TIME FOR WARREN/SANDERS CEASEFIRE
1/16/2020 For Tribune
I know, it’s self-serving, but…We pay so much attention to Donald Trump’s tweets – I even wrote a column recently arguing why we had to take his tweets seriously – this week I want to elaborate on a tweet of my own, blasted out to the world after this week’s Democratic presidential debate: “Message to Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders: Stop calling each other a liar – and focus on the BIG LIAR in the White House!”
Of course, I was reacting to the ugly split between Warren and Sanders that started to bubble in the days before the January 14 debate, but exploded into the open seconds after the debate when Warren accused Sanders, and Sanders accused her, of lying about the other on national television. Fortunately, the sharp exchange did not take place during the debate, when the cameras were rolling. Unfortunately, it did occur on stage, when the back-up microphones were still rolling, so CNN engineers could recapture the audio.
The whole kerfuffle started when Politico reported that volunteers for the Sanders campaign had been provided with a script, advising them to spread the word that Warren appealed only to the elite among Democrats and was therefore unelectable. At first, neither campaign commented on the Politico story, choosing to stick to the non-aggression pact that both progressive candidates had unofficially adhered to from the beginning of the primary.
Then CNN dropped a bombshell, claiming that in a private dinner at Warren’s Washington home in December 2018, Sanders told Warren that a woman could not be elected president – which Sanders immediately denied. When that issue came up during the debate, as it inevitably would, both candidates again tried to defuse it, with Warren deftly pivoting to the best line of the evening. Of course, a woman could win, she countered: “Look at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have lost 10 elections. The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they’ve been in are the women.” And that’s where things would have remained, had not CNN’s mikes picked up the tense post-debate “liar, liar” exchange.
Did Bernie really say a woman can’t win? Who knows? Only the two of them were there. But it’s hard to believe any progressive would believe that, let alone utter it. Does a woman face tougher electoral challenges than a man? Yes. But is it impossible for her to win? No. That’s simply not true. There are 26 women in the Senate today; 102, in the House. And let’s remember: Hillary Clinton did, in fact, win the last presidential election.
It’s also most un-Bernie. Thirty years ago, he told C-Span: “The real issue is not whether you’re white or black, whether you’re a woman or man. In my view, a woman could be elected President of the United States. The real issue is: Whose side are you on?” Which mirrors my own conversation with the Senator.
In March 2014, when I first asked Sanders about rumors he was considering running for president, he said his primary goal was to make sure that progressive issues like Medicare for All and raising the minimum wage were discussed in the 2016 Democratic primary. He couldn’t count on Hillary Clinton to raise those issues, so somebody else had to. He’d talked to Elizabeth Warren about running, he told me. He wasn’t sure she would, but if she didn’t, he might. By which, although he did not tell me this directly, I clearly understood him to mean that if Warren had run, Sanders would have supported her.
But, whatever the facts of the case, let’s cut right to the chase: This spat is not good. It’s not good for Warren. It’s not good for Sanders. It’s not good for the progressive movement. It’s not good for the Democratic Party. It’s not good, period.
It only helps Donald Trump when Democrats start eating each other alive. In the goal of saving the republic by sending Trump back to Mar-A-Lago permanently, it’s important that the two leading progressives pledge an immediate cease-fire.
Again, back to my Warren/Sanders tweet. According to Glenn Kessler, fact checker for the Washington Post, as of December 10, 2019, Donald Trump had told 15,413 lies as president – racking up 32 lies a day in the last few months. By now, add another 1000 to that total. So, yes, there is a big liar in the presidential campaign of 2020. But it’s not Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders. It’s Donald Trump.