Aside from their shared outrage over Flint’s water woes, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders could agree on little else during last night’s debate as they challenge one another for the democratic presidential nomination.
They exchanged barbed attacks on international trade policy, the Export-Import Bank, Clinton and her husband’s long-standing ties to Wall Street, the influence of SuperPacs, gun control, criminal justice reform and the bailout of the U.S. auto industry.
Both candidates scored points with telling attacks: Sanders berated Clinton for accepting huge speaking fees from Wall Street bankers and other special interests and for backing major international trade agreements that drained the economy of millions of jobs. Clinton continued to criticize the Vermont democratic socialist senator for being overly narrow in his focus on income inequality and the excesses of Wall Street while giving short shrift to other equally important economic issues.
But Clinton – who is leading Sanders by 25 points in the latest poll in the run-up to Tuesday’s Michigan primary – delivered the most telling blow of the night in a state whose economy is so closely linked to the success of the auto industry.
When Sanders attacked Clinton for supporting the 2008 “Wall Street bailout where some of your friends destroyed the economy,” Clinton quickly rocked Sanders on his heels by reminding the audience that the bailout of financial institutions that Sanders voted against included $82 billion to salvage the near bankrupt auto industry.
“If everybody had voted the way he did, I believe the auto industry would have collapsed, taking four million jobs with it,” she said.
However, much of the first hour of the debate was devoted to the plight of Flint residents, many of whom are low-income African Americans struggling to get by with no dependable source of water for drinking, cooking and bathing and panic stricken over the adverse effects that the water may have had on their children.
Read the latest about the Flint water crisis here.