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Clinton & Sanders Debate in Brooklyn, Taking on Social Security, Superpredators, Political Judgment

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In their most contentious debate of the campaign, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders met in Brooklyn, New York, last night, days ahead of Tuesday’s crucial New York primary. Sanders is hoping to pull a major upset in New York and keep his streak of victories alive. He has won eight of the last nine contests. But Hillary Clinton, who served six years as a senator from New York, maintains a lead in the polls. On Thursday, they sparred over Wall Street, saving Social Security, Israel, guns and more.

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Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. We’re on a 100-city tour marking Democracy Now!'s 20th anniversary. I'm Amy Goodman, broadcasting from New York—from Los Angeles, with Juan González in New York. Hi, Juan.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Hi, and welcome to all of our listeners and viewers around the country and around the world. In their most contentious debate of the campaign, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders met in Brooklyn last night, days ahead of the crucial New York primary. Sanders is hoping to pull a major upset in New York on Tuesday and keep his streak of victories alive. He’s won eight of the last nine contests. But Hillary Clinton, who served six years—I’m sorry, eight years as senator from New York, maintains a lead in the polls. On Thursday, they sparred over Wall Street, saving Social Security, Israel, guns and more. The debate began when CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer asked Bernie Sanders about his recent comment that Hillary Clinton was unqualified to be president.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Does Secretary Clinton have the experience and the intelligence to be a president? Of course she does. But I do question—but I do question her judgment. I question a judgment which voted for the war in Iraq, the worst foreign policy blunder in the history of this country, voted for virtually every disastrous trade agreement, which cost us millions of decent-paying jobs. And I question her judgment about running super PACs which are collecting tens of millions of dollars from special interests, including $15 million from Wall Street. I don’t believe that that is the kind of judgment we need to be the kind of president we need.

WOLF BLITZER: Secretary Clinton?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, it is true that, now that the spotlight is pretty bright here in New York, some things have been said, and Senator Sanders did call me unqualified. I’ve been called a lot of things in my life. That was a first. And then he did say that he had to question my judgment. Well, the people of New York voted for me twice to be their senator from New York, and—and President Obama trusted my judgment enough to ask me to be secretary of state for the United States. So, look, we have disagreements on policy. There’s no doubt about it. But if you go and read, which I hope all of you will before Tuesday, Senator Sanders’ long interview with the New York Daily News, talk about judgment, and talk about the kinds of problems he had answering questions about even his core issue, breaking up the banks. When asked, he could not explain how that would be done. And when asked—when asked about a number of foreign policy issues, he could not answer about Afghanistan, about Israel, about counterterrorism, except to say if he had had some paper in front of him, maybe he could. I think you need to have the judgment on day one to be both president and commander-in-chief.

AMY GOODMAN: NY1’s Errol Louis questioned Hillary Clinton about the controversial 1994 crime bill, which many critics say helped fuel an era of mass incarceration.

ERROL LOUIS: Do you regret your advocacy for the crime bill?

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, look, I—I supported the crime bill. My husband has apologized. He was the president who actually signed it. Senator Sanders—

ERROL LOUIS: But what about—

HILLARY CLINTON: —voted for it.

ERROL LOUIS: But what about you, Senator?

HILLARY CLINTON: I’m sorry for the consequences, that were unintended and that have had a very unfortunate impact on people’s lives. I’ve seen the results of what has happened in families and in communities.

ERROL LOUIS: Senator Sanders, earlier this week at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, you called out President Clinton for defending Secretary Clinton’s use of the term “superpredator” back in the ’90s when she supported the crime bill. Why did you call him out?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Because it was a racist term, and everybody knew it was a racist term.

AMY GOODMAN: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders also sparred over the issue on how to preserve Social Security. This is CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer.

WOLF BLITZER: Secretary, let’s talk about Social Security, another critically important issue. Senator Sanders has challenged you to give a clear answer when it comes to extending the life of Social Security and expanding benefits. Are you prepared to lift the cap on taxable income, which currently stands at $118,500? Yes or no, would you lift the cap?

HILLARY CLINTON: I have said repeatedly, Wolf, I am going to make the wealthy pay into Social Security to extend the Social Security trust fund. That is one way. If that is the way that we pursue, I will follow that. But there are other ways. We should be looking at taxing passive income by wealthy people. We should be looking at taxing all of their investments.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Maybe I’m a little bit confused: Are you or are you not supporting legislation to lift the cap on taxable income and extend Social Security for 58 years and increase benefits? Yes or no?

HILLARY CLINTON: I am—I have said, yes, we are going to pick the best way or combination.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Oh, see? Ah! OK.

HILLARY CLINTON: Or combination of ways. You know, it’s always a little bit challenging, because, you know, if Senator Sanders doesn’t agree with how you are approaching something, then you are a member of the establishment.

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