Clinton, Sanders let passion take flight at wing ding – USA TODAY
CLEAR LAKE, Ia. â In a high-energy showdown, Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both gave impassioned speeches at the Iowa Wing Ding, growing hoarse at times as they teed off on their GOP rivals, forcefully declared that black lives matter, and argued they’d be the best fighters for economic and social justice.
“Now we know that most of the attention these days is on a certain flamboyant front-runner,” Clinton said, referring to billionaire businessman and TV star Donald Trump, the new leader in the GOP race in Iowa. “Don’t let the circus distract you. If you look at their policies, most of the other candidates are just Trump without the pizzazz or the hair.”
Sanders, a Vermont U.S. senator, blasted his colleagues for forgetting about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and for appearing “hellbent to get us into other wars.”
A stream of people in the sold-out audience of 2,100 exited before the speeches by two other contenders â former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee â both of whom sit at the bottom of polling in Iowa, which kicks off the nation’s presidential voting.
Clinton got the warmest response of the quartet at the multicounty fundraiser, which has been held for 12 years at the historic Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake.
In her teleprompter-aided speech, Clinton spent considerable energy shredding Republicans, sometimes with her hand balled in a fist. She said Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio brags about wanting to deny victims of rape and incest access to abortion, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and all of the GOP candidates want to strip federal funding from abortion provider Planned Parenthood.
“I know some people think, ‘There she goes again with the women’s issues,’ ” she said. “If calling for equal pay is playing the gender card, then deal me in.”
That brought chants of “HILL-A-RY. HILL-A-RY.”
Clinton went on: “If Republicans think they’re going to win this election by demeaning or dividing women, then they’re the ones not playing with a full deck.”
Sanders also elicited standing ovations, jabbing a finger in the air as he made his points.
“Nobody will fight harder than I will to end racism in America and to reform our broken criminal justice system,” he said.
Another hit: “Health care is a right, not a privilege.”
And: “No Keystone pipeline.”
And: “I voted against the war in Iraq.”
The crowd broke into a chorus of “BER-NIE. BER-NIE.”
Clinton mixed battle-cry fierceness with humor.
Referring to a new Snapchat account, she said: “I love it. Those messages disappear all by themselves.”
Clinton has been dogged for months by news coverage of her unorthodox use of a private email server to conduct official business as U.S. secretary of state. The FBI is now investigating, zeroing in on emails that contained highly classified information.
Clinton argued that the attention isn’t about emails or servers. “It’s about politics.” She said she provided her home-based server to the Justice Department.
“But here’s what I won’t do. I won’t get down in the mud with them. I won’t play politics with national security or dishonor the memory of those who we lost (in the Benghazi tragedy). I won’t pretend that this is anything other than what it is, the same old partisan games we’ve seen so many times before, so I don’t care how many super PACs and Republicans pile on. I’ve been fighting for families and underdogs my entire life, and I’m not going to start now.”
Photos: Iowa Democratic Wing Ding
The crowd erupted.
Clinton at one point had a coughing spell, which she blamed on talking too much. She drank some water, then continued, her voice ragged for a bit. “You guys have been revving me up so much,” she said.
After her speech, Clinton sat with the crowd; Sanders left the building.
O’Malley was equally impassioned, but his remarks didn’t cause the audience to jump to their feet as frequently as for the first two speakers. Clinton trumpeted the news that popular Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin had endorsed her. O’Malley countered that by revealing that former Iowa U.S. Rep. Berkley Bedell is “supporting me in this tough race.”
O’Malley, who knows he’s an underdog, tried to encroach on Clinton and Sanders’ territory by arguing that with his history of accomplishments as a former big city mayor and Maryland governor, people can trust him to get things done.
“You and I are part of a living, self-creating mystery called the United States of America,” said O’Malley, who also used a teleprompter to guide him through his prepared remarks.
But the American dream is in jeopardy, he said.
“What have we come to as a nation when you can get pulled over for a broken taillight in our country, but if you wreck the nation’s economy you are untouchable,” O’Malley said, to big applause.
Chafee was the final speaker. So many people made for the exits, gabbing as they went, that those who remained seated tried to shush them.
One of Chafee’s best applause lines came when he railed against Bush for his Iraq remarks in Davenport on Thursday.
“Jeb said Iraq was secure in 2009, and he said mission accomplished, and he said taking out Saddam Hussein turned out to be a pretty good deal. What kind of neo-con Kool-Aid is this man drinking?”
Iraq was “a chaotic mess as a result of his brother’s actions,” he said, referring to President George W. Bush.
The wing ding, where the main dishes are mild or spicy chicken wings, has blossomed from a tri-county event into a big deal that raises cash for 23 counties, said Randy Black, event chairman.
Contributing: Brianne Pfannenstiel, Grant Rodgers and Henry Hahn