This is my transcript of the Denmark question in the first Democratic debate on October 13, 2015.
AC: “Plenty of politicians evolve on issues, but even some Democrats believe you’ve changed your positions based on political expediency. You were against same-sex marriage, now you’re for it. You defended President Obama’s immigration policies, now you say they’re too harsh. You supported his trade deal dozens of times. You even called it the gold standard. Now, suddenly, last week, you’re against it. Will you say anything to get elected?
HRC: “Well, Actually, I’ve been very consistent over the course of my entire life. I’ve always fought for the same values and principles, but like most human beings, including those of us who run for office, I do absorb new information. I do look at what’s happening in the world. Um, take the trade deal. I did say when I was Secretary of State three years ago that I hoped it would be the gold standard. It was just finally negotiated last week and in looking at it, it didn’t meet my standards. My standards for more new good jobs for Americans, for raising wages for Americans, and I want to make sure that I can look into the eyes of any middle class American and say: “this will help raise your wages” and I concluded I could not.
AC: “Secretary Clinton, with all due respect, the question is really about political expediency. Just in July, New Hampshire, you told the crowd “I will take a back seat to no one when it comes to progressive values. Last month in Ohio, you said you plead guilty to “being kind of moderate and center.” Do you change your political identity based on who you’re talking to?
HRC: “No. I think that like most people that I know I have a range of views, but they are rooted in my values and my experience and I don’t take a back seat to anyone when it comes to progressive experience and progressive commitment. You know, when I left law school my first job was with the Children’s Defense Fund and for all the years since, I’ve been focused on how we’re going to unstack the deck and how we’re going to make it possible for more people to have the experience I had, you know to come from a grandfather who was a factory worker, a father who was a small business person and now asking the people of America to elect me president.”
AC: “Just for the record, are you a progressive or are you a moderate?”
HRC: “I’m a progressive, but I’m a progressive who likes to get things done and I know how to find common ground and I know how to stand my ground and I’ve proved that in every position that I’ve had, even dealing with Republicans who never had a good word do say about me, honestly. But we found ways to work together on everything from reforming foster care and adoption to the children’s health insurance program which insures 8 million kids, so I have a long history of getting things done rooted in the same values I’ve always had.”
AC: “Senator Sanders, a Gallup poll says half the country would not put a socialist in the White House. You call yourself a Democratic Socialist. How can any kind of socialist win an election in the United States?”
BS: “Well, we’re going to win because first of all, We’re going to explain what Democratic Socialism is. And what Democratic Socialism is about is saying that it is immoral and wrong that the top one tenth of one percent own almost 90%, own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%. That it is wrong today, in a rigged economy, that 57% of all new income is going to the top 1%. That when you look around the world, you see every other major country providing healthcare to all people as a right, except the United States. You see every other major country saying to moms that when you have a baby, we’re not going to separate you from your newborn baby, because we are going to have medical and family paid leave like every other country on earth. Those are some of the principles that I believe in and we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people.
AC: “Denmark is a country that has a population of 5.6 million people. The question really is about electability here.That’s what I am trying to get at. The Republican attack ad against you in a general election just writes itself. You supported the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. You honeymooned in the Soviet Union, and just this weekend you said you are not a capitalist. Doesn’t that ad write itself?”
BS: “Well, first of all, let’s look at the facts. The facts are very simple. Republicans win when there is a low voter turnout and that is what happened last November. 63% of the American people didn’t vote, Anderson. 80% of young people didn’t vote. We are bringing out huge turnouts and creating excitement all over this country. Democrats at the White House on down will win when there is excitement and a large voter turnout. That is what this campaign is doing.
AC: “You don’t consider yourself a capitalist, though.”
BS: “Do I consider myself part of the casino capitalist process by which so few have so much and so many have so little? By which Wall Street’s greed and recklessness wrecked this economy? No, I don’t. I believe in a society where all people do well, not just a handful of billionaires.”
AC: “Just to be clear, is there anybody else on this stage who is not a capitalist?”
HRC: “I think what Senator Sanders is saying certainly makes sense in the terms of the inequality that we have. But we are not Denmark. I love Denmark. We are the United States of America and it’s our job to rein in the excess of the capitalism so that it doesn’t run amok and doesn’t cause the kinds of inequities we are seeing in our economic system but we would be making a grave mistake to turn our backs on what built the greatest middle class in the history of the world.”
BS: “I think that everybody is in agreement that we are a great entrepreneurial nation. We have got to encourage that. Of course we have to support small and medium-sized businesses. But you can have all of the growth that you want and it doesn’t mean anything if all of the new income and wealth is going to the top 1%. So what we need to do is support small and medium sized businesses, the backbone of our economy, but we have to make sure that every family in this country gets a fair shake, not just the billionaires.
Denmark question and answers:
AC: “Senator Sanders, let’s talk about income inequality. Wages are flat. You’ve argued that the gap between rich and poor is wider than at any time since the 1920’s. We’ve had a Democratic president for seven years. What are you going to be able to do that President Obama didn’t?
BS: “First of all, let’s remember where we were when Bush left office. We were losing 800,000 jobs a month, and I know my Republican friends seem to have some amnesia on this issue, but the world’s financial crisis – but the world’s financial markets – system – was on the verge of collapse. That’s where we were. Are we better off today than we were then? Absolutely. But, the truth is that for the last 40 years the great middle class of this country has been disappearing and, in my view, what we need to do is create millions of jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, to pay equity for women workers, and our disastrous trade policies which have cost us millions of jobs, and make every public college and university in this country tuition-free.
AC: “Secretary Clinton, how would you address this issue? In all candor, you and your husband are part of the 1%. How can you credibly represent the views of the middle class?
