Sanders vs Clinton: What does it Mean for Women?
Hosted by TRNN’s Paul Jay, Terry O’Neil, a Clinton supporter and Chair of the NOW Political Action Committees debates Elaine Zuckerman, a Sanders supporter and President of Gender Action
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: –Across the state. While Hillary Clinton is ahead, it’s a very tight race, according to the New York Times, as we speak. Hillary is maybe a point ahead. It’s about–Hillary Clinton is 50.1 percent and Bernie Sanders is 49.2, so like, one percent vote, which in many ways is, I guess, a moral victory for Sanders, given that it wasn’t that long ago Hillary was ahead of Sanders in Iowa by double digits. And now Sanders is ahead in double digits in New Hampshire. So one would think this is momentum on the Sanders side.
So we are going to end our broadcast tonight with two special guests. Now joining us is Terry O’Neil. Terry is a feminist attorney, a professor, and activist for social justice. She was elected president of NOW in June 2009, where she heads the NOW foundation and chaired the NOW political action committee. Thanks very much for joining us, Terry.
TERRY O’NEIL: It’s great to talk with you.
JAY: And are you in DC?
O’NEIL: I am, yes.
JAY: You are in DC. And also joining us, I think also in DC, is Elaine Zuckerman. Elaine is the president of Gender Action, the world’s only organization dedicated to promoting gender justice in all international financial institutional investments. Thank you for joining us, Elaine.
ELAINE ZUCKERMAN: Thanks for having me. And it’s great to be with Terry, too.
JAY: Now, let me just sort of stake out where we’re at, positioning-wise. Terry, have you made up your mind who you’re supporting? And if so, in the Democratic party, who is it?
O’NEIL: Well, yeah. The National Organization for Women has endorsed Hillary Clinton. We made the big announcement in June. So we have been working for Secretary Clinton, we’ve been supporting her. We really think if she’s elected that she will be an outstanding president of the United States.
JAY: Elaine, have you decided who you’re supporting?
ZUCKERMAN: I am. I’m going to go for Bernie. I think Hillary is a great feminist. She has a lot of good qualities. But Bernie trumps her, no pun intended. Bernie [trumps] Hillary because of his lifelong consistent stand for poor women and men, for ending inequalities intersectionally between class and gender and race. And his fight to end the billionaire class, the political intimacy of the past administrations in Congress with Wall Street.
Bernie also has an authenticity that I believe Hillary lacks, and I think he comes in as a strong male feminist, which counts as much as being a woman feminist.
JAY: Terry, what do you make of that argument?
O’NEIL: You know, honestly, I actually think that Bernie Sanders is great. My organization, I think, will undoubtedly support him if he becomes the nominee, if our candidate doesn’t make it through the nominating process.
I will say, however, that Bernie Sanders has supported women’s issues, there’s no question about it. But he prioritizes economic issues over women’s issues consistently. And unfortunately–.
JAY: How do you, how do you–how do you separate those two?
O’NEIL: Well, you know, I mean, that’s the thing. It’s a very 1960s and ’70s thing, if you say it’s all about economic justice, if we can just get economic justice. Let’s get money out of politics, let’s put the banksters in jail, the ones that broke the law. Let’s strengthen the laws. If you just look at economic justice and then you say, and this is what was said in the ’60s and ’70s, then racial justice will come along behind you. And then gender justice will come along behind. And then LGBTQ will come along. If we get economic justice done right, everything else will follow in its place.
I think there are a lot of people who genuinely believe that. My organization has always believed you will not end sexism unless you also simultaneously end racism and homophobia. So we have, we have in–we’re 50 years, these issues as being interrelated, not sort of parallel. And I think that the world has actually moved to a place, in this country, at any rate, where we are not just seeing these issues as interrelated but we’re, we’re beginning to demand on the left of the political spectrum an intersectional set of solutions to the problem.
So it’s not enough to say for healthcare all we have to do is get money out of politics. That’s true, in a way, but it doesn’t really address, I think, the sort of, the fierce things that women need, that women of color need, that immigrant women need. And I think that Hillary Clinton is the most likely candidate to move us forward in a way that will actually embrace intersectional solutions [inaud.].
JAY: Elaine, Elaine, what do you make of the argument?
