Hillary Clinton’s searing put-down of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) could not have come at a more opportune time for Sanders’s opponents — especially Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who skewered Sanders last week for reportedly suggesting at a private dinner that a woman could not win the presidency. (Sanders denies that he said it, but he made matters worse during an interview on Sunday when in response to a question about whether being a woman was a handicap in politics, he said: “Look, look I think, the answer is ‘yes,’ but I think everybody has their own sets of problems.” Yikes.)

In a Hollywood Reporter interview in anticipation of a documentary about her, Clinton ripped her 2016 Democratic primary opponent:

In the [documentary], you’re brutally honest on Sanders: “He was in Congress for years. He had one senator support him. Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done. He was a career politician. It’s all just baloney and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it.” That assessment still hold?
Yes, it does.
If he gets the nomination, will you endorse and campaign for him?
I’m not going to go there yet. We’re still in a very vigorous primary season. I will say, however, that it’s not only him, it’s the culture around him. It’s his leadership team. It’s his prominent supporters. It’s his online Bernie Bros and their relentless attacks on lots of his competitors, particularly the women. ... I don’t think we want to go down that road again where you campaign by insult and attack and maybe you try to get some distance from it, but you either don’t know what your campaign and supporters are doing or you’re just giving them a wink and you want them to go after Kamala [Harris] or after Elizabeth [Warren]. I think that that’s a pattern that people should take into account when they make their decisions.
Speaking of, he allegedly told Sen. Elizabeth Warren in 2018 that he didn’t think a woman could win, a statement he vigorously denies. How did you digest that?
Well, number one, I think [that sentiment] is untrue, which we should all say loudly. I mean, I did get more votes both in the primary, by about 4 million, and in the general election, by about 3 million. I think that both the press and the public have to really hold everybody running accountable for what they say and what their campaign says and does.
The Hulu documentary series profiling former first lady and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton premiers March 6. (Hulu)

She also recalled that Sanders in 2016 claimed she was “unqualified” although she “had a lot more experience than he did, and got a lot more done than he had, but that was his attack on me.” She warned, “I just think people need to pay attention because we want, hopefully, to elect a president who’s going to try to bring us together, and not either turn a blind eye, or actually reward the kind of insulting, attacking, demeaning, degrading behavior that we’ve seen from this current administration.”

This comes on the heels of another flap in which Sanders publicly apologized to former vice president Joe Biden for his campaign sending around an op-ed accusing Biden of corruption — a rare moment of contrition for Sanders.

And in yet another blowup over Sanders’s honesty, his attempt to insinuate that Biden favored Social Security cuts (taking a sarcastic comment out of context) was rated false by pundits and fact-checkers. Paul Krugman of the New York Times blasted Sanders for this move: “The Sanders campaign has flat-out lied about things Biden said in 2018 about Social Security, and it has refused to admit the falsehood. This is bad; it is, indeed, almost Trumpian.”

It is not clear whether this will impact voters (or whether Warren’s emphasis on gender will hurt her with male voters). What is clear is that simmering anger among some centrist and progressive Democrats over what they see as Sanders’s two-faced approach to politics — holier-than-thou on his own good intentions while savaging opponents through mean-spirited surrogates — has boiled over. In 2020, that concern takes on greater meaning, going to the heart of the argument about electability, which at the very least requires the nominee to unite the party. (Animosity still runs deep in some Democratic circles over Sanders’s refusal to drop out of the 2016 primary long after it became obvious he could not win.)

The media has made much of the ideological divide in the Democratic Party. While it is true that Sanders, a self-described socialist — and to a certain extent Warren, a self-described capitalist who has inched away from Medicare-for-all — certainly stands to the left of candidates such as Biden, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg, difference is as much attitudinal and rhetorical as ideological.

Warren wants to “fight” while Buttigieg wants to “bring people together.” Sanders thinks capitalism is crooked and capitalists are crooks; Klobuchar wants to be the president not for half of America, but for all of America. To some extent, this contrast is the difference between leading a movement where getting things done and making deals are irrelevant (or even a sign of weakness!) and trying to govern in the messy world of real politics wherein the other party will never vanish and disagreements will divide even one’s own party.

If Sanders is feeling the heat now, it is only because his critics and competitors are sick of giving him a free pass to present himself as an honest, pure idealist while playing Trumpian politics. Put differently, two women — Warren and now Clinton — have had enough of his thinly disguised misogyny.

A diverse 2020 Democratic field is still crowded after a year of campaigning. Drew Goins sits down with columnist Karen Tumulty to make sense of it. (The Washington Post)

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