HRC: “Well, you know, both Bill and I have been very blessed. Neither of us came from wealthy families and we’ve worked really hard our entire lives and I want to make sure every single person in this country has the same opportunities that he and I have had to make the most of their God-given potential and to have the chances that they should have in America for a good education, good job training, and then good jobs. I have a five-point economic because this is an equality challenge we face. We have faced it at other points. It’s absolutely right, it hasn’t been this bad since the 1920’s. But if you look at the Republicans versus the Democrats, when it comes to economic policy, there is no comparison. The economy does better when you have a Democrat in the White House and that’s why we need to have a Democrat in the White House on January 20th, 2017.
AC: “… Secretary Clinton, he (O’Malley) a fundamental difference on this stage. Senator Sanders wants to break up the Wall Street Banks. You don’t. You say charge the banks more or continue to monitor them. Why is your plan better?
HRC: “Well, My plan is more comprehensive and, frankly, it’s tougher because, of course we have to deal with the problem that the banks are still too big to fail. We can never let the American taxpayer and middle class families ever have to bail out the kind of speculative behavior that we saw. But we have to worry about some of the other players. AIG, a big insurance company. Lehman Brothers, an investment bank – there’s this whole area called shadow banking. That’s where the experts tell me the next potential problem could come from. So, I’m with both Senator Sanders and Governor O’Malley in putting a lot of attention onto the banks and the plan that I have put forward would actually empower regulators to break up big banks if we thought they posed a risk, but I want to make sure we’re gonna cover everybody – not what caused a problem last time, but what could cause it next time.”
AC: “Senator Sanders, Secretary Clinton just said that her policy is tougher than yours.”
BS: “Well, that’s not true. Let us be clear, the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior of Wall Street where fraud is a business model, helped to destroy this economy and the lives of millions of people. Check the record. In the 1990’s and in all due respect, in the 1990’s when I had the Republican leadership and Wall Street spending billions of dollars in lobbying, when the Clinton administration, when Alan Greenspan said “what a great idea it would be to allow these huge banks to merge,” Bernie Sanders fought them and helped lead the opposition to deregulation. Today, it is my view when you have the three largest banks in America are much bigger than they were when we bailed them out for being too big to fail, we have got to break them up.”
AC: “Secretary Clinton you have the … to respond..”
HRC: “I respect the passion and intensity. I represented Wall Street when I was a senatory from New York and I went to Wall Street in December of 2007, before the big crash that we had, and I basically said “cut it out! Stop foreclosing on those homes. Quit engaging in these kinds of speculative behaviors! I took on the Bush administration for the same thing. So, I have thought deeply and long about what we’re going to do, to do exactly what I think both the Senator and the Governor want, which is to rein in and stop this risk. And my plan would have the potential of actually sending the executives to jail – nobody went to jail after a 100 billion dollars in fines were paid and would give regulators the authority to go after the big banks. But I’m telling you, I will say it tonight, if only you look at the big banks, you may be missing the forest for the trees. We want to look at all the other financial institutions.”
BS: “In my view, you will not – I will give you a second, I’ll tell him – In my view, Secretary Clinton, you do not – Congress does not regulate Wall Street. Wall Street regulates Congress, and we’ve got to break up these banks. Going to them and saying please do the right thing is kind of naive.”
HRC: “I think Dodd-Frank was a very good start and I think we have to implement it. We have to prevent the Republicans from ripping it apart. We have to save the Financial Consumer Protection Board which is finally acting to protect consumers. We have work to do. You’ve got no argument from me. But I know, if we don’t come in with a very tough and comprehensive approach like the plan I’m recommending, we’re going to be behind instead of ahead next crisis…”
AC: “Governor O’Malley?”
MOM: “This is.. The big banks, once we repealed Glass-Steagall back in the late 1999’s, the big banks went from control of, what, 15% of our GDP to now 65% of our GDP, and right before this debate, Secretary Clinton’s campaign put out a lot of reversals of positions on Keystone and many other things. But one of them that we still have a great difference on then, Madam Secretary, is that you are not for Glass-Steagall, you are not for putting a firewall between the speculative, risky, shadow banking behavior. I am, and the people of our country need a president who’s on their side and willing to protect the Main Street economy from recklessness on Wall Street. We have to fulfill our promise.”
AC: “Secretary Clinton? I have to let you respond.”
HRC: “Well, you know, everybody on this stage has changed a position or two. We’ve been around a cumulative quite some period of time. Ah, we know that if you are learning, that you are going to change your position. I never took a position on Keystone until I took a position on Keystone. But I have been on the forefront of dealing with climate change starting in 2009 when President Obama and I crashed a meeting with the Chinese and got them to sign up to the first international agreement to combat climate change that they’d ever joined. So I’m not taking a back seat to anybody on my values, my principles, and the results that I get.”
AC: “Senator Sanders, in 2008, Congressional leaders were told that without the bailout, the US was possibly days away from a complete meltdown. Despite that, you still voted against it. As president, would you stand by your principles if it risked the country’s financial stability?”
BS: “Well, I remember that meeting very well. I remember it like it was yesterday. Hank Paulsen, Bernanke came in and said “guys? The economy is going to collapse because Wall Street is going under. It’s gonna take the economy with them.” And you know what I said to Hank Paulsen? I said Hank, your guys, you come from Goldman Sachs, your millionaire and billionaire friends caused this problem. How about your millionaire and billionaire friends paying for the bailout – not working families in this country? So, to answer your question, no, I would not have let the economy collapse. But it was wrong to ask the middle class to bail out Wall Street, and by the way, I want Wall Street now to help kids go to college – public colleges and universities free with a Wall Street speculation tax.
Hillary Clinton Denmark answer: