Perhaps a better question might be whether Democrats, from Barack Obama and Joe Biden on down, believe Bernie Sanders can beat Hillary Clinton to the nomination. One might also ask whether Hillary herself has suddenly realized just how vulnerable she is, for that matter. On that point, as Guy Benson writes, the answer is a definite yes — and Team Hillary is finally acting like it:
Why Hillaryworld is suddenly savaging Bernie for his la-la-land spending agenda, including universal healthcare: pic.twitter.com/eseVMS6oM8
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) January 13, 2016
The attack on universal, single-payer healthcare is especially noteworthy. Hillary tried passing a similar system during Bill Clinton’s first term in office, and it resulted in losing the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. Suddenly, Hillary wants to make Bernie look like a fringe candidate for supporting essentially what she proposed 23 years ago:
Socialist Bernie Sanders — whose proposed tax-and-spend binge makes President Obama’s unprecedented debt accrual look like child’s play — ought to be saluted for performing a valuable public service. By turning up the heat on his liberal rival, he’s forced Hillary Clinton and the Democratic establishment to unequivocally acknowledge, on the record, that implementing a single-payer government-run healthcare system would require battering middle class Americans with massive tax increases. And what would taxpayers get in return? The nightmare of an even more bloated, unresponsive healthcare system that’s owned and operated by our incompetent federal bureaucracy. “Medicare for all” may sound appealing at first, until one realizes that even with all of the taxes and service cuts (imposed to pay for Obamacare), that program is on a rapid and inexorable path to insolvency. That’s arithmetic, not politics. It’s also worth noting that the federal government administers healthcare for veterans, and for many Native Americans.
The former system is a corrupt, disgraceful mess, as evidenced in appalling detail during the recent VA scandal. Lengthy wait lists for care were systemically covered up by bureaucrats determined to cook the books, in order to preserve funding and bonuses; hundreds of thousands of veterans died while awaiting care, an internal review determined. And for those who finally do get access (wait lists haven’t improved, despite yet another large injection of taxpayer money) allegations and instances of substandard care are rampant. Whistleblowers were punished. Problems were deliberately whitewashed for political reasons. And abuses were wrongly downplayed, including by Hillary Clinton herself.
In another sign of desperation, the campaign sent Chelsea Clinton onto the campaign trail as an attack dog against Sanders. The Hill reports that the decision took Democrats aback, and have them worried about desperation creeping into Hillary’s campaign that could do real damage to the party:
Chelsea Clinton is stepping onto the 2016 battlefield against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a shift that some Democrats are interpreting as a sign of trouble for her mother’s presidential campaign.
Making her first solo appearance on the stump, Chelsea Clinton late Tuesday ripped Sanders over his proposals on healthcare and college affordability, arguing the White House hopeful wants to “dismantle” ObamaCare and Medicare.
Democrats have almost universally panned the attack, believing it to be ineffective and a misuse of her talents. …
“The thing that tells you as much as anything about [the Clinton campaign’s] current state of mind is Chelsea going on the attack. It tells you everything you need to know,” said one Democratic strategist. “That this [challenge from Sanders] is real and they’ve got to be freaking out.”
The attack caught many Democrats, including Sanders and his supporters, by surprise.
I’ll bet it did. Were Paul Begala and James Carville too busy, or did they realize that this was a lame attack and pass on the opportunity?
Larger figures than Begala and Carville may be concluding that Sanders can win, too. In my column for The Fiscal Times, I connect up a couple of dots from the last week or so, and wonder whether the Democratic establishment as it exists at the moment is signaling that they’d like to see that:
There may be other reasons for Clinton to worry. Over the last few months, Barack Obama had put gun control at the top of his priority list, a rare topic on which Sanders may be vulnerable with the progressive grassroots. As a Senator representing Vermont, where gun rights are prized, Sanders has walked a fine line.
Sensing the lead slipping away, Clinton has hit Sanders hard recently on gun issues in ads running in both Iowa and New Hampshire. However, Obama largely punted on his threats to use “executive actions” to force gun control, and offered one generic mention of “gun violence” in his final State of the Union address. The lack of cover from Obama may well undermine the effectiveness of this attack.
At the same time, Obama shifted his focus in the address to Congress on issues much more closely associated with Sanders, such as income inequality and keeping “big banks or Big Oil or hedge funds” from writing the rules. Sanders has used the same warnings to hit Clinton over her ties to Wall Street and corporate interests. Joe Biden jumped into the fray as well, expressing his daily regret over not running for the nomination himself – and then noting that Sanders had more “authenticity” on these issues than Clinton.
Hillary was “stung” by Biden’s remarks, according to The Hill:
When Vice President Biden gave Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign a slight boost this week, some allies to Hillary Clinton couldn’t help but feel a little bruised.
“It stung a little, sure,” one longtime ally acknowledged. “How could it not?”
Just wait until she gets a chance to experience how a loss in Iowa and another in New Hampshire feels.
Update: Worth considering. You can bet that Team Hillary already knows it.
— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlakeWP) January 14, 2016