Watch tonight’s Flint Michigan Democratic Debate (Full video & full transcript)
By Jeremy Bloom
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders debate at ground zero for the GOP overreach of anti-science, Flint Michigan.
COOPER: Now we’ve come to Flint because this is a city in crisis, a city where, as you probably know, the tap water is toxic. Public servants, public institutions not only failed to prevent the crisis, their decisions created this crisis. The state of Michigan, in an effort to save money, switched Flint’s water source to a cheaper, but riskier alternative, the Flint River. Safeguards were ignored. That river water corroded residential pipes, and for nearly two years, lead leaked into the water used in people’s homes. Now, for much of that time, the state downplayed the danger, even in the face of growing complaints and physical evidence.
For 100 days, the federal government knew about it, and yet in all that time nobody told the people of Flint. They bathed in the water, they drank it, and so did their kids. Even today, lead is still present in some of the water.
Tonight the Democratic candidates are here to answer questions about what they would do for Flint, as well as about other issues facing their country right now.
Each candidate has one minute for an opening statement, Senator Sanders is first. We begin with him. Senator Sanders?
SANDERS: Anderson, thank you very much.
Over the last several weeks I had the opportunity to meet with a number of residents of Flint at a town meeting in Flint, and I have to tell you what I heard, and what I saw literally shattered me. And, it was beyond belief that children in Flint, Michigan in the United States of America in the year 2016 are being poisoned.
That is clearly not what this country should be about.
As Anderson indicated, there’s a lot of blame to go around, and one of the points that I have made is that I believe the Governor of this state should understand that his dereliction of duty was irresponsible. He should resign.
SANDERS: But more importantly, what is happening in Flint to a lesser degree is happening throughout this country. In recent years we have seen a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires, and increase in income and wealth inequality, and all over this country middle class families are struggling. Cities and towns are struggling, in order to provide basic services. Among many other things, we need to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, our water systems, our waste water plants, our roads and our bridges. The wealthiest country in the history of the world has got to get its priorities right, take care of the people, no more tax breaks for billionaires.
COOPER: Thank you, Senator.
COOPER: Secretary Clinton?
CLINTON: Well, I’ll start by saying amen to that.
We are here in Flint, I’m very grateful that my request that we hold this debate be held here so we can continue to shine a very bright spotlight on what has happened in this city.
I agree, the Governor should resign, or be recalled…
CLINTON: … support the efforts of citizens attempting to achieve that. But, that is not enough. We have to focus on what must be done to help the people of Flint.
I support a hundred percent the efforts by your senators and members of congress to get the money from the federal government in order to begin the work that must occur to fix the infrastructure. The state should also be sending money immediately to help this city.
CLINTON: I know the state of Michigan has a rainy day fund for emergencies, what is more important than the health and wellbeing of the people, particularly children? It is raining lead in Flint, and the state is derelict in not coming forward with the money that is required.
COOPER: Secretary Clinton?
CLINTON: And, we’ll get to what we need to do to help the children and the people when I have a little more time because that’s just as important as fixing the pipes.
COOPER: We’re going to have a lot of time for that. We want to begin tonight with the people of Flint themselves. This is Mikki Wade, she’s a public housing program manager, and the mother of two kids. She says she’s currently undecided, and has a question that both of you will be able to weigh in on. Ms. Wade?
QUESTION: The water has impacted our lives in such a way that living comfortably in our home isn’t the same anymore. The constant drives to pick up water just so my children can wash their hair, to wash our fruits and vegetables, and to brush our teeth is incredibly difficult. Once the pipes are replaced, I’m not so sure I would be comfortable ever drinking the water.
QUESTION: If elected president, what course will you take to regain my trust in the government?
COOPER: Secretary Clinton, we’ll begin with you.
CLINTON: Well Nikki, it’s a very fair question.
Your government at all levels have let you and your children and the people of Flint down. So I think that there are there several things. All the repair work that is being done — and Mayor Weaver program that we support to begin to help train people in Flint to be able to do this work to distribute the water. Everything that is done has to be triple checked to regain your trust and to hold those who are responsible for fixing the pipes and delivering the clean water which has you said, you bathe in it and drink it and wash food in it. You do everything with it.
Every one of us should have to run through in our minds how we use water every single day to understand the pressures and the real pain that families are going through. So I will make sure as President that I double and triple check. I will work with elected officials who I trust like your mayor and like your senators and member of Congress so that we can assure you that when it’s fixed, you can trust it. You deserve nothing less.
COOPER: Secretary Clinton, let me follow-up with that, he people here still wasn’t drink the water in their homes as you well know. They can’t bathe their kids in the water and they are desperate for accountability and specifics. As president can you give a specific about what you can do if you were president that would make Ms. Wade’s life better and life better for people here?
CLINTON: Well, I support what President Obama is doing. He called for and got accountability from the officials at the EPA to make sure the state is doing its job. He expanded Medicaid for helping kids particularly to get the health care they need. He is also ordered that there be a Head Start program. I support that.
When it comes to the water itself, we are supporting a program that Mayor Waver announced through Flint Waterworks to pay people in Flint, not outsiders, but people here to deliver the water while we are fixing the pipes. I would do even more of that. As president, what we were able to put together was a beginning. As president, I would concentrate resources on the city for economic development for more jobs as we fix the water and provide the health and education, interventions that children need. COOPER: Senator Sanders for Ms. Wade specifically?
SANDERS: What is going is a disgrace beyond belief. As the president of the United States, this is what I would do is if local government does not have the resources — if state government for whatever reason America shouldn’t be poisoned, federal government comes in, federal government acts.
What is absolute incredible to me is that water rates have soared in Flint. You are paying three times more for poison water than I am paying in Burlington, Vermont for clean water.
First thing is you say, people are not paying a water bill for poison and that is retroactive.
Second of all, to ease anxiety, CDC has to come in and examine every child and adult in this community in terms of the amount of lead they may have. Thirdly, the wealthiest country has to rebuild the crumbling infrastructure, our water systems. I have a bill for a trillion dollars, it creates 13 million jobs rebuilding flint, Michigan and communities all over the country.
COOPER: Thank you, senator.
We will have more on the infrastructure shortly but I want to follow up with you.
This crisis in flint as you know, as everybody in the room knows was created by the government. Your policies are about expanding government. Why should people from flint trust that more government is the answer?
SANDERS: That’s a good point, Anderson.
Listen, I suppose they can trust the corporations who have destroyed Flint by a disastrous trade policy which have allowed them to shut down plants in flint and move to China or Mexico. We could trust them I’m sure.
SANDERS: Or maybe — you know, maybe, Anderson, tell you what — we should — maybe we should let Wall Street come in and run the city of Flint…
… because we know their honesty and integrity has done so much for the American people. Look, we live in a democracy, and I’m not in (ph) the last person to deny that government is failing in many respects.
But at the end of the day, I will trust the people to create a government that works for them, rather than Wall Street or corporate America.
COOPER: Secretary Clinton — Secretary Clinton, you — you’ve now both called for the governor to resign. I believe that’s — that’s new for you. Previously, you had not called for that, but you’re calling for that tonight.
It’s easy to blame the Republican governor, Rick Snyder. But the federal government also dropped the ball here. According to Section 1414 of the Safe Drinking Water Act, the EPA has to step in and take action when a state is informed at (ph) — about water problems and doesn’t do anything for 30 days, as the state here didn’t do.
The EPA knew for months and months, never warned the people of Flint not to drink the water. As president, would you fire the head of the EPA?
CLINTON: Well, I think that the people here in the region, who knew about this and failed to follow what you just said, rightly, the law required, have been eliminated from the EPA.
COOPER: So far, one person has resigned.
CLINTON: I don’t — well, I don’t know how high it goes. I would certainly be launching an investigation. I think there is one. I was told that — you know, some of the higher-ups were pushing to get changes that were not happening.
So I would have a full investigation, determine who knew what, when. And yes, people should be fired. How far up it went, I don’t know. But as far as it goes, they should be relieved, because they failed this city.
But let me just add this, Anderson. This is not the only place where this kind of action is needed. We have a lot of communities right now in our country where the level of toxins in the water, including lead, are way above what anybody should tolerate.
We have a higher rate of tested lead in people in Cleveland than in Flint. So I’m not satisfied with just doing everything we must do for Flint. I want to tackle this problem across the board. And if people know about it and they’re not acting, and they’re in the government at any level, they should be forced to resign.
COOPER: Senator Sanders, would a President Sanders fire the head of the EPA?
SANDERS: President Sanders would fire anybody who knew about what was happening and did not act appropriately.
And President Sanders would make the point that, how does it happen, in the wealthiest country in the history of the world? What are our priorities when, among others, Republicans today are fighting for hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks for the wealthiest people?
How did we have so much money available to go to war in Iraq and spend trillions of dollars…
… but somehow not have enough money — not just for Flint, the secretary is right. There are communities all over this country — it’s not just infrastructure, it is education. Detroit’s public school system is collapsing.
COOPER: Thank you — thank you, Senator.
SANDERS: Anderson, the bottom line is, and what my campaign is, is changing our national priorities. We need a government that works for all of us…
COOPER: Thank you, Senator.
SANDERS: … not just wealthy campaign contributors.
COOPER: I want to go to Lee-Anne Walters. This is Lee-Anne Walters. She was one of the first people to report problems with the water in Flint. One of her twin boys stopped growing. Her daughter lost her hair.
