The PJ Tatler

'Nice Guy' Sanders Savages Hillary Clinton at Des Moines Dinner

The American people continue to tell pollsters that they want a candidate to talk issues and substance rather than attack opponents.

This is a load of crap. Americans may “want” that kind of campaign, but the kind of contest they respond to is the slash-and-burn, take-no-prisoners approach of candidates like Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton’s recent rise in the polls has Senator Bernie Sanders playing catch-up. And many politicians believe that the best way to do that is not so much elevate your own numbers, but drag your opponents’ ratings down.

Sanders appears to have opened a new chapter in his campaign that employs a modified strategy of attacking Hillary Clinton’s record, and by extension, Clinton herself.

Politico:

Clinton, fresh off her steady, disciplined performance before the House Benghazi committee, doesn’t tend to shine in big set-piece, theater-in-the-round speeches, and Saturday was no exception. Compared with the passionate populist broadsides delivered by Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Clinton was more measured — except for the moments when she spoke about the struggles of Iowans she’s met while campaigning or her role as a gender pioneer.

“It is not now, nor has it ever been, the gold standard of trade agreements,” Sanders said. And he reached back to Clinton’s 2002 vote to support the war in Iraq, an issue that plagued her eight years ago when she took the stage here. “When I came to that fork in the road I took the right road, even though it was not the popular road at the time,” he said.

Clinton, fresh off her steady, disciplined performance before the House Benghazi committee, doesn’t tend to shine in big set-piece, theater-in-the-round speeches, and Saturday was no exception. Compared with the passionate populist broadsides delivered by Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Clinton was more measured — except for the moments when she spoke about the struggles of Iowans she’s met while campaigning or her role as a gender pioneer.

“Sometimes when a woman speaks out people think it’s shouting,” she intoned — a reference to Sanders’ accusation that she was “shouting” about gun control during the debate.

But the most pointed remarks were aimed by a plateauing Sanders at an ascendant Clinton. Nor was she the only Clinton he targeted. As Bill Clinton raises his profile, Sanders is increasingly criticizing him for his trade policy and social issues stances from the 1990s. Target No. 1 Saturday night: Clinton’s support of the anti-gay marriage Defense of Marriage Act. “In 1996, I faced another fork in the road — another very difficult political decision,” Sanders intoned. “It was called the Defense of Marriage Act, brought forth by a Republican-led Congress. Its purpose was to write discrimination against gays and lesbians into law.

“Let us remember, that support for gay rights back in 1996 was not what it is today,” he added — a pointed reminder of the Clintons’ recent-vintage support of gay marriage.

He presented himself as the stalwart contrast. “I did not support it yesterday,” he said of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. “I do not support it today. And I will not support it tomorrow.”

Hillary is extremely vulnerable to this kind of attack, because it reflects so much truth about her character and political personae. The overriding principle that governs her behavior is political expediency and a dependence on the short attention spans and memories of most voters.

But, as we’ll explore on the next page, Sanders has to be careful. As several GOP candidates have discovered, you might alienate as many voters as you attract by attacking a popular figure in your own party. The attacks on Donald Trump, for instance, have largely rolled off his back and boomeranged in some cases — specifically for Jeb Bush, who now finds himself searching for a graceful exit from the race.

Sanders is attempting to raise doubts about Clinton. Previously, she was doing a darned fine job of that herself by her chaotic and inconsistent explanations about her emails and private server.  The issue may still bring her down, but it is now being seen by Democrats as a partisan issue which can easily be dismissed.

That and the constant drumbeat by the press over the last few days about how swell she performed at the Benghazi hearings have resulted in a changing narrative where Hillary is once again being seen as “inevitable” and Sanders as just a cranky old socialist.