The two Democrats who want to succeed President Barack Obama each insisted in their debate Thursday night they have much in common with the nation’s first black chief executive.
Those two white folks, it was noted far and wide, angle for the same bounty of black votes at stake in the upcoming South Carolina primary and other southerns states to follow shortly after.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
Hillary Clinton might seem to hold the inside lane on that count. After all, she was his first secretary of state. She seemed to invoke his name at every turn.
Bernie Sanders, the independent and newbie to Democratic politics, noted that she, not he, ran against Obama in 2008. (More fairly, wasn’t it Obama — then relatively new to the U.S. Senate and national politics — who ran against then-prohibitive favorite Clinton?)
Politifact, the Pulitizer-winning fact checker, looked at a few of the claims by the Democratic rivals and concluded what the two said leaned closer to fact than fiction. But in the clash over whether Bernie and Barack are bros or foes, they dinged Clinton’s claims as “half true.”
“Clinton said, ‘In the past, (Sanders) has called (Obama) weak. He’s called him a disappointment.’ For emphasis, she later repeated the charge that Sanders had used the words ‘weak’ and ‘disappointment.’ ” the website recited.
“Sanders has critiqued Obama and used those words to describe the feelings of Americans, or to describe Obama’s policies,” Politifact continued. “But Sanders did not specifically call Obama ‘weak’ and ‘a disappointment.’ ”
Technically wrong, she said Sanders wrote the forward to a book critical (from the left) of the Obama presidency. Actually, he wrote a blurb — one of those little nuggets that usually show up on the back of a dust cover as recommendations for buying such a book. So a paragraph, not a long passage.
Still, “Buyer’s Remorse: How Obama Let Progressives Down” by Bill Press is at best the work of a frenemy. David Axelrod, one of the chief strategists who got Obama elected and now makes a living as a pundit, suggested Sanders might own up to helping sell such a tome. “One assumes,” he tweeted, “you agree” with the author.
Much of the punditry class gave Clinton the style points for the strategic use of her time to hit points likely to resonate with voters in the upcoming primary states. Sanders, meantime, was relentlessly on his primary message that economic inequality was the heart of America’s problems. Whether asked about race, about women’s issues or even foreign policy questions, he returned to the plight of the 99 percent.
In her closing argument, Clinton went all rhetorical jujitsu on him by saying such single-mindedness doesn’t necessarily the multi-problem world of the Oval Office.
Yet at Fox News, Jessica Tarlov noted that Sanders gruff, sometimes mocking and snarky performance also chose his pronouns in a way that might give him an edge.
“It’s ‘we’ versus ‘I.’ …
“In a lot of ways, that’s all this election is about on the Democratic side.
“Bernie Sanders talks in ‘we’ all the time. … Hillary Clinton is running a campaign dominated by ‘I.’ …
“Voters want to be part of something — not just led by the most competent, experienced technocrat.”
If being mentioned on Twitter is positive, then Sanders got an edge.