She says she’s undecided, and has a question for both of you to answer, but we’ll start with Senator Sanders. Ms. Walters?
QUESTION: After my family, the city of Flint and the children in D.C. were poisoned by lead, will you make a personal promise to me right now that, as president, in your first 100 days in office, you will make it a requirement that all public water systems must remove all lead service lines throughout the entire United States, and notification made to the — the citizens that have said service lines.
SANDERS: I will make a personal promise to you that the EPA and the EPA director that I appoint will make sure that every water system in the United States of America is tested, and that the people of those communities know the quality of the water that they are drinking, and that we are gonna have a plan to rebuild water systems in this country that are unsafe for drinking.
COOPER: Let me just point out for accuracy’s sake, there is 10 million lead service pipes delivering water to people all across this country tonight. Secretary Clinton?
CLINTON: Well, I agree completely. I want to go further though. I want us to have an absolute commitment to getting rid of lead wherever it is because it’s not only in water systems, it’s also in soil, and it’s in lead paint that is found mostly in older homes. That’s why 500,000 children today have lead — lead in their bodies.
So, I want to do exactly what you said. We will commit to a priority to change the water systems, and we will commit within five years to remove lead from everywhere.
We were making progress on this in the 1990’s. I worked with then Senator Obama to get more money, more support to do more to remove lead.
COOPER: Thank you.
CLINTON: That has, unfortunately, been in many ways, moved to a lower priority. I will elevate it, and I will do everything I can. Water, soil, and paint…
COOPER: … Thank you…
CLINTON: … We’re going to get rid of it.
COOPER: Thank you, Secretary. I want to go to my colleague, Don Lemon.
LEMON: Anderson, thank you very much. Secretary Clinton, tonight you call for the resignation, or for Governor Snyder to be recalled. There are residents of this city who want to see criminal charges brought against those who are responsible. Do you think people should go to jail?
CLINTON: Well, that’s going to be up to the legal system, Don. I mean, I can’t standing here — I don’t have all the facts, but people should be held accountable wherever that leads. If it leads to resignation, or recall if you’re in political office.
If it leads to civil penalties, if it leads to criminal responsibility. There has to be an absolute accountability, and I will support whatever the outcome of those investigations are.
LEMON: Senator Sanders, do you think people should go to jail?
SANDERS: Well, I agree, you know? We can’t sit up here — I can’t sit up here and make judgment over whether or not somebody committed a criminal act. But, I will tell you this that after an investigation, if people, in fact, were found to have committed a criminal act — I talked to a mother.
Imagine this for a second, imagine a mother who had a bright seven-year-old gregarious girl doing well in school. Two years later, that child is now in special education, intellectual capabilities significantly deteriorated. That is a crime against that child, and the people of Flint. And, clearly, people are going to have to be held accountable.
COOPER: Thank you, Senator. Thank you, Secretary.
I want to turn now to Bryn Mickle, the editor of the Flint Journal, he’s our local partner in this debate. He has our next question.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, it took this water crisis for politicians like yourself to notice we are a city in trouble. You’ve only both recently started talking about Flint, holding campaign events here in just the past few weeks. Secretary Clinton, you’ve even made the crisis a centerpiece of a new campaign ad. Why should the people of Flint believe that you aren’t just using this crisis to secure political points?
CLINTON: Well, I think because throughout my public career I have been evening the odds for people in every way that I could. I started out with the Children’s Defense Fund, I worked throughout my time as a young lawyer as a person, an activist. Certainly, in Arkansas, then in the White House, to try to fix problems wherever I saw them.
And, this problem is one that is particularly outrageous and painful at the same time.
So, when I heard about it I immediately sent people here to find out what was going on. It was almost unbelievable. We have this problem in other places, but we don’t say that it was actually caused by decisions made by public officials in positions of authority, as this one was.
Then, when I talked to the mayor I basically said, “What can I do to help?”
Then, when I came here, and I met with some of the mothers, and met their children, and heard their stories — I’m just determined to do whatever I can. So, I have put together resources from the private and philanthropic communities to help provide a bridge because you’ve got to get the federal money, you’ve got to get the state money, but I’m going to do everything I can. And, I will be with Flint all the way through this crisis in whatever capacity I am.
And, if I’m president, it will always be a priority for action from me.
COOPER: Bryn has a follow up.
QUESTION: Senator Sanders, how about you? Your first visit to Flint as a presidential candidate was just over a week ago. That’s almost five months after the people here were told to stop drinking the water. What took you so long?
SANDERS: Well, first of all, that’s not quite accurate. I was here long before that. I will you what I did. What I did was meet very quietly in Detroit with parents and others who were impacted by this disaster.
And the second thing I did is hold a town meeting, which was as nonpolitical as I could make it for hundreds of people to tell me and the world through the media exactly what was happening here in Flint. I think the fear and the legitimate fear of the people of Flint is that a certain point the TV cameras and CNN will disappear.
And people are going to be left struggling in order to live in a safe and healthy community. All I can say is if you check my record going back a long time, I have stood with those who are hurting. I have stood with those who have no money, and I have taken on virtually every powerful special interest in the United States of America. That’s my record and I’m proud of it.
COOPER: Thank you, Senator.
This city is also facing a jobs crisis, 75 percent of Flint’s manufacturing jobs have been lost in the last 25 years and about the same amount of time, Michigan lost 230,000 manufacturing jobs.
I want to go to Tanisha Motron, she grew up in flint and now works in Detroit at the Shinola watch factory which as you know, is often held up as the blueprint for how to save American industry jobs. She says she’s leaning towards secretary Clinton and has a question for her.
QUESTION: A lot of members work in the auto industry here in Flint. That’s ultimately what I wanted to do when I got out of school unfortunately, I was unable to get any one of the big three and that’s why I now reside at Shinola. If you are elected president, what are you going to do to in the United States instead of sending them overseas to other countries?
COOPER: Secretary Clinton?
CLINTON: I’m going to do what I think will work which is both carrots and sticks. Let me talk about the carrots. We’re going to have a very clear set of proposals and incentives for manufacturing so that we change the way that companies think about making investments again in America. I have a comprehensive manufacturing plan that I will be implementing.
We’re also going to invest more on infrastructure as we both have said, “it’s woefully under resourced.” That will put a lot of people to work. I want to do more to help small businesses, they are the source of two thirds of our jobs and we have to help them start and grow, particularly minority and women-owned small businesses.
We need to do more to help create clean energy as a source of good jobs but I am also going to go after companies. You know, when a company decides to leave like Nabisco is leaving and they have gotten tax benefits from Chicago and Illinois to stay there, I will claw back the benefits. They will have to pay them back if they are leaving a place that actually invested in them.
I am also going to go after companies like Johnson Controls in Wisconsin. They came and got part of the bailout because they were an auto parts supplier and now they want to move headquarters to Europe. They are going to have to pay an exit fee. We are going to stop this kind of job exporting and we are going to start importing and growing jobs again in our country.
COOPER: Senator sanders, I will let you…
SANDERS: I am very glad, Anderson, that secretary Clinton discovered religion on this issue but it’s a little bit too late.
Secretary Clinton supported virtually every one of the disastrous trade agreements written by corporate America.
NAFTA, supported by the Secretary cost, us 800,000 jobs nationwide, tens of thousands of jobs in the Midwest. Permanent normal trade relations with China cost us millions of jobs. Look, I was on a picket line in early 1990’s against NFATA because you didn’t need a PhD in economics to understand that American workers should not be forced to compete against people in Mexico making 25 cents an hour.
SANDERS: And the reason that I was one of the first, not one of the last to be in opposition to the TPP is that American workers…
… should not be forced to compete against people in Vietnam today making a minimum wage of $0.65 an hour. Look, what we have got to do is tell corporate America that they cannot continue to shut down. We’ve lost 60,000 factories since 2001. They’re going to start having to, if I’m president, invest in this country — not in China, not in Mexico.
COOPER: Secretary Clinton?
CLINTON: Well — well, I’ll tell you something else that Senator Sanders was against. He was against the auto bailout. In January of 2009, President-Elect Obama asked everybody in the Congress to vote for the bailout.
The money was there, and had to be released in order to save the American auto industry and four million jobs, and to begin the restructuring. We had the best year that the auto industry has had in a long time. I voted to save the auto industry.
He voted against the money that ended up saving the auto industry. I think that is a pretty big difference.
SANDERS: Well, I — If you are talking about the Wall Street bailout, where some of your friends destroyed this economy…
CLINTON: You know…
SANDERS: … through — excuse me, I’m talking.
COOPER: Let him (ph) (inaudible).
CLINTON: If you’re gonna talk, tell the whole story, Senator Sanders.
SANDERS: Let me tell my story. You tell yours.
CLINTON: I will.
SANDERS: Your story is for — voting for every disastrous trade agreement, and voting for corporate America. Did I vote against the Wall Street bailout?
When billionaires on Wall Street destroyed this economy, they went to Congress and they said, “please, we’ll be good boys, bail us out.” You know what I said? I said, “let the billionaires themselves bail out Wall Street.” It shouldn’t be the middle class of this country.
CLINTON: OK, so…
COOPER: Secretary Clinton?
SANDERS: Wait a minute. Wait. Could I finish? You’ll have your turn, all right?
But ultimately, if you look at our records, I stood up to corporate America time and time again. I went to Mexico. I saw the lives of people who were working in American factories and making $0.25 an hour.
I understood that these trade agreements were going to destroy the middle class of this country. I led the fight against us (sic). That is one of the major differences that we have.
