Politics & Policy

The Big Opening for Bernie

It is now obvious that Donald Trump has intimidated Hillary Clinton. She said he had a “penchant for sexism” (and people say she has no gift for political rhetoric!), and Trump responded — quite legitimately, in my view — by noting that Hillary’s husband, chief surrogate, and model for her own presidency was a sleazeball, and worse, towards women, and she protected him. Even many liberals had to concede that the Big Dawg was fair game.

And how did Hillary and Bill respond? By clamming up. The supposedly fearless Hillary who won’t be intimidated was fearful and intimidated. Even the crowd on Morning Joe agrees.

So where’s Bernie Sanders? If he were a more normal politician, this would be his moment to say — more in sorrow than in anger — how disappointed he is in Hillary Clinton. She backed down to a bully (whether or not you think Trump is a bully, the Democratic base certainly does). He should say something like (try to read it in his voice):

“I am saddened and disappointed that Mrs. Clinton has allowed herself to be intimidated by Donald Trump. I understand that she doesn’t want to talk about the inappropriate behavior of her husband. I wouldn’t either. This is old news and we’ve already wasted too much time on Clinton scandals. How much time did we waste on those damn emails? All because of bad choices made by Mrs. Clinton by the way. Regardless, this is just another example of how Mrs. Clinton’s political baggage, going back decades, prevents her from being an effective voice for our cause. If she can be so easily bullied into backing down from telling the truth about Donald Trump’s sexism, who else can she be intimidated by? I for one will not be bullied by Mr. Trump or anybody else. He. Is. A. Sexist.”

Or something like that. There are lots of advantages. First he gets this conversation back into the media at precisely the moment the Clintons don’t want it (after all they backed down precisely because it was stepping on Bill’s coverage as a surrogate in Iowa and New Hampshire). Second, he invites attacks from Trump, which helps Democrats in the primaries. Three, he just might shame Hillary into being more aggressive against Trump, which would result in Trump doubling down on the counter-attack. Four, Sanders never has to actually buy into Trump’s argument; he can agree with the base that it’s not fair game, even as he helps make it fair game. Five, he gets to steal some of her thunder as the feminist truth-teller. Six, it would all be damn entertaining.

Alas, I very much doubt Sanders will do anything of the sort because, well, he’s Bernie Sanders.

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