Saturday, March 12, 2016

Axelrod v. Clinton


Looks like there's some bad blood brewing between David Axelrod and the Clinton campaign. During Wednesday night's Democratic debate between Hillary and Bernie Sanders, Axelrod tweeted, "She did it again and I'll say it again. It's misleading to imply that TARP II was an auto bailout."

What Axelrod is referring to was the charge Clinton made in the Michigan debate and then repeated Wednesday night that Bernie Sanders voted against the auto bailout in January 2009. While that is factually true, Axelrod has issues with Clinton calling it an auto bailout. It was, he maintains and as I have stated, the second part of TARP, which as it so happens contained the funding for G.M. and Chrysler.

I have no qualms with Axelrod pointing out that the bill in question was, ostensibly, a bailout of Wall Street, and to be fair to Sanders and others like him, there were a lot of people who had problems with TARP on principle, even though without it, the banking industry would've collapsed and we would've had another Great Depression.

But Axelrod leaves out two very important points: one, Hillary did in fact mention that the bill was for Wall Street in the first debate (see my piece on it); and two, unlike the earlier auto bailout that was defeated in December - a bill that Clinton admitted Sanders voted for - there was not going to be a separate auto bill this time around. Like it or not, TARP II was it. If it got defeated, the auto industry was a goner.

This isn't simply a matter of semantics or cherry picking. Bernie Sanders has stated repeatedly that he was in favor of bailing out the auto industry, but he knew full well that the only way to do that was for the larger bill to pass. Sanders wants a mulligan for an earlier vote he cast that proved to be meaningless without taking the heat for the latter one that was anything but. Quite frankly, I'm somewhat shocked that a person as savvy as Axelrod didn't know that.

Then again, maybe he did. It's long been established that Axelrod and the Clintons have had a strained relationship ever since he decided to back Barack Obama in '08. And even though both sides have supposedly patched things up, one can't help but wonder if there isn't a little residual animosity between both camps.

To Axelrod's credit, he later clarified his tweet in a piece he wrote for CNN, in which he concluded: "Hillary was on the right side of history with her vote, even if she crossed the line in her retelling of it. Bernie was wronged in the debate, but his vote raises questions about how a political 'revolutionary' would deal with the realities of governing." Hmm, I seem to recall saying just that.

Curiously, if it was a bone Axelrod was looking to pick with Hillary, his one legitimate shot came during one of her exchanges with Sanders in which she said he "voted in the House with hard-lined Republicans for indefinite detention for undocumented immigrants, and then he sided with those Republicans to stand with vigilantes known as Minutemen who were taking up outposts along the border to hunt down immigrants."

Clinton is referring to two separate instances. The first is the Community Protection Act of 2006, which died in the Senate. It would've allowed aliens to be detained "without limitation" until they received a "final order of removal." Yes, Sanders did vote for it; so did then House minority leader Nancy Pelosi. The bill dealt with those aliens that were deemed dangerous and already facing deportation and had absolutely nothing to do with the vast majority of the 11 million undocumented people currently living in the country. Clinton knows this or at least should've.

As for the Minutemen part, that referred to an amendment to a Homeland Security appropriations bill that would've barred the department from "providing a foreign government information relating to the activities of an organized volunteer civilian action group" such as, unfortunately, the Minutemen, which operated out of states that bordered Mexico.  No matter how abhorrent we may think they are, the greater threat here was our government handing over intel to another government with the express purpose of spying on U.S. citizens. Yes, Sanders voted for it. But it is disengeous at best to make the leap, as she did, that he was standing with vigilantes. The argument could easily be made that all he was doing was ensuring the government didn't overreach in its authority, something many progressives and most libertarians agree on.

This was a truly bad moment for Clinton and one she didn't need going into this Tuesday. This is the real problem with her. When she is challenged or she feels threatened, as she no doubt felt after the Michigan loss, she overreacts and commits these unforced errors. They, more than any policy stance she has taken, have proven to be her undoing in the past. Unlike her husband who turned adversity into opportunity, Hillary tends to go the other way. She takes it personally and puts her foot in her mouth. As a result, she looks small and petty.

As I said in my last piece, Clinton does not need to disrespect Sanders in order to beat him. She is ahead in the delegate count; the nomination is hers to lose. There is no reason to go gutter like she did with him last Wednesday and like she did with Obama in '08. If she truly wants to pivot to the presidential election, it would behoove her to act, well, presidential. One she starts doing that, the David Axelrods of the world will have nothing of consequence to say.

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