Pete Buttigieg appeared on CNN’s State of the Union yesterday and was asked about comments Hillary made last Friday suggesting congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard was a Russian asset. Jake Tapper asked Buttigieg if he believed Clinton’s claim to which Buttigieg replied, “I don’t know what the basis is for that.”
“Well, I don’t either,” Tapper said.
Buttigieg could have really dropped the hammer on Clinton here but he’s clearly in campaign mode and trying to avoid giving offense to someone who a lot of Democrats still admire. So he gave a bland answer about Gabbard being a competitor who should be confronted in terms of policy differences.
At that point, Tapper pushed back a little. He doesn’t single out Buttigieg. Instead, he generalized the question to include all Democratic candidates: “So when Donald Trump smears people, Democrats all stand up and say ‘You’re smearing someone, stop it.’ Why don’t Democrats…say that about Tulsi Gabbard?” He added, “It seems like an obvious smear. I don’t see any evidence she’s a Russian asset. It seems like a wild accusation.”
“I think statements like that ought to be backed by evidence,” Buttigieg said before changing the subject to Donald Trump and Republicans.
Tapper let him run through his answer and then concluded the segment by calling it “an agile pivot.” That’s what it was. Buttigieg was given at least three chances to call out Hillary Clinton and he sidestepped them all. In fact, Buttigieg never used Hillary’s name in the entire segment.
The Washington Post pointed out Saturday that Cory Booker actually defended Clinton while other Democrats were making similar pivots to avoid the issue:
Few outside Clinton’s immediate orbit defended her comments. The closest anyone came was Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who retweeted Gabbard’s reaction to Clinton with a viral GIF from the June debate when he glanced “side eyed” — a look that often conveys shock or disdain — at another candidate. That garnered a reply from Clinton — a viral GIF of her own from a 2016 debate where she exhales, says, “okay,” smiles and shimmies her shoulders.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, whose Iowa bus tour had been overshadowed by the Gabbard-Clinton fight, told reporters on Friday that Clinton could “defend herself, and will.” Asked about the story again on Saturday, she pivoted to talk about her election integrity legislation…
Here’s Booker’s tweet casting side-eye at Gabbard:
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) October 18, 2019
Andrew Yang stood out from the crowd by offering some criticism on Twitter though he also didn’t use Hillary’s name:
Tulsi Gabbard deserves much more respect and thanks than this. She literally just got back from serving our country abroad.
— Andrew Yang🧢🗽🇺🇸 (@AndrewYang) October 19, 2019
Maybe all of this is a sign that Hillary still has some juice in the party. She’ll be endorsing someone eventually. Buttigieg and the others probably don’t want to spoil their chances by getting on her bad side now. Whatever the reason, it’s notable that Clinton can level such a wild accusation and no one seems willing to directly contradict her. In fact, given how wild the accusation is, it’s pretty noteworthy that the media as a whole doesn’t seem to be making very much of it.
One more clip. Van Jones not only named Hillary but said she was “playing a dangerous game” and “playing right into the Russian’s hands.”