Sparks Fly Between Clinton and Sanders During Dem Debate
Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton sparred over gun control, Obamacare, taxes, Wall Street reform and their vision of how far government should go to help Americans in their final debate before 2016’s voting starts in Iowa.
Their responses—with Sanders emphasizing bigger themes and systemic corruption that must be challenged and Clinton emphasizing progress comes from pushing the existing system toward better results—showed why they are virtually tied in the opening states that will caucus and cast ballots for the Democratic Party’s nominee.
Washington Post uses SIPRI data to fact check US #DemDebate: https://t.co/mrIUUrzygL https://t.co/htMq2FHKZB— SIPRI (@SIPRI)1453121356.0
The debate also featured Martin O’Malley, who lags far behind the pair but attacked Clinton for pandering to African-Americans by siding with Barack Obama to minimize her Wall Street ties—saying she stood by the president’s achievements—at a debate sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute in Charleston, South Carolina.
“Now you bring up President Obama here in South Carolina in defense of the fact of your cozy relationship with Wall Street,” he said. “In an earlier debate, I heard you bring up even the 9/11 victims to defend it.”
But the real action and tension on Sunday night was between Sanders and Clinton. The debate was the first held in the South, where polls have repeatedly found that Clinton has a lead among African-Americans. That fact was reenforced by their opening statements where they both spoke of personal ties to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his quest for racial and economic justice.
“I … remember that he spent the last day of his life in Memphis, fighting for dignity and higher pay for working people,” Clinton said.
“This campaign is about a political revolution to not only elect a president, but to transform this country,” Sanders said.
First Clash: Gun Control
The sparring started when the debate moderator asked Sanders about Clinton's attack last week that called him “a pretty reliable vote for the gun lobby.”
“Well, I think Secretary Clinton knows that what she says is very disingenuous. I have a D-minus voting record from the NRA,” he replied, reciting where he’s opposed military-style weapons, supported background checks and President Obama’s recent executive actions to expand and enhance gun control enforcement. “We have seen in this city a horrendous tragedy of a crazed person praying with people and then coming up and shooting nine people. This should not be a political issue.”
When her turn came, Clinton replied that Sanders “has voted with the NRA, with the gun lobby numerous times. He voted against the Brady Bill five times. He voted for what we call the Charleston loophole. He voted for immunity for gun manufacturers … Let’s not forget what this is about, 90 people a day die from gun violence in this country.”
Sanders did not respond further after Clinton’s remarks, but he did say earlier that he would reconsider the law granting immunity to gun makers—even though it had provisions outlawing some ammunition that the police wanted. He also said that coming from a rural state with few gun controls that he could bridge the gap between sportsmen and gun control proponents.
Style Contrast: Criminal Justice Reform
When the topic turned to racial biases in policing, both Sanders and Clinton agreed there was systemic racism in the criminal justice system that needed to be taken seriously and fundamentally addressed. But the way that Clinton answered seemed to register more deeply with the debate audience, as it more personally acknowledged victimization in communities of color, whereas Sanders’ reply was a bit more cerebral.
“That requires a very clear agenda for retraining police officers, looking at ways to end racial profiling, finding more ways to bring the disparities that stalk our country into high relief,” she said. “One out of three African-American men may well end up going to prison. I want people here to think what we would be doing if it was one out of three white men.”
“Let me respond to what the secretary said,” Sanders said. “We have a criminal justice system which is broken. Who in America is satisfied that we have more people in jail than any other country on Earth, including China? Disproportionately African American and Latino. Who is satisfied that 51 percent of African American young people are either unemployed or underemployed? Who is satisfied that millions of people have police records for possessing marijuana when the CEO's of Wall Street companies who destroyed our economy have no police records?”
In further questioning, Sanders repeated his past statements that anyone killed by a police officer should trigger a federal Department of Justice investigation, that police officers must be held accountable for unnecessary violence, that police departments need to be de-militarized and that “we have to got to make our police departments look like the communities they serve.”
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Defending or Replacing Obamacare?
The next big area where they clashed was over the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. In recent days, Clinton has attacked Sanders on several fronts that relate to the health care reform. She has said that his proposals keep changing and would end up raising taxes for the middle-class to institute health care as a right. He’s countered, as he did on the debate stage, that she was distorting his position as a Medicare-for-all system would save people money because they would stop paying insurance premiums.
