The Democratic nominees hit the debate stage last night in Milwaukee for their first face-to-face showdown since Bernie Sanders bested Hillary Clinton in the New Hampshire primary by more than 20 points on Tuesday.
As a result, Thursday’s meeting, moderated by PBS, was far more heated than those we have previously seen, as Hillary Clinton spent much of the evening on the defensive and Bernie Sanders was much more aggressive.
From healthcare to foreign policy, the two did not hold back as they tried desperately to differentiate themselves from each other in order to make a clear case for who would make a better nominee. Here are our favorite moments from last night.
1) A twist to the national conversation on race.
Moderator: When we talk about race in this country, we always talk about African-Americans, people of color. I want to talk about white people, okay.
White people. I know.
Many people will be surprised to find out that we are sitting in one of the most racially polarized metropolitan areas in the country. By the middle of this century the nation is going to be majority nonwhite. Our public schools are already there. If working class white Americans are about to be outnumbered, are already underemployed in many cases and one study found they are dying sooner, don't they have a reason to be resentful, Secretary Clinton?
Clinton: Look, I'm deeply concerned about what is happening in every community in America. And that includes white communities where we are seeing an increase in alcoholism, addiction, earlier deaths, people with a high school education or less are not even living as long as their parents lived. This is a remarkable and horrifying fact.
And that's why I have come forward with, for example, a plan to revitalize coal country. The coal field communities that have been so hard hit by the changing economy, by the reduction in the use of coal. You know coal miners and their families who help turn on the lights and power our factories for generations are now wondering, has our country forgotten us? Do people not care about all of our sacrifice?
And I'm going to do everything I can to address distressed communities. Whether they are communities of color, whether they are white communities, whether they are in any part of our country. I particularly appreciate the proposal that Congressman Jim Clyburn has, the 10-20-30 proposal to try to spend more federal dollars in communities with persistent generational poverty.
And you know what, if you look at the numbers, there are actually as many, if not more, white communities that are truly being left behind and left out. So yes, I do think if would be a terrible oversight not to address the very real problems that white Americans, particularly those without a lot of education, whose jobs have no longer provided them or even no longer present in their communities. Because we have to focus where the real hurt is. And that's why as president, I will look at communities that need special help and try to deliver that.
Moderator: Senator, I want you to respond to that but I also want you to — is it even right to be describing this as a matter of race?
Sanders: Yeah, you can. Because African-Americans and Latinos not only face the general economic crises of low wages and high unemployment and poor educational opportunities, but they face other problems as well.
So yes, we can talk about it as a racial issue. But it is a general economic issue. And here's what the economic issue is. The wages that high school graduates received today are significantly less, whether you are white or black, then they used to be. Why is that? Because of the series of disastrous trade policies which have allowed corporate America through nafta and permanent Normal trade relations with China, Secretary Clinton and I disagree on those issues.
But the idea is that those trade issues have abled corporate America to shut down in this country, so millions of people out on the street. No no one thinks working in the factory is the greatest job in the world. But you know what, you can make a middle class wage, you have decent health care, decent benefits. You once had a pensions. Those jobs in many cases are now gone. They're off to China.
Now you are a worker, white worker, black worker, who had a decent job, that manufacturing job is gone. What are you doing now, working in McDonald's. That is why there is massive despair all over this country.
People have worked their entire lives. They're making a half, two thirds what they used to make. Their kids are having a hard time find any work at all. And that's why this study which shows that, if you can believe it today, for white, working class people between 45 and 54, life expectancy is actually going down. Suicide, alcoholism, drugs that's why we need to start paying attention to the needs of working families in this country and not just a handful of billionaires who have enormous economic and political power.
2) A tribute to Henry Kissinger?
Sanders: Where the secretary and I have a very profound difference, in the last debate and I believe in her book – very good book, by the way – in her book and in this last debate, she talked about getting the approval or the support or the mentoring of Henry Kissinger.
Now I find it kind of amazing. Because I happen to believe that Henry Kissinger was one of the most destructive Secretaries of State in the modern history of this country.
I'm proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend.
I will not take advice from Henry Kissinger. And in fact, Kissinger's actions in Cambodia, when the United States bombed that country, over -- through Prince Sihanouk, created the instability for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge to come in who then butchered some 3 million innocent people – one of the worst genocides in the history of the world.
So count me in as somebody who will not be listening to Henry Kissinger.
Moderator: Secretary Clinton.
Clinton: Well, I know journalists have asked who you do listen to on foreign policy and we have yet to know who that is.
Sanders: Well, it ain't Henry Kissinger, that's for sure.
Clinton: That's fine. I listen to a wide variety of voices. That have expertise in various areas. I think it is fair to say whatever the complaints that you want to make about him are, that with respect to China, one of the most challenging relationships we have, his opening up China and his ongoing relationship with the leaders of China is an incredibly useful relationship for the United States of America. So if we want to pick and choose, and I certainly do, people I listen to, people I don't listen to, people I listen to for certain areas, then I think we have to be fair and look at the entire world because it is a big, complicated world out there.
Sanders: It is.
Clinton: Yes, people we may disagree with on a number of things, may have some insight, may have some relationship that are important for the president to understand in order to best protect the United States.
Sanders: I find a very different historical perspective here. Kissinger was one of those people during the Vietnam era who talked about the domino theory, not everybody remembers that. You do, I do. The domino theory.
You know, as Vietnam goes, China, da, da, da. That is what he talked about.
The great threat of China. And then after the war, this is the guy who, in fact, yes, you are right, he opened up relations with China. And now pushed various type of trade agreements resulting in American workers losing their jobs as corporations moved to China, the terrible authoritarian dictatorship he warned us about, now he is urging companies to shut down and move to China. Not my kind of guy.
3) It's only money, right?
Moderator: Secretary Clinton your campaign has recently ramped up criticism of Sen. Sanders for attending democratic party fundraisers from which you say he benefited. But nearly half of your financial sector donations appear to come from just two wealthy financiers, George Soros and Donald Sussman for a total of about $10 million. You have said that there is no quid pro quo involved. But is that also true of the donations that wealthy Republicans give to Republican candidates, contributors including the Koch brothers?
Clinton: I can't speak for the Koch brothers.
Are you referring to a super PAC that we don't coordinate with, that was set up to support President Obama that has now decided they want to support me? They are the ones who should respond to any questions.
Let's talk about our campaigns. I'm very proud of the fact that we have more than 750,000 donors. And the vast majority of them are giving small contributions. So I am proud of Sen. Sanders, and his supporters. I think it's great that, you know, Sen. Sanders, President Obama and I have more donors than any three people who have ever run and certainly on the Democratic side.
That's the way it should be. And I am going to continue to reach out, to thank all my online contributors for everything they are doing for me. To encourage them to help me and do more. Just as Sen. Sanders is. And I think that is the real key here. We both have a lot of small donors. I think that sets us apart from a lot of what is happening on the Republican side.
The Koch brothers have a very clear political agenda. It is an agenda in my view that would do great harm to our country. We're going to fight it as hard as we can. And we're going to fight whoever the Republicans nominate who will be very dependent upon the Koch brothers and others.