You may have heard about Hillary Clinton’s “major national security speech” the other day. She said nothing new. In fact, a main motivation for her speech actually concerned two words she declined to utter: Bernie Sanders.
With Barack Obama’s helpful transgender bathroom distraction fading, Clinton must turn public discussion away from how the hard-charging socialist septuagenarian is steadily embarrassing the presumptive Democratic nominee as the unlikely Republican nominee organizes for fall.
And then there’s that State Department report highly critical of Clinton’s unauthorized email practices. And the FBI criminal probe.
By Nov. 8, we should be at Armageddon level headlines.
To lure the media from its horserace fascination with Sanders, Clinton amped her anti-Donald decibel level. They love those warlike words: launched, fired, double-barreled, attack, barrage. By Nov. 8, we should be at Armageddon level headlines.
Meanwhile, Sanders goes on about closing the poll gap with Clinton and drawing huge crowds, extolling the virtues of his socialism and basically undermining any of Clinton’s claims of accomplishments these past seven years. “The issue of wealth and income inequality is the great moral issue of our time,” he says.
Bernie is well-funded and having the time of an empty political life unmarred by any real job. After years of talking only to Vermont, where no one matters, he now has a national stage, adoring crowds and enthusiastic young followers who wouldn’t know Karl Marx from Karl Rove.
Just as Trump hijacked the GOP primary process, so too has Bernie taken over the left side of the spectrum. Sanders is in no danger of winning the nomination of the party he only joined last year. The Democrats’ unelected super-delegates ensure the establishmentarian’s coronation in Philadelphia.
Sanders has tapped into the same anti-establishment anger and anxieties as Trump, feeding off the constipated economic recovery and failed foreign policies of Obama’s reign of error.
In doing so, Sanders has redefined winning. Nomination is not victory. Voicing populist anger is. Shaping the political debate. And the party platform. And for this, Sanders has already crossed the finish line.
Sanders’ political future runs from today through late July’s convention. After that, he’s an asterisk.
The man who honeymooned in the old Soviet Union has forced his party’s political debate and presumptive nominee to the left, which may be popular in Democrat primaries but is not how anyone wins national elections in an essentially centrist nation, even an anxious, angry one.
Why should Sanders care about Berning his party? He knows he won’t be in any national election. And at 75, his political future runs from today through late July’s convention. After that, he’s an asterisk.
Sanders forced Clinton to abandon her New Jersey campaign for additional West Coast events. She called in her Bubba Bill for help. Upped Golden State ad spending. And jacked her rhetoric on everything but Sanders.
And Sanders has forced her to defend Obama’s empty economic record, underlined by the most recent jobs report: a record 94.7 million out of the labor force and only 1,200 jobs created each day last month nationally.
Clinton’s “foreign policy speech” was supposed to focus on her ideas. However, she spent more time bashing Trump’s bombast, not much of a challenge really. As 16 sidelined GOP Trump competitors can attest, such assaults on tone and style had little effect when so many voters are anxious and tired of platitudes.
We need a real plan for confronting terrorists.
Trump’s “ideas aren’t just different,” Clinton charged, “they’re dangerously incoherent. They’re not even really ideas, just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds and outright lies. He is not just unprepared; he is temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility.”
Close listeners, however, heard not-so-subtle contrasts with and criticisms of Obama. “I believe in strong alliances,” Clinton said, “clarity in dealing with our rivals and a rock-solid commitment to the values that have always made America great. And I believe with all my heart that America is an exceptional country.”
Then came a Clinton dagger for the Democrat president and whomever was his secretary of state for those first four long years: “We need a real plan for confronting terrorists.”
Malcolm is an author and veteran national and foreign correspondent covering politics since the 1960s. Follow him @AHMalcolm.