Live Blog: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders Debate in Flint

Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders Debate in
Photo: Chris Usher/CBS

Hillary Clinton has more than double the number of delegates than her chief rival, Bernie Sanders. He has an unmatched fundraising operation, one that could help him stay in the race throughout the primary season and perhaps to the convention.

Sunday’s presidential debate in Flint, Mich., is a reminder that, as Republicans engage in theatrics, Democrats aren’t entirely free of drama.

The debate is likely to put much greater focus on the water crisis in Flint than Republican candidates did in their debate from Detroit on Thursday, as well as issues like trade, gun control and Wall Street.


Hillary Clinton to Return to Hollywood for March 24 Fundraising Swing

Follow along below for updates:

7:57 pm ET: Nancy Reagan. The debate starts with a moment of silence for Nancy Reagan, who died this morning.

8:06 pm ET: The Water Crisis. Moderator Anderson Cooper starts with the water crisis, saying that “safeguards were ignored” and “even today lead is present in water.”

Sanders repeats his call for Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, to resign. “Amen to that,” Clinton says, adding that another alternative is for him to be recalled. This is the first time that she has called for his resignation.

Cooper asks whether the federal government also bears some responsibility, and whether, as an example, the head of the EPA should be fired. Clinton tells a Flint resident that “your government at all levels has let you down.” But she says that an investigation has to be complete and those responsible have to be held accountable.

Sanders says that he would fire anyone “who knew what happened and did not act appropriately.”

Both candidates are conveying the sense of urgency, and Sanders gets applause when he says that his concern is after the media attention subsides yet major problems still remain.

“It’s raining lead in Flint,” Clinton says, referring to the lead contamination in the city’s water supply.

8:21 pm ET: Sanders’ win. News outlets are projecting that Sanders is the winner of today’s caucuses in Maine.

8:23 pm ET: Snyder’s response. Snyder tweets, “I’m taking responsibility as our value system says we should. My track record is getting things done, and I want to get this done.”

“This was never about money. This was a failure of government at all levels that could be described as a massive error of bureaucracy.”

8:28 pm ET: Trade tiff. Sanders and Clinton spar over the issue of trade and the auto bailout.

“I am very glad that Secretary Clinton has gotten religion on this issue,” Sanders notes of Clinton’s recent opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership. He points out that Clinton supported trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he said is responsible for the loss of huge numbers of jobs.

Clinton points out that Sanders was against the 2008-2009 auto bailout, a huge issue in Michigan, which votes on Tuesday. “The money was there and had to be released in order to save the American auto industry…I voted to save the auto industry. He voted against the money that saved the auto industry.”

That leads to a contentious exchange, with Sanders telling Clinton, “Your story is for voting for every disastrous trade agreement and voting for corporate America.” As she tries to respond, Sanders says, “Excuse me, I’m talking.”

Sanders insists that he supported the auto bailout, but not a bailout of Wall Street bankers. Clinton says that her opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership came after she could see what was in it, rather than opposing something she had not seen.

8:35 pm ET: The speeches. Sanders has come into this debate with a number of attack lines, including one directed at speeches that Clinton gave to Wall Street firms after she resigned as secretary of state. Clinton has yet to release transcripts of those speeches, for which she was reportedly paid more than $600,000. “You want me to release my speeches to Wall Street?” Sanders says. “Here it is. There’s nothing!”

8:47 pm ET: A break. Clinton and Sanders have talked lead contamination, the auto bailout, NAFTA, the Export-Import bank. Neither has referenced their anatomy.

8:52 pm ET: Kalamazoo shootings. The father of a shooting victim in a recent tragedy in Kalamazoo, Mich., asks the candidates what they would do to curb mass shootings — but asks that the answer not be increased mental health research or expanded background checks “which do not work.”

Clinton outlines a series of moves, but also says, “We have got to have a public discussion, because we have created a culture where people grab for guns all the time.” Sanders, too, calls for a variety of measures.

But this is an issue where Sanders has been on the defensive over his support for 2005 legislation that provided liability exclusions for gun manufacturers. He expresses concern that holding manufacturers broadly liable would eventually restrict the legal sale of guns.

Clinton’s campaign has attacked Sanders over the vote, and she says that such a move is necessary to improve gun safety and accountability.

“Essentially your position is, there should not be any guns in America,” Sanders responds. “There are people who hold that view. That is fine if you hold that.”

Clinton follows up by citing what happened in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn.

“You talk about corporate greed. The gun manufacturers sell guns to make as much money as they can,” Clinton says.

9:09 pm. Avenue Q. Don Lemon asks the candidates what racial blindspots they have (a reference to a line from “Avenue Q,” “Everyone’s a little bit racist”).

