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“Agent Of (Message) Change”: Hillary Clinton Went After Bernie Sanders’ Strengths In New Hampshire

Would it be impolitic (this being a Democratic debate and all) to say that Hillary Clinton came out with guns blazing? She may be on course to a Granite State thrashing, but she showed up at the University of New Hampshire loaded for Bern.

She tempered a broad hug of Sanders’ liberalism (“We have a vigorous agreement here,” she said at one point when discussing financial reform) with the assertion that she is better positioned to advance that agenda.

Beyond that, go through the issues that have animated the Democratic race recently or are central to the Sanders case: Is he running a more inspiring campaign? Only because it’s a more fantastical one: “Let’s go down a path where we can actually tell people what we will do,” she said. “A progressive is someone who makes progress.” (That’s better phraseology, by the way, than the “progressive with results” formulation she had been using, which sounded like a rip-off of George W. Bush’s “reformer with results” message from 2000.)

And is she indeed a real progressive? She had a whole soliloquy prepared in answer: “I have heard Senator Sanders’ comments, and it’s really caused me to wonder who is left in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party,” Clinton said. “Under his definition, President Obama is not progressive because he took donations from Wall Street.” Ditto Joe Biden (Keystone XL) and the late Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota (Defense of Marriage Act). Then a pivot to Sanders’ progressive weak underbelly: “I don’t think it was particularly progressive to vote against the Brady [gun control] bill five times.”

Bonus points to moderator Chuck Todd for pressing Sanders on whether President Barack Obama is a progressive; the Vermonter’s answer seemed to be that Obama is progressive despite failing some litmus tests because he’s actually made progress. (Which is rather like the argument that Clinton is making.)

Is she in the establishment? Hell no – she’s a woman running for president which by definition means she’s not establishment. This answer was glib if, as Ezra Klein noted, nonsensical:

If Clinton is not part of the establishment than there is no such thing as the establishment. And there is such a thing as the establishment

— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) February 5, 2016

Is she part of the corporate-money-corruption problem that is central to Sanders’ political message? That’s a “very artful smear,” an “insinuation unworthy” of the Vermont progressive, she fumed.

Did she vote for the Iraq War while he voted against it? “We did differ,” she said. “A vote in 2002 is not a plan to defeat [the Islamic State group].”

Indeed foreign policy was easily Sanders’ weakest portion of the evening. A question about Afghanistan sent him on a verbal tour through Syria, Iraq, Jordan and the battle with the Islamic State group, prompting Todd to follow up: “Can you address a question on Afghanistan?”

Saying we need allies is not foreign policy. Example: We can’t get Sunni allies w/o taking on Iran. What does Sanders suggest?

— Walter Russell Mead (@wrmead) February 5, 2016

I hated the Iraq War as much as anyone, but “I made the right call on a vote 13 years ago” is really not a foreign policy vision for now.

— Paul Waldman (@paulwaldman1) February 5, 2016

If there’s one takeaway from this debate it is that Sanders is woefully unprepared, on foreign policy, to be president

— Michael Cohen (@speechboy71) February 5, 2016

For his part Sanders was standard-operating-Bernie. It’s a compelling message but it’s limited and he did little to address the arguments against it. Take the entirety of his agenda: How will he get something passed? “No, you just can’t negotiate with [Senate Republican Leader] Mitch McConnell,” Sanders said. “Mitch is gonna have to look out the window and see a whole lot of people saying, ‘Mitch, stop representing the billionaire class. Start listening to working families.'” The revolution will come and Mitch McConnell will cave.

Sanders believes a sufficiently large crowd outside McConnell’s window would make him support campaign finance reform. I do not.

— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) February 5, 2016

Chait’s right; Sanders is basing his would-be presidency on the kind of tea party thinking that informed Ted Cruz and the shutdown crew. And it won’t work any better for the left than it did the right.

 

By: Robert Schlesinger, Managing Editor for Opinion, U.S. News & World Report, February 5, 2016

February 8, 2016 - Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Foreign Policy, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Hillary will be the nominee.

    Like

    Comment by renxkyoko | February 8, 2016 | Reply


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