Gloves come off at la­bor de­bate: Demo­cratic hope­fuls spar at Sol­dier Field

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Christina Bellantoni

Tem­pers flared and ac­cu­sa­tions flew Aug. 7 as the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls sparred dur­ing their nas­ti­est meet­ing yet — a de­bate for 15,000 AFL-CIO mem­bers in Chicago.

The can­di­dates pledged to re­vise the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment (NAFTA), stand up for work­ers and ex­pand health care, but their do­mes­tic pro­pos­als were over­shad­owed by testy ex­changes.

Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton of New York urged her ri­vals to get along early in the de­bate — ad­vice they ig­nored as they at­tacked her and one an­other on stage at the Chicago Bears’ Sol­dier Field.

“I’m here be­cause I think we need to change Amer­ica [. . . ] not to get in fights with Democrats,” she said. “I want the Democrats to win, and I want a united Demo­cratic Party that will stand against the Repub­li­cans.”

For­mer Sen. John Ed­wards of North Carolina ac­cused Mrs. Clin­ton of be­ing too closely tied to spe­cial in­ter­ests be­cause she won’t refuse lob­by­ist do­na­tions and be­cause she was the fo­cus of a re­cent For­tune cover story “Busi­ness loves Hil­lary!”

“You will never see a pic­ture of me on the front of For­tune mag­a­zine say­ing I am the can­di­date that big, cor­po­rate Amer­ica is bet­ting on,” said Mr. Ed­wards, who re­cently has been on the cov­ers of Men’s Vogue and Esquire.

Mrs. Clin­ton stut­tered and said she was “tak­ing it all in” be­fore she struck a gen­eral elec­tion tone and ad­mon­ished her foes for fight­ing with each other.

“For 15 years, I have stood up against the right-wing ma­chine. And I’ve come out stronger,” she said, adding: “So if you want a win­ner who knows how to take them on, I’m your girl.”

The line got big cheers, but the con­tenders didn’t take long be­fore get­ting back to ham­mer­ing each other.

When Mr. Ed­wards told steel­worker Steve Sk­vara to ask, “Who’s been with you in the crunch?” af­ter a ques­tion on health care, Sen. Joseph R. Bi­den Jr. of Delaware pounced.

“It’s not where you’ve been the last two years. Where were you the six years you were in the Se­nate?” he asked Mr. Ed­wards, not­ing that he has walked picket lines for 35 years.

“Did you walk when it cost?” Mr. Bi­den asked. “That’s the mea­sure of whether we’ll be with you when it’s tough, not when you’re run­ning for pres­i­dent in the last two years.”

Mrs. Clin­ton and Sen. Christo­pher J. Dodd of Con­necti­cut ac­cused Sen. Barack Obama of be­ing fool­ish for say­ing he would send troops to Pak­istan to hunt down al Qaeda ter­ror­ists.

“Un­der­stand that while [Pak­istani Pres­i­dent Pervez] Mushar­raf is no Thomas Jef­fer­son, he may be the only thing that stands be­tween us and hav­ing an Is­lamic fun­da­men­tal­ist state in that coun­try,” Mr. Dodd said.

Mrs. Clin­ton added her two cents, say­ing Mr. Obama’s idea is a “very big mis­take.”

She was booed when she said, “You shouldn’t al­ways say ev­ery­thing you think if you’re run­ning for pres­i­dent, be­cause it has con­se­quences across the world.”

As­so­ci­ated Press

Scarier than Dick Butkus: Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton was part of a rowdy Democrats’ de­bate at Sol­dier Field, home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears.

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