Stepping back from those specifics, the debate highlighted that Clinton would seek to fine-tune the law—which she defended as one of the Democratic Party’s most historic achievements—while Sanders would seek deeper and more fundamental change.
“Here’s what I believe, the Democratic Party and the U.S. worked since Harry Truman to get the Affordable Care Act passed,” she said. “We finally have a path to universal health care. We have accomplished so much already. I do not to want see the Republicans repeal it and I don’t to want see us start over again with a contentious debate. I want us to defend and build on the Affordable Care Act and improve it.”
Sanders began his comments by calling put her campaign for distorting his views.
“What her campaign was saying—Bernie Sanders, who has fought for universal health care for my entire life, he wants to end Medicare, end Medicaid, end the children’s health insurance program—that is nonsense,” he said. “What a Medicare-for-all program does is finally provide in this country health care for every man, woman and child as a right. Now, the truth is, that Frank Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman, do you know what they believed in? They believed that health care should be available to all of our people.”
Clinton, for her part, doubled down on defending Obamacare and improving it.
“The fact is, we have the Affordable Care Act,” she said. “That is one of the greatest accomplishments of President Obama, of the Democratic Party and of our country … We started a system that had private health insurance. And even during the Affordable Care Act debate, there was an opportunity to vote for what was called the public option. In other words, people could buy in to Medicare and even when the Democrats were in charge of the Congress, we couldn't get the votes for that.”
“So, what I’m saying is really simple,” she summed up. “This has been the fight of the Democratic Party for decades. We have the Affordable Care Act. Let’s make it work.”
Sanders, however, countered that health care should not be brokered by private industry.
“I believe, that a Medicare-for-all, single-payer program will substantially lower the cost of healthcare for middle class families,” he said. “What we have got to acknowledge and I hope the Secretary does, is we are doing away with private health insurance premiums.”
Later in the debate, he said this would raise taxes—but end up costing households less.
“So, instead of paying $10,000 dollars to Blue Cross or Blue Shield, yes, some middle class families would be paying slightly more in taxes, but the result would be that that middle class family would be saving some $5,000 dollars in healthcare costs,” Sanders said. “A little bit more in taxes, do away with private health insurance premiums. It’s a pretty good deal.”
Wall Street Reform
Their final major area of disagreement was over Wall Street reform, where Sanders ran an ad last week that did not mention Clinton by name but talked about two Democratic visions, “One says it’s okay to take millions from big banks and tell them what to do,” whereas he has pledged to break up the largest financial industry monopolies.
When asked about that ad, Sanders stood by it, saying, “I don’t take money from big banks. I don’t get personal speaking fees from Goldman Sachs.”
Clinton responded by saying that Sanders was not just attacking him, but he was also attacking Obama—who “has led our country out of the Great Recession.” She said, “He’s criticized President Obama for taking donations from Wall Street … Senator Sanders called him weak, disappointing.”
As was the case with Obamacare, she positioned herself with the president and sought to win the crowd’s approval by demonstrating her loyalty to him.
“I personally believe that President Obama’s work to push through the Dodd-Frank bill and then to sign it was one of the most important regulatory schemes we’ve had since the 1930s,” she said. “So I’m going to defend Dodd-Frank and I’m going to defend President Obama for taking on Wall Street, taking on the financial industry and getting results.”
Sanders countered that unlike Clinton, he has not received hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees from the large investment bank, Goldman Sachs and he would not allow them to have any influence in his administration.
“Let me give you an example of how corrupt—how corrupt this system is,” he said. “Goldman Sachs was recently fined $5 billion. Goldman Sachs has given this country two secretaries of treasury, one on the Republicans, one under Democrats. The leader of Goldman Sachs is a billionaire who comes to Congress and tells us we should cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”
“Secretary Clinton—and you’re not the only one, so I don’t mean to just point the finger at you, you’ve received more than $600,000 in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs in one year. I find it very strange that a major financial institution that pays $5 billion in fines for breaking the law, not one of their executives is prosecuted, while kids who smoke marijuana get a jail sentence.”
