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Sanders to target Clinton on foreign policy during Saturday debate

New Hampshire Union Leader

December 15. 2015 9:40PM
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a Democratic presidential candidate, speaks to supporters during a stop at Portsmouth Book and Bar in Portsmouth on Tuesday. (REUTERS)

PORTSMOUTH — Bernie Sanders plans to challenge Hillary Clinton on foreign policy during the Democratic presidential debate Saturday in New Hampshire.

Sanders, in an interview Tuesday with the Union Leader, described the former Secretary of State as an advocate for regime change. He cited Libya and the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi, saying Islamic State terrorists thrived in the ensuing political vacuum.

“I think maybe there’ll be more focus on differences of opinion between Secretary Clinton and myself on foreign policy,” said Sanders, when asked about any different approach to the debate. “I think we look at the world a little bit differently in terms of foreign policy.”

The Democrats’ two-hour debate, sponsored by ABC News and the New Hampshire Union Leader, is Saturday from the campus of St. Anselm College. Sanders, Clinton, and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley take the stage at 8 p.m.

As he has on the campaign trail, Sanders brought up the 2002 vote to authorize military force in Iraq, after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

“I voted against the war in Iraq, helped lead the opposition to the war in Iraq,” Sanders said. “The war in Iraq will go down in history as one of the worst foreign policy blunders in modern history of America, which led to the destabilization of the region, and led to the creation of groups, a whole nation of groups, like ISIS. And I believe very strongly that we must not get involved in perpetual warfare in the Middle East. We must not get sucked into a quagmire in Syria, but as I mentioned, we have got to help lead the world and put together a coalition which destroys ISIS.”

Clinton, who voted in favor of the Iraq war as a U.S. senator from New York, has called her vote a mistake. The war resolution figured prominently in her 2008 race for the White House, with then Sen. Barack Obama raising it to rally their party’s anti-war base.

In the breakfast interview at the Sheraton Portsmouth Harborside Hotel, as Sanders ate eggs over-easy and prepared for a long day on the campaign trail, the Union Leader asked him about news reports that his campaign had engaged in negative ad attacks on Clinton. The Washington Post reported Saturday that the campaign discontinued a digital ad campaign that accused Clinton of being funded by “big money interests.”

Sanders replied that he has never run a negative ad in his political life, which stretches more than three decades. He said he cannot speak for any outside or unaffiliated groups, but his campaign is focused on issues and comparing and contrasting positions with Clinton.

“What is the sense of having an election if you’re not going to present your point of view in opposition to your opponent’s? What’s the sense of running, right? So obviously my points of view on many, many issues are very different than Secretary Clinton’s and I’m going to be very forceful about that,” he said. “That is different than running ugly 30-second ads, you know, disparaging … I don’t do that.”

Campaign finance reform is a major plank for Sanders, who says law that allows special interests to fund or control politics threatens to undermine democracy in the United States.

Sanders sounded upbeat at the start of his second day on the New Hampshire campaign trail. He reflected back that he was in low, single-digits in the polls when he announced his campaign, and had come a long way.

He said he does not like words “must win,” in terms of the first-in-the-nation presidential primary, but New Hampshire remains critical to his success. He said he has a good chance to win in Iowa and New Hampshire, which would help him overcome his big obstacle — the argument of electability.

“In more cases than not, we do better than Clinton does against Republicans,” Sanders said. “So the latest poll had us beating Trump, nationally, by 9 points. So if we win the nomination, I think we stand a very good chance of winning the general election.”

War Presidential Bernie Sanders Hillary Clinton

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