ZUCKERMAN: Well, like Carrie, I’m also arguing for, on behalf of Bernie’s intersectionality. And I’d like to pick up, Terry, on your comment on healthcare. What I love about Bernie’s stance on healthcare is that he wants a single-payer system in which poor women and men would not have to pay out of pocket, would not have deductibles. Whereas Hillary is in favor of a much more private solution to achieve universal healthcare. But that hasn’t worked.
I mean, I think it’s great that we’ve achieved Obamacare as a first step, let’s say, or an intermediate step. But a much better solution that would bring healthcare to all poor people, and not exclude the 29 million who still don’t have any health insurance in the U.S., would be to have a single-payer system. You know, I’m from Canada, so I know all about a single-payer system, as I believe Paul does, too.
JAY: Yeah, it’s true.
ZUCKERMAN: You know, everybody, rich or poor, can go to the same doctor, can see a doctor without paying a penny. It’s something that’s unimaginable to Americans. As Bernie puts it, it’s healthcare as a right for all.
O’NEIL: Yeah. And actually, my organization has long supported single-payer healthcare. We absolutely do. We were very frustrated in 2009 and 2010 when the Affordable Care Act was being passed, the blockage of the, what we thought was the best pathway to single-payer, which was the public option. It was extremely frustrating to us.
Here’s an example, though, of where Hillary Clinton gets it. And in Bernie’s defense, I’m going to defend Bernie Sanders now, he did get it after she took the lead and he finally understood what she was talking about. Suppose we went to single-payer healthcare somehow tomorrow, by some miracle. Guess what? Women’s reproductive healthcare would not be included. It would not. That is because we have freestanding laws in this country that prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars for abortion care. We also have laws in this country, a Supreme Court decision in this country, allowing women to be blocked from access to birth control. If you don’t fix that piece, and suddenly you went to single-payer tomorrow, we would have to face that.
Now, Bernie Sanders, after Hillary Clinton was so forceful about saying we must have full funding for the full range of reproductive health services for women, whether the funding comes from private sources, or the public, or Medicare, or whatever, Bernie Sanders did finally get on board with that. But this is what I mean when I say he is not in his, he’s not really naturally intersectional. He views these in sort of parallel fashion, and it just didn’t occur to him to think about women’s reproductive health. When he thinks healthcare, he’s not thinking about women’s reproductive healthcare. That’s a, kind of an outlier, right. A kind of weird, exotic piece that doesn’t belong in healthcare.
ZUCKERMAN: Well, there’s a lot of things–.
SPEAKER: –I jump in here? Can I jump in here, Paul?
ZUCKERMAN: Sorry. There are a lot of things that Hillary is picking up thanks to Bernie.
ZUCKERMAN: And it’s [inaud.], though. One of the intersectional pieces that is indispensable is, in fact, the big cost difference issue. And, you know, Hillary emerged from the White House with her husband Bill saying that they were dead broke. And within several years later they had accumulated almost $100 million. She is in that 1 percent class. How can she really be fighting for poor women? Whereas Bernie came from the projects and has consistently all of his life fought for, for people and ending class inequalities.
So you know, we both agree that, hey, we need somebody who’s going to promote a strong intersectional class, race, gender composite approach.
O’NEIL: Yeah. And I think the one thing that we can say about both candidates is that at least right now they’re running for president, they are responsive. In fact, Hillary has moved to the left on economic policies, which has thrilled NOW very much. Because, you know, Hillary Clinton, suppose she becomes the president, we will not agree with everything, with her on everything. She will not do everything we want her to do, just as Barack Obama did not. And Bernie Sanders, if he becomes president, he will not do everything we want him to do. He will be a little tone-deaf on some things, there’s just no doubt about it.
But on the other hand, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, I think this is true throughout their political careers, they have listened. They have actually moved, even when they’re not in the midst of a campaign.
JAY: Terry, one thing Bernie Sanders has made clear, that this–he hasn’t used exactly this language I’m about to, but it amounts to that, which is that there’s a class question here, that if you don’t take on the billionaires, and the bill–in fact, he does call it the billionaire class–you can’t really change anything significantly because of the concentration of political power in the hands of the billionaire class. There’s not a hint that I hear from, from Hillary Clinton, of taking on the billionaire class. On the contrary, when she’s been challenged to say she would not appoint any Wall Street people, for example, to head the Treasury Department or other financial institutions, you know, she has been–you know, she won’t take up that pledge.