COOPER: Secretary Clinton.
CLINTON: Well, if I — if I could…
… to set the record straight, I voted against the only multinational trade agreement that came before me when I was in the Senate. It was called CAFTA. I came out against the TPP after it was finished. I thought it was reasonable to actually know what was in it before I opposed it. I oppose it.
Now let me get back to what happened in January of 2009. The Bush administration negotiated the deal. Were there things in it that I didn’t like? Would I have done it differently? Absolutely.
But was the auto bailout money in it — the $350 billion that was needed to begin the restructuring of the auto industry? Yes, it was. So when I talk about Senator Sanders being a one-issue candidate, I mean very clearly — you have to make hard choices when you’re in positions of responsibility. The two senators from Michigan stood on the floor and said, “we have to get this money released.” I went with them, and I went with Barack Obama. You did not. If everybody had voted the way he did, I believe the auto industry would have collapsed, taking four million jobs with it.
COOPER: Senator Sanders?
SANDERS: I believe that the recklessness, the greed, and the illegal behavior of Wall Street drove this country into the worst economic downturn in the history of the United — modern history of the United States of America. And I will be damned if it was the working people of this country who had to bail out the crooks on Wall Street.
And what I proposed — and I had an amendment that was defeated — it was defeated by a voice vote on the floor of the Senate — that said to those people on the top who benefited from Wall Street greed — I said, “you pay for the bailout. Don’t go to my constituents, who are struggling to make ends meet.”
In terms of the auto bailout, of course that made sense. In terms of the stimulus package, of course that made sense, and I strongly supported President Obama’s position on that.
SANDERS: But let us be clear, one of the major issues Secretary Clinton says I’m a one-issue person, well, I guess so. My one issue is trying to rebuild a disappearing middle class. That’s my one issue.
COOPER: Senator Sanders…
CLINTON: Well, all I can say is that given the terrible pressures that the auto industry was under and that the middle class of this state and Ohio and Indiana and Illinois and Wisconsin and Missouri and other places in the Midwest were facing, I think it was the right decision to heed what President-elect Obama asked us to do.
He sent a letter, an authorized letter, asking us to support that to save the auto industry. Yes, were there things in it that you and I would not have necessarily wanted? That’s true. But when it came down to it, you were either for saving the auto industry or you were against it. I voted to save the auto industry. And I am very glad that I did.
SANDERS: Let me just say this, while we are on Wall Street, one of us has a super PAC. One of us has raised $15 million from Wall Street for that super PAC. One of us has given speeches on Wall Street for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now, I kind of think if you get paid a couple hundred thousand dollars for a speech, it must be a great speech. I think we should release it and let the American people see what that transcript was.
CLINTON: And I have said and I will say again, I will be happy to release anything I have as long as everybody else does too, because what really is behind that question, Republicans and Democrats, is where I can stand up to Wall Street.
Well, let’s have some facts instead of some rhetoric for a change. I went to Wall Street when I was a United States senator. I told them they were wrecking the economy. I asked for a moratorium on foreclosures. I asked that we do more to try to prevent what I worried was going to happen. I also called for closing loopholes including the carried interest loophole. I also called for changes in CEO pay. I have a record. And you know what, if you were going to be in some way distrusted or dismissed about whether you can take on Wall Street if you ever took money, President Obama took more money from Wall Street in the 2008 campaign than anybody ever had.
And when it came time to stand up to Wall Street, he passed and signed the toughest regulation since the Great Depression with the Dodd-Frank regulations.
COOPER: Senator Sanders, just yesterday, in fact, you said just — I believe it was yesterday you said not only her speech must have been a fantastic speech, it must have been a Shakespearean speech for that amount of money. Is her answer enough for you that she will release it when all the Republicans and Democrats do? SANDERS: All right, look, Secretary Clinton wants everybody else to release it, well, I’m your Democratic opponent, I release it, here it is. There ain’t nothing. I don’t give speeches to Wall Street for hundreds of thousands of dollars, you got it.
Second of all, when we talk about being tough on Wall Street, and this galls me and the American people. Recently Goldman Sachs, among many other major financial institutions on Wall Street, as you know, reached a settlement with the federal government for $5 billion because they were selling worthless packages of subprime mortgages, $5 billion settlement.
You know how many people, executives on Wall Street have gone to jail? If you are a kid caught with marijuana in Michigan, you get a police record. If you are an executive on Wall Street that destroys the American economy, you pay a $5 billion fine, no police record.
If I am elected president, we are going to bring justice back to a broken criminal justice system.
COOPER: Secretary Clinton?
CLINTON: Well, I think we are in vigorous agreement on this. I have said repeatedly no bank is too big to fail, no executive too powerful to jail. And I have said that I would use the tools in the Dodd-Frank regulations, that if any bank posed a systemic risk to the economy, they would be broken up.
Because we now have tools, laws that we didn’t have before. And I am very happy we did. Because there does need to be accountability, including criminal accountability if it is called for.
COOPER: Senator Sanders, I just want to show the audience, you sent a tweet, I want to return to trade.
You sent a tweet on Thursday, this is the tweet, I’m showing it to viewers. It says the people of Detroit know the real costs of Hillary Clinton’s free trade policies. It shows pictures of crumbling buildings. It seems like you’re blaming her for the situation in Detroit.
SANDERS: Well, I’m blaming the trade policies. You know what? This is an amazing thing which I didn’t know until recently, and I wonder how many people did know this.
COOPER: But, you’re calling them Hillary Clinton’s failed trade policies.
SANDERS: Well, Hillary Clinton, and everybody else who supported these disastrous trade policies. She wasn’t alone. We have many, many Republicans and far too many Democrats who supported these disastrous trade policies.
Do you know…
SANDERS: … Do you know that in 1960 Detroit Michigan was one of the wealthiest cities in America? Flint, Michigan was a prosperous city, but then what happened is corporate America said why do I want to pay somebody in Michigan a living wage when I can pay slave wages in Mexico or China? We’re going to shut down, we’re going to move abroad, we’re going to bring those products back into this country.
Those trade policies, as much as any other set of policies, has resulted in the shrinking of the American middle class. And, I’ll tell you what else it did. It’s not only job loss by the millions, it is the race to the bottom so that new jobs in manufacturing, in some cases today, pay 50 percent less than they did 20 years ago. How stupid is that trade policy?
COOPER: Secretary Clinton?
CLINTON: You know, if we’re going to argue about the 1990’s instead of talking about the future, which I’d much prefer because I think every election is about the future, and you all deserve to know what we will do to help you have a brighter future — but, if we are going to talk about the 1990’s I think it’s only fair to say that at the end of the 1990’s, after two terms of my husband’s presidency, the unemployment rate in Michigan was 4.4 percent.
There had been a net increase of 54,000 manufacturing jobs. There had been a net increase of 653,000 jobs overall.
And, one of the ways jobs were brought to, and grown here in Michigan was through something called the Export-Import Bank which helped a lot of businesses, particularly small businesses, be able to export around the world.
Senator Sanders opposes that. I think we’re in a race for exports. I think China, Germany, everybody else supports their businesses. Here in Michigan there’s been $11 billion dollars in recent years used to support exports, primarily from small businesses.
I favor that, he’s opposed it. I want to do everything I can for us to compete and win in the global economy…
COOPER: … Senator Sanders…
CLINTON: … and that’s what I will do as president…
COOPER: … I just want to explain to viewers what the Export- Import Bank is, in case everybody is not quite as wonkish as everybody on this stage here.
The Export-Import Bank, it’s a federal agency, it gives loans to companies that export American products. Senator Sanders, you do oppose it. The vast majority of the bank’s customers are small businesses, 176 right here in Michigan. What do you say to small business owners….
SANDERS: … I’ll tell you what I say…
COOPER: … Who rely on the banks to make their company profitable…
SANDERS: … I’ll tell you what I say. Do you know what the other name of the Export-Import Bank is? What it’s called in Washington? It’s called the bank of Boeing because Boeing itself gets 40 percent of the money discharged by the Export-Import Bank.
Seventy-Five percent of the funds going from the federal government, the Export-Import Bank, goes to large, profitable corporations. Many of these corporations have shut down in America, and have gone abroad to exploit poor people.
You know what? I don’t think it’s a great idea for the American taxpayer to have to subsidize through corporate welfare profitable corporations who downsize in the United States of America.
SANDERS: … Seventy-Five percent of that money goes to large profitable corporations.
COOPER: Senator Sanders, you are the only member of the Democratic caucus to vote against it. You’re agreeing with Senator Ted Cruz on this, why is he right and the Democrats wrong?
SANDERS: Well, let me tell you, I don’t want to break the bad news.
SANDERS: Democrats are not always right. Democrats have often supported corporate welfare…
SANDERS: Democrats have supported disastrous trade agreements, but on this issue I do not believe in corporate welfare, and in fact, secretary Clinton may know or not know, but as a member of the Financial Services Committee, I worked hard and successfully to make sure that at least 20 percent of the money went to small businesses which is where it should go and not to profitable corporations and downsizing in our country.
COOPER: Secretary Clinton?
CLINTON: When I traveled around the world on you behalf as Secretary of State and went to 112 countries, one thing I saw everywhere was how European and Asian countries were supporting their companies back in their countries, to be able to make sales and contracts in a lot of the rest of the world. In fact, without the export-import bank, supporting businesses of all sizes — I believe more jobs would be lost here at home and more jobs literally would be exported. Instead of exporting products, we would be exporting jobs.
