Hillary Clinton & Bernie Sanders Spar At New Hampshire Town Hall

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Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders spoke at CNN’s Democratic town hall in Derry, New Hampshire on Wednesday. Answering questions from CNN’s Anderson Cooper as well as audience members, each had the chance to concentrate on specific issues.

Ahead of the primary elections set to take place in New Hampshire on February 20th, the candidates confronted the nuanced differences between their positions. After the first voting in the Democratic primaries at the Iowa caucuses resulted in a virtual tie between the two candidates (with Clinton only 0.3% ahead of Sanders), their positions on issues from healthcare to campaign finance reform were under especially harsh scrutiny.

Given the opportunity, Sanders opted not to attack Clinton, emphasizing that he never has and never will rely on such negativity in a campaign. This did not stop him, however, from expanding on the Twitter beef that went down hours before the event. Clinton’s affirmation — ”I am a progressive” — in her speech at the Iowa caucuses Monday night was subject to scrutiny.

“I do not know any progressives who have a Super PAC and take $15 million dollars from Wall Street. That’s just not progressive,” Sanders said, to applause. “The key foreign policy vote of modern American history was the war in Iraq. The progressive community was pretty united in saying, ‘Don’t listen to Bush. Don’t go to war.’ Secretary Clinton voted to go to war.”

Clinton’s response to the question about her progressive credentials: “I’m a progressive who likes to get things done.” Chalking it up to semantics, she focused instead on a unified vision for the Democratic party. “Clearly, we all share a lot of the same hopes and aspirations for our country that we want to see achieved, and I don’t think it’s appropriate that if Planned Parenthood endorses me, or the Human Rights Campaign endorses me, they’re thrown out of the ‘progressive wing’ and put into ‘the establishment.’”

When asked why she accepted $675,000 in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs — the Wall Street financial giant considered partly at fault for the 2008 financial crisis, which just last month agreed to pay $5 billion to resolve state and federal investigations into its handling of mortgage-backed securities in the years leading up to the crisis, according to NPR — Clinton shrugged it off. “Name anything they’ve influenced me on,” she said, “I’m out here everyday saying I’m going to shut ‘em down, I’m going after them, I’m going to jail them if they should be jailed...They’re not giving me very much money now, I can tell you that much.” On the other hand, Clinton pointed out that approximately 90% of her campaign donations now are from small donors, “and 60% — the highest ever — from women.”

Meanwhile, Sanders and Clinton agreed on issues such as healthcare, including much-needed reform of mental health care and the adverse approach to recreational drug use and addiction. While Clinton maintains she supports developing Obamacare, Sanders was more specific about radically reforming it, detailing his plan for a Medicare-for-all, single-payer healthcare structure which would reduce healthcare costs for all while raising taxes for the wealthiest Americans.

Above all, both agreed on the country’s financial inequality problems, emphasizing their common goal to strengthen the middle class.
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