Bernie Sanders credited President Donald Trump and House Democrats’ new trade deal with Canada and Mexico for being a “modest improvement” over the North American Free Trade Agreement. But the progressive Vermont senator, who touted his disapproval of NAFTA and permanent normal trade relations with China, said he will not support the new bill in the Senate.
“At the end of the day, in my view, it is not going to stop outsourcing. It is not going to stop corporations from moving to Mexico, where manufacturing workers make less than $2 an hour,” Sanders said. “What we need is a trade policy that stands up for workers, stands up for farmers — and, by the way, the word ‘climate change,’ to the best of my knowledge, is not discussed in this new NAFTA agreement at all, which is an outrage. So I will not be voting for this agreement.”
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar immediately highlighted her differences with Sanders, noting that she sides with her friend and fellow senator, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who has voted against trade agreements throughout his time in the Senate but has said he’ll vote for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
“I would not have voted for the agreement that President Trump put forward” initially, she said. “But we’ve got better labor standards, better environmental standards and a better deal when it comes to the pharmaceutical provision, which I also opposed.”
Klobuchar acknowledged that “there are some issues” with the deal but argued that it’s “much better than the one originally proposed.”
“And for those farmers in the Midwest and for those people that have been hurt by the fact that we will not have a trade segment with Mexico and with Canada and the United States, I think that this is a much better deal,” she said.
Biden’s ‘no love’ moment
Joe Biden made it clear Thursday night that his message of working with the other side — even amid strong disagreement — even applies to the Republicans calling for an investigation of his son.
“If anyone has reason to be angry with the Republicans and not want to cooperate, it’s me. The way they’ve attacked me, my son, my family — I have no, no, no love,” Biden said. “The fact is we have to be able to get things done. And when we can’t convince them, we go out and beat them like we did in the 2018 election in red states and in purple states.”
Biden disputed the idea that he’s calling for a return to normal by defeating President Donald Trump.
“Look, I didn’t say return to normal. Normal’s not enough,” Biden said.
Yang, the lone candidate of color
Singled out as the only candidate of color onstage, Andrew Yang shouted out the two African American senators missing from the action: Kamala Harris of California, who ended her campaign, and Cory Booker of New Jersey, who missed the polling threshold to qualify.
“It’s both an honor and disappointment to be the lone candidate of color on the stage tonight,” he said.
Yang pivoted to his signature universal-basic-income proposal as a way to level the playing field for black and Latino candidates.
“The question is why am I the lone candidate of color on this stage. Fewer than 5 percent of Americans donate to political campaigns,” he said. “You know what you need to donate to political campaigns? Disposable income.”
No stage for old men?
Former President Barack Obama recently said that women leaders would significantly improve the world and that “if you look at the world and look at the problems, it’s usually old people, usually old men not getting out of the way.” So what did the oldest candidate on stage think?
When fielding the question from POLITICO’s Tim Alberta, Sanders joked about his race: “I’m white as well.”
Sanders went on to say that he has “respect” for Obama, but, “I think I disagree with him on this point. Maybe a little self-serving, but I do disagree. Here is the issue. The issue is where power resides in America, and it’s not white or black or male or female. We are living in a nation increasingly becoming an oligarchy, where you have millionaires buying elections and politicians.”
When Alberta said he guessed that Obama didn’t clear that remark with his former vice president, Biden quipped, “I’m going to guess he wasn’t talking about me either.”
Asked about being the oldest president in American history, Biden said “Winston Churchill.” Alberta followed up by noting he was talking about U.S. history.
“I was joking. That was a joke,” Biden said. “POLITICO doesn’t have much of a sense of humor.”
Asked if he would commit to serving just one term, Biden repeated the answer he gave after POLITICO’s Ryan Lizza reported earlier this month he was signaling to aides he would be four-years-and-out if elected, “No, I’m not willing to commit one way or another. Here’s the deal. I’m not even elected one term yet and let’s see where we are. Let’s see what happens.” The crowd applauded. “It’s a nice thought,” Biden closed.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren had a quick rejoinder when confronted by the fact that she would be the oldest president inaugurated, if elected in 2020.
“I’d also be the youngest woman ever inaugurated,” she shot back, prompting huge applause in the debate hall.
Buttigieg, Warren clash over the ‘wine cave’
Buttigieg and Warren finally took the gloves off.
Buttigieg took exception to Warren saying that most candidates on stage were running traditional campaigns, raising money from coast to coast and receiving political donations from people who get special access to them. So he punched back.
“Can’t help but feel that might have been directed at me,” Buttigieg told Warren.
But Warren quickly landed a massive counterpunch, calling Buttigieg out for holding a recent fundraiser in a “wine cave full of crystals” where a $900 bottle of wine was served.
“Think about who comes to that,” she challenged. “We made the decision many years ago that rich people in smoke-filled rooms would not pick the next president of the United States. Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States.”
Buttigieg argued that he’s “literally” the only candidate on stage who isn’t a millionaire or billionaire and charged that Warren, who raised money at traditional fundraisers for her Senate campaign and transferred much of that to her presidential bid when she entered the race — couldn’t pass her own “purity” test.
Warren defended her presidential campaign’s arms-length relationship with donors.
“If you can’t stand up and take the steps that are relatively easy, can’t stand up to the wealthy and well connected when it’s relatively easy when you are a candidate, then how can the American people believe you’re gonna stand up to the wealthy and well connected when you’re president and it’s really hard?” she asked.
“If you can’t say no to a donor, then you have no business running in the first place,” said Buttigieg, who highlighted Warren’s Senate fundraising. “Did it corrupt you, Senator? Of course not. So to denounce the same kind of fundraising guidelines that President Obama went by, that [House] Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi goes by, that you yourself went by until not long ago, in order to build the Democratic Party and build a campaign ready for the fight of our lives, these purity tests shrink the stakes of the most important election.”
Klobuchar clobbers Buttigieg
The question was about supporting reparations for the descendants of slaves, but soon the answers veered into immigration. And then it was time to settle some scores for Klobuchar, who laid into Buttigieg for once looking down on the senators on stage.
“When we were in the last debate, Mayor, you basically mocked the hundred years of experience on the stage,” Klobuchar said, pointing out Warren’s establishment of the consumer protection financial bureau, Biden’s work funding cancer research, Sanders’ efforts to help veterans and her own work for farmers.
“So while you can dismiss committee hearings, I think this experience works,” the senator told the Indiana mayor. “And I have not denigrated your experience as a local official. I have been one. I think you should respect our experience when you look at how you evaluate someone who can get things done.”
After the cheers died down, Buttigieg said that she “did denigrate my experience.” But he was going to let it go because “we have bigger fish to fry.”
Klobuchar cut him off with another applause line: “I don’t think we have bigger fish to fry than picking a president of the United States.”
Buttigieg then transitioned to his service as a soldier, prompting Klobuchar to say that she respected his service but was concerned about his lack of political experience, having recently lost his bid to become chair of the Democratic National Committee.
“We should have someone heading up this ticket that has actually won and has been able to show they can gather the support that you talk about — moderate Republicans and independents — as well as a fired up Democratic base and not just done it once. I have done it three times. I think winning matters,” she said.
Buttigieg said his reelection as mayor showed how he earned the continued support of the citizens of his small city.
“If you want to talk about the capacity to win, try putting together a coalition to bring you back to office with 80 percent of the vote as a gay dude in Mike Pence’s Indiana,” he said to applause.
Klobuchar then referenced Buttigieg’s failed 2010 bid for state treasurer, when he lost to Republican Richard Mourdock.
“If you had won in Indiana, that would be one thing,” she said. “You tried, and you lost by 20 points.”