Wrangling Turns Bitter at Democratic Debate

     BROOKLYN (CN) — The tension was palpable even before Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders began flinging barbs at each other Thursday night before a raucous crowd in Brooklyn.
     With so much at stake not only aquest for the lion’s share of New York’s 247 Democratic delegates, but also a reasonable path forward to secure the party’s presidential nomination the event generated the crackling energy of a heavy-weight prize fight.
     Time and again during their hour-plus long confrontation, Clinton sought to skewer Sanders with his own words, pointing to the senator’s recent shakey interview with the editorial board of the New York Daily News as clear evidence that he wasn’t prepared to lead or even carry out his central campaign promises.
     Even when they successfully landed blows, each candidate seemed to be grow ever more impatient with the other. At times, they simply talked over one another and all this before a cheering and jeering audience at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
     At times, even CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer looked a bit nervous.
     As he has many times in the past, Sanders pressed Clinton to release transcripts of her paid speeches before big Wall Street firms. Clinton countered by demanding he release his tax returns.
     Sanders promised to release several years of his tax returns within a day — by Friday.
     He quipped that Jane, his wife, “does our taxes.”
     “We’ve been a little bit busy lately,” he added. “You’ll excuse us.”
     But such lighthearted retorts were rare during the largely cantankorous debate.
     Sanders did best when the subject turned to raising the federal minimum wage. Shortly before the debate, New York State raised its minimum wage to $15 an hour, and Clinton attended the high profile celebration of the milestone hosted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. But the former Secretary of State has been advocating a much more modest wage increase in her campaign speeches.
     When Sanders pressed Clinton on her position, she tried to take the middle ground.
     “I think the secretary has confused a lot of people,” Sanders said.
     But Clinton rebounded handily when the topic turned to guns and the 2nd Amendment. She forcefully derided Sanders for supporting immunity for gun manufacturers and what she characterized as his cozy relationship with the National Rifle Association n Vermont.
     “We hear a lot from Senator Sanders about the greed and recklessness of Wall Street,” Clinton said. “And I agree we’ve got to hold Wall Street accountable. But what about the greed and recklessness of the gun manufacturers and dealers in America?”
     Sanders has defended his record by citing the popularity of hunting in his rural state, where many businesses all but close down for a few days during hunting season.
     Blitzer later asked Sanders if he owed the families of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre an apology for questioning their decision to sue gun manufacturers, Sanders replied: “I don’t think I owe them an apology.”
     While it was no surprise that tensions in the Middle East would be a topic of discussion, what did prove an eye-opener was Sanders challenging Clinton on her support of Israel. Sanders overriding position appeared to be that the United States needs to be less “one-sided” in its search for a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
     “You gave a major speech at AIPAC that onviously deals with the Middle East peace crisis, and you barely mentioned the Palestinians,” Sanders said.
     AIPAC is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Clinton responded by saying “describing the problem is a lot easier than tryng to solve it” noting that as secretary of state she as “the person who held the last three meetings between the president of the Palestinian Authority and the prime minister of Israel.
     “I was absolutely focused on what we needed to make sure that the Palestinian people had the right to self-government,” she continued. “And I beleive that as president I will be able to continue to make progress and get an agreement that will be fair both to the Israelis and the Palestinians without ever, ever undermining Israel’s security.”
     Hours before the debate Sanders had suspended his Jewish outreach coordinator Simone Zimmerman for posting on her Facebook page that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is an “arrogant, deceptive, cynical, manipulative asshole.”
     In a blog post , captured on news sites, Zimmerman added, “Fuck you, Bibi … you sanctioned the murder of over 2,000 people this summer.”
     Netanyahu has been overtly hostile to President Barack Obama’s administration, bypassing the White House to accept a Republican invitation to address Congress in violation of diplomatic protocol, and insulting Secretary of State John Kerry through his chief spokesman.