Clinton at first answers by citing her work with the Children’s Defense Fund, perhaps in response to Sanders’ reference to his arrest in the early ’60s while protesting segregated housing in Chicago. Lemon asks the question again, and she answers, “I cannot pretend to have the experience you have had and others have had.” Sanders gives essentially the same answer, but says, “When you’re white you don’t know what it’s like to live in a ghetto. You don’t know what it’s like to be poor.”

9:17 pm. The ’90s. What’s perhaps striking about this debate is how much has been focused on the ’90s. Sanders tries to tar Clinton with welfare reform, which President Bill Clinton signed in 1996, as leading to an epidemic of “extreme poverty.” Clinton says that the legislation had “a lot of provisions that unfortunately were stripped out by George W. Bush.” Welfare reform created discord in the administration: Peter Edelman, the husband of the Children’s Defense Fund’s Marian Wright Edelman, resigned over it.

Clinton also cites the improvement of median incomes among African-Americans during her husband’s term, a time of immense job growth.

“If we’re going to argue about the ’90s, let’s try to get the facts straight,” she says.

9:34 pm. Climate change. The candidates are asked about an issue that rarely gets raised at the GOP debates — climate change and, in this case, fracking.

Clinton outlines a series of areas where she opposes fracking.

“By the time we get through all of my conditions, I don’t think there will be a lot of places in America where fracking is taking place.”

Sanders seizes on her nuance. “My answer is a lot shorter,” he says. “No, I do not support fracking.”

9:44 pm. The contrast. Given the breadth of the issues posed to the candidates, it’s a wonder why the candidates have taken until now to take note.

“Compare the substance of this debate with what you saw on the Republican stage last week,” Clinton says.

Sanders is more biting. “We are going to invest a lot of money into mental health and when you watch these Republican debates, you’ll know why.”

9:53 pm. Trump and emails. Clinton is asked about Donald Trump’s vow that he will hammer her on her use of emails while secretary of state. She doesn’t address the emails directly, but says, “Trump’s bigotry, bullying and bluster are not going to wear well.” Trump also called Sanders a “communist,” to which Sanders quips, “That is one of the nice things he said about me.”

Clinton notes that she has gotten more votes than any other candidate so far, but Sanders cites polls showing he does better in a head-to-head with Trump.

10:02 pm. ET: That’s it. They came. They sparred. They tried to score points. But this debate between Clinton and Sanders could not be more different than the Republican debate last week, when questions about trade and the economy were obscured by a tone that has been compared to a wrestling arena. Clinton and Sanders went at it, but it never got personal, unless you consider Sanders’ “excuse me, I’m talking” snap a bit rude. Instead, this debate was much more substantive and informative.

Sanders scored some points in putting Clinton on the defensive over shifting policy positions, particularly from the ’90s, but he has created some social media criticism for saying, “When you’re white you don’t know what it’s like to live in a ghetto. You don’t know what it’s like to be poor.”

Clinton did well in addressing a sense of urgency in Flint — “it’s raining lead” — and did well in an emotional response to Sanders’ past support for immunity for gun manufacturers. But she should have directly addressed how she would counter Trump’s expected attack line about those damn emails.

10:16 pm ET: Top tweets. According to Twitter, Sanders led Twitter conversation with 55%. The top tweeted moments: When Sanders said he hated the word “huge”; when he said to Clinton “excuse me, I’m talking”; and when they each addressed how their faith guides them.

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  1. Ali says:

    When are these politicians going to state the truth that the only thing that will be achieved by trade restrictions is higher prices and struggling retailers
    There are no factories to take over all the production from China
    Its about time people woke up to the fact thaqt factories are not laying there waiting to be inflated and go into production
    It would take 20 years if not more and even then there has to be a will

  2. Sumateta miles says:

    We have smart people in our country who can be trained to do many other well paying jobs. Why concentrate on manufacturing jobs only? Most manufacturing jobs are replaced by robots or outsoucing to low wages overseas. Robotic kind of jobs are physically unhealthy and stressful. Time to train our people to use more of our brain kind of jobs, instead of competing with Rabat.

    • KingofSwing says:

      You are in luck! Bernie has a plan for training people as well. He wants to make public college low enough in cost that you don’t need to take out loans, or tuition free. That would bring our standard of living up to the level of Canada, Australia, Western Europe, England, etc….

      That means that anyone who wants to better their situation will have an opportunity to do so. Additionally, we will have tons of skilled workers, which means that the US will become a very attractive place for high tech or highly skilled industries. Currently, we tend to bring over a lot of people from China and India to fill the recruiting gap for high skill/high education jobs like medicine or IT.

      Hillary has made vague speeches about valuing education, forming committees, etc etc, but has not committed to a strong stance on what she would actually DO to make job training and higher education accessible. She also has no plan to increase available funding outside of throwing more federal funding at the problem. Bernie will close tax loopholes and raise the minimum wage, which would automatically increase the amount of available tax money in communities that need it for education (in a way that is sustainable and lasting).