I just believe that Senator Sanders took that lonely position because most of us who saw the results — I saw it as a senator from New York. Your Senators saw it here in Michigan. They can give you the names of 240 companies in Michigan that have been helped.
There is a company in Levonia being helped, there are companies all over this state. I know, if we are going to compete and win in the global economy, we can’t let every other country support their companies and we take a hands off approach. I will not agree with that.
COOPER: I’m going to let you respond but I just want to push back on this. Senator Sanders is correct, the majority of the money does go Boeing, does go to companies like Caterpillar. Do they need this money?
CLINTON: I will tell you what, Anderson, after I investigated it, I concluded they did and here’s why. There two big plane manufacturers in the world, there’s Airbus and Boeing. Airbus does everything it can to get contracts to sell planes everywhere in the world. We don’t have as quite an aggressive outreach from our government.
I did go in many places around the world to sell American products because the alternatives were usually European, Asian, primarily Chinese products. That to me was an unacceptable concession. So yes, Boeing and other big companies get support just like their competitors do from the companies that they are from in the countries that provide the support.
COOPER: Thank you.
SANDERS: Isn’t it tragic that the large multinational corporations making billions of dollars a year, shutting down in America, going to China, going to Mexico? Absolutely they need a handout from the American middle class — I don’t think so.
Second of all.
Second of all, secretary Clinton traveled the world, she has been to Europe. And let’s talk about Europe versus the United States. I’m sure that when you were in Europe, and France, and Germany and the U.K., and all of the other countries; you noticed something and that is every one of those countries guarantees health care to all of their people as a right.
And I am sure you know as you know you do that in countries like the U.K. compared to America, we are spending almost three times as much as they spend in the U.K. for health care for our people. We are spending 50 percent more than the French. When we talk about Europe and their pluses and minuses, one thing they have done well that we should emulate and that is guaranteed health care for all people for a better care for all.
COOPER: Thank you, Senator Sanders. Secretary Clinton, 30 seconds and we have to take a break. So 30 seconds if you can.
CLINTON: We are on the path to doing that thanks to President Obama and the Affordable Care Act, we have 90 percent coverage. We are lacking 10 percent. We are going to stay on that and get to 100 percent universal coverage.
COOPER: We have to take a break. We will continue this discussion. We have a lot more to talk about. We will take a short break.
We have more of the Presidential Democratic Debate from Flint, Michigan when we come back.
COOPER: And welcome back to the CNN Democratic presidential debate, live here in Flint, Michigan. We want to continue the discussion now — we’re gonna turn to the subject of crime.
As most of you know, two weeks ago, an Uber driver in Kalamazoo, which is two hours from where we are tonight, went on a shooting rampage, killing six people, injuring two people.
One of the injured was a 14-year-old girl. Her name is Abigail Kopf. She was shot in the head, her heart stopped, she was on life support — looked like she might — might not make it. But amazingly, Abigail pulled through. Her father…
… her father Gene Kopf is here tonight. And I know, Gene, you have a question. But before you ask your question, I just want to ask, how is Abigail doing tonight?
QUESTION: She is now laughing and giggling, but she has a long road of physical recovery.
COOPER: I should point out you are leaning toward Senator Sanders, but I know you have a question that applies to both candidates. We’ll first toss it to Secretary Clinton. What’s your question?
QUESTION: The United States has had a rash of mass shootings over the years — 42 shootings in the United States this year alone. The man who shot everyone, including my daughter, in Kalamazoo, had no mental health issues recorded, and had a clear background.
What do you plan to do to address this serious epidemic? I don’t want to hear anything about tougher laws for mental health or criminal backgrounds, because that doesn’t work.
COOPER: Secretary Clinton?
CLINTON: Well, first of all I am looking at your daughter and I’m very grateful that she is laughing and she is on a road to recovery. But it never should have happened. You know, on average, 90 people a day are killed by gun violence in our country.
I think we have to try everything that works to try to limit the numbers of people and the kinds of people who are given access to firearms. The Brady Bill, which has been in effect now for about 23 years, has kept more than two million purchases from going forward. So we do have to continue to try to work on that because not every killer will have the same profile.
But the comprehensive background checks, closing the gun show loophole, closing the online loophole, closing what’s called the Charleston loophole, where you get a gun at the end of three days, even if the background check is not completed which is what the killer in Charleston did. And then they found out later, he shouldn’t have gotten the gun when he killed nine people at Mother Emmanuel Church.
I also believe, so strongly Gene (ph), that giving immunity to gunmakers and sellers was a terrible mistake.
CLINTON: Because it removed any accountability from the makers and the sellers. And it also disrupted what was a very promising legal theory, to try to get makers to do more to make guns safer for example. To try to give sellers more accountability for selling guns when they shouldn’t have. So that is an issue that Senator Sanders and I differ on, I voted against giving them immunity, but I think we should very seriously move to repeal that and go back to making sure gun makers and sellers are like any other business. They can be held accountable.
And then I do think we have got to have a public…
QUESTION: Thank you.
CLINTON: Well, we’ve got to have a public discussion, because we have created a culture in which people grab for guns all the time.
COOPER: Thank you. CLINTON: And there has got to be a way to have more warning signals and more efforts to try to stop that from happening like with the man who shot your daughter.
COOPER: I want to go to Senator Sanders.
COOPER: Senator Sanders?
SANDERS: I remember President Obama being on television maybe three months ago. Showed the secretary members as well. She knows the president, I know the president. And he is generally speaking in public and he’s not a very emotional guy. And he — after the mass killing in Oregon if my memory is correct, he said look. There — to be honest with you, let’s be honest. Nobody has a magic solution to this problem.
Any lunatic tomorrow, any person can walk into a theater and do something horrific. And you know what? For us to tell you that that absolutely will not happen would be untrue. But what the president said, he said look, this is a tough issue. But we have got to do everything we possibly can to minimize the possibility of these mass killings.
You are looking at a guy who comes from a rural state with no gun control. I have a D minus voting record from the NRA. You are looking at a guy who in 1988 lost a statewide election for Congress because I was the only candidate who said you know what, I don’t think it’s a great idea in this country to be selling military-style assault weapons which are designed to kill people.
SANDERS: I lost that election by three votes. I agree with what the secretary said. We need to expand and improve the instant background checks. Bottom line is people who should not have guns in America should not be able to buy guns in America.
COOPER: Senator Sanders, Secretary Clinton mentioned the so- called Charleston loophole. What she is calling the Charleston loophole. Is that something, if you were president, you would you work to extend that three day?
SANDERS: Absolutely, I agree. Look, that bill had some sensible provisions in it. It had the banning of bullets that pierce policemen’s armor. Is that a good thing? I think we would want to get rid of that. particular legislation had safety locks on guns so the kids do not pick them up and shoot them. That bill had bad things in it. What I have said…
COOPER: So you would want a longer than three days waiting period?
SANDERS: Absolutely. That was a very arbitrary decision. What that real debate was about, as you may or may not know, was about how long it would take for the instant background check to go into effect. I wanted that instant background check to go into effect as soon as possible. That was the most important part of that bill.
COOPER: Secretary Clinton — actually, Senator Sanders, let me continue to follow-up, because Secretary Clinton mentioned the liability.
Right now, families of Sandy Hook victims announced that they are going to sue Remington, who made the AR-15 which was used in the Newtown massacre.
Now, they believe — those families believe that — that Remington, the distributors, the sellers — should be held legally responsible for how that gun — how their product is used.
Now, the lawsuit may not go anywhere because of the bill you voted for — legislation that prevents gun makers from being sued. Tonight, what do you say to those families?
SANDERS: Well, this is what I say, if I understand it — and correct me if I’m wrong. If you go to a gun store and you legally purchase a gun, and then, three days later, if you go out and start killing people, is the point of this lawsuit to hold the gun shop owner or the manufacturer of that gun liable?
If that is the point, I have to tell you I disagree. I disagree because you hold people — in terms of this liability thing, where you hold manufacturers’ liability is if they understand that they’re selling guns into an area that — it’s getting into the hands of criminals, of course they should be held liable.
But if they are selling a product to a person who buys it legally, what you’re really talking about is ending gun manufacturing in America. I don’t agree with that.
COOPER: Secretary Clinton?
CLINTON: Well, that — that is not — that is not what happened, and I think it’s important for people to understand.
Because of the proliferation of guns, because of the epidemic of gun violence in our country, there were a group of cities, states, and other concerned people who, in the late 90s and in the early 2000s, were working on legal theories that they thought would force gun makers to do more to make guns safer and force sellers to be much more responsible.
The NRA saw this happening, and they said, “we’ve got to stop it. Last thing in the world we want is to have guns that you can only shoot with your fingerprint, or to have guns with such strong safety locks on them that they may not be sellable.”
So the NRA went to the Congress, and the head of the NRA has said this was the most important NRA legislation in more than 20 years…
CLINTON: … and they basically went to the Congress — I was there.
COOPER: … Secretary…
CLINTON: I was in the Senate. And they said, “give us absolute immunity.” No other industry in America has absolute immunity…
CLINTON: …and they sell products all the time that cause harm…
SANDERS: So let’s say this. Let’s say this.
CLINTON: … and they’re held responsible.
COOPER: Senator Sanders.
SANDERS: If I understand — and — you know, as I understand it, what you’re really talking about is not what Secretary Clinton is responding to.
