It’s Tuesday, so you know what that means: time to debunk the latest litany of smears from Hillary Clinton.
In last week’s interview with Howard Stern, Clinton took part in her trademark combination of score-settling and excuse-making over her inept 2016 presidential campaign that brought the world President Donald Trump. Clinton’s scorn was directed, as it has tended to be these last three years, at former Democratic challenger and current contender for the nomination Bernie Sanders, who she charged “could have” endorsed her earlier and “hurt” her campaign by not doing so. (Sanders endorsed her around a month after the contest was over.) Clinton also mentioned that the Russian troll farms who were working to get Trump elected “also said Bernie Sanders, but you know, that’s for another day.”
These are well-worn Clinton talking points by now, but let’s deal with them briefly. Firstly, while it’s true Sanders took longer to endorse Clinton than she did to endorse Obama in 2008 (by less than a week), chalking up Clinton’s loss to this fact is a stretch. John McCain took two months to tepidly endorse George W. Bush in 2000, who won that election. Howard Dean took about the same time as Sanders to endorse John Kerry in 2004, who lost that campaign despite the enthusiastic backing of a number of other former rivals. Funnily enough, no one seems to bring this up about Dean, probably because they recognize that other factors — including Kerry’s lifeless campaign — played a bigger role in the loss.
Once Sanders actually endorsed Clinton, it’s hard to see what more he could have done to secure her election. He made the case for her candidacy even in the face of booing crowds of his own supporters and held thirty-nine rallies in thirteen states in the election’s final three months, including seventeen events in eleven states in the very last week alone. In a sign that such criticisms may not actually all be in good faith, Clinton staffers actually attacked Sanders this year for that hectic schedule, criticizing him for requesting private jet flights in his efforts to get Clinton elected.
Sanders’s efforts appear to have worked: far fewer Sanders supporters voted for Trump in 2016 than Clinton supporters voted for McCain in 2008. This isn’t even to bring up the fact that Sanders’s endorsement was crucial leverage he used to get his representatives on the platform drafting committee in heated negotiations with the Democratic National Committee, and secure changes that led to the weakening of the hated superdelegate system.
Secondly, however much Clinton may relish throwing around the smear of Kremlin backing like a toddler with silly string, it doesn’t make it true. The idea that Russia backed Sanders in any meaningful way in 2016 has been internalized by many of the same media and political figures who have insisted for more than two years that Trump was going to add onion domes to the White House any day now.
If you actually went through the thousands of Internet Research Agency Facebook and Instagram ads released by Congress last year, as I did, you’d find only a handful of (absurd) ads that could even remotely be described as pro-Sanders, all of which came after he had surged in the polls and won New Hampshire, and the ads had minuscule reach. By Clinton’s logic, she’d be on firmer ground accusing Black Lives Matter of getting help from Russia, which I would suggest she not do, particularly given her odious record on matters of racial justice.
Don’t just take my word for it, though. Here’s what an Oxford University report on the IRA’s online activities commissioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee found:
- “There is little evidence to suggest that during the primaries, these [accounts] were focused on ongoing political campaigns by Clinton, Sanders, or Trump.”
- For several IRA accounts, “posts in the primary season were not particularly focused on any candidates — for example little mention is made of Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton.”
- “While there was a limited amount of discussion that sought to drive some of these [liberal and LGBT] voters towards Bernie Sanders or third parties, patterns of trying to reduce trust in the political system were more apparent.”
As is often the case with accusations leveled by Democratic leaders, this is a case of projection. The largely policy-driven and low-temperature 2016 battle between Sanders and Clinton was an outlier in the history of modern primaries, particularly compared to the substance-less, highly personal mud wrestling of the 2008 primary. That campaign — in which the Clinton camp speculated that Obama might have dealt drugs, tried to cast him as “not at his center fundamentally American,” said as late as March that his future Republican rival was more experienced, and repeatedly brought up his friendship with former Weather Underground members, a line McCain would use in the general election — left a bitter taste in many Obama supporters’s mouths, at least until the next party-mandated bout of forced amnesia set in.
Meanwhile, according to a recent indictment, George Nader — a convicted pedophile and lobbyist who was a key participant in the infamous January 2017 Seychelles meeting allegedly called to forge a backchannel between Russia and the Trump campaign — was funneling millions of dollars worth of illegal foreign donations to Clinton’s campaign in 2016. Nader reportedly bragged about his access to Clinton, whom he affectionately referred to as “Big Lady” and “Big Sister.” This is besides the numerous other murky financial connections between Clinton and actual Russian elites, far more sketchy than a few online trolls. (Not to mention her family’s connections to another elite pedophile).
Yes, Clinton refuses to let go of her grudge and take responsibility for her failure, but it’s hard not to read these comments in light of Obama’s recently reported intent to intervene in the 2020 election to stop Sanders. The trouble for Clinton is, unlike Obama, she is one of the least popular politicians in the country, less popular even than Trump. And it’s not hard to see why when headlines about the Clinton camp stepping in to protect elite sexual predators have continued to trickle in after her loss. Expect to see this kind of thing continue the better Sanders’s chances to clinch the nomination look — and be ready to combat them.