    • Tortuga says:

      Because manufacturing jobs are the kind of jobs you can learn while you work. There is a low barrier to entry, which means that they are a perfect fall back for people who have had difficulty in life, in one way or another, which has left them unable to attain skilled work. It is a productive, higher paying, more dignified way for those people to contribute to society and also live a decent life while providing for their families.

      We SHOULD have decent paying manufacturing jobs. The reason why we don’t is because the people at the top got greedy and decided to pay Mexican children to do American jobs because they could make a grossly disproportional profit.

      Good lower skill/education jobs that allow a person to live with dignity breaks the cycle of poverty. In that sense, these types of jobs are extremely important to all of society in that they prevent the cost, both monetary and otherwise, that society must bare when you have an underclass of hopeless and disenfranchised people.

  3. T says:

    Bernie Sanders would do well as a candidate for the democratic nominee to understand that a very large majority of African- Americans not only vote but are very proud to be a part of the Democratic Party. He has such a lack of understanding of the African American community that he has no idea how offensive a comment he made when he suggested that all African- Americans are poor and live in ghettos.

    • Tortuga says:

      Racial inequality is a subset of class disparity. If you have a minority background, you are twice as likely as a white person to end up in poverty in America. Therefore, when politicians make decision that disadvantage low income people, they are mostly targeting minorities and diminishing their chances of making a better life.

      I don’t think Sanders is saying that “all black people live in ghettos”. What he is saying is that legislation that effects the poor gets approved because it’s black and brown people who, unfortunately, are disproportionally effected. Racial inequality and income inequality are inextricably linked.

      I’m glad that a politician if FINALLY coming out and saying that in the open. We all know that the poor get the shaft in America because the poor are overwhelmingly black or latino. I, for one, am happy that someone is finally saying it plainly rather than dancing around the issue or sticking to fluffy platitudes the way Clinton does.

  4. Sumateta miles says:

    Superpac or minipac, it is no different. Promise to deliver something for money to fund hos ambition campaign. Bernie cannot deliver what he so boldly promise to his young supporters in his life time or mine. $27 is a lot of money from his so called young desperate supporters. It would be wiser for him to get it from billionaires instead and then he can still pursue his agenda. His movement is a political one, not honest.

    • KingofSwing says:

      So, what you are saying then is that American can’t manage to do what Canada, England, Western Europe, Australia, etc., managed to do. Do you think Americans are just inferior? Are we less intelligent?

      As for the donations. Do you feel beholden to your boss? Why is that? The answer is probably because you need the money. Bernie’s money comes from the people, which means that Bernie is more like

      • KingofSwing says:

        ….ly to be beholden to the people.

        People don’t give money to candidates out of the goodness of their hearts. They do it because it’s an investment, and they are hoping to get a return on that investment someday.

  5. Sumateta miles says:

    Bernie wants to let all criminals out of jail. Now you really have to go out buying guns to fend for yourselves. He said we have more prisoners in jail than China, they believe in execution, not incarceration.

  6. A Ha says:

    I hardly think 114 delegates more than double Bernie Sanders lol. If you’re trying to count super delegates then you are a victim of misinformation; they have yet to submit their vote until later. Nice try Variety! Lol

  7. Jesse Watson says:

    Hillary does not have more than twice the delegates. You’re counting Superdelegates (which don’t even vote til June and were not elected nor won in a caucus or primary) to arrive at that number which is completely disingenuous. They’re basically tied looking at pledged delegates, which is all we should be looking at now unless you’re on the payroll of Hillarys campaign or the DNC.

  8. Denise says:

    So Proud of Bernie!!!

  9. Juliettebeard says:

    Well to them both , Don Lemon where asking how do they will treat black the same as they will white, we no it not fit to ask ,but some people need to no.

  10. cripes says:

    If a customer buys a car, and then drives it deliberately into a sidewalk, killing 10 people, is the car manufacturer liable

    • cadavra says:

      False equivalency. Auto accidents are an unfortunate side effect of a car’s primary usage, which is to transport. Guns have only one function: to kill.

      • cadavra says:

        I never said guns should be banned, nor did I say gun manufacturers should be held accountable. I was merely pointing out the bogus comparison. It is not enough to read; you must also comprehend.

      • jaykayd says:

        Less than 35,000 deaths each year are caused by firearms in the U.S., the majority of which are suicides. There are over 300,000,000 firearms in this country. That suggests guns have more than one function. Holding gun manufacturers liable for illegal use by end users would have many unintended consequences which is why Bernie Sanders doesn’t support it.

        By the way, your chances of being killed by a gun in any given year are infinitesimal… about .01%. If you are a law-abiding citizen, don’t live in a gang-infested area and you’re not suicidal, you have even less to worry about.

      • Annoyed says:

        Good luck telling people they can’t have guns for hunting then. And when a hunting rifle kills a person, the maker should be held accountable?

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