As I understand it — and maybe I’m wrong on this, but what you were essentially saying, and what people are saying, is that, if somebody who is crazy or a criminal or a horrible person goes around shooting people, the manufacturer of that gun should be held liable.
And if that is your position, then what you are saying, essentially — if that is the case, as I understand it — it’s not what Secretary Clinton is talking about. I agree with what she said.
But if that is the case, then essentially, your position is there should not be any guns in America, period.
CLINTON: That is like the NRA position. No.
SANDERS: Can I — can I finish, please? All right?
And you can — there are people who hold that view. And that’s fine, if you hold it. I think what you do is you hold those people who have used the gun accountable. You try to make…
COOPER: We’re gonna move on.
SANDERS: … guns as safe as possible, but I would disagree on that.
COOPER: We’re gonna move on. Dawn (ph)…
CLINTON: Anderson, I just want to finish, because this — I know some of the parents from Sandy Hook. I want people in this audience to think about what it must feel like to send off your first grader, little backpack, maybe, on his or her back, and then the next thing you hear is that somebody has come to that school using an automatic weapon, an AR-15, and murdered those children.
Now, they are trying to prevent that from happening to any other family.
CLINTON: And the best way to do that is to go right at the people…
COOPER: Senator Sanders…
CLINTON: … you talk about corporate greed?
SANDERS: Hold it.
CLINTON: The gun manufacturers sell guns to make as much money as they can make.
COOPER: Senator Sanders.
SANDERS: You know, I think it is a little bit — it is a little bit — look, what happened at Sandy Hook, what happened in Michigan, what has happened far too often all over this country is a terrible, terrible tragedy, and we have got to do everything we can, as I mentioned a moment ago, to end these mass killings.
But, as I understand what your question is — and, you’re not the only person whose heart was broken. I know, I was there in the Senate when we learned about this killing. It is almost unspeakable to talk about some lunatic walking into a — I mean; it is hard to even talk about it.
We all feel that way. But it, as I understand it, Anderson, and maybe I’m wrong, what you’re really talking about is people saying let’s end gun manufacturing in America. That’s the implications of that, and I don’t agree with that.
COOPER: We’re going to move on. Don Lemon?
LEMON: Alright, thank you very much, Anderson.
As a black man in America, if I were born today I’d have a one in three chance of ending up in prison in my life. Secretary Clinton, on the campaign trail, you are calling for an end to the era of mass incarceration, but a lot of folks in the black community blame the 1994 Crime Bill, a bill you supported for locking up a generation of black men.
Given what’s happened since 1994, why should black people trust you to get it right this time?
CLINTON: Well, Don’t, let me say this, Senator Sanders voted for that bill, we both supported it. And, I think it’s fair to say we did because back then there was an outcry over the rising crime rate, and people from all communities were asking that action be taken.
Now, my husband said at the NAACP last summer that it solved some problems, but it created other problems, and I agree. And, one of those problems was, unfortunately, a move to expand the reasons why people would be incarcerated, not just at the federal level which is what this bill about, but in states and localities as well. And, that’s why the very first speech that I gave in this campaign was about criminal justice reform, and ending the era of mass incarceration because I believe absolutely that too many families were broken up, too many communities were adversely affected. So, we’ve got to do a bunch of things.
On the criminal justice side, look, we’ve got to have better policing. That means body cameras, that means ending profiling, that means doing everything we can to make sure there’s respect between the community and the police.
And, when it comes to incarceration…
LEMON: But, Secretary…
CLINTON: … That means we have to limit mandatory minimums, we have to end disparities and treatment at last through (ph) incarceration…
LEMON: The question is why should black people trust you this time to get it right? That’s the question.
CLINTON: Well, Senator Sanders voted for it as well. Are you going to ask him the same question?
SANDERS: Probably will.
LEMON: Do you think your support — your husband has said that this bill was a mistake. Do you think it was a mistake?
CLINTON: I just said that. He said at the NAACP that there were some aspects that worked well. The violence against women provisions have worked well, for example. But, other aspects of it were a mistake and I agree. That’s why I’m focused, and have a very comprehensive approach toward fixing the criminal justice system, going after systemic racism that stalks the criminal justice system, ending private prisons, ending the incarceration of low-level offenders, and I am committed to doing that.
LEMON: And, Senator Sanders, before you respond, I want to ask you this. Back in 1994, here’s what you warned, we are dooming tens of millions of young people to a future of bitterness, mystery, hopelessness, drugs, crime, and violence, but you voted for the bill anyway. Was your vote a mistake?
SANDERS: You know, as I think Secretary Clinton knows, as we all know, there are bills in congress that have bad stuff, there are bills in congress that have good stuff. Good stuff and bad stuff in the same bill.
Now, if I have voted against that bill, Secretary Clinton would be here tonight and she’d say, “Bernie Sanders voted against the ban on assault weapons. Bernie Sanders voted against the violence against women act.” Those were provisions in the bill, as the Secretary just indicated. So, in that bill there was some good provisions, I have been a fierce fighter against domestic violence ever since I was mayor in Burlington.
Violence against women act has protected millions of women in this country, it was in that bill. The ban on assault weapons, that’s what I have fought for my whole life. It was in that bill.
Now, what you are reading though is I went to the floor, as I recall, and that’s what I said. I tried to get the death penalty aspects in that bill out. Secretary Clinton have a disagreement. I was then, and I am now opposed to the death penalty.
SANDERS: So, to answer your question, what you read was a congressman who was torn, who said there are good things in that bill, there are bad things overall. I voted for it.
But where we are right now is having more than 2.2 million people in jail — more than any other country on earth. This is a campaign promise, at the end of my first term, we will not have more people in jail than any other country.
COOPER: Thank you very much. I want to go to David Mcghee. David Mcghee runs a youth development program director and he is undecided, but his question is for Senator Sanders. David?
QUESTION: We live in a diverse nation. Opportunities to lead however to be frank, are often at the feet at older Caucasian men and women.
SANDERS: You are not talking about me, are you?
QUESTION: Men more so than women. However, what experiences do you have that have helped you deeply understand the mind sets and values of other cultures?
SANDERS: Well, I think the best answer — I don’t know that I can give you a definitive answer here, but I will give you this answer. When I was a young man at the University of Chicago, I worked with fellow black and white students trying to desegregate the University of Chicago owned housing. Most candidates for president, don’t put this on their resume, but I was arrested by the Chicago police for trying to desegregate the Chicago school system.
In 1963, and an important day for me, I went to the march on Washington led by Dr. King for jobs and freedom. Dr. King has been an important inspiration for me. In this campaign, if you go to berniesanders.com and read our position on criminal justice, it is I believe the strongest position of any candidate. What it says among other things, 51 percent of African-American kids today are unemployed — you know we’re going to do? We’re going to provide education and jobs for those kids, not jails or incarceration.
LEMON: In a speech about policing, the FBI director borrowed a phrase from Avenue Q saying,” everybody is a little racist.” So on a personal front, what racial blind spots do you have?
CLINTON: Let me go answer Mr. Mcghee’s question because I think it’s a profound one.
I think the most important that happened to me was a combination of my church and youth minister when I was a teenager, insisting that we go in to inner-city Chicago because I lived in a suburb and have exchanges with kids in black and hispanic churches. It was also important for me to be a baby-sitter for the children of migrant workers and to learn more about their lives, and to hear Dr. King speak in Chicago when I was about 14 years old. That got me thinking about what I needed to do to try to fulfill my faith.
When I was in law school, I had the opportunity to mead a visionary woman, named Mary Right Adelman, who worked with Dr. King who was the first African-American woman who passed the Mississippi bar. I asked her for a job and she said she didn’t have any money. I was working my way through law school and she said if I could get a job and get myself paid, she would give me a job. So I got law students a Civil Rights Research Council Grant.
The first thing she did was send me to look at South Carolina, to investigate juveniles being sent to adult jails. The second thing she did was to send me to Alabama to investigate segregated academies. So from that moment until today, I am so grateful for my experiences as a very young woman driven by my church and my experiences working for the Children’s Defense Fund which have given me some insight and have lit a fire inside me to do everything I can to address systemic racism.
LEMON: I want to ask both of you this question. I appreciate you responding to that question, but I want to ask both of you again. In a speech about policing, the FBI director James Comey borrowed a phrase saying, “everyone is a little bit racist.” What racial blind spot do you have? Secretary, you first.
CLINTON: Well, Don, if I could, I think being a white person in the United States of America, I know that I have never had the experience that so many people, the people in this audience have had. And I think it’s incumbent upon me and what I have been trying to talk about during this campaign is to urge white people to think about what it is like to have “the talk” with your kids, scared that your sons or daughters, even, could get in trouble for no good reason whatsoever like Sandra Bland and end up dead in a jail in Texas.
CLINTON: And I have spent a lot of time with the mothers of African-American children who have lost them, Trayvon Martin’s mother. And I’ve gotten to know them. I’ve listened to them. And it has been incredibly humbling because I can’t pretend to have the experience that you have had and others have had. But I will do everything that I possibly can to not only do the best to understand and to empathize, but to tear down the barriers of systemic racism that are in the criminal justice system, in the employment system, in the education and health care system.
That is what I will try to do to deal with what I know is the racism that still stalks our country.
LEMON: Thank you, Secretary.
Senator Sanders, on a personal front, what racial blind spots do you have?
