There’s little downside to Bernie in reviving his 2016 battle with Hillary at this point, even if it means coming to the defense of another candidate. Gabbard herself understands how a war with Clinton might help galvanize progressive voters, which is why she tweeted on Friday at Clinton that “It’s now clear that this primary is between you and me.” Lefties hate Hillary for a million reasons — too corporate, too hawkish, too corrupt, and not even a winner when it mattered most. She was just strong enough to snuff out progressive populists’ dream of winning the White House in 2016 but not strong enough to do the same to right-wing populists. Go figure that Gabbard would try to harness their contempt for Clinton to jumpstart her campaign.
And go figure that Bernie, who’d be in trouble if Gabbard started getting traction among progressives, would jump in to try to leverage some of that Hillary hatred before Gabbard claims it all for herself.
I wonder if Sanders would have been as quick to piss off Clinton supporters here if he was atop the field in polling, with a stranglehold on lefty voters. In that case his mind would be on appeasing the centrist Dems whom he needed to win over. As it is, with Warren sapping him of votes he needs and Gabbard now making noise, he needs to protect his left flank first.
Tulsi Gabbard has put her life on the line to defend this country. People can disagree on issues, but it is outrageous for anyone to suggest that Tulsi is a foreign asset.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) October 21, 2019
A Twitter pal responds: “thanks, guy who honeymooned in the soviet union at the peak of the cold war.”
Hillary has yet to comment on the backlash to her calling Gabbard a “Russian asset,” but I assume she’ll try to weasel out of it by insisting that an asset and an agent are two different things. An agent, she’ll say, is someone who works for a foreign government. An asset is someone whose worldview incidentally serves the interests of a foreign government — a useful idiot, in other words. That’s not what “asset” means in spycraft, of course, and Hillary certainly knows that, but that’s what she’ll claim in order to back away from her defamatory insistence that Gabbard is working for the Russians.
Which reminds me of how Dan Foster framed the blossoming Tulsi/Hillary war — as a conflict between a useful idiot and a more traditional idiot. I’d add that it’s an intriguing match-up between someone whose approach to Syria is conventionally terrible and someone whose approach is unconventionally terrible.
Tom Nichols worries that by elevating Gabbard Clinton has given her a stature that Tulsi might eventually use to divide Democrats, be it as a third-party candidate or by fighting on to the convention with her current campaign. The liberal fear is that Gabbard isn’t so much an asset of the Russians as an asset of Trump and the populist right: She sometimes seems to have more fans among the Fox News demographic, Tucker Carlson foremost among them, than she does in the Democratic Party, where she’s been stuck at two percent or so for months. The plot, supposedly, is for Gabbard to aid Trump by declaring the eventual Dem nominee a tool of warmongers and Wall Street and to demoralize Democratic voters with her criticism, possibly even as a Green Party candidate. Ironically, that’s what Hillary was worried about in her comments last week — that Gabbard would end up playing the Jill Stein role in 2020. Nichols’s point is that, doubly ironically, Clinton may have made that more likely by raising Gabbard’s profile with her paranoid “Russian asset” critique.
I don’t think Gabbard is in cahoots with Trump or anyone else. But I’ll give you a third irony: By raising the prospect of Gabbard as mischief-maker who ends up undermining the Democratic nominee, Hillary may be making the case for a more left-wing nominee than a Clinton-style centrist. Nominate Joe Biden and Tulsi’s warmonger/Wall Street attacks — if they happen — really might resonate with disgruntled progressives. Nominate Elizabeth Warren and those attacks are less persuasive. I think lefties will be looking for reasons to suck it up and support the nominee this time in the interest of ousting Trump so long as they get someone at the top who seems sympathetic to them. Not so sure Biden will hack it for them, but Warren certainly would. There just won’t be as much political space for a Stein type in 2020 with progressives spoiling to beat their orange nemesis and undo their mistake of 2016.
Two clips for you here, one of Beto O’Rourke riding to Gabbard’s rescue by claiming that Trump is the real Russian asset and one of the “View” crew largely siding with Hillary (of course) in her critique of Gabbard. Beto too probably recognizes that, as a left-wing Democratic politician circa 2019, you can’t go wrong taking sides against Hillary Clinton.
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) October 21, 2019