Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. —Samuel Johnson
In our time the same can be said of political correctness. Last week supporters of Hillary Clinton fired off the dread charge of sexism against the Sanders campaign after Comrade Bernie’s campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, cracked that they would consider Clinton for vice president on the Sanders ticket. As reported by Politico, Christine Quinn, who sits on Clinton’s New York Leadership Council and does fundraising for her campaign, Jess McIntosh, communications director for EMILY’s List, and EMILY’s List president Stephanie Schriock took umbrage.
Said Quinn, “Seriously? Seriously? The absurdity of that statement almost merits no response. How arrogant and sexist can you be? It’s not OK to let people with a long progressive record get away with being sexist.”
Schriock described the comments as “condescending insults by a team who knows better.”
It does not take the second coming of Woodward and Bernstein to dig up John Heileman’s first-person account of Weaver’s offense in Bloomberg Politics, of which Heileman is co-managing editor. The setting was a hotel near the Des Moines airport late one night after a Sanders speech in Iowa. Weaver and two other members of the Sanders brain trust were reflecting on what Clinton’s changes of position on various issues might say about her character. Heileman asked Weaver “if he thought that made her, as some longtime Clinton critics argue, a craven hypocrite and opportunist?”
“A craven hypocrite?” Weaver replied, grinning slyly. “That’s a little bit harsh, don’t you think?” Then he added, with a chuckle, “Look, she’d make a great vice president. We’re willing to give her more credit than Obama did. We’re willing to consider her for vice president. We’ll give her serious consideration. We’ll even interview her.”
Weaver’s remark is a lame, half-jesting, not particularly clever put-down of Clinton as a candidate. As Heileman explicitly notes, Sanders’s advisers are confident he can win the nomination. They think Clinton continues to be a weak candidate, her recent showings in the Democratic debate and before the House Benghazi charade notwithstanding. One can imagine Weaver uttering the exact same words about Joe Biden if he had decided to enter the fray.
Quinn, McIntosh, and Shriock do their cause a disservice by trivializing the issue with a charge that is at best a reach. The honorable course for Clinton would be to disavow the spurious attack on Sanders. I do not anticipate that will happen. It seems far more likely that Clinton and her supporters will continue to play the woman card and the “sexism” card to deflect legitimate questions and criticisms about her positions, her principles, and her candidacy. I write this with a measure of sympathy for Clinton, who throughout her career has been subject to outright lies, slurs, and calumnies that rank with what Barack Obama has endured. Even so, it ought not be too much to wish for better from her.
We give credit where credit is due. The right has conducted a world-class marketing campaign to sell the myth that the mainstream media has a liberal bias. Republicans are in high dudgeon over supposed meanness shown them by CNBC moderators at last week’s debate. Ezra Klein’s analysis of Republican cries of foul is on the mark:
Cruz’s attack on the moderators was smart politics — but it was almost precisely backwards. The questions in the CNBC debate, though relentlessly tough, were easily the most substantive of the debates so far. And the problem for Republicans is that substantive questions about their policy proposals end up sounding like hostile attacks — but that’s because the policy proposals are ridiculous, not because the questions are actually unfair.
Joshua Holland in The Nation makes the case that questions posed to the Democratic candidates during their debate on CNN were as tough and hard-edged as anything the Republicans got from CNBC. The Republican pose to the contrary is just that, a pose, political posturing, pandering to the biases of their own band of blockheads, nothing more.
John Heileman, The Sanders Brain Trust’s Plan to Beat Hillary Clinton, Bloomberg Politics, 28 October 2015.
Joshua Holland, Why Conservatives Are Decrying ‘Media Bias’ in the Presidential Debates, The Nation, 29 October 2015.
Annie Karnie, Clinton allies shout ‘sexism’ at Sanders, Politico, 30 October 2015.
Ezra Klein, Ted Cruz’s best moment of the Republican debate was also completely wrong, Vox, 28 October 2015.