SANDERS: Well, let me just very briefly tell you a story. When I was in one of my first years in Congress, I went to a meeting downtown in Washington, D.C. And I went there with another congressman, an African-American congressman. And then we kind of separated during the meeting. And then I saw him out later on. And he was sitting there waiting and I said, well, let’s go out and get a cab. How come you didn’t go out and get a cab?
He said, no, I don’t get cabs in Washington, D.C. This was 20 years ago. Because he was humiliated by the fact that cabdrivers would go past him because he was black. I couldn’t believe, you know, you just sit there and you say, this man did not take a cab 20 years ago in Washington, D.C. Tell you another story, I was with young people active in the Black Lives Matter movement. A young lady comes up to me and she says, you don’t understand what police do in certain black communities. You don’t understand the degree to which we are terrorized, and I’m not just talking about the horrible shootings that we have seen, which have got to end and we’ve got to hold police officers accountable, I’m just talking about every day activities where police officers are bullying people.
So to answer your question, I would say, and I think it’s similar to what the secretary said, when you’re white, you don’t know what it’s like to be living in a ghetto. You don’t know what it’s like to be poor. You don’t know what it’s like to be hassled when you walk down the street or you get dragged out of a car.
And I believe that as a nation in the year 2016, we must be firm in making it clear. We will end institutional racism and reform a broken criminal justice system.
LEMON: Thank you, Senator Sanders. Senator Sanders, a CNN poll found that 64 percent of Americans felt like race relations got worse over the last decade. You have said they would absolutely be better under a Sanders presidency.
So how would you be more effective in tackling racial issues than President Barack Obama?
SANDERS: It’s not a question of being better than President Obama, it is a question of building on the work that President Obama has done, the very important work.
LEMON: You said “absolutely,” though, in an answer.
SANDERS: No, well, he has given us a good, good basis and foundation. We have got to do better than that. And of course we should.
But here’s what I would do. I would end — I would make sure that the Department of Justice investigated every killing of a citizen of this country when they are under apprehension from a police officer or when they are killed in police custody.
I would end the militarization of local police departments.
SANDERS: I would develop model programs to make police departments look like the communities that they serve. I would end minimal sentencing and give judges more discretion. I would recognize that substance abuse and drug addiction is a health issue, not a criminal issue.
SANDERS: And I would make sure that those people who left jail had the education and job training so they don’t go back into the same environment which got them in jail in the first place.
LEMON: Senator, thank you very much.
Secretary Clinton, in 1996, you used the term super predators to describe some young kids. Some feel like it was racial code. Was it and were you wrong to use that term?
CLINTON: Well, I was speaking about drug cartels and criminal activity that was very concerning to folks across the country. I think it was a poor choice of words, I never used it before, I haven’t used it since, I would not use it again.
Because my whole life, to go back to what I was saying to Mr. Mcgee (ph), is, you know, really, ever since I went to work for the Children’s Defense Fund, is to try to figure out ways to even the odds for people that are left out and left behind.
And I know very well that we have too many kids in our country right now who are living in poverty, who are going to schools like the ones in Detroit that have mold and rodents in them. I saw that in South Carolina. It’s unfortunately across America. So what we have got to do is provide more opportunities earlier in the lives of every child.
That’s why I believe in supporting families, early childhood education, universal pre-kindergarten, help kids be successful. And here is Flint, we’ve got to do more to mitigate against the effects of lead, because too many kids are having the experiences I’ve been told about, where they’re falling back in school, where they are having headaches because of the lead exposure.
LEMON: Thank you.
CLINTON: So we’re going to have to do even more here than we would do in most other counties.
LEMON: We’re going to talk about education in just a moment.
SANDERS: But can I respond to that briefly?
SANDERS: Just in this. I am not sure which legislation that was. But I think it may have been the Welfare Reform, so-called…
CLINTON: No, it was the crime bill.
SANDERS: Oh, it was the crime bill.
CLINTON: Crime bill.
SANDERS: But during that same period, ’96. There was a bill called — so-called, it had a long title to it, Welfare Reform Bill. And this bill really was a bill that scapegoated the poorest people in this country. I strongly opposed that legislation. Secretary Clinton had a different position then.
And what that legislation ended up doing is increasing extreme poverty, the poorest people in this country have become much poorer as a result of that — really a bill that was written by Republicans. Bad bill.
LEMON: Thank you. Secretary Clinton, you were in, so 30 seconds.
CLINTON: Well, once again, if we’re going to argue about the ’90s, let’s try to get the facts straight. That bill had a lot of provisions that unfortunately were stripped out by George W. Bush, by Republican governors. And I disagreed with the way it was applied. And I have a very clear set of ideas about what should be done to try to provide more support, including trying to cut poverty in half in the next years.
But if we are going to talk about the ’90s, let’s talk about 23 million new jobs, incomes went up for everybody. The median African- American income went up 33 percent at the end of the ’90s and we lifted more people out of poverty than at any other time in recent history.
So we were on the right path. More jobs, rising incomes.
LEMON: Senator Sanders.
CLINTON: Along came George W. Bush and trickle down economics and brought us the Great Recession, which thank goodness President Obama has been digging us out of ever since.
LEMON: Senator Sanders.
SANDERS: Secretary Clinton is right. In the 1990s, we created a whole lot of jobs. Good. And I supported many of your husband’s initiatives. But in the 1990s, you know what we also did? We deregulated Wall Street, which allowed Wall Street to end up destroying our economy.
We passed NAFTA and other disastrous trade agreements which had a horrendous impact on African-Americans in particular, in Flint, in Detroit and all across this country. So when we talk about the ’90s, you’re right. A lot of good things happened, but a lot of bad things happened.
LEMON: Thank you Senator.
SANDERS: I voted against those trade agreements.
LEMON: Thank you Senator.
SANDERS: And I voted against Wall Street deregulation.
COOPER: Thank you Senator. We have to take a short break. The Democratic presidential discussion and debate continues here from Flint in just a moment.
COOPER: And welcome back. Welcome back to the CNN Democratic presidential debate, here live in Flint, Michigan. Let’s — let’s move on to the subject of education.
In nearby Detroit, the public schools have become a national symbol of neglect and failure. That school system is $3.5 billion in debt. Officials say they could run out of money by April.
I want to bring in Shoniqua Kemp. She’s right here — Ms. Kemp. Her 14-year-old daughter Imani is a student in Detroit. Shoniqua is one of ten parents suing Detroit public schools — not for money, she says, but to improve conditions.
She says she’s currently leaning towards Senator Sanders. Her question will go to both of you, but we’ll start with Senator Sanders. Ms. Kemp?
QUESTION: Thank you. Speaking of opportunities for success, in Detroit, schools open and close with no accountability to — or transparency to the communities that it — they service.
Not only that — in our schools, as you’ve stated, we have issues with rats, mold, no working water fountains, not to mention non- certified teachers, lack of accountability around transportation and special education, and so much more.
QUESTION: With that said, our students can no longer suffer due to lack of these things, or having these dilapidated issues take place. So, my question is who’s going to step up? Who’s going to ensure that the policies procedures are put in place that will ensure, and bring forth a successful future for our students because my daughter cannot wait eight more years for success to take place at your hands. At the leader’s hands.
COOPER: Senator Sanders, let’s start with you.
SANDERS: Well, thank you very much for not being resigned to that horrendous situation, but being prepared to stand up and fight back…
QUESTION: … Thank you…
SANDERS: … That’s what we need all over this country.
And, let me be very honest with you, hard thing to say, but it is true. A great nation is judged not by how many millionaires and billionaires it has, but by how it treats the most vulnerable amongst us, and that is the children, and that is the elderly. And, do you know what?
We should be ashamed of how we treat our kids and our senior citizens.
QUESTION: Thank you.
SANDERS: We have a Republican leadership in congress now fighting for hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks for the top two-tenths of one percent, but somehow we can’t come up with the money to fix Detroit’s crumbling public school system. Somehow we cannot make sure that Detroit has qualified, and good teachers.
Somehow we can’t make sure that there are summer programs for your children, and after school programs for your children. Somehow we cannot do what other countries around the world, is provide quality childcare and pre-K. We have got to change our national priorities, no more tax breaks for billionaires, and large corporations.
We are going to invest in our children, and have the best public school system in the world.
COOPER: Senator Sanders, before we go to Secretary Clinton — Senator Sanders, let me just follow up with you. As president, you have to decide where to spend your political capital. There’s a lot of things you want to do, where does fixing Mrs. Kim’s daughter’s school and other schools, where does that lay in your list of things to do…
SANDERS: … Anderson, not only do we have a crumbling school system in Detroit, and in many other areas, we have — and everybody in this room should be embarrassed by this, we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country on Earth. That is a disgrace.
SANDERS: So, when you ask me about my priorities, my priorities are that no, we’re not going to give tax breaks to the wealthy. We’re going to ask them to start paying their fair share of taxes so we can raise the money to make sure that every child in this country, in Detroit, in Vermont, gets the quality education that he or she deserves.
COOPER: Secretary Clinton?
CLINTON: Mrs. Kim (ph), here is what I would do as president. Number one, I would reinstate a program we did have during the 1990’s where the federal government provided funding to repair and modernize public schools because a lot of communities can’t afford to do that on their own.
CLINTON: Secondly, I would use every legal means at my disposal to try to force the Governor and the state to return the schools to the people of Detroit — to end the emergency management…
CLINTON: … which, I believe, if you look at the data, the situation has only gotten worse with these emergency managers that have put the system further in debt.
CLINTON: Number three, I want to set-up inside the Department of Education, for want of a better term, kind of an education SWAT team, if you will. Where we’ve got qualified people, teachers, principals, maybe folks who are retired, maybe folks who are active, but all of whom are willing to come and help. When Detroit gets back their schools, they should have all the help they can get to be able to get teachers in the classroom, to be able to find spaces while schools are being repaired. And, I also would look at how we could through the federal government support more teachers because we’re going to have a teacher shortage in some of the hardest to teach districts…
COOPER: … (inaudible)
CLINTON: … including Detroit.
COOPER: Let me just follow up with the Secretary and then I’ll come back to you.
Secretary Clinton, you’ve been endorsed by two of the biggest teachers’ unions. There’s an awful lot of great teachers in this country. It’s an incredibly difficult job, one of the most difficult jobs there is but union rules often make it impossible fire bad teachers and that means disadvantaged kids are sometimes taught by the least qualified. Do you think unions protect bad teachers?
CLINTON: You know, I am proud to have been endorsed by the AFT and the NEA, and I’ve had very good relationship with both unions, with their leadership. And we’ve really candid conversations because we are going to have to take a look at — what do we need in the 21st century to really involve families, to help kids who have more problems than just academic problems?
A lot of what has happened and honestly it really pains me, a lot of people have blaming and scape-goating teachers because they don’t want to put the money into the schools system that deserve the support that comes from the government doing it’s job.
COOPER: So just to follow up, you don’t believe unions protect bad teachers?
CLINTON: You know what – I have told my friends at the top of both unions, we’ve got take a look at this because it is one of the most common criticisms. We need to eliminate the criticism.
You know, teachers do so much good, they are often working under most difficult circumstances. So anything that could be changed, I want them to look at it. I will be a good partner to make sure that whatever I can do as president, I will do to support the teachers of our country.
COOPER: Senator Sanders?
SANDERS: What our campaign is about, is asking people to think big not small. And when we think big and we talk about education, we’ve got to ask ourselves a simple question, how is it — starting at college that hundreds of thousands of bright young people are today, unable to go to college because they can’t afford it? How is it that maybe your kid — and when I was growing up, we didn’t have any money — we’re not even dreaming about going to college because they knew it was another world.
So starting with the top, now I know some people think it’s a radical idea, I don’t. I believe that every public college and university in this country should be tuition free.
So that your child regardless of the income of your family knows that if she’s studies hard, she is going to be able to go to college. And you know what else we do? We invest in child care. Right now, you’ve got child-care workers making McDonald’s wages, that is crazy.
COOPER: Thank you Senator.
SANDERS: I want well trained, well paid, child care workers to give our youngest kids advance opportunities.
COOPER: I want to go over to my colleague, Don Lemon.
LEMON: Anderson, thank you very much.
Secretary, I want to turn now from the state of our nation’s school to the state of our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, which you talked a little bit about in the beginning of this debate. But beyond the Detroit schools and Flint water crisis; pipes, roads, and bridges are in need of repair. It would take trillions of dollars to fix it all. Senator Sanders has proposed a one trillion dollar plan but yours is only a quarter of that, is your plan big enough to fix the crumbling infrastructure in this country?
CLINTON: Well, there’s no doubt, we have an enormous backlog of infrastructure repairs. Here’s what I’d do – the congress finally got around to pass the Highway Transportation Bill, which should never have been partisan – it turned into be one partisan argument. I want to go further.
I want to put 250 billion dollars additional, on top of what Congress has done. That gets us to a half a billion. I want to start a National Infrastructure Bank. I want to capitalize it with 25 billion that I believe will leverage 10 times that, that’s another 250 billion.
So I’m trying to do this in a way that will gain support and be affordable but there’s no doubt, we have to do more on our roads, our bridges, our tunnels, our ports, our airports. And as we’ve talked in the beginning here, under our ground, our water systems, our sewer systems. We have pipelines that are leaking and that are dangerous. We have so much work to be done and if we can put millions of peoples to work, I think my plan is a very good way to begin doing that work and get people out there doing it.
LEMON: Thank you, Secretary. Senator Sanders, critics of the proposal say it’s yet another example of a costly plan that will never get through Congress and can’t be paid for. The best deal is what the Secretary just mentioned, the deal President Obama could negotiate with Republicans, is a $305 billion dollar highway bill. If he couldn’t do more, how can you?
SANDERS: Well, let’s begin by discussing the problem. As you’ve indicated, the American Society of Civil Engineers say we need trillions of dollars — trillions of dollars — just to bring up our infrastructure to deal with — water systems like Flint, just to bring them up to decent levels.
We have suggested a trillion-dollar investment. Now, you know how we’re gonna pay for that? I’ll tell you how we’re gonna pay for that. Right now, this country is losing $100 billion every single year because profitable corporations are stashing their profits in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and in other tax havens…
… and in some cases, not paying five cents in federal income tax. I will eliminate that outrageous loophole, and we will raise $1 trillion. And by the way, not only do we rebuild our crumbling infrastructure — $1 trillion over five years creates 13 million decent-paying jobs.
COOPER: Thank you — thank you, Senator Sanders.
The issue of climate change has been a major talking point for both of you. I wanted to bring in Sarah Bellaire, she’s a student at the University of Michigan at Dearborn who says she’s currently undecided.
Ms. Bellaire has a question on fracking, which, for viewers, is a process of oil and gas drilling that’s led to a significant increase in American energy production and jobs, but also raises serious environmental concerns.
Sarah, your question is for Secretary Clinton, but you’ll both be able to weigh in. Sarah?
QUESTION: Fracking can lead to environmental pollution including, but not limited to, the contamination of water supply. Do you support fracking?
COOPER: Secretary Clinton?
CLINTON: You know, I don’t support it when any locality or any state is against it, number one. I don’t support it when the release of methane or contamination of water is present. I don’t support it — number three — unless we can require that anybody who fracks has to tell us exactly what chemicals they are using.
So by the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place. And I think that’s the best approach, because right now, there places where fracking is going on that are not sufficiently regulated.
So first, we’ve got to regulate everything that is currently underway, and we have to have a system in place that prevents further fracking unless conditions like the ones that I just mentioned are met.
COOPER: Senator Sanders, you…
SANDERS: My answer — my answer is a lot shorter. No, I do not support fracking.
And by the way — by the way, Anderson, I’m glad you raised the issue of climate change, because the media doesn’t talk enough about what the scientists are telling us, and that is, if we don’t get our act together…
… the planet that we’re gonna leave our children may not be healthy and habitable. I have introduced the most comprehensive climate change legislation in the history of the Senate, which, among other things, calls for a tax on carbon, massive investments…
… in energy efficiency, wind, solar and other sustainable energy.
SANDERS: This is a crisis we have got to deal with now.
COOPER: Senator Sanders, though…
… to Secretary Clinton’s point, there are a number of Democratic governors in many states who say that fracking can be done safely, and that it’s helping their economies. Are they wrong?
You know — you know, one of the differences — look, Secretary Clinton — and I’ve said this before, and I admit it — she has the support of all the governors — Democratic — all the Senators, all the Congressmen. I don’t. I am not part of that establishment. I plead guilty.
I happen to be a member of the Environmental Committee. I have talked to scientists all over the world. And what they are telling me — if we don’t get our act together, this planet could be 5 to 10 degrees warmer by the end of this century — cataclysmic problems for this planet.
This is a national crisis. And I talk to scientists who tell me that fracking is doing terrible things to water systems all over this country. We have gotta be bold now. We gotta transform our energy system to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. We’ve gotta do it yesterday.
COOPER: Secretary Clinton, before we come to you…
CLINTON: Yeah. Yeah.
COOPER: Secretary Clinton’s gonna be able to respond. But, Senator Sanders, you’ve been very tough lately. Last week, you said this about Secretary Clinton.
Quote, “just as I believe you can’t take on Wall Street while taking their money, I don’t believe you can take on climate change effectively while taking money from those who would profit off the destruction of the planet.”
Are you suggesting that she’s in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry?
SANDERS: No, what I am suggesting is that we have a corrupt campaign finance system. And instead of standing up to that finance system…
SANDERS: And instead of standing up to that finance system, Secretary Clinton has super PAC, which is raising huge amounts — well, I hate to say the word “huge,” every time I say huge it…
SANDERS: A lot of money from Wall Street and from the fossil fuel industry. I am doing it a different way. I have 5 million individual contributors who have gone to BernieSanders.com to make a $27 contribution. I don’t take money from the fossil fuel industry.
COOPER: Thank you, Senator.
CLINTON: Well, first, let me say I think I have the most comprehensive plan to combat climate change. It sets some very big goals, a half billion more solar panels deployed by the end of my first term, if I’m so fortunate to be president. And enough clean energy to power every home by the end of my second term.
What I am looking at is how we make the transition from where we are today to where are today to where we must be. I worked with President Obama during the four years I was secretary of state to begin to put pressure on China and India and other countries to join with us to have a global agreement which we finally got in Paris.
So I am committed to and focused on how we make that transition. I’ve already said we are taking away the subsidies for oil and gas, but it is important that people understand that a president can’t go ordering folks around. Our system doesn’t permit that. I am going to set the goals. I will push everybody as hard as I can to achieve those goals. We will make progress on clean renewable energy and create millions of jobs through that.
(APPLAUSE) COOPER: Senator Sanders, on the — on the campaign trail, Senator Sanders often refers to a fundraiser in January that was hosted by executives from a firm that has invested significantly in domestic fracking. Do you have any comment on that?