      “Of course Israel has a right to defend itself, but long term there will never be peace in that region unless the United States plays a role, an even-handed role, trying to bring people together and recognizing the serious problems that exist among the Palestinian people,” Sanders said .
     On most domestic issues, Clinton said, “We are both in vigorous agreement,” including Sanders’ insistence on giving everyone a fair shot at a college education, securing Social Security and continuing the push for a national health care system.
     Asked about his oft-criticized plan to make public colleges tuition-free, Sanders fired off: “Damn right. That is exactly what we should be doing.”
     Diversity also was a hot issue as the candidates fought to court the Latino vote.
     “We will celebrate our diversity; we will work together bringing us back to being united, setting bold progressive goals,” Clinton said. “Knock those barriers that are in the way.”
      They agreed on the issue of abortion and a woman’s right to choose.
     In his opening remarks, Sanders told a cheering audience: “We have to understand, we should be thinking big, not small. We need to join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee health care to all people.”
     Both called climate change a global danger. Clinton called it an “extraordinary threat” to the world. Sanders called it a “global environmental crisis is of unprecedented urgency.”
     Sanders, who is Jewish, also managed to reference his impending trip to the Vatican on Friday to demonstrate his concern for the environment: “Pope Francis reminded us that we are on a suicide course” in terms of how we treat the environment, he said.
          Early in the debate, Clinton tried to grab some fire from Sanders, whose campaign has focused on Wall Street and breaking up the big banks he blames for the financial crisis that began in 2007.
     “We can never let Wall Street wreck Main Street again,” Clinton said.
      Clinton took issue with Sanders’ calling her unqualified to be president and questioning her judgment for voting as a senator to go to war with Iraq.
     “I question her judgment,” he said of her 2002 move.
     “Sen. Sanders did call me disqualified,” Clinton said. “I’ve been called a lot of things in my life. That was a first.”
          In their trips around New York City and State, both candidates have courted Brooklyn and its middle-class voters. The debate was not the last stage in the fight for the April 19 primary votes. Moments before taking the stage, Sanders’ camp announced two impromptu rallies: one in Brooklyn’s posh Prospect Park neighborhood and another on Long Island.
     It was the ninth time the two have faced off. This latest go was at the historic Brooklyn Navy Yard, a now-dry complex, with brick buildings that once housed warship production for the Navy.
     The neighborhood has become the site of the continuing gentrification of Brooklyn’s historic neighborhoods, with shiny glass and steel condominiums sprouting up around 10 towering buildings of the Farragut Houses project.
     Clinton has long had an office in the wealthy neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights. Sanders, a Brooklyn boy, recently set up his camp in the upper west side of Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood.
     For the first time in decades, the quest for the presidential nomination in both parties is not expected to be over until California and five other states (California plus four for Republicans) hold their primaries, on June 7. And it may not be over then, as the Republican Party gears up for a brokered convention to try to keep the nomination away from Donald Trump.
     Then, for the election-weary and fatigued, will come the choice of a vice presidential candidate, the general election campaign and finally, Election Day: Nov. 8.
     The Associated Press puts Clinton ahead of Sanders in the New York primary. If so, it would be a crucial win for her, as Sanders has won eight of their last nine races.
     After New York, the next big prize will be Pennsylvania, and its 71 delegates, to be chosen on April 26. Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and Rhode Island also will hold primaries that day.     
     Photo caption 1:
     Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., right, and Hillary Clinton speak during the CNN Democratic Presidential Primary Debate at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on Thursday, April 14, 2016 in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
     Photo caption 2:
     Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., gestures during the CNN Democratic Presidential Primary Debate with Hillary Clinton. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
     Photo caption 3:
     Hillary Clinton speaks during the CNN Democratic Presidential Primary Debate with Sen. Bernie Sanders. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
     Photo caption 4:
     Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, right, takes notes as Hillary Clinton speaks during the CNN Democratic Presidential Primary Debate. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

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