The sleazy Billary Clinton was only too happy to believe (mistakenly) that Bernie Sanders was dismissing her e-mail scandal altogether — he wasn’t; he was only trying to put it into universal perspective — and Sanders, immersed in the shallow, rapid-fire, infotaining, sound-bite-frenzied environment, apparently was unable to prevent his intent from immediately being twisted into something that it never was. It was, however, his first live-televised debate on the national stage, and she’s a veteran slime-weasel.
The American people’s attention deficit disorder is worse than I’d thought. The buzz after last night’s Democratic Party presidential debate is that Bernie Sanders was defending Billary Clinton in E-mailgate. He wasn’t. Clearly.
It’s that CNN and the rest of the establishment weasels are so quick to bow down before Queen Billary that Sanders’ rather obvious actual point got lost. Immediately. This is the transcript of the exchange (from the Washington Post’s full transcript of the debate):
CLINTON: … But tonight, I want to talk not about my e-mails, but about what the American people want from the next president of the United States.
COOPER: Senator Sanders?
SANDERS: Let me say this.
Let me say — let me say something that may not be great politics. But I think the secretary is right, and that is that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails.
CLINTON: Thank you. Me, too. Me, too.
SANDERS: You know? The middle class — Anderson, and let me say something about the media, as well. I go around the country, [I] talk to a whole lot of people. [The] middle class in this country is collapsing. We have 27 million people living in poverty. We have massive wealth and income inequality. Our trade policies have cost us millions of decent jobs. The American people want to know whether we’re going to have a democracy or an oligarchy as a result of Citizens United. Enough of the e-mails. Let’s talk about the real issues facing America.
Why were Sanders’ words interpreted as a save for Billary Clinton? For a few reasons. One, given her prematurely enthusiastic response, obviously she welcomed such a “save”; when Billary immediately but incorrectly interpreted Bernie’s words as a more or less full pardon for E-mailgate from her strongest rival, she was downright giddy.
Pretty much every time that a fair criticism of her was brought up in the debate, Billary uttered some attempted deflection like, “But tonight, I want to talk not about my e-mails, but about what the American people want from the next president of the United States.” (Something that this American person wants in the next POTUS is that he or she does not run a home-brewed e-mail server from his or her home basement. Um, yeah.)
Other such deflections by Billary from one of her other top flaws — that she voted for the unelected Bush regime’s Vietraq War in 2002 — were that she’d already covered this topic in the 2008 primary debates and that Barack Obama had chosen her as his secretary of state, so how poor could her judgment be? (Um, she was chosen as SOS primarily for political reasons, I’m confident. I mean, I’ve had a problem with Obama’s past apparent comparisons of himself to Abraham Lincoln, but Lincoln did apparently believe in keeping his enemies/frenemies close.)
So Billary needed and wanted a save from E-mailgate, and when Bernie prefaced his point with “let me say something that may not be great politics,” the desperate Billary, as did pretty much the entire punditry and the rest of the nation, took it as Bernie throwing her a life preserver.
Bernie then said, turning to Billary, “I think the secretary is right, and that is that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails.”
I’m pretty sure that Billary orgasmed at that moment, and that moment immediately was interpreted, quite incorrectly, as Bernie having dismissed E-mailgate altogether. But that fairly obviously not only was not what he actually said, but was not his point, because he then immediately followed that with:
You know? The middle class — Anderson [Cooper, the moderator], and let me say something about the media, as well. I go around the country, [I] talk to a whole lot of people. [The] middle class in this country is collapsing. We have 27 million people living in poverty. We have massive wealth and income inequality. Our trade policies have cost us millions of decent jobs. The American people want to know whether we’re going to have a democracy or an oligarchy as a result of Citizens United. Enough of the e-mails. Let’s talk about the real issues facing America.
But Americans don’t want to talk about the real issues. The real issues are boring. They require research. And thought. And once we’re fully aware of a big problem, we then have the moral obligation to try to solve it. And that’s work. And work is hard. And usually not fun.
Bernie wasn’t saying that E-mailgate is not a problem whatsoever. He was putting it into perspective: “[The] middle class in this country is collapsing. We have 27 million people living in poverty. We have massive wealth and income inequality. Our trade policies have cost us millions of decent jobs. The American people want to know whether we’re going to have a democracy or an oligarchy as a result of Citizens United. Enough of the e-mails. Let’s talk about the real issues facing America.”
After the debate, Bernie was interviewed live by CNN at the locale of the debate and he stated that his one (or largest, anyway) regret about the debate is that the topic of income inequality didn’t get enough play.
Bernie apparently is just sick and tired that relatively minor issues like Billary’s e-mail habits are discussed instead of much bigger problems, such as climate change and the income inequality that has only grown since the Reagan years.
However, because Americans, including, of course, the punditry class (who personally benefit from continued income inequality), don’t want to talk about these huge problems, the narrative became that Bernie saved Billary from her e-mail scandal. Even my fellow leftist Ted Rall, with whom I usually agree, wrote of last night’s debate:
… It’s fun to watch rivals making nice. Party unity is swell. Who knows, maybe Bernie really does think Emailgate is no big deal. But I think it was a mistake.
First and foremost, the investigation has just begun. It isn’t wise to defend someone before all the facts are in, especially when that person’s resume is punctuated by multiple scandals.
Also, I take offense at the argument that, because the American people don’t care about an issue, that it ought not to be discussed (assuming that it is true that voters are tiring of the coverage, which may or may not be the case). Americans don’t care much about drones, the NSA, or turning Libya into a failed state (which Hillary helped do), or Guantánamo. Should we ignore those issues? Leadership is in large part about pointing to a problem and convincing people why they should care and what we should do to fix it.
