Sanders endorsed by former Michigan senator who blasts Clinton

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Former Sen. Don Riegle of Michigan endorses Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday. (Photo: Caitlin Dickson/Yahoo News)

FLINT, Mich. — Former Michigan Sen. Don Riegle endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders and delivered a blistering broadside against Bill Clinton’s presidency and Hillary Clinton’s record ahead of the Democratic debate in Flint on Sunday evening.

Riegle, a member of the Keating Five who left the Senate in 1995 after getting caught up in the savings-and-loan scandal along with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., took aim at the former secretary of state and blamed her for decisions made by President Bill Clinton during his two terms in office.

“We have to do a necessary accounting of hurtful decisions of the Clinton administration between 1992 and 2000, key decisions made back then that badly damaged our country,” he said.

The collapse of state and local economies in the now impoverished Flint, Riegle argued, is a direct result of Clinton-era policies like the “irresponsible Wall Street deregulation” resulting from the repeal of the Glass-Steagall law, and the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, which Riegle proudly reminded reporters he and Sanders both opposed, despite heavy pressure from the Clinton administration.

“The Clintons rammed NAFTA down the throats of the American people with false promises,” said Riegle, who hails from Flint. “This can’t go on, unless you want to see a lot more communities look like Flint looks today.”

Not only do “the Clintons, as a team, need to be held accountable” for these decisions, Riegle argued, but also then-Sen. Hillary Clinton’s vote in favor of the Iraq War in 2002 “needs to be mentioned, and it needs to be understood.”

“I think the fateful Bush-Cheney Iraq war vote in 2002 was the epic test of the judgment, character and courage of the members of Congress serving at that time,” he said. “Bernie Sanders had the good judgment and the independence and the strength to go against the Iraq War.”

For Flint residents in particular, who have been lied to by their government about the safety of their water for nearly two years, perhaps the most resonant part of Riegle’s endorsement was his description of Sanders as “honest and trustworthy.”

“Bernie has proven over the decades that his integrity and trustworthiness are rock-solid,” he said.

“Flint, Mich., is really the epicenter right now of the breakdown of our proper system of local self-government,” Riegle said of the contaminated-water crisis that has brought the Democratic presidential candidates to this once-booming auto town. “We go all around the world to fix other people’s problems. We often forget about the problems that are right here in our own backyard.”

Sanders, he argued, has “the wisdom and courage to say that our political system is broken and needs to be fixed.”

With two days left before Michigan’s presidential primary election, polls show Clinton with a solid lead.

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