Friday, September 18, 2015

Thou shalt not speak ill of another Democrat ... unless he's winning: Clinton-Sanders match heats up

It does seem like the gloves are coming off. The Huffington Post reports that a super PAC associated with Hillary Clinton's campaign has taken to the field with an email to reporters against Bernie Sanders.

A super PAC backing Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is going negative, circulating an email that yokes her chief rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to some of the more controversial remarks made by Jeremy Corbyn, the United Kingdom's new Labour Party leader, including his praise for the late Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan leader who provided discounted fuel to Vermont in a deal supported by Sanders.

Clinton's camp has long said it has no plans to attack Sanders. But the super PAC, called Correct the Record, departed from its defense of Clinton's record as a former secretary of state in an email Monday that compares Sanders with Corbyn. Correct the Record, led by Clinton ally David Brock, also has sent trackers after Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.

David Brock is unrepentant according to a Daily Caller piece describing an interview with Brock by Bloomberg.

"What is it that makes you guys think it’s now time to start comparing him to some of these people that you’re comparing him to and associating him with some of these very unsavory folks?" Bloomberg anchor John Heilemann asked Brock.

Brock acknowledged that both Sanders and Clinton agree on a number of issues, but defended his group’s attack, saying "you’re going to have to draw some contrasts, this is a political campaign.

Asked if he believes that Sanders resembles Chavez, Brock replied, "the research doesn’t say that, no."

"The research is factual, it’s fact-based, it’s out there, people can take it for what it’s worth," he added.

It would not be worth much if the currency of this game was facts and evidence. Unfortunately, these operatives invent their own reality.

Heilemann pressed Brock, asking "Do you see it as your role now to basically do the dirty work for the Clinton campaign that they don’t want to do against Bernie Sanders directly?"

"There’s no dirty-work involved here. It’s just putting out facts," said Brock, who became a die-hard Clinton supporter after spending the 1990s criticizing them in conservative media.

Besides Correct the Record, Brock operates Media Matters, a left-wing media watchdog. His dogged support for Clinton’s campaign is the source of much controversy, but it is allowed under federal election law.

More on that below.

Mark Halperin, another Bloomberg anchor, jumped in to ask Brock what contrast between Sanders and Clinton he hoped to draw with the email.

"We’re pointing out parts of Senator Sanders’ record," Brock responded, adding that he believes it’s his job "to sometimes do the media’s homework for it."

"What was that message you are trying to send about Bernie Sanders?" Halperin asked.

"I’m not going to talk about the framing or the thought behind it," Brock responded.

Asked, finally, if he planned to apologize to Sanders, Brock responded, "Gosh, no."

"This is just standard opposition research."

Sanders is capable of taking care of himself and answering this and the more attacks sure to come. Here is some of the response from the Sanders camp (from TheHill.com).

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spent his summer rejecting attempts by journalists to goad him into a fight with Hillary Clinton, saying he liked and respected his Democratic rival and wanted the campaign to be about ideas and not personalities.

But the Vermont Independent appears to be fed up with niceties after a pro-Clinton super-PAC reportedly shoveled dirt on Sanders to a reporter.

In an email to campaign supporters on Tuesday, Sanders linked Clinton to three things her campaign has been trying to disassociate itself from: Wealthy donors, dirty tactics and, yes, even the biggest boogeymen in left-wing American politics — the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch.

Sanders went after Brock's super PAC, Correct the Record.

Correct the Record is tied especially tightly to Clinton's campaign as the two groups are exploiting a loophole in election laws that apparently allows the outside super-PAC to coordinate directly with the campaign.

Sanders, who has refused to use a super-PAC, clearly sees an opening to attack Clinton, who is accepting million-dollar-plus donations to her main outside spending group Priorities USA Action while at the same time promising to reform campaign finance laws to reduce the corrupting influence of big money on the American political system.

"I don’t have a Super PAC, Friend," Sanders says in the email. "I am not going to travel around the country begging millionaires and billionaires for money. That’s just not going to happen."

Toward the end of the email, Sanders gets to his point: "Make the Super PACs pay for attacking us by making a $3 contribution to our campaign today. Let’s send a powerful message that we have had ENOUGH of the billionaire class buying elections.

"If we stand together to fight back against these ugly attacks, we can ensure this election is about who has the best ideas, and not who has the biggest donors."

That would be a refreshing change, but it's hard to be optimistic about debating ideas and not ideologies or personalities.

Perhaps the gloves have come off because Sanders is now well ahead of Clinton in the Iowa and New Hampshire polls (from TheHill.com)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is up by double-digits on former secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire, according to a poll released by CBS News on Sunday.

The senator is drawing 43 percent support in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus, besting Clinton by 10 points.

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