Obama accuses Elizabeth Warren of being a politician

Oh no you didn’t!

Earlier this week, Ed asked whether or not Barack Obama was ready to go to war with Elizabeth Warren over the pending Pacific trade deal. Well, wonder no more, Ed. Sure, the President can get away with a few veiled jabs in the name of a spirited internal debate among the Democrats and still avoid going full scorched earth on her. He can say that she’s absolutely wrong. He can casually lump her in with “other liberal critics.” (Which is pretty hilarious if you think about it for more than a millisecond.) In fact, the President can counter her claims in all sorts of ways while smiling, nodding and insisting that shes’ still wonderful and touting how many other things they agree on. That’s all part of the normal ebb and flow of politics.

But given the national approval rating of Washington denizens, it’s probably a very large step too far to call her a politician.

A growing feud between President Obama and Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren kicked up a notch Saturday, with the president rejecting her recent warnings about a long-sought trade deal and saying in an interview, “Elizabeth is a politician just like everybody else.”

The president and the liberal Massachusetts senator have been sparring amid an internal Democratic battle over Obama’s trade push…

The president, in an interview with Yahoo News, said that’s “wrong.”

By the rule of association, the President also implied that Warren must not be very bright to take the position she’s staked out, even though he delivered the quote in reference to himself.

“I’d have to be pretty stupid and it doesn’t make any sense,” Obama said. “There is no evidence that could ever be used in this way. This is pure speculation. She and I both taught law school and one of the things you do as a law professor is you spin out hypotheticals and this is all hypothetical, speculative.”

Asked if this is personal, Obama said, “You know the truth of the matter is … Elizabeth is a politician just like everybody else, and she has a voice that she wants to get out there and I understand that, and on most issues she and I deeply agree. On this one, though, her arguments don’t stand the test of fact and scrutiny.”

I suppose the viewer is left on their own to decide which one of them is “pretty stupid” in this case, but that’s a battle for another day. The more interesting gambit to come is how Hillary Clinton will respond, assuming she does at all. Hillary supported her husband on NAFTA in 1998, but turned around and opposed CAFTA, voting against it as a Senator and criticizing both programs while running for the White House in 2008. Which Hillary will show up this time? She clearly wants to distance herself from Obama wherever she can, and she’s been trying to sneak over to the left of Warren for months now in an effort to avoid a populist uprising on her own flank.

But the trade question is a tricky one which is dividing both parties, with perhaps the most stark differences showing up among the Democrats. Clinton will be forced to take a stand and, in doing so, point the finger at either Obama or Warren as to which one is “pretty stupid.” (Assuming, of course, we can find a journalist willing to ask her.) So far she’s managed to dodge the issue, with her campaign chairman actually laughing and asking if someone could just make the issue go away. But that’s not going to hold forever.

Ed and I don’t see eye to eye very much on the trade question itself, but we do agree on one point. Pass the popcorn.