The BernieBros have #CNNisTrash trending, and after watching this exchange in last night’s debate, it’s not tough to see why. Moderator Abby Phillip made sure to press Bernie Sanders on the topic du jour, which was CNN’s own scoop that Sanders told Elizabeth Warren that a woman couldn’t win the presidency. Sanders gave a detailed denial to the question, noting that he had been discussing that path to victory for the last thirty years.
And Phillip then turned to Warren with a question that assumed Sanders’ guilt, as though she hadn’t listened to a word he’d said:
PHILLIP: CNN reported yesterday that, and Senator Sanders — Senator Warren — confirmed in a statement, that in 2018 you told her that you did not believe that a woman could win the election. Why did you say that?
SANDERS: Well, as a matter of fact I didn’t say it. And I don’t want to waste a whole lot of time on this, because this is what Donald Trump and maybe some of the media want. Anybody knows me knows that it’s incomprehensible that I would think that a woman could not be President of the United States. Go to YouTube today, there’s some video of it of me 30 years ago talking about how a woman could become president of the United States. In 2015 I deferred, in fact, the Senate Awards was a movement to draft Senator Warren to run for president. And you know what I said? “Stay back.” Senator Warren decided not to run and I — they — I did run afterwards. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by three million votes. How could anybody in a million years not believe that a woman could become president of the United States? And let me be very clear: if any of the women on this stage or any of the men on this stage win the nomination — I hope that’s not the case, I hope it’s me — but if they do, I will do everything in my power to make sure that they are elected in order to defeat the most dangerous president in the history of our country.
That’s a strong, unequivocal denial, right? There’s no room for misinterpretation. Having asked Sanders straightforwardly whether he said it and getting a flat-out denial, though, Phillip turned around and asked a question of Warren that presumed Sanders had just lied to her:
PHILLIP: Senator Warren, what did you think when Senator Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?
Come on. If this was an exercise in journalistic balance, the question should have been phrased to force Warren to say whether or not Sanders made the comment. Instead, Phillip answered the real question for Warren and threw her the softest of softballs instead. Even CNN’s audience noticed it and began laughing at Phillip.
Having been slow-pitched the softball, Warren swung with a prepared argument about how the men on the stage have lost elections while the women have not. Warren also claimed that the man she threw under the bus over the last twenty-four hours is her “friend,” a point to which we’ll return:
WARREN: I disagreed. Bernie is my friend and I am not here to try to fight with Bernie, but look. This question about whether or not a woman can be president has been raised, and it’s time for us to attack it head-on. And I think the best way to talk about who can win is by looking at people’s winning record. So, can a woman beat Donald Trump? Look at the men on this stage. Collectively they
have lost ten elections. The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they’ve been in are the women. Amy and me. And the only person on this stage who has beaten an incumbent Republican any time in the past 30 years is me. And here’s what I know — the real danger that we face as Democrats is picking a candidate who can’t pull our party together or someone who takes for granted big parts of the Democratic constituency. We need a candidate who will excite all parts of the Democratic Party, bring everyone in, and give everyone a Democrat to believe in. That’s my plan and that is why I’m going to win.
Ahem. Warren beat an “incumbent Republican” in Massachusetts who won a fluke victory in a special election because Democrats nominated the worst candidate they could find. It’s Massachusetts, for Pete’s sake. If you’re not Martha Coakley, you should win by twenty points. Warren only beat Scott Brown by eight points, and that was with Barack Obama at the top of the ticket in 2012, who won MA by 23 points. Amy Klobuchar has dominated her Senate elections, but her father was a well-known journalist whose name recognition gave her a big lift in a state that’s gotten very blue over the last decade-plus as well. Between the two women, they’ve won five elections in Democratic bastions, which is half of the number that the men on stage have lost — while winning other elections.
Could Warren beat Trump in Massachusetts? Heck, even Tulsi Gabbard could do that much. Can Warren win in Iowa? After briefly leading the polling there, it’s not even clear that she can make it into the top three among Democrats.
Anyway, at least Warren and Sanders still have their friendship, right? Right? Er … looks like Warren wasn’t being completely honest about that, either: