Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders angrily clashed over auto industry bailouts, guns, political battles from the 1990s and ties to Wall Street on Sunday, as underlying tensions in the Democratic presidential race burst into the open at an impassioned CNN debate in Flint, Michigan.
The forum quickly turned into a heated philosophical argument about an economy that Sanders said is weighted against the middle and working classes and is abetted, he said, by close ties between politicians, such as Clinton, and Wall Street financiers.
Sanders accused Clinton of supporting “disastrous” trade policies that contributed to corporate America’s decision to move manufacturing from cities like Flint to low-wage economies in Central America and Asia. But she in turn said that Sanders had refused to vote for a bailout for the auto industry that was included in the outgoing Bush administration’s attempts to stave off the financial crisis.
“If everybody had voted the way he did, I believe the auto industry would have collapsed, taking 4 million jobs with it,” Clinton said.
Clinton also pressed Sanders on guns and accused him of being too close to the National Rifle Association.
“You talk about corporate greed. The gun manufacturers sell guns to make as much money as they can make,” Clinton said.
Sanders replied by responding that Clinton’s arguments, effectively, would amount to a ban on the manufacture of guns.
At one point, both candidates talked over one another in their determination to make their points about the economy.
“Excuse me, I am talking,” Sanders said.
Sanders repeatedly knocked Clinton for her ties to the finance industry and demanded that she release transcripts of her paid speeches to Wall Street firms. Clinton said she will do so when other candidates, including Republicans, agree to do the same.
While the exchanges were intense and revealed clear schisms between Clinton and Sanders, they were largely confined to policy differences, and lacked the personal — and even vulgar — tone that characterized the last two Republican debates.
Both candidates billed themselves as the best possible person to take on the Republicans, particularly Donald Trump, in a general election. Clinton slammed what she said was the “bigotry, bullying and bluster” of the GOP front-runner, while her rival pointed to polls indicating he was more likely to beat the billionaire.
Clinton and Sanders opened the debate agreeing on one point: that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder should step down over his response to the toxic water crisis in Flint.