© Josh Sager – March 2016
Before the Iowa caucus, Democrats and many Republicans mocked Donald Trump for his refusal to attend the Fox debate because it was moderated by Megyn Kelly. We rightly pointed out that his refusal was an act of cowardice that cheated the voters out of a chance to become fully informed as to their choices. Unfortunately, the Hillary campaign appears to be copying Trump in this regard, and has announced that Hillary may not attend future debates.
Clinton’s head strategist, Joel Benenson, announced on CNN yesterday that Bernie and his campaign need to change their “tone” if they want her to participate in a future debate. While he also declared that Hillary isn’t afraid of debates (it isn’t like polls have shown Bernie dominating virtually every debate in the past) he repeatedly brought the discussion back to Bernie’s “negative campaigning.”
Today, Hillary spokesperson Karen Finney said that future debates are simply “publicity stunts” which the Bernie campaign only wants because they are “struggling” and “desperate.”
Ironically, the best takedown of Hillary’s current position comes from Hillary Clinton of 2008, when she lambasted Obama for his refusal to attend the 27th debate of that primary (FYI: there have been only 8 debates so for in 2016):
“Honestly, I just believe that this is the most important job in the world, it’s the toughest job in the world, you should be willing to campaign for every vote, you should be willing to debate anytime, anywhere,”
If Hillary 2008’s succinct refutation of Hillary 2016’s position isn’t enough of an argument for you, you can search the Twitter hashtag #tonedownforwhat to see thousands of people mock Hillary for this situation. It creates really bad optics which she simply cannot afford in the general.
Put simply, Hillary 2016 should take a lesson from Hillary 2008 and drop her absurd objections to future debates. Hillary and her supporters need to learn that she is not entitled to the Democratic nomination, nor is this contest supposed to be a coronation. Sure, it is inconvenient to have to sell your position to the American people, but that is part of the job description.
The most charitable reading of this scenario for Hillary Clinton is that she has lost control over her campaign spokespeople and they are talking without authorization. If this isn’t the case, it looks like the Hillary campaign is either afraid of losing future debates, thus adding to Bernie’s momentum, or she simply doesn’t see informing the American public as important anymore—she has her lead and is hoping to continue gliding on it long enough to capture the nomination.
From a purely substantive perspective, the idea that Bernie is running some sort of nefarious and vicious campaign of slander is nonsensical. In fact, Bernie has been FAR too nice to Hillary for my liking and has often limited his criticism to generalities and oblique references (e.g. citing her connections to big money, but not directly calling it corruption). If Hillary is too scandalized to address Bernie’s campaign, then she is manifestly unprepared to run a debate against Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.
Much of the negativity that Hillary’s representatives have cited is actually just a simple recitation of her record—while many of these things can be interpreted as negative, it isn’t Bernie’s fault that these Hillary has made these choices. It is ridiculous to assert that he should simply ignore these negatives because mentioning them is impolite and might hurt her feelings so much that she does the political equivalent to taking her ball and going home.
The most common criticism that Bernie levies at Hillary is her financial entanglement to big moneyed interests. These entanglements are demonstrable, and not even the Hillary campaign denies that she has taken millions in “speaking fees” from big-banks, big-pharma, big-tech, and big-telecom. Additionally, her super-PACs have taken millions in donations from these very same industries, and plans on taking even more during the general election. Just this week, it came out that Hillary is planning a donor reception at the house of a CA venture capitalist, where the “baseline” ticket will cost $33,400 and the VIP ticket will cost $353,400.
If you want to see the full breakdown of her reliance on big industry money, you can go to her section on OpenSecrets.com, where they have compiled disclosure documents for her campaign.
If Hillary wanted to avoid these entanglements, she could have run a purely populist campaign, raised money purely from small donors, and refused to use super-PACs. Bernie has proven that running such a campaign is possible, albeit much harder. She has chosen not to follow this populist path and has, instead, decided to rely on big money to fuel her political machine.
As a final note, I would like to give credit to Tim Black, from Twitter, for making this devastating point:
Given that her 2008 campaign had internal memos (which here leaked) which plotted out a strategy of owning the “American” identity and portraying Obama as the “other,” she should be the last person who gets to accuse others of dirty campaigning…and yes, it was her campaign that released that photo and started the “Obama isn’t one of us” nonsense that the GOP threw into overdrive during the general election and Obama’s first term.