Clinton responded by saying that Sanders voted for a bill in 2000 that deregulated some of the riskiest financial markets, suggesting his stance was hypocritical. He replied by inviting “anyone who wants to check my record in taking on Wall Street.”
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The coronavirus has isolated many of us in our homes this year. We've been forced to slow down a little, maybe looking out our windows, becoming more in tune with the rhythms of our yards. Perhaps we've begun to notice more, like the birds hopping around in the bushes out back, wondering (maybe for the first time) what they are.
A Coeligena helianthea hummingbird is photographed during a birdwatching trail at the Monserrate hill in Bogota on November 11, 2020. Colombia is the country with the largest bird diversity in the world, home to about 1,934 different bird species, a fifth of the total known. JUAN BARRETO / AFP / Getty Images
1. Choosing the Right Binoculars<p>Binoculars are a relatively indispensable tool for most birders – but, for those just starting out, it might not yet be worth the several-hundred-dollar investment. If you aren't able to scour the attics of friends or borrow a pair from a fellow bird watcher, some local birding and naturalist groups have <a href="https://vashonaudubon.org/all-about-vashon-birds/binoculars-check-out/" target="_blank">binocular loaning programs</a> for members, allowing you to plan ahead for a day (or week) of birding.</p><p>When you're ready to take the plunge, choosing a pair or binoculars should take some careful deliberation based on your needs and preferences; some <a href="https://www.birdwatchersdigest.com/bwdsite/explore/optics/top-10-tips-buying-binoculars-bird-watching.php" target="_blank">major considerations</a> might include size, ease of use, <a href="https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/binoculars.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">magnification</a>, and price. While professional binoculars can easily run north of $1,000, there are plenty of perfectly suitable entry-level binoculars under $200. You might not get the perfect precision and clarity of more elite models, but a less expensive pair will allow you to strengthen your birding skills while deciding if you're interested in investing in a premium pair.</p><p>For a budget-friendly option, check out resale options on eBay, Facebook marketplace, or neighborhood yard sales: you might find a nicer pair whose retail price isn't within your budget.</p>
2. Know What Birds Are in Your Area<p>When I began to pay more attention to the birds just outside my apartment building, I started to learn what species have always been around me: European starlings, house sparrows, blue jays, black capped chickadees, and the occasional red-bellied woodpecker. They had always been there, but I hadn't ever taken the time to identify them. Once you learn to <a href="https://www.audubon.org/news/get-know-these-20-common-birds_" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recognize common birds</a> in your area, you'll be able to identify the typical species right outside your window and in your community. Of course, permanent residential birds in your neighborhood will <a href="https://nestwatch.org/learn/focal-species/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">vary by region</a>, as will those migrating through it.</p>
3. Get Out and Explore<p>Venturing elsewhere might allow you to spot some different species beyond those frequenting your backyard. Anywhere with water or greenery offers a place for birding; as an urbanite myself, I've found that even small- and mid-sized parks in New York City allow me to find more elusive birds (although Central Park takes the crown for an afternoon of urban birding).</p><p>If you are able to travel a bit further from home, <a href="https://www.fws.gov/refuges/" target="_blank">national wildlife refuges</a> and <a href="https://www.americasstateparks.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">state/national parks</a> are excellent places to explore bird habitats and perhaps log some less-common sightings. The American Birding Association also lists <a href="https://www.aba.org/aba-area-birding-trails/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">birding trails by state</a>, and Audubon and BirdLife International identify <a href="https://www.audubon.org/important-bird-areas" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Important Bird Areas (IBAs)</a> across the country – important bird habitats and iconic places that activists are fighting to protect – where birders can spot birds of significance.</p>
