Last night, I saw this tweet, and variations of it, explode across my social media feeds:
To be honest, I blew it off because it sounded like something taken out of context. For most of 2017, there was a very healthy media cottage industry built around keeping the Hillary/Bernie war going because it generated a lot of clicks. It also gave the press something to talk about besides their role in helping elect Donald Trump to the White House so they were more than happy to keep it going as long as possible.
Knowing all of this, I figured this was just a last gasp of a dying revenue generator. I'm no fan of Bernie but I assumed that he, a sitting congressperson, wouldn't sink so low as to blame Hillary, the private citizen, for not stopping Russian interference in the 2016 election.
But you know what they say about assuming...
Bernie Sanders on Wednesday blamed Hillary Clinton for not doing more to stop the Russian attack on the last presidential election. Then his 2016 campaign manager, in an interview with POLITICO, said he’s seen no evidence to support special counsel Robert Mueller's assertion in an indictment last week that the Russian operation had backed Sanders' campaign.
The remarks showed Sanders, running for a third term and currently considered a front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, deeply defensive in response to questions posed to him about what was laid out in the indictment. He attempted to thread a response that blasts Donald Trump for refusing to acknowledge that Russians helped his campaign — but then holds himself harmless for a nearly identical denial.
Very early in Bernie's campaign, it was civil, courteous, and a stark contrast to the ugliness of the Republican primaries. But that changed very quickly with the appearance of the Bernie Bros who we now know were influenced, if not invented, by Russian operatives. As Bernie fell further behind in the Democratic primary, his movement morphed from one of hope into one of bitter rage. This is where Bernie failed as a leader and why he is now blaming Hillary for something he knows for a fact isn't her fault.
Seeing his numbers fade, Bernie made a choice very similar to one made by the Republican Party. Much like the GOP and the Tea Party, when presented with a movement within his movement that promised to energize his campaign with frenzied, mindless rage, Bernie did nothing to quell it. Instead, he let it run rampant and take over. This is how we ended up with hundreds of thousands (or more) of Bernie supporters seriously talking about Hillary Clinton like she was the incarnation of Satan himself. To this day, there are still Bernie people demanding an investigation into the murder of Seth Rich because they "know" Hillary was involved and despite Trump openly sucking up to white nationalists and openly trying to subvert the rule of law, they insist Hillary would have been worse because something something "both parties". It's that bad.
Bernie didn't know, of course, that he had let his movement be co-opted by the Russians but he knew damn well that he could have stopped the rot, whatever the source, infecting it. He chose not to. Bernie let his supporters turn into a vicious mob because it benefited his campaign and that's on him. Yes, he eventually got around to pushing back against "Bernie or Bust" but only after it had taken root.
Now, of course, he doesn't want to answer for his error in judgement. No one is suggesting he was colluding with Russia the way Trump almost certainly did, just that his campaign benefited and his followers were influenced. A real leader would accept responsibility and learn from their mistake. Instead, Bernie took the Trumpian way out and blamed Hillary, knowing it would play well with his base. Well done. Very presidential in this new age of lowered expectations.
Worse, Sanders' claims and those of Jeff Weaver, a longtime aide to the candidate, sounded exactly like Trump's denials:
“The factual underpinning of that in the indictment is what? Zero,” Weaver said. “I have not seen any evidence of support for Bernie Sanders.”
"Two dudes sitting in a hole somewhere support Bernie Sanders — tell me what they did to support Bernie Sanders,” Weaver added later.
Yeah...when your talking points are identical to Donald Trump's, it's time to rethink the life choices that led you to this moment in time.
Just as an aside and not to defend Bernie on this particular topic, it's interesting how strident the tone of the Politico article is. For a news site that used to take great pains to avoid appearing biased to the point of giving Trump numerous passes during the 2016 election, they sure seem unwilling to give Bernie the benefit of the doubt:
In doing so, Sanders and his former campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, presented a series of self-serving statements that were not accurate, and that track with efforts by Trump and his supporters to undermine the credibility of the Mueller probe.
Maybe this newfound willingness to call a lie a lie is because of Trump's assault on the media and the very concept of objective reality. Maybe it's not. But perhaps if Politico had been more willing to call Trump on his numerous "self-serving statements that were not accurate" during the campaign, we wouldn't be dealing with his insanity right now.
Regardless, it is fully appropriate to call Bernie out for attacking Hillary like this. It was cheap and unworthy of a man who wants to be the person to clean up after Trump's disastrous administration. There's going to be a lot of hard decisions to make and a lot of hard conversations to have. We need someone who can take that kind of pressure and not flail about for a crowd pleasing scapegoat. The buck stops here, not at Hillary's house.