But do you not see this, that these–you know, this issue of intersectionality you’re talking about, isn’t interesectionality, which includes an intersection with who has power, who owns stuff, and you don’t take on that, how do you actually make reforms? It’s not enough to say, you know, say some language, I’m for this and I’m for that. Because in the final analysis, we know how real power is wielded.
O’NEIL: Well, yeah. And actually, Hillary Clinton will take on the banks on Wall Street. She has already done that. She–you can see all the Wall Street people that are fiercely opposed to her ever becoming president. I think that’s a pretty good indication.
And let me be clear: Elizabeth Warren, for example, who is a big hero of mine, she’s got plenty of money, and I trust her to fight for the little person. Hillary Clinton has, throughout her career, fought for the little person. Let me just give you a–now, look. If you–.
JAY: But hold on. Is Elizabeth Warren’s policies closer to Sanders or closer to Clinton?
O’NEIL: I’m saying the fact that she’s rich doesn’t make her unable to–.
JAY: I didn’t, I didn’t say anything about her being rich.
O’NEIL: I know, but Elaine did. And I just wanted to respond to that.
ZUCKERMAN: Paul, could I say something in response to Terry’s last comment?
JAY: Yeah, please.
ZUCKERMAN: Terry, I’m glad that you believe that Hillary is going to fight Wall Street. But you know, it was the Clinton administration that ended Glass-Steagall, and Bernie is in favor of reinstating it, and Hillary has not come out in favor of reinstating Glass-Steagall. He’s really in favor of breaking up those banks that are too big to fail. She is not. [Inaud.] she would want to reinstate Glass-Steagall.
O’NEIL: Yeah. I actually–in the 1990s when the Bill Clinton administration repealed the Glass-Steagall act, I was appalled. I actually know a little bit about it, not a lot. But what I did know, I was very much opposed to that. Fast-forward 20 years, the Glass-Steagall Act is not going to be enough. There are some people who legitimately believe that in fact we need to understand now the shadow banking system that has come in, especially under the George W. Bush administration. Glass-Steagall alone won’t fix that problem. And Hillary Clinton has been very clear she intends to fix the entire problem.
The, the out-of-control mortgage lending, the predatory lending being done by mortgage–excuse me, lenders, that is continuing to this day, she’s very much in favor of reining that in, of figuring out the shadow banking system as well as the commercial/investment banking situation. So Glass-Steagall is not the only response that we should take, and I think Hillary Clinton has a good grasp of what we need to do to fix the too-big-to-fail problem.
ZUCKERMAN: Well, the one thing I do agree with you is that Elizabeth Warren is fantastic.
ZUCKERMAN: [She would be] anybody’s running mate. But another example of, you know, Hillary’s intimacy with, with Wall Street, is the fact that she has a big superPAC supporting her, with all these corporate types and bank types. And Bernie doesn’t have one. You know, his average campaign contribution is $27.
O’NEIL: I now. And I, I–yeah, I admire that greatly. And I will tell you that Hillary Clinton is very much in favor of reining in campaign spending. She has gone so far as to call for a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. I mean, what I’ve looked at is we can do a legislative fix. It won’t be much of a fix given the way the Supreme Court ruled on Citizens United, and the subsequent case, I don’t remember the name of it, the subsequent case extended Citizens United further. So we really need a Constitutional amendment, and Hillary Clinton is in favor of that.
JAY: Terry, does the–the, I don’t know why, in fact, the Iraq War vote isn’t a bigger issue in this election. Doesn’t that concern you, Mrs. Clinton’s support for the Iraq war, and more recently her role in the destruction of Libya? Don’t these things concern you in terms of her judgment on these issues?
O’NEIL: Yeah, two things. Her Iraq war vote, at the time–again, the National Organization for Women lobbied very, very hard all the members of Congress, all the senators, all the members of the House of Representatives, not to allow the Bush administration to lie us into war. And we very much were working with anti-war groups. We were appalled by that decision.
I’m not so surprised that it’s not that much of an issue right now. It’s an issue that’s out of the past. And I think, frankly, that Hillary Clinton’s four years as Secretary of State have shown that she’s extremely skilled in foreign policy. And may I say, her smart power foreign policy vision is, I think, exactly what we need. One of the things that has deeply impressed me about her tenure as, as Secretary of State is that she transformed the State Department so that now the State Department is required to put that gender lens on the foreign policy that they do. It is, it has–. [Inaud.]
