If Bernie Sanders‘ intention is to ratchet down the nasty turn the Democratic primary campaign has taken, he’s got a funny way of showing it. While expressing a desire to move past his attack on Hillary Clinton as “not qualified to be president,” his campaign manager is going around blaming Hillary for ISIS, and his wife is hitting the airwaves to spread falsehoods about her. On Thursday night’s The Rachel Maddow Show, potential First Lady Jane Sanders was asked about the feud, and continued to insist that Hillary started it, and even insisted that Bernie didn’t actually call Hillary unqualified:
Everybody keeps starting with what happened last night. Since Wisconsin, it was very clear, and it was spoken very clearly that the strategy of the Clinton campaign was to disqualify, defeat and worry about uniting the party later. We heard that. We didn’t think much of it. But if you watch MSNBC or other cable networks all you saw every half hour was that action implemented by the surrogates. Secretary Clinton, herself, said a number of things that, maybe not the words unqualified, but the intent. That’s why reporters reported it that way, because they heard it that way. What Bernie tried to do last night was to shift to unqualified, how? Unqualified in the issues. That if you’re going to talk about somebody not being qualified, then let’s talk about why. What he did was say that if I was going to say that she’s unqualified, it’s because of her support for trade deals that have been terrible for our country. It’s because she supported and didn’t have the judgment for the Iraq war or Libya. he tried to switch it into a different venue. Let’s talk about the issues, that’s what Bernie always does. Maybe he shouldn’t have repeated the words that the press used. I think you’re reading too much in it and he doesn’t think she’s unqualified. He’s said over and over again.
None of that, of course, is true. No one from the Clinton campaign has ever been quoted as saying Bernie is not qualified, the strategy she says was “spoken very clearly” was spoken by CNN. On Wednesday night, Bernie didn’t say “if I was going to say she’s unqualified,” he said she is unqualified, over and over, and Bernie didn’t say he heard reporters report some implied theme, he said Hillary Clinton said he was “quote-unquote not qualified to be president.”
Host Rachel Maddow very gingerly pointed out that nobody ever said Bernie is unqualified, and Mrs. Sanders made the devastating point that her husband’s political opponent also didn’t affirmatively praise his qualifications, then pivoted to issues:
Maddow: The strategy has been characterized that way, but nobody’s ever said — like Secretary Clinton, the reason — I don’t mean to get too granular and specific about it, but I am struck by the fact that she was asked over and over again, is he not qualified, is he not qualified, and she wouldn’t say, no, he’s not qualified. She was asked three times.
Sanders: She also didn’t say he is. If you look up in the definition of what unqualified is and read a lot of things that she and her surrogates were saying —
Maddow: You think that was the implication.
Sanders: That was why the reporters saw it as the implication. We certainly saw it as the implication, and we know it’s their strategy now. I think they should all go back to the issues and deal with that and Bernie — Bernie has moved on. He has said let’s not use the word unqualified. Let’s used the word contrast. Why do I think I’m better than her on trade, on Keystone pipeline, your story just now, I mean he was very much opposed to it and Secretary Clinton was for it.
Hillary Clinton did take heavy criticism for waiting so long to make her position on the Keystone XL pipeline, which she explained had to do with wishing not to be perceived as interfering with the State Department’s deliberations, but when she finally did, in September, she came out against it.
This is one of the pitfalls of having a political spouse get too deeply involved in the substance of campaigning, because you risk undermining whatever personal appeal they may have by dirtying their hands with spin, misinformation, and outright lies.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.