While I’m sure many of his supporters will disagree, I think Bernie Sanders might have just crossed a line from which he can’t return. Now I get that this far into a primary election, everyone is sick of everyone. The candidates are tired, grumpy, testy and their patience is sometimes pretty thin. So, while it was a nice idea for Sanders to say he was going to run an “issue-focused” campaign, I always knew that at some point this race was going to turn negative.
And it has.
The main focus of Sanders’ campaign over the last several weeks has been an all-out character attack against Hillary Clinton. Which is fine – it’s politics. She’s taken her shots at him, too. But let’s at least stop pretending that he’s not running a negative campaign as he and many of his supporters continue to deny he’s doing.
Well, on Wednesday when he said that Hillary Clinton wasn’t qualified to be president, even many pro-Sanders people said he went too far.
“I don’t believe that she is qualified if she is, if she is, through her super PAC, taking tens of millions of dollars in special interest funds,” he said. “I don’t think you are qualified if you get $15 million from Wall Street through your super PAC.”
This was in response to Sanders claiming that Clinton said he wasn’t qualified to be president.
Except, she never said that.
Now she has implied that he’s not ready on “Day 1” to be Commander-in-Chief. She even cited a recent interview with the New York Daily News where Sanders’ answers to a lot of very policy-specific questions were rather disastrous. I think that’s a fair critique. When you’re a candidate who’s running on “breaking up the big banks,” then you basically say you’re not sure how you would do it or what ramifications it could have – that’s not a good response to something that’s been one of the pillars of your campaign. In fact, in that interview, he didn’t really seem to even know what’s in Dodd-Frank.
When Clinton was pressed by MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough on whether or not Sanders was qualified to be president, her response was that she was going to “leave it to voters to decide who of us can do the job the country needs.” Even though Scarborough tried numerous times to get her to say Sanders wasn’t qualified – she didn’t do it.
But let’s look at this a little deeper, shall we? Going beyond his reference to Clinton, using Sanders’ exact words and logic, he apparently doesn’t believe Barack Obama is qualified to be president, either.
Not only was President Obama supported by super PACs that raised a lot of money – he received over $15 million dollars from Wall Street. In fact, in 2008, then Senator Barack Obama set a new record for Wall Street donations at $17.3 million.
So, if Clinton’s Wall Street donations disqualify her from being president, then Sanders must feel the same way about our current president.
Not only did he cite her Wall Street donations, but he also said someone isn’t qualified to be president if they supported the Panama free trade agreement – something that was signed by President Obama while Clinton was Secretary of State. While it’s true she did support the agreement, that’s something President Obama put his name to as Commander-in-Chief.
I don’t care what you think about Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, but in my opinion, President Obama has been fantastic for this country. While he’s been far from flawless, I think history is going to look back upon him as one of our nation’s best presidents. So, as a President Obama supporter, I do find it rather offensive for Sanders to basically say that someone whom I think has been a damn good president – a president who signed Dodd-Frank despite taking in a record amount of money from Wall Street – isn’t “qualified” because he doesn’t meet Sanders’ “purity standards.”
While I’m sure his most devout followers won’t care about his comments, I do think he’s going to deal with quite a lot of blowback over saying this.
It’s one thing to try to attack your opponent – that’s normal politics. It’s quite another when, in your attempt to attack that opponent, the words you used to levy that attack are so carelessly thrown out there that you basically end up saying President Obama isn’t qualified either.
Words like these often have consequences. I guess we’ll see if this rather bold (and fairly careless) statement comes back to haunt the Sanders campaign heading into a crucial stretch of the 2016 primary.
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