The primary contest between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) got a lot more interesting Sunday morning when Sanders followed up his attack on Clinton’s (lack of a) response to the Keystone pipeline by refusing to say whether or not Hillary is “honest and trustworthy.”
In an interview with This Week’s Jon Karl, Sanders first went after Hillary Clinton on the issue of the Keystone pipeline, which Clinton has declined to weigh in on because she was so involved in the process during her tenure as secretary of state:
KARL: So, let me ask you — you’ve been also a leader on the issue of climate change. We saw Hillary Clinton on the issue of the Keystone Pipeline had a very interesting answer when asked whether she supported it or opposed it. She said, if it is undecided when I become president, I will answer your question.
What does it say about a presidential candidate who won’t even answer a question as basic as that?
SANDERS: Well, listen, needless to say, I have a hard time understanding that response. If we are serious about the planetary crisis of climate change — and by the way, Jonathan, for all intents and purposes, the debate is over, the scientific community is virtually unanimous in telling us climate change is real. It is caused by human activity.
I have helped lead the effort against they Keystone Pipeline. And I’m very proud, by the way, that just yesterday we received the endorsement from Friends of the Earth, one of the largest environmental organizations in America. And that is one of the reasons that they gave me their endorsement.
But then, Karl asked Sanders to weigh in on recent polling that shows Clinton underwater in terms of being “honest and trustworthy,” and Sanders’ response was cuter than a Monchichi on waterskis:
KARL: Hey, we are out of time. I want a yes or no answer to one quick question. Hillary Clinton’s poll suggest a lot of people don’t see her as honest and trustworthy. Do you think Hillary Clinton is honest and trustworthy?
SANDERS: I have a lot of respect for Hillary Clinton. She is somebody I’ve known for 25 years. I’m not going to be engaging in personal attacks against her.
KARL: So you won’t say whether or not she’s honest.
SANDERS: I’m not going to be engaging in personal attacks against her. She and I disagree on many issues. The American people want a serious debate about serious issues, not personal attacks.
Of course, saying Hillary Clinton is honest and trustworthy would not have been a personal attack, a distinction that surely won’t be lost on Bernie’s supporters, or Hillary’s. Sanders has sworn to support Hillary if she wins the nomination, but those recent polls obviously have the Vermont senator seeing an opening.
It’s the same opening that reportedly has Vice President Joe Biden eyeing a late entry into the Democratic primary race. If majorities of voters see Hillary Clinton as untrustworthy, that places a ceiling on her prospects as a general election candidate, and her main advantage (name recognition) becomes something of a liability here. People feel they know Hillary Clinton, which makes that number tougher to move, especially with an antagonized political press to keep the narrative going.
As for Sanders, don’t expect Team Hillary to let this pass without notice. Look for Sanders to feel the bern from this shot in the very near future.