The big discussion in the Democratic presidential primary today is about Bernie Sanders’ remarks last night that Hillary Clinton is not qualified to be president. As this thing gets spun by the candidates, pundits, campaign staffers and surrogates, it has the potential to lose touch with what has/hasn’t actually been said. So let’s ground ourselves in the facts.
It all started with Clinton’s appearance on Morning Joe yesterday. Here is the entire segment. Her response to the Sanders interview with NYDN goes from about 1:20 to 3:40.
Notice that at least three times, Scarborough directly asked Clinton whether or not Sanders is “qualified” to be president. But she consistently refused to answer the question on those grounds. That interview led to articles like this one in the Washington Post: Clinton questions whether Sanders is qualified to be president.
Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton on Wednesday questioned whether her rival in the Democratic presidential primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), is qualified to be president.
Perhaps responding to media reports rather than what Clinton actually said, here is Sanders at a rally last night:
Sanders use of “quote/unquote” certainly failed to capture what Clinton actually said.
Of course, this kind of exchange is nothing new in American politics. It is very common for candidates and campaigns to spin their opponents in the worst possible light in order to score political points. But it is also incumbent on all of us to weed through the exaggerations and base our conclusions on the facts. That’s why I think that watching these two videos of the candidates themselves is important.
Beyond that, there are some substantial issues that the candidates are raising about each other that need to be addressed beyond barbs about the word “qualified.” The NYDN interview raised some troubling questions about how well Sanders has thought through a lot of the issues he would face as president. And he has certainly made a point of questioning the role that money has played in Clinton’s position on the issues.
In the end, a challenge to Clinton’s qualifications to be president is perhaps more damaging to Sanders’ credibility than it is to hers. So perhaps he would do well to address the problem posed by his own interview rather than simply launch a rather Rovian attack on her.