JAY: But Terry, Terry, you’re not really dealing–you’re not really dealing with my question. She voted in favor of a war that led to the death of hundreds of thousands of people, and helped unravel a region which is now in chaos and has–one can easily trace what happened in Iraq to the destruction of Syria, Libya. I mean, we’re–you know, this is a policy that’s been a disaster. Not–you know, first and foremost for the people of the region, but also certainly for the United States as well. And the number of lives that have been lost, and the amount of money that’s been spent, and so on and so on.
But I’m hearing you kind of quickly acknowledge that and move on to things, you know, other issues. I’m asking you, why doesn’t that–that vote, does that not express a certain view of the world, and aren’t you concerned about that?
O’NEIL: How do I put this? I think that Hillary Clinton’s view of the world is actually the kind of leadership that we need today. I think that, that most of the people, including Hillary Clinton, who voted for that war, if they had it to do again, they would not. I do not hold Hillary Clinton solely responsible for that war. I don’t think any reasonable person would. Certainly we condemned the vote that she took at the time very fiercely. We condemned the vote that every single member of the United States Senate took then. And, and we stand by that condemnation.
But that, I think, would be an unfair–it just doesn’t make sense to me that that wrong vote disqualifies her today, sixteen years later, from serving as president of the United States.
JAY: Well, it’s, it’s not just a wrong vote. Well, let me say, Elaine, I’m going to give you a critique of Mr. Sanders’ foreign policy in a moment. I don’t want to seem unfair here. But I need to take this up. It’s not just the vote on Iraq. It’s the–like, she’s taking a more, I would say, hawkish position on Syria, promoting a no-fly zone. President Obama doesn’t want to go there. She played a certain, an important role in the destruction of Libya, where the NATO troops went, mostly with U.S. air power went far beyond the United Nations resolution, and in fact was, probably, really an illegal war once it went beyond the UN resolution.
It’s a worldview. It goes back even to 2007. There was a resolution condemning the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as terrorists, which would have, essentially, condemned the entire Iranian government as terrorists. Every senior Democratic foreign policy person, including Obama and including Senator Webb, all the senior people, were against it. But Mrs. Clinton voted with the Republicans for it. She’s been very militantly, strongly supporting this kind of one-sided support for Israel. I mean, it’s a whole view of the world, it’s not like, just a mistaken vote, isn’t it?
O’NEIL: Let me tell you that, although foreign policy is not my forte by any stretch, I will tell you that Hillary Clinton has long supported a two-state strategy in Israel. She has long criticized the out-of-control settlements that Netanyahu has been promoting in Israel. She is in no way sort of a, only Israel, only Israel person. That’s just simply not the case.
In terms of the specific decisions around Libya and Syria and ISIS, and Daesh, and all the rest of them, I’m not enough of an expert in all of that to speak. I will say this, that unlike her predecessors in the Department of State, Hillary Clinton’s focus on the wellbeing of women internationally, she understands that as a key piece of foreign policy. I think a lot of men don’t get that. I’m just going to be very frank with you. I think a lot of men consider women’s empowerment abroad not to be part of America’s foreign policy. Hillary Clinton understands that it is, in fact, inextricable from a smart foreign policy. And I, and I really respect that. And I think that in that sense–.
JAY: Okay. Well, before, before I go after Elaine here, I just want to add–I mean, in the Iraq war and in the destruction of Syria and such, certainly more crimes against women have been committed than, than on a scale that’s unimaginable. You can’t detach these issues.
O’NEIL: Right. Yes, that was one of the arguments that we made against the war back in ’02 and ’03, when Dick Cheney was in his undisclosed location in a bunker and arguing that we had to invade Iraq and turn over all the oil to his pals at Halliburton. What we were saying was, and this is true, you know, for millennia, is that in any conflict zone domestic violence, [inaud.], street violence against women, sexual assault against women, it increases exponentially in conflict zones, no matter what kind of war you’re talking about. This is why my organization was so opposed to the, to the war in Iraq, to our unjustified invasion of Iraq.
