Tempers flared at Thursday night’s MSNBC Democratic debate, as Hillary Clinton accused Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) of running an “artful smear” campaign and the two candidates battled over the influence of big money in politics.
Clinton took particular exception to Sanders’ attacks on her strong ties to Wall Street and what she called his implication that the exorbitant speaking fees she’s received from banks like Goldman Sachs had influenced her judgment.
“I just absolutely reject that, Senator, and I really don’t think these kinds of attacks by insinuation are worthy of you, and enough is enough,” Clinton said. “If you’ve got something to say, say it directly, but you will not find that I ever changed a view or a vote because of any donation that I ever received … I think it’s time to end the very artful smear that you and your campaign have been carrying out in recent weeks and let’s talk about the issues.”
Some in the crowd jeered, and Sanders let out a, “Ohhhh.”
Clinton said on Wednesday that she didn’t regret getting $675,000 to give three speeches to Goldman Sachs, shrugging, “That’s what they offered.”
Sanders retorted that the deregulation of Wall Street in the 1990s had a lot to do with the billions the industry spent on lobbying, and he also brought up climate change, accusing Republicans of lacking the “guts” to accept it as science and being in the pocket of the Koch brothers.
“That is what goes on in America!” Sanders said, to raucous applause. “You know, there is a reason why these people are putting huge amounts of money into our political system, and in my view, it is undermining American democracy and it is allowing Congress to represent campaign contributors and not the working families of this country.”
Clinton said no public figure had been the victim of more attack money than her.
“What we’ve got to do as Democrats is to be united to actually solve these problems, and what I believe is that I have a better track record and a better opportunity to actually get that job done,” Clinton said. “That’s what this election should be about.”
After Sanders’ 30-second closing, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow noted, “Obviously, we’ve touched a nerve.”
After Clinton’s squeaker victory in the Iowa caucus, she now trails Sanders by double digits in the New Hampshire primary polls.