Last night, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders appeared at a town hall moderated by Anderson Cooper in New Hampshire. Video, which autoplays, and a complete transcript of the event are available here.
For the most part, it went exactly as one would expect. They both went through their usual talking points. Each gave a strong performance. There's no question that there is a huge divide between how this country would be governed if either Sanders or Clinton won versus how it would be governed if any of the Republican candidates won.
Each of them had a bad moment, in my opinion. Clinton gave a bad answer on speaking fees from Goldman Sachs:
Cooper: One of the things that Sen. Sanders points to and a lot of your critics point to is you made three speeches for Goldman Sachs. You were paid $675,000 for three speeches. Was that a mistake? I mean was that a bad error in judgment?I don't think the answer is terrible in its entirety, because it is true that merely saying "you took that money!" if there's no evidence of influence as a result of it is a pretty weak criticism.
Clinton: Look. I made speeches to lots of groups. I told them what I thought. I answered questions.
Cooper: But did you have to be paid $675,000?
Clinton: Well, I don't know. That's what they offered, so... (LAUGHTER) You know every secretary of State that I know has done that.
Cooper: But...they're not running for an office...
Clinton: Well, I didn't know...
Cooper: ...have known.
Clinton: To be honest I wasn't -- I wasn't committed to running. I didn't know whether I would or not.
Cooper: You didn't think you were going to run for president again?
Clinton: I didn't. You know when I was secretary of State several times I said you know I think I'm done. And you know, so many people came to me, started talking to me.
The circumstances, the concerns I had about the Republicans taking back the White House, because I think they wrecked what we achieved in the 1990s with 23 million new jobs and incomes going up for everybody. I did not want to see that happen again. I want to defend President Obama's accomplishments and the progress we've made. I want to go further.
So yes, I was convinced. But you know anybody who knows me who thinks that they can influence me, name anything they've influenced me on. Just name one thing. I'm out here every day saying I'm going to shut them down, I'm going after them. I'm going to jail them if they should be jailed. I'm going to break them up.
I mean they're not giving me very much money now. I can tell you that much. (LAUGHTER) Fine with me. I'm proud to have 90 percent of my donations from small donors and 60 percent, the highest ever, from women, which I'm really, really proud of.
But I also think there were better immediate responses than joking about that's what was offered. Like, off the top of my head: "I know, that sounds like an absurd amount of money to most working Americans. But I'll tell you what, I felt comfortable taking those speaking fees, because, whether I decided to run for president again, or if I'd decided to pursue changes I think this country needs in the private sector, I knew I was going to be, at least in part, personally funding that pursuit. It turns out they put money in my pocket to fight them. I don't feel bad about that!"
(A less charitable, ahem, response she could have offered is: "Anderson, with the women's pay gap being a major issue in the US right now, do you really think it's appropriate to audit what a woman earns on national television?")
Sanders, meanwhile, gave a truly shitty answer to a question about whether he's the underdog in New Hampshire, despite being from neighboring state Vermont:
Of course we're an underdog. We are taking on the most powerful political organization in the country. And that's, you know, the Clinton organization. Secretary Clinton obviously ran here in 2008 and she won. Her husband ran here several times before that. So this is her fourth campaign in that family here in New Hampshire.Her fourth campaign in that family. Wow.
Hillary Clinton is not Bill Clinton. I really shouldn't need to explain why this shit is misogynistic dreck.
Further, "the Clinton organization" is not, in fact, "the most powerful political organization in the country." Not by a long shot. The Clinton family is not even the most powerful political family in the country.
And this sort of hyperbole plays directly into the decades-old rightwing narratives about which I've been writing the past couple of days.
Sanders isn't a fool: He knows that. And he keeps saying stuff like this, trading on the decades-long campaign to monsterize Hillary Clinton, while simultaneously claiming to not be running a negative campaign. Which is really beginning to piss me off.
The best part of the evening, for me, came down to one little turn of phrase, care of Clinton, during a response to a question about whether she would have litmus tests for Supreme Court justices:
We've got to make sure to preserve Roe v. Wade, not let it be nibbled away or repealed.This is the first time I have heard a presidential candidate talk about Roe like it's not an on-off abortion access switch.
That shouldn't be remarkable, but goddamn it is.
During the same answer, Clinton also noted:
We have to preserve marriage equality. We have to go further to end discrimination against the LGBT community.This is also one of the very few times I have heard a presidential candidate not talk about legal same-sex marriage as the end-all be-all of queer rights.
Of course, the other times I've heard it, it's been Hillary Clinton, too.
For the record, Bernie Sanders did not talk about reproductive choice or queer rights at all. And, as I have said many times now, when your platform is centered on economic justice, not talking about abortion access, which is the key indicator of financial security for many members of a group of people that constitutes more than half the population, and not talking about eradicating housing and employment discrimination, which are also crucial to financial security, is a big problem.
Breaking up the banks and campaign finance reform and free college are important, but they will not solve anti-choice laws that render Roe an empty statute. They won't solve legal discrimination on the basis of one's sexual orientation or gender that can mean the difference between having an income and a roof over your head and not having these basic necessities.
Woe to anyone who tries to come at me with the argument that Sanders focuses on "big picture" issues, and tries to tell me that reproductive justice and housing for more than half the population isn't big picture.