4. Finding a Bird: Stop, Look, Listen, Repeat<p>The National Audubon Society recommends the "<a href="https://www.audubon.org/news/how-find-bird" target="_blank">stop, look, listen, repeat</a>" mantra when seeking and identifying birds.</p><p>First and foremost, spotting birds requires attention. Stopping – getting out of the car, pausing on the sidewalk, trail, or in the backyard to look up – is the most important step.</p><p>When looking for birds, try to avoid gazing wildly around; rather, scan your surroundings, focusing on any odd shapes or shadows, trying to think about where a bird might perch (power lines, fence posts, branches), or keep an eye on the sky for flying eagles and hawks. In open areas like fields and beaches, you might have a more panoramic view, and can take in different sections of the landscape at a time. Look around with the naked eye before reaching for the binoculars to hone in.</p><p>While it can be hard to sift through the noise, listening for birds is perhaps an even more important element of bird watching than looking. Once you spend more time in the field, you'll be able to parse apart the racket and identify specific species, especially aided by Audubon's Bird Guide app or by learning from their <a href="https://www.audubon.org/section/birding-ear" target="_blank">Birding by Ear series</a>.</p><p>Repeat this pattern as you continue on your way, stopping to look and listen for birds as you go, rather than waiting for them to come to you. </p>
5. Identification<p>When you head out for a day of bird watching – especially when you're hoping to spot some new species – you'll want to be armed with the tools to identify what you see. <a href="https://www.audubon.org/news/how-identify-birds" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Major considerations when identifying birds</a> are their group (such as owls, hawks, or sparrow-like birds), size and shape, behavior, voice, field marks, season, and habitat.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.sibleyguides.com/about/the-sibley-guide-to-birds/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sibley Guide to Birds</a> and the <a href="https://www.hmhbooks.com/shop/books/peterson-field-guide-to-birds-of-north-america-second-edition/9781328771445" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Peterson Field Guide</a> are widely considered the best books for identifying birds in North America, although many <a href="https://www.audubon.org/news/what-bird-guide-best-you" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">specialized guides</a> focus on specific species or regions as well.</p><p>Plenty of <a href="https://blog.nature.org/science/2013/05/27/boucher-bird-blog-apps-smart-birder/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bird identification apps</a> have popped up in recent years – including National Geographic Birds, Sibley eGuide to Birds, iNaturalist, Merlin Bird ID, and Birdsnap – which are basically a <a href="https://www.audubon.org/news/the-best-birding-apps-and-field-guides" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">field guide in your pocket</a>. I'm partial to the Audubon Bird Guide, which allows users to filter by common identifiers, including a bird's habitat, color, activity, tail shape, and general type, adding them all to a personal map to view your sightings.</p>
6. Recording Your Sightings<p><span>As you deepen your commitment to birding, you might join the community of birders that track and quantify their sightings, building their </span><a href="https://www.thespruce.com/what-birds-count-on-a-life-list-386704#:~:text=A%20life%20list%20is%20a,which%20birds%20you%20have%20seen." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">life list</a><span>.</span></p><p>While a standard notebook noting the date, species name, habitat, vocalizations, or any other data you wish to include will suffice, some birders opt for a more <a href="https://www.riteintherain.com/no-195-birders-journal" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">structured birder's journal</a> with pre-determined fields to record your encounters, take notes, draw sketches, etc.</p><p>Many birders also choose to record their sightings online and in shared databases (which include many of the field guide apps), often pinpointing them on a map for others to view. Launched by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon, <a href="https://ebird.org/home" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">eBird is one of the largest databases and citizen science projects around birding</a>, where hundreds of thousands of birders enter their sightings, and users can explore birds in regions and hotspots around the world. Users can also record their sightings on the <a href="https://apps.apple.com/us/app/ebird/id988799279" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">eBird app</a>.</p>
7. Attracting Birds to Your Own Yard<p>Feeding birds is a common phenomenon: more than 40% of Americans maintain a birdfeeder to attract birds and watch them feast.</p><p>Not all birdfeed is created equal, however. Many commercial varieties are mostly made with "fillers" (oats, red millet, etc.) that birds will largely leave untouched. After researching what birds to expect in your area – and which ones you want to attract – you can create your own birdfeed with <a href="https://www.allaboutbirds.org/news/types-of-bird-seed-a-quick-guide/?pid=1142" target="_blank">seeds that will appeal to them</a>.</p><p>Beyond filling a birdfeeder, <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/eco-friendly-lawn-2651194858.html" target="_self">transforming your yard into an eco-friendly oasis</a> is by far the best way to attract birds. Choosing to forgo mowing your lawn, planting native flowers and grasses, and ditching the pesticides will bring back the bugs that birds feed on, and provide a safe haven in which birds can happily live and eat.