Hillary Clinton's Latest Challenge To Bernie Sanders

Photo: Morry Gash/AP Photo.
At Thursday night's Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton came in with a strategy. While Bernie Sanders continued to compound on his big-picture themes of income inequality and affordable education, Clinton countered with detailed, specific policies to support her own stances and challenge Sanders to get specific on a few of his key issues.

It turned out to be Clinton's strength in the first half of Thursday night's debate. On issues of how to pay for health care, Hillary criticized Sanders' plan, saying that the numbers didn't add up. "When it comes to health care, this is not about math, this is about people's lives,” she said. She continued by discussing specific elements of Obamacare and citing her own role in creating a healthcare system. "The American people deserve to know specifically how this would work."

"It is absolutely fair and necessary for Americans to vet both of our proposals, to ask the really hard questions about what is it we think we can accomplish," she said early on. "In my case, whether it's health care, or getting us to debt-free tuition, or moving us toward paid family leave, I have been very specific about where I would raise the money, how much it would cost, and how I would move this agenda forward. I have tried to be specific, to answer questions so my proposals can be vetted."

Clinton has struggled to criticize Sanders on health care without resorting to distortions: Sanders' proposal to create a universal health system similar to what exists in the rest of the world is not a plan to "dismantle Obamacare," as Clinton's daughter, Chelsea, said last month.

On the subject of affordable education, Clinton also set down some critiques of Sanders' optimistic policies. "Senator Sanders' plan really rests on making sure that governors like Scott Walker contribute $23 billion on the first day to make education free," she said. "I'm a little skeptical of your governor actually caring enough about higher education to make any kind of commitment like that." Wisconsin Governor Walker has spent years enacting policies that have drastically underfunded education and dismantled the states' teachers unions.

When it came to foreign policy, former Secretary of State Clinton had a clear confidence. On Iran, Sanders said that he would want to improve relations with Iran and end their support of terrorism, but put down little in strategy. Clinton, in her turn, discussed specific demands on the nation, including Iran's withdrawal from Syria and the cessation of weapons sales to Hezbollah and Hamas.

(Clinton did struggle to respond well to Sanders when he brought up her close relationship to Henry Kissinger, a former Secretary of State and National Security Adviser who has been accused of war crimes connected to several different countries.)

Clinton's detail-heavy approach to the policy discussions seemed tailored to the statement she made early on in the evening in response to the historic possibility of being the first female President. "I'm not asking people to support me because I'm a woman," she said. "I'm asking people to support me because I'm the most qualified person."
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