate change or banks or whatever. but i think your point about republicans is a good thing to remember here. because let's assume for -- just hypothetically, hillary clinton is the democratic nominee. they are all watching this and ready to pick apart everything she says with a fine-toothed comb. which is to me fascinating to watch the clinton campaign and hillary clinton in particular in these debates. she knows that. so she's positioning herself very much to the left on guns, but everything else, not so much. >> all right, guys. this has been a fascinating discussion. this is an important debate. was a very important debate going into iowa. then new hampshire. south carolina, nevada. a lot of political contests coming up. we're going to be over all -- we're going to be watching those
all the way. that's it for us tonight. thanks very much for joining us. i'm wolf blitzer in washington. please be sure to join me tomorrow. 5:00 p.m. eastern in "the situation room." in the meantime, the news continues next on cnn. i think it landed last tuesday. one second it's there. then, woosh, it's gone. i swear i saw it swallow seven people. seven. i just wish one of those people could have been mrs. johnson. [dog bark] trust me, we're dealing with a higher intelligence here. ♪ the all-new audi q7 is here. ♪
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