Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Denial Is Not Only A River In Egypt

Call it stupid or call it stubborn. But call it something beginning with "s" (or maybe "i"). Three Politico writers report

Every Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders supporter seems to have an opinion on their infamous Dec. 2018 meeting.

One side believes Warren's account that Sanders told her a woman couldn’t beat Donald Trump: “He totally said it! Women are watching, Bernie." The other is just as convinced she embellished or lied for political advantage: “We obviously know that it was complete BS."

Interviews with more than two dozen voters at events for Sanders and Warren last weekend made clear that the hard feelings between the two progressive icons have extended to their supporters. The situation has injected a volatile mix of gender politics and alleged sexism into the final weeks of the campaign, and added another layer of uncertainty to a primary where any number of outcomes remain possible.

The issue has lingered not because of the media- which did what it could to gin up the issue initially- but because of supporters of the Vermont senator, as Politico implies. 

And it has lingered because of Bernie Sanders, who could have said that Senator Warren misinterpreted his remarks. However, with hand caught in the cookie jar, he instead responded in a manner nearly assuring the controversy would continue.

Bernard made two arguments: 1) Hillary Clinton, a woman, got more votes than did Donald Trump; and 2) Having encouraged women for decades to run for public office, why would I possibly have told Warren that she wouldn't be elected because she is female?

Though Hillary Clinton did get more popular votes than did Donald Trump, she lost an election virtually everyone thought she would- and should have- won. And Sanders, with his history of supporting women's causes, no doubt recognized misogyny as a factor in the defeat. It is realistic to assume that Bernard would have told Warren that gender would be an obstacle to her election effort because of precisely that recognition- and thus believed that he would have a better shot at beating Trump.

The Politico reporters quote one male Sanders supporter, presumably approving of Bernard's support of women's rights, maintaining "I can't imagine him saying it."

But that's exactly why this guy should realize his candidate made the alleged statement, or something close to it. As someone who does realize that a woman might not be able to be elected President and clearly disapproves of this bias, Sanders would have been comfortable making this argument. By contrast, master misogynist Donald Trump has never said such a thing- and never would because his approval of this sad state of affairs would be obvious.

One Sanders surrogate, according to Politico, sarcastically remarked “When I lie on my good friend I always make sure it’s a year after the fact, and only once they’re hammering me in the polls." Of course, it could have been because the non-aggression pact between her candidate and Ms. Warren was broken only a few days earlier, and by the Sanders campaign.

In a Politico article published on January 14, we learned

The controversial talking points attacking Elizabeth Warren that Bernie Sanders' campaign deployed were given to teams in at least two early voting states on Friday, three Sanders campaign officials confirmed.

Volunteers and staffers used the script on Saturday while canvassing for votes, meaning the talking points were more official than what Sanders previously suggested after POLITICO reported on the language.

The campaign pulled back the script — which described Warren's appeal as limited to the highly educated and financially well off — later on Saturday after the story published. Sanders initially appeared to blame the controversy on rogue employees.

“We have hundreds of employees. Elizabeth Warren has hundreds of employees. And people sometimes say things that they shouldn’t,” Sanders said Sunday in Iowa. His press aides never denied the veracity of the document.

The script mostly focused on Sanders' ability to beat President Donald Trump in a general election. But one page included attacks on the electability of Warren, as well as Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg.

Sanders initially implied the talking points, criticizing his main rivals, were the product of individuals who "sometimes say things that they shouldn't." Later, the candidate largely confirmed that, well, they were going negative as directed.

On January 13, CNN was first to reveal a description of the controversial meeting "based on the accounts of four people: two people Warren spoke with directly soon after the encounter, and two people familiar with the meeting."

As the Sanders surrogate charged, the allegation did come a year later- but two days after the negative script was used by Sanders canvassers in two states. Moreover, it was after Sanders "who, me?" response and before his campaign admitted "yes, us." (Is that the real meaning of "not me. us?")

So maybe it wasn't stubbornness or stupidity but mere ignorance (case in point, below). (Or Sanders actually may believe he said it.) However, now that it is clear that Bernard Sanders wasn't honest about the meeting, nor in being called out for bending the truth, it's time for the candidate himself to admit to at least his supporters that mistakes are sometimes made.  He has nearly done so, having now stated that as a 78-year-old, "I think everybody has their own sets of problems." He should go all the way, which evidently will be the only way his supporters can admit the obvious.

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