JAY: Okay. Elaine, let me ask about Mr. Sanders, because aren’t you concerned that he makes the proposal that is that the Saudi Arabians should be asked to send troops into Syria, and see the–somehow suggest that the Saudis could be a source of solution in fighting ISIS. I think most people that understand the region know that, one, the Syrians are up to their eyeballs in Syria now. They’ve been financing all kinds of extremist groups. They seem far more intent on overthrowing Assad than fighting ISIS, and there’s certainly plenty of evidence, at least at the early stages, and some people suggest in a continuing way, I don’t think it’s clear, that the Saudis helped begin ISIS. Certainly ISIS grew out of al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Now, I know neither of you are foreign policy experts. But still, you’ve got to make a choice here for president. Doesn’t it concern you that Mr. Sanders makes such a suggestion?
ZUCKERMAN: Frankly, Paul, one of the very few flaws in Bernie’s policies, I believe, is his Middle East foreign policy. I agree with you that his idea of having the Saudis and the Jordanians and other regional powers become the leaders of the war against ISIS, to me, is not a good policy. Not that I want to see the U.S. leading this. I just don’t want to see any war. I want to see peace. And I think that he’s not nearly as hawkish as Hillary has always been, and in my opinion, still is. But I do not think that his foreign policy that you just described with Saudi Arabia taking the lead against ISIS is a good idea.
You know, we wouldn’t have had ISIS, probably, if it weren’t for all these U.S. invasions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, et cetera, et cetera. You know, the U.S. occupation and invasions largely caused such discontent in these countries that many young people decided to become fighters against the U.S., and therefore created and joined ISIS. Anything that, you know, deepens this quagmire that we’re in, I’m against. And so I don’t think Bernie’s position is ideal. It is a quagmire, it’s very hard to figure out how to get out of it, but I know I don’t like his position. On the Middle East, on Palestine-Israel, on ISIS. Although otherwise, his foreign policy, as far as I know, it seems to be much more sensible.
I do fear Hillary’s hawkish positions. She has been consistently a hawk, and that is one of the things that I don’t like about her positions, although I agreed with a lot of what Terry had to say. You know, she is a wonderful feminist. She has supported women locally. But it’s in contradiction with her being involved in approving and supporting invasions abroad that have hurt women enormously. Women and men enormously, in these countries.
JAY: Terry, is this a surprise to you, that Bernie Sanders, as of now, looks like–I mean, it’s practically a tie, but it looks like he could win.
O’NEIL: No, no. Actually, it’s not a surprise at all. In fact, what, two weeks ago Bernie was something, polling about five points ahead of Hillary Clinton. I do think his momentum in Iowa has stalled out, quite frankly. One of the things that I take a lot–this was always going to be extremely close, and I was prepared for, actually, my candidate to lose Iowa, given the surge that Bernie had until about a week or two ago.
I think one of the things that we’re seeing in a lot of the polling is fascinating, which is that the degree of enthusiasm for Bernie and Hillary is roughly equal. That, however, there is a huge, enormous gender gap between Bernie and Hillary. She enjoys a very much stronger position with women. Bernie, you know, the Democratic men are going with the man once again. So there is an enormous gender gap there that I find really interesting. [Inaud.]
JAY: Elane, what do you–you think this is a gender gap?
O’NEIL: There’s a gender thing going on there.
JAY; Elane–yeah, go ahead.
ZUCKERMAN: Well, if the statistics show that the vast majority of women are supporting Hillary in Iowa, I can’t fight with those statistics. But I do have to say that I believe that Bernie is standing up strongly for women’s rights across the board, for gender equality, for equal marriage, and so on. So, you know, I feel confident that he would be a feminist male president.
O’NEIL: Yeah, and let me say that it’s not the vast majority of women. It’s a strong majority of women are supporting Clinton.
JAY: All right. We will, we’ll pick this up again. I hope you both join us again. And thank you, Terry and Elaine, very much for joining us.
O’NEIL: Thank you, Paul.
ZUCKERMAN: Thanks, Paul. Bye, Terry.
O’NEIL: Bye, Elaine. It’s so good to see you again.
ZUCKERMAN: You, too.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on the Real News. Please join us next week in New Hampshire. Next Monday and Tuesday we’re going to be going live from the New Hampshire primaries, and we hope you’ll join us then. And thanks for joining us on the Real News Network.
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