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Wake Up To Politics - April 15, 2016

Friday, April 15, 2016
4 Days Until the New York Primary
207 Days Until Election Day 2016I'm Gabe Fleisher for Wake Up To Politics, and reporting from WUTP world HQ in my bedroom - Good morning: THIS IS YOUR WAKE UP CALL!!!
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  • Clinton, Sanders Ditch Politeness in Brooklyn Brawl Gone are the days of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders praising each other, and uniting in polite tones. Now firmly stationed in New York, the new phase of the Democratic primary race has turned nasty – as proved by the loud attacks both candidates shot at each other in Thursday night’s Brooklyn debate.
  • In two hours, Clinton, Sanders, and the CNN moderators touched on just about every issue known to a Democratic primary: from big banks to gun control to the minimum wage and more, with the two rivals taking opposite stances on almost every one.
  • Again and again, the debate fell into a familiar pattern: Question. Clinton’s position . Sanders’ father-left position. Attacks on the others’ stance. Opposition research from Clinton, sarcastic rebuttals from Sanders. Descent into yelling. Moderator reins in. Repeat.
  • This formula held up almost across the board. Even the credentials of the candidates were not immune. Asked if he believed Clinton was qualified for the presidency, Sanders responded: “I do question her judgement,” citing a laundry list of complaints (her vote on the Iraq War, her support of trade deals, and her super PACs).
  • Clinton shot back, calling it “a phony attack,” and hitting Sanders’ judgement in turn by bringing up the disastrous transcript of his interview with the New York Daily News. “When asked, he could not explain how that would be done, and when asked about a number of foreign policy issues, he could not answer about Afghanistan, about Israel, about counter-terrorism, except to say if he had some paper in front of him, maybe he could,” she said. “I think you need to have the judgment on Day One to be both president and commander in chief.”
  • Clinton and Sanders questioning each other’s fitness for the office they both seek was representative of the nastiness now in the primary. With Tuesday’s New York primary just days away, neither can afford to play nice any more: the delegate-rich primary (a hometown contest for both, in some way) is pivotal in the Democratic race, and the momentum going forward hinge on the results.
  • And much of the debate was New York-centric as a result. Just over the river from Wall Street, one of the most contentious exchanges of the night was on the big banks. As Sanders charged that Clinton was “busy giving speeches to Goldman Sachs” during the financial crisis, Clinton responded that she had indeed stood up to the big banks. Sanders turned to sarcastic mode. “Oh my goodness, they must have been really crushed by this,” he intoned.
  • When the discussion turned to the transcripts of Clinton’s speeches to Goldman Sachs, Clinton sought to turn the conversation to Sanders’ tax returns, which he has yet to release. But Sanders had saw it coming, make a vow to release his 2014 tax returns on Friday.
  • On gun control, there was a role reversal of sorts, as Sanders advocated for more moderate position and Clinton went on offense. She dumped her opposition research book on him, accusing Sanders of making a “commitment to the NRA” in the 1990’s, and then criticizing his vote to block gun violence victims’ ability to sue gun manufacturers.
  • But Sander shad his own nugget from the 1990’s: Clinton’s use of the word “superpredator” during the fight over the crime bill, which Sanders called a “racist term,” while describing the “awful things” he said had come from the bill.
  • As the debate dragged on, a number of other policy gaps between the two rivals become evident, including big differences in the Middle East. But one exchange seemed to personify the debate at large: on raising the minimum wage. On the issue, Clinton said that she “supported the fight for 15,” – a $15 minimum wage – but urged caution, saying “we’ve got to be smart about it,” calling for incremental change. Sanders shot back, sarcastic again: “I am sure a lot of people are very surprised to learn that you supported raising the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour.”
  • At this, both candidates began to talk over each other, causing CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer to break in: “If you’re both screaming at each other, the viewers won’t be able to hear either of you.”
  • Sanders continued, framing his argument: “When this campaign began, I said that we got to end the starvation minimum wage of $7.25, raise it to $15. Secretary Clinton said let's raise it to $12. There's a difference. And, by the way, what has happened is history has outpaced Secretary Clinton.”
  • But later, Clinton rebutted Sanders’ argument on being outpaced by history with a central theme of her own. “It’s easy to diagnose the problem,” she said. “It’s harder to do something about the problem.”
  • This exchange seemed to represent the entirety of Thursday’s debate , sarcastic comments, loud yelling, accusations, and talking points. But at its heart, there was more: a rift in the Democratic Party was exposed, between those arguing the need to get ahead of history and those calling for more realistic change in the years to come.
  • That debate didn’t end when the curtain closed Thursday night, and it won’t end with New York on Tuesday: and if the debate was any indication, it could even be fought until the Democratic convention in July.
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For more on Wake Up To Politics, listen to Gabe on NPR's "Talk of the Nation, the Political Junkie podcast, and St. Louis Public Radio; watch Gabe on MSNBC's "Up with Steve Kornacki, and read about Gabe in Politico, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Globe, and the St. Louis Jewish Light