Hot Air

Report: Warren accused Bernie after the debate of mischaracterizing their chat about women candidates and Trump; Update: “I think you called me a liar on national TV”

It’s fun watching this otherwise straightforward he said/she said play out knowing that lefty opinion about it would be completely upended if Warren were a bit to Bernie’s left on policy instead of vice versa. Personal credibility has nothing to do with it. If she were executing this late hit on Sanders in the name of advancing the socialist cause instead of retarding it, Bernie would be getting ripped apart as an old sexist who talks a good game about progress in front of the cameras and then reverts to being a man of his generation once they’re turned off.

I think Warren’s telling the truth about what he said. I also think his opinion that a woman can’t beat Trump is defensible, although I don’t share it. It will very likely be harder for a woman to beat Trump given the appeal his “tough guy” alpha-male persona holds for some voters and his inevitable willingness to attack a woman opponent as soft or whatever. I also also think, like I said earlier, that it was a terrible idea for her to leak this since it’s more apt to alienate hardcore Bernie fans long-term than it is to earn her new votes in the primaries short-term.

But. I also also also think it’s mainly an online controversy, as so many political controversies are nowadays. No one outside the Twitter/chatterati bubble really cares. In fact, I continue to believe Warren’s chances are being undervalued despite her fade in the polls because she’s a solid goldilocks option for Dem voters who recognize that Biden, Bernie, and Buttigieg each have major flaws. If you want bold liberal policy, as Dem primary voters tend to do, but you’re also anxious about the party being viewed as “extreme,” as voters of all stripes tend to be, then you’ve got Warren. My guess is a lot of undecideds are going to come to that conclusion in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Unless I’m wrong about this “sexism” thing being mostly a Twitter phenomenon, in which case hoo boy. New from the NYT:

It was the most tense moment at Tuesday night’s Democratic debate: Just after the event ended, Senator Elizabeth Warren walked over to Senator Bernie Sanders, with whom she had clashed onstage that evening, and refused to shake his outstretched hand. After a short exchange of words, he threw up his hands and then turned away from her.

People familiar with the exchange said Ms. Warren walked over and told Mr. Sanders that she was concerned that, during the debate, he had mischaracterized a conversation they had in 2018 about whether a woman could win the presidency. She has accused him of saying that a woman could not; he has denied that remark.

Appearing frustrated, Mr. Sanders asked to discuss the matter at a different time, said the people, who insisted on anonymity to discuss a sensitive, private conversation. He pointed his finger toward her, then back at himself, before turning and walking away.

What if Bernie’s the liar, not Warren?

It should be noted that she was given the chance onstage during the debate to accuse him of lying about their conversation and didn’t do so — although I suppose she didn’t need to since CNN did it for her. Besides, the whole point of leaking the details of their conversation in late 2018 to CNN to begin with was to try to spare Warren from having to raise the subject publicly herself. Leaking it put the story into the media’s bloodstream, circulating it among voters and giving the moderators a pretext to bring it up. Then Warren could behave tactfully when asked about it, declining to accuse Bernie of lying herself (even though she did so in a statement on Monday night) and showing lefties that she’s interested in healing and unity or whatever.

But it was too clever by half:

I’m guessing this new Times story won’t soothe the irritation of Berniebros either since it’s probably also a leak from Warren. There were only two people “familiar with the exchange” (Tom Steyer insists he didn’t overhear it) and Bernie and his team have no reason to tell the media that he’s been accused again of lying about what he said. This smells like a Team Warren hangout designed to bolster her account of what he told her in 2018 about women candidates not being able to beat Trump. And it would fit her M.O. of wanting voters to question Bernie’s progressive vision for women in politics (and his honesty) without the messiness of her having to ask that question herself in front of a mic.

The irony is that the attack that started all of this, the claim by Bernie’s volunteers that Warren isn’t as electable as Sanders is, has some merit to it:

A different poll today out of Michigan has Sanders leading Trump by five and Warren leading him by just three. There was also that NYT poll of battleground states in November showing Trump trailing Biden narrowly in all but one and leading Warren in all but one. Too bad Amy Klobuchar isn’t also part of the top tier since then we’d have lots of polling on a hypothetical Trump/Klobuchar match-up and could answer the question first broached in that fateful conversation between Warren and Bernie 13 months ago: Do women candidates have special difficulty beating Trump or is it just Liz?

Here’s a gloomy Van Jones assessing the state of play after last night’s debate. Elsewhere today the Times reports that Team Trump is preoccupied with two Democratic candidates nowadays. One is Bernie, the lone Democrat who might be able to one-up him on populism. The other is … not Elizabeth Warren. Or Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg, for that matter.

Update: Hoo boy. CNN found the audio of the exchange between Sanders and Warren after the debate.

This is gonna get worse for lefties before it gets better. Excellent.

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