Michigan redistricting meeting suspended after emailed death threat

Clinton, Sanders continue sparring on bailout votes

Jonathan Oosting, and Chad Livengood

Dearborn — Democratic presidential rivals Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders clashed on the campaign trail and airwaves Monday over Clinton’s contention that Sanders voted against the 2009 federal rescue of General Motors and Chrysler, a claim he said is “absolutely untrue.”

In the final day before Tuesday’s primary, Clinton launched a new radio ad highlighting the Vermont senator’s 2009 vote against a financial industry bailout fund that was eventually tapped to save the auto industry.

The Sanders campaign returned fire with its own statewide radio ad that charged Clinton was “trying to distort the truth about Bernie’s record.”

Sanders argued “there was only one vote” directly on the first $11 billion auto bailout itself, which he supported in a Dec. 11, 2008.

“I voted for that bailout and support of the workers in the auto industry,” Sanders said Monday afternoon to a capacity crowd at the 1,200-seat Michael A. Guido Theater in Dearborn. “To say otherwise is not to say the truth.”

During Sunday night’s debate in Flint, Clinton sprung Sanders’ January 2009 vote against a bill releasing the second $350 billion of the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street banks and mortgage lenders.

The Obama administration ended up using some of the money to fund the federal government’s $85 billion rescue of GM, Chrysler and their lending arms, GMAC and Chrysler Financial.

Sanders said Monday he voted to aid the automakers in the fall of 2008 and had sponsored an amendment in the Senate to separate the funding for GM and Chrysler from the greater bailout of the financial industry.

Sanders also rejected Clinton’s claim he didn’t support the auto industry during a Monday might televised Fox News town hall event at the Gem Theatre in Detroit.

“What I didn’t vote for was the bailout of Wall Street,” Sanders said. “Secretary Clinton ... did vote for that.”

Fox News anchor Bret Baier did not ask Clinton about the auto bailout claim during her 30-minute session.

Clinton and Sanders took turns taking questions from Baier and 250 people in the audience. Both sidestepped Baier’s questions about whether they could ultimately form a ticket in the November general election.

“We’re talking about running this campaign to win to become president of the United States,” Sanders said.

Clinton said she considers Sanders “an ally,” should she win the Democratic presidential nomination.

When Baier asked Clinton if she would chose Sanders as a running mate, she responded: “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”

“I don’t want to think any further ahead than tomorrow and the Michigan primary,” Clinton said.

As Clinton and Sanders made their final pitches to voters, the post-debate maneuvering over the auto bailout continued to play out.

Clinton’s 60-second radio ad uses a clip from Clinton’s comments during the debate.

“When it came down to it, you were either for saving the auto industry or you were against it,” Clinton said. “I voted to save the auto industry.”

Clinton was President Barack Obama’s Secretary of State in January 2009 when Sanders voted against the second half of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program. But she initially voted for TARP in October 2008 when she was a U.S. senator from New York.

The Clinton ad does not mention Sanders by name, simply the narrator urges Democratic voters to “vote for the one candidate who stood up for the auto industry and came through for Michigan when it really mattered. Hillary Clinton.”

When Barack Obama became president on Jan. 20, 2009, he hadn’t decided whether to save both Chrysler and GM. He wouldn’t make the decision until near a March 31, 2009, deadline to save Chrysler.

Clinton used the auto bailout issue to blunt Sanders’ criticism of her past support for international free trade agreements that he contends have been “disastrous” for Michigan’s middle class manufacturing job base.

Sanders continued the criticism Monday in Dearborn, saying the trade deals were “written by corporate America” to save money by paying lower wages to foreign workers.

“Hillary Clinton has supported virtually every one of these disastrous trade policies. I have opposed every one,” Sanders said.

Clinton’s husband signed the North American Free Trade Agreement into law. She expressed support for the deal in 2004 but changed her tune by the time she ran for president in 2007. She eventually opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership but supported it as Obama’s secretary of state.

Sanders remains an underdog heading into Tuesday’s Michigan primary, but has made an aggressive bid here, drawing big crowds as he has crisscrossed the state.

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, a Detroit native who represents Minnesota in Congress, introduced Sanders in Dearborn and highlighted their work together to combat anti-Muslim discrimination.

Sanders, who is Jewish, on Friday picked up the endorsement of the Arab American News, a weekly newspaper published in Dearborn, home to the highest concentration of Arab Americans in the country. He is also running Arabic-language radio ads in the market, highlighting his call to “stand together” to end racism and suggesting Republican candidates are attacking Muslims because of their religion.

“We are going to end bigotry in this country,” Sanders told the diverse crowd. “The Donald Trumps and his friends are not going to prevail in scapegoating minorities in this country ... and by attacking and denigrating Muslim friends and neighbors.”

Susu Hachem, a 25-year-old nursing student at Henry Ford College, was first drawn to Sanders because of his support for paid family leave policies. She said Sanders is doing a good job appealing to the Arab-American community.

“There’s a lot of, I don’t want to say tension, between Jews and Muslims, but he’s my favorite,” she said, noting she appreciated his response to a question about the relevance of God during Sunday night’s Democratic debate in Flint.

“The way he replied was just a way that related to all monotheistic religions, even if you’re not a believer in God, you’re OK with what he said. It just shows he’s very ethical, very moral. I like him,” Hachem said.

Sue Baton, a 67-year-old interior designer from Canton, said she appreciates Sanders’ consistent stand on issues.

“Bernie Sanders is proving time and time and time again that what he says is the same as what he’s thinking is the same as what he’s doing,” she said.

Baton said she’s been a fan of Hillary Clinton’s for about 20 years but feels Clinton has “tried to spread her allegiances to far too many sources that became resources for her.” As a result, Baton said, “nothing means anything.”

Clinton has maintained a relatively consistent lead in recent polls. Michigan State University’s State of the State Survey, conducted Jan. 31 to March 3, finds that Sanders polled much better with young and white voters, while Clinton did better among non-white and older voters.

“What that means is a lot of the election will be a turnout story,” said Matt Grossman, director of MSU’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research, noting that turnout is typically much higher among older voters.

joosting@detroitnews.com

clivengood@detroitnews.com