</p><p>While it's widely considered acceptable – and even beneficial – to feed birds with appropriate seeds, communal birdfeeders often <a href="https://www.audubon.org/news/to-feed-or-not-feed" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">foster unlikely interactions between different species</a>, who can then transmit harmful diseases and parasites to one another. Maintaining several bird feeders with different types of seeds might keep different species from coming into contact, and feeders can be <a href="https://www.allaboutbirds.org/news/how-to-clean-your-bird-feeder/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cleaned to prevent the spread of infection</a>.</p>
8. Inclusivity and Anti-Racism in the Birding Community<p>Like all outdoor activities and areas of scientific study, birding communities are subject to racist and discriminatory ideologies. Black birders have long experienced discrimination and underrepresentation in outdoor spaces. The work of organizations like the <a href="https://www.instagram.com/birdersfund/" target="_blank">Black & Latinx Birders Fund</a>, <a href="https://www.instagram.com/birdability/" target="_blank">Birdability</a>, and <a href="https://www.instagram.com/feministbirdclub/" target="_blank">Feminist Bird Club</a> highlight the contributions and importance of birders of color, birders with disabilities, and women and LGBTQ+ birders to the birding community, as do activists and naturalists like <a href="https://www.instagram.com/hood__naturalist/" target="_blank">Corina Newsome</a> and <a href="https://www.instagram.com/tykeejames/" target="_blank">Tykee James</a>. The work of <a href="https://www.audubon.org/news/its-bird-new-comic-written-central-park-birder-christian-cooper" target="_blank">Christian Cooper</a>, <a href="https://camilledungy.com/publications/" target="_blank">Camille Dungy</a> (read her poem <a href="https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/58363/frequently-asked-questions-10" target="_blank">Frequently Asked Questions: 10</a>), and <a href="https://orionmagazine.org/article/9-rules-for-the-black-birdwatcher/" target="_blank">J. Drew Lanham</a> – including his essay "<a href="https://lithub.com/birding-while-black/" target="_blank">Birding While Black</a>" – are a great place to start.</p><p>Getting involved in birding means educating ourselves on these issues and taking meaningful action; the work of <a href="https://www.audubon.org/news/its-bird-new-comic-written-central-park-birder-christian-cooper" target="_blank">Christian Cooper</a> and <a href="https://orionmagazine.org/article/9-rules-for-the-black-birdwatcher/" target="_blank">J. Drew Lanham</a> – including his essay "<a href="https://lithub.com/birding-while-black/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Birding While Black</a>" – are a great place to start. Just as birders are activists for protecting habitats and natural areas, we must also be active and aware of inclusivity in these spaces.</p>
9. Get Involved<p>To learn from and enjoy the company of other birders, check out local birding groups in your area to join. Many Audubon chapters host trips, meetings, and bird walks for members. The American Birding Association even maintains a <a href="https://www.aba.org/festivals-events/" target="_blank">directory of birding festivals</a> across the country.</p><p>Volunteering for birds is also a great way to meet other birders and take action for birds in your community; local organizations might have opportunities for assisting with habitat restoration or helping at birding centers.</p><p>Like all wildlife, climate change and habitat destruction threaten the livelihood of birds, eliminating their breeding grounds and food sources. A <a href="https://www.audubon.org/climate/survivalbydegrees" target="_blank">2019 report released by the National Audubon Society</a> found that two-thirds of North American birds may face extinction if global temperatures rise 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. Staying informed about and taking action for legislation designed to protect birds and our climate – such as the recent <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/5552/text" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Migratory Bird Protection Act</a> – is important for ensuring a livable future for wildlife and humans alike.</p><p><em>Linnea graduated from Skidmore College in 2019 with a Bachelor's degree in English and Environmental Studies, and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. Most recently, Linnea worked at Hunger Free America, and has interned with WHYY in Philadelphia, Saratoga Living Magazine, and the Sierra Club in Washington, DC. </em><em>Linnea enjoys hiking and spending time outdoors, reading, practicing her German, and volunteering on farms and gardens and for environmental justice efforts in her community. Along with journalism, she is also an essayist and writer of creative nonfiction.</em></p>
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