Hillary Clinton took aim at Jeb Bush on Friday for positions that disproportionately affect minorities, slamming her fellow presidential contender shortly before he addressed the same National Urban League presidential forum.
“I don’t think you can credibly say that everyone has a right to rise, and say you’re phasing out Medicare or for repealing Obamacare,” Clinton said, using the name of Bush’s super PAC. “People can’t rise if they can’t afford healthcare, they can’t rise if the minimum wage is too low to live on, they can’t rise if their governor makes it harder for them to get a college education and you cannot seriously talk about the right to rise and support laws that deny the right to vote.”
Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, may not have called out Bush by name, but the attack could not be more obvious: The Republican candidate said last week that he wants to “phase out” Medicare, wants to replace Obamacare, and end the federal minimum wage. As Florida governor, he ended affirmative action enrollment in state universities and purged the voting rolls – an issue that Clinton has targeted before.
Her criticism comes amid national outrage over the deaths of black men and women in police custody. The five speeches of the presidential forum in Fort Lauderdale on Friday painted a stark contrast between the two parties. The three Democratic candidates (Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Bernie Sanders) each named black Americans who had died in police custody or at the hands of police and spoke passionately about the policy changes that could help alleviate inequality, while the two Republicans speaking spoke broadly about economic issues.
“Together, we’ve mourned Tamir Rice and Eric Garner, Walter Scott and Freddie Gray, and most recently, Sam Dubose. These names are emblazoned on our hearts. We’ve seen their faces, we’ve heard their grieving families. We’ve seen a massacre in Charleston, and black churches set on fire – today, in 2015,” Clinton said.
Sanders and O’Malley, who were both widely criticized for their handling of a Black Lives Matter protest in Phoenix earlier this month, spoke with carefully crafted rhetoric and talking points.
O’Malley offered up a detailed criminal justice reform plan that aimed to “make true to our promise of equal protection under the law,” while Sanders spoke more broadly about discrimination.
“My justice department will be vigorous in fighting all forms of discrimination, in every area of our life not only in police matters but in housing, in credit, in every area that impacts minority populations,” Sanders said. “We must reform our criminal justice system. Black lives do matter, and we must value black lives.”
The GOP’s only black candidate, Dr. Ben Carson, spoke first, speaking about his own experiences with racism, but argued that it was something that would never go away, adding that black Americans needed to behave well and rise above it.
“There was racism, no question about it, and there still is. There always will be. there was yesterday there is today, there will be tomorrow,” he said. “But what do you do about it?”
Bush addressed the crowd last, speaking at length about school choice and the importance of two-parent families, only briefly mentioning the distrust between minorities and police.
“Trust in our vital institutions is at historic lows. It is up to all of us to work diligently to rebuild that trust. That happens one person at a time. One politician at a time. One police officer at a time. One community leader at a time. It begins with respect, dialogue, and the courage to reach out in peace,” Bush said.