CLINTON: I don’t have any comment. I don’t know that. I don’t believe that there is any reason to be concerned about it. I admire what Senator Sanders has accomplished in his campaign. I have more than 850,000 donors, most of them give less than $100. I am very proud of that.
And I just want to make one point. You know, we have our differences. And we get into vigorous debate about issues, but compare the substance of this debate with what you saw on the Republican stage last week.
COOPER: Senator Sanders.
SANDERS: Well, let me make a couple of responses. Let me pick up on the last point the secretary made. You know, we are, if elected president, going to invest a lot of money into mental health. And when you watch these Republican debates, you know why we need to invest in that.
SANDERS: But here’s the difference. Here is the difference. It’s not a personal difference. We just do things differently. All right. I honestly — look, we have a corrupt campaign finance system. And what Secretary Clinton is saying and what every candidate who receives from the fossil fuel industry or the drug companies or Wall Street say, not going to impact me.
The question the American people have to ask is, why are these people putting millions of dollars into candidates if it’s not going to make a difference?
COOPER: Thank you, Senator.
SANDERS: And that is why, by the way, that is why one of my top priorities, if elected president will be to overturn this outrageous Citizens United Supreme Court (INAUDIBLE).
COOPER: Thank you very much, Senator.
COOPER: Secretary Clinton, no, we have to go.
CLINTON: And that is one of the many reasons we must all support President Obama’s right to nominate a successor to Justice Scalia and demand that the Senate hold hearings and a vote on that successor because there are so many issues at stake. On the first day of my campaign, I said, we are going to reverse Citizens United. And if we can’t get it done through the court, I will lead a constitutional amendment effort to reverse it that way.
COOPER: More questions coming up. Much more of the Democratic presidential debate here in Flint right after this.
COOPER: Welcome back to the CNN Democratic Presidential Debate. Thanks very much for joining us.
COOPER: Secretary Clinton, I want to ask you about something you talked about this morning. You said this morning, about your emails, that you expect the investigation to be wrapped up soon. The Republican front-runner, Donald Trump says, he’s going to talk about your emails every single day if he is the nominee and out on the campaign trail.
Democrats want to know, your supporters want to know, if you’re the nominee, how are you going to take him on?
CLINTON: Well, let me start by saying that the last time I checked as of last night, Donald Trump had received 3.6 million votes, which is a good number. And there is only one candidate in either party who has more votes than him and that’s me.
CLINTON: And, I am building a broad, diverse coalition across our country. I’m very excited by the support we’re receiving. I have said, and I’ll repeat here, I think that Donald Trump’s bigotry, his bullying, his bluster, are not going to wear (oh) well on the American people.
So, I will look forward to engaging him because, you know, I don’t think we need to make America great again. America didn’t stop being great, we have to make it whole again. We have to knock down the barriers, we have to end the divisiveness, we have to unify the country.
And, if I’m fortunate enough to be the nominee that’s exactly what I will do.
COOPER: Senator Sanders, I want to ask you basically the same question. He’s called you a communist, how are you going to…
SANDERS: … That was one of the nice things that he said about me.
SANDERS: I’ll tell you something, this is my right arm. I’m prepared to give — no, I shouldn’t say that. I would love to run against Donald Trump, and I’ll tell you why.
For a start, but almost — not all, but almost every poll has shown that Sanders versus Trump does a lot better than Clinton versus Trump.
SANDERS: Right here in Michigan there was a poll done, I think yesterday, or today, had me beating Trump in Michigan by 22 points.
SANDERS: Secretary Clinton beat him as well, but not by so much. And, that’s true nationally, and in many other states. And, the other reason I think we can beat Trump is that our campaign is generating an enormous amount of excitement. Just in the last two days we have won the caucuses in Maine, we won that tonight with a very large turnout.
SANDERS: We won Nebraska, we won Kansas, and Kansas was the biggest turnout in their caucus history.
I think we are exciting working class people, young people who are prepared to stand up and demand that we have a government that represents all of us.
COOPER: Thank you.
SANDERS: And not just the few.
COOPER: Thank you. I want to — we have a question from Denise Ghattas, she grew up here in Flint, Michigan. She says she’s undecided on a candidate, she’s got a question for — actually she’s got two questions. The first one if for Senator Sanders, then she’ll ask another question to Secretary Clinton. Denise?
QUESTION: Thank you. Senator Sanders, do you believe that God is relevant, why or why not?
SANDERS: Well, I think — well, the answer is yes, and I think when we talk about God whether it is Christianity, or Judaism, or Islam, or Buddhism, what we are talking about is what all religions hold dear. And, that is to do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.
I am here tonight, and I’m running for president. I’m a United States Senator from my great state of Vermont because I believe that, because I believe morally and ethically we do not have a right to turn our backs on children in Flint, Michigan who are being poisoned, or veterans who are sleeping out on the street.
SANDERS: What I believe as the father of seven beautiful grandchildren, I want you to worry about my grandchildren, and I promise you I will worry about your family. We are in this together.
COOPER: Senator Sanders, let me just follow up. Just this weekend there was an article I read in the Detroit News saying that you keep your Judaism in the background, and that’s disappointing some Jewish leaders. Is that intentional?
SANDERS: No. I am very proud to be Jewish, and being Jewish is so much of what I am.
Look, my father’s family was wiped out by Hitler in the Holocaust. I know about what crazy and radical, and extremist politics mean. I learned that lesson as a tiny, tiny child when my mother would take me shopping, and we would see people working in stores who had numbers on their arms because they were in Hitler’s concentration camp.
I am very proud of being Jewish, and that is an essential part of who I am as a human being.
COOPER: Denise has a question for Secretary Clinton. Denise
QUESTION: Yes. Secretary Clinton, during our church services, we pray for the president of the United States, we pray for the armed forces, we pray for all civil authorities, three times during our liturgy. And we give thanks to them. We pray for our loved ones. We pray for our enemies. To whom and for whom do you pray?
CLINTON: Well, I have been several times in your services and have joined in those prayers and have also been privileged to lead them in some settings. I pray very specifically for people whom I know by name. People who either have gone through or are experiencing difficult times, illness, divorce, death, disappointment, all of the life experiences that confront most of us.
I pray for the will of God to be known that we can know it and to the best of our limited ability, try to follow it and fulfill it. I have said many times that, you know, I am a praying person, and if I haven’t been during the time I was in the White House, I would have become one. Because it’s very hard to imagine living under that kind of pressure without being able to fall back on prayer and on my faith.
So I do pray for people in authority. I try to think about what they are going through, even when I disagree with them. Trying to find some common ground, some common understanding that perhaps can make me more empathetic. I don’t always succeed. I will tell you that.
So I pray on a pretty regular basis during the day, because I need that strength and I need that support. And especially when you are in the position that I’m in and that Senator Sanders is in, where you are asking people to vote for you, to give you the most important job, not only in our country, but I would argue in the world.
I think humility is one of the most important attributes that you bring to both that seeking and then if you’re fortunate enough, to that holding of office and that’s what I will try to do.
COOPER: Thank you, secretary. It’s time for closing statements. You’ll each have one minute for a closing statement. Senator Sanders, we begin with you. SANDERS: My father came to this country at the age of 17 without any money. Never made any money. We lived in a three and half room rent-controlled apartment. So I learned about economics, not just in college, but in living in a family that didn’t have money that had to scrape by. We are here tonight in Flint, Michigan, because a horrendous tragedy is taking place.
But it’s not just in Flint, Michigan. We are have 29 million people who have no health insurance. We’re the only major country on earth that doesn’t provide paid family and medical leave. We have school systems around America that are collapsing. And yet we are the wealthiest country in the history of the world. But most people don’t know that because almost all of the new incoming wealth is going to the top one percent.
I believe, and with all due respect to my good friend, Secretary Clinton, that it is too late for establishment politics and establishment economics. It is too late for a corrupt campaign finance system and super-PACs that raise enormous amounts of money from special interests.
We need in this country a political revolution where ordinary people stand up and reclaim the government that men and women fought and died for. Thank you.
COOPER: Thank you, senator.
COOPER: Secretary Clinton?
CLINTON: Well, I’m running for president to do my very best to knock down every barrier that stands in the way of America realizing its potential and every American having a chance to live up to his or her God-given potential. We have a lot of work to do. We have economic barriers. That’s why I’ve laid out plans for more good jobs with rising incomes. We have barriers that stand in the way of quality health care. That’s why I will build on the Affordable Care Act.
We have barriers to education. That’s why I want to start early and provide debt-free tuition, and deal with student debt so it is no longer the burden that weighs down so many young Americans. And I do want to take on the barriers of systemic racism. I may not have experienced them, but I see the results every single day.
So I’m asking for your support in the primary here in Michigan on Tuesday. I’m asking for it, and I will do whatever I can as the Democratic nominee to run a campaign you’ll be proud of.
I don’t intend to get into the gutter with whoever they nominate, but instead to lift our sights, to set big goals, to make it clear that America’s best days can be and are ahead of us.
COOPER: I want to thank both the candidates. While we’ve been debating tonight, CNN has learned that a labor union fund has committed $25 million in low-interest loans to help replace lead- contaminated pipes.
I want to thank the candidates, the Democratic National Committee…
… our hosts here at the Flint Cultural Center, and most of all, the people of Flint. Just two days from now, it’s another Super Tuesday, when Michigan and three other states have primaries. We’ll have all-day coverage.