For me, and I suspect many other non-Republicans, Emailgate points to a problem with Hillary Clinton’s ability to make judgment calls. She knew, in 2009 when she began as secretary of state, that she would soon run for president. Given that the GOP always targets her, it’s crazy that she didn’t play everything by the book. Examined along with her vote in favor of invading Iraq — another bad political decision since it was obvious to everyone intelligent that the war would go badly for the U.S. — it raises serious questions about Clinton’s fitness for the presidency and, as such, should not have prompted a full-throated defense from her chief rival.
Again, Bernie never stated that “E-mailgate is no big deal.” He only tried to put it into perspective — a bit inartfully. He had started to talk about the media, and had he fleshed that thought out, he’d have pointed out that the media love to report on juicy scandals, such as home-brewed e-mail servers, especially when they involve someone like perpetual scandal magnet Queen Billary Clinton, and that reportage on this partisan bickering (such as with E-mailgate and “Benghazigate”) eclipses our much larger problems, such as climate change and income inequality, both of which continue to worsen even as I type this sentence.
I agree wholeheartedly with Rall that “Emailgate points to a problem with Hillary Clinton’s ability to make judgment calls” and that “Examined along with her vote in favor of invading Iraq — another bad political decision since it was obvious to everyone intelligent that the war would go badly for the U.S. — it raises serious questions about Clinton’s fitness for the presidency.”
But for Rall to characterize Sanders’ words as “a full-throated defense” of Billary’s e-mail habits contradicts the words that Bernie actually spoke.
It’s that at a forum that was very deferential to Queen Billary (as Jim Webb complained, she was allowed to speak far more than was anyone else), a forum sponsored by the Clinton-friendly CNN before a largely Clinton-friendly live audience, and in a fast-moving, fairly shallow discussion meant much more to evoke more sound bites for an insatiably starving, zombified corporately owned and controlled mass media than to evoke anything remotely resembling actual thought, Bernie’s intent immediately got lost in the shuffle and then conveniently was corporately repackaged into something that it apparently never was intended to be: “a full-throated defense” of Billary against E-mailgate.
Rall notes that Sanders “clearly was off balance,” and it’s true that Sanders didn’t bring up everything that he could and should have in the debate, as Rall notes in his thoughtful-as-usual commentary. If I had helped Bernie prep for the debate, for instance, in response to Billary’s predictable criticism of him not being good enough on gun control, I’d have encouraged him to point out that his home state of Vermont, which he has represented in Congress since the early 1990s, has fewer gun murders per capita than does any other state except New Hampshire. (Vermont has 1.1 gun murders per 100,000 residents. New Hampshire has 1 per 100,000 residents.)
So when Bernie asserted during the debate last night that gun control is more of an issue for urban areas than for largely rural areas like Vermont, he was correct. Billary was, in her criticism of him, quite wrong, as she so often is on topics that matter.
I’d say that Bernie was a little off balance last night. He made no huge, Prick-Perry-level debate blunder, but he did make a few minor stumbles. But, um, it was his very first nationally televised debate. Billary Clinton is a highly polished liar. She’s been lying, minimizing, deflecting, flip-flopping, triangulating (like her hubby), blaming others, playing the feminism card, playing the victim card, etc., etc., on the national stage at least since the early 1990s. She’s a mega-ultra-slimebag/weasel, whereas Bernie Sanders is a bit of a wonky nerd.*
And Bernie can try to save us from ourselves, but in the end, we have to want to save ourselves.
That Bernie’s admonishment that we pay so much attention to things such as E-mailgate at the expense of larger issues such as “massive wealth and income inequality” and “whether we’re going to have a democracy or an oligarchy as a result of Citizens United” fell flat because we’d much rather talk about how “Bernie saved Billary last night at the debate” isn’t Bernie’s fault. It’s ours.**
P.S. In the end, although Bernie prefaced his remarks by saying that they “may not be great politics,” I don’t think that it hurt Bernie, politically, to demonstrate that he wasn’t going to pile upon Billary, which is what I believe he meant to say that so many believe is “great politics.”
Not only could Bernie use a chunk of Billary’s supporters to switch to his team — which he won’t accomplish by alienating them too much — but Martin O’Malley and Lincoln Chafee (and, to a lesser extent, Jim Webb) did plenty of piling upon Billary, which was wholly deserved, but which also made them look desperate because they’re losing (because they are — look at their polling) and which made them look like typical — not visionary — politicians.
I have questioned Bernie’s tactic of remaining above typically dirty politics, but it has gotten him this far, and he never was supposed to have gotten this far.
*I agree with Sanders wholeheartedly that the United States can match the level of socioeconomic success that some European nations have, and that it’s only a capitalism that has eaten itself that has prevented the U.S. from matching those nations’ success, but Team Bernie perhaps does need to think about how it comes off for him to so often rattle off such phrases as “countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway,” as he did last night.
Both moderator Anderson Cooper and Billary Clinton (like snarky junior-high-school students) quickly criticized Sanders’ mention of Denmark — as Stephen Colbert did during a chat with Sanders not long ago (Colbert was much funnier when he did it, but I still found his joke to be a bit disappointing, coming from him) — and while Sanders is correct on this issue, in politics (if you want to win elections) you sometimes have to bow to political realities, such as that Americans are xenophobic and jingoistic and anti-intellectual, and so they don’t want to hear about Denmark…
If Sanders insists on continuing to bring up Denmark — and I suspect that he does and that he will — that won’t sway me away from him one iota, but again, for the most part he’s not dealing with his intellectual equals, and that’s the political reality that he needs to work with.
**We can blame the media only so much. After all, not only do we allow the corporately owned and controlled media weasels to do as they please, but we don’t even fight the problem of corporately owned and controlled media having a monopoly on so-called “free” speech.