I’m not usually one to go in for “so-and-so REFUSES to say whatever” headlines, but this was pretty damn conspicuous. On This Week with George Stephanopoulos, the host asked President Obama if Bernie Sanders would make a great president, and Obama’s answer was that Sanders is a great conversation-starter:
STEPHANOPOULOS: You’ve called Hillary Clinton a good friend, strong friend, one of America’s finest secretaries of state and said she’d make a great president. So is it fair for Democrats to conclude she’s your candidate?
OBAMA: (LAUGH) George, I’m not going to make endorsements when, you know, I’ve said in the past it’s important for the process to play itself out. I think Dem I think Hillary’s doing great. I think, you know, Bernie Sanders is really adding to this debate–
STEPHANOPOULOS: Would he make a great president?
OBAMA: — in a very serious way. You know, I think Bernie is capturing a sense among the American people that they want to know the government’s on their side, that it’s not bought and paid for, that you know, our focus has to be on hard working, middle class Americans not getting’ a raw deal. And I think that is in in incredibly important. I think Martin O’Malley has important things to say. So we’ll let this process play out. I am confident that we’re going to have a good, strong Democratic candidate, and that they’ll be able to win in November.
Here’s why this is not the same as every other “refuses to say” story. President Obama is wisely resisting endorsing anyone in the Democratic primary unless and until it becomes absolutely necessary, because why would he want to alienate Bernie Sanders’ millions of supporters, or both of Martin O’Malley’s? But let’s keep it 100, he would definitely endorse Hillary if push came to shove, with no Joe Biden in the race.
Having said that, the President could easily have said, as many Republicans have about their own candidates, that any one of the Democratic candidates would make a great president. There are only two reasons not to; because he doesn’t believe that and/or because it would hurt his credibility to say so. Obama is probably like a lot of Democrats who sincerely love Bernie Sanders, but don’t think he’s got the all-around chops to be president, particularly on foreign policy.