With polls in Iowa and New Hampshire tightening between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), both candidates are making unwise and shortsighted moves to try and hold onto support in those early states. While Sanders has foolishly torn open the minor gash that is their differences on gun control by refusing to admit a mistake, Hillary has been lobbing some unfair and right-wing-y attacks at Bernie's universal health care plan.
In an interview with George Stephanopoulos this week, Hillary took shots at Bernie Sanders over health care, which is a fair thing to do when you have policy differences, but it was the way she did it that rankles. Instead of making a fair case against single payer, Hillary took her cues from right-wing opponents of universal health care, who scream about the higher taxes without mentioning the zero dollars people will then pay in health insurance premiums:
"What Senator Sanders has said, and it's his perfect right to say it, he wants a national health care single payer system."
"Tell the people how much it will cost them. Every analysis shows it's going to cost middle class families and working families. And also explain why, after this historic achievement of President Obama, we've been fighting to get some kind of affordable care since Harry Truman. Now he wants to start all over again."
Who would have guessed in 2008, when Barack Obama was running against Hillary's individual mandate, that Hillary would be running against single payer in 2016? That irony was not lost on Sanders, who tweeted a personal note from Hillary, thanking him for supporting universal health care in 1993:
Sanders also hit back at Clinton on Wednesday night's All In with Chris Hayes, and while he didn't use the word "demagogue" himself, he certainly seemed to agree when Hayes suggested it:
HAYES: Can -- I mean what you're saying is something that Democrats have -- they've -- Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton have all created this wall that says it only -- we're only going to raise the taxes of people over a certain amount. Under that, no -- nothing. And it sounds to me like you're saying that wall has to be broken down.
SANDERS: Well, only in this sense. Look, you know, this -- you could argue that this is a tax. But Chris, if I say to you, let's just say you're self-employed and I say to you, well, instead of paying $14,000 a year premiums for private health insurance, you're going to pay $7,000, hypothetically, in public health insurance.
Does that sound like a new tax?
SANDERS: You're saving, in this case, $7,000.
HAYES: Right. Senator...
SANDERS: So if you want to demagogue the issue, you could say, oh, he's raising taxes, but then you've got to make it very clear we are saving people substantial sums of money on their total health care bills.
HAYES: Is Hillary Clinton demagoguing this issue?
SANDERS: You know, I think what she simply -- when she adopts the "Wall Street Journal" line that Sanders wants to spend $15 trillion more on health insurance, what she is forgetting to talk about is the substantial sum of money we save when people do not pay private health insurance.
Now, there are fair ways to attack Bernie's health care plan, chief among them its lack of political viability. When President Obama had majorities in both chambers of Congress, I sat in the White House for a year pressing for the public option, a much easier lift that was, let's be honest, a bridge fuel to single payer, and got nowhere. It's also fair to note that Sanders hasn't released a detailed tax plan that includes funding his plan, with or without the accompanying savings to individuals. It's fair to say the trade-off won't be worth it, but you have to mention the tradeoff.
It might seem a little dirty, but it's even fair to point out that no matter how much you love Bernie's ideas, he can't win the presidency because not enough people will vote for someone who calls himself a "democratic socialist." He does well in general election head-to-heads now because nobody from the right is campaigning against him, while they've been campaigning against Hillary since about 1960, it feels like. The guy who made those "Slap-Chop" commercials could run a successful general election campaign against Bernie.
I said no one from the right is campaigning against Bernie, but someone is campaigning against Bernie from the right, and that's Hillary Clinton. As someone who views Hillary as the best chance to keep a Republican out of the White House, wild horses wouldn't keep me from voting, but this line of attack, like the 2008 "3 am phone call" ad, could turn others off to Clinton.
Hillary Clinton doesn't need to win Iowa or New Hampshire to beat Bernie, but losing both could mean other kinds of trouble for Hillary. I know right now her campaign probably thinks the worst of it would be the media "momentum" narrative, but they've already lost that. No, the worst thing losing Iowa and New Hampshire could do would be to force Hillary's campaign into panic mode and a string of unforced errors. I get the impression that Hillary Clinton learned that lesson well in 2008, but a wild swing like this attack is a red flag.
cross-posted from Mediaite