John Cassidy writes: In many hard-fought political races, there comes a time when tempers fray and emotion takes over. Right now, the Democratic Presidential primary appears to have reached such a point, with people on both sides going at each other with gusto, and some of the media getting swept up, too.
The front page of Thursday’s Times featured this headline: “Sanders Willing to Harm Hillary in Home Stretch.” Did Sanders really say that? No, he didn’t. The only quote in the Times story from anyone in the Sanders campaign came from his senior adviser, Tad Devine, who said that he didn’t think his boss’s criticisms of Clinton on the stump would hurt her in a general-election campaign against Donald Trump. The senator’s team, Devine said, was “not thinking about” the possibility that they might prevent Clinton from becoming the first woman to be elected President. Then came a long statement by Devine to the Times:
The only thing that matters is what happens between now and June 14th … We have to put the blinders on and focus on the best case to make in the upcoming states. If we do that, we can be in a strong position to make the best closing argument before the convention. If not, everyone will know in mid-June, and we’ll have to take a hard look at the way things stand.
One way to interpret this story comes from the headline, which implies that Sanders is callously ignoring the danger that he will damage Clinton’s chances in the fall and hand the Oval Office keys to Trump. Paul Krugman tweeted a photo showing a Web version of the headline, “Sanders Willing to Harm Clinton in Homestretch.” To that, he added, “Of course he is. Fwiw, I don’t think Sanders has gone off the rails; I think this is who he always was.” Linking to the Times story on her Facebook feed, the writer and editor Anna Holmes wrote, “Seriously. Fuck this guy.”
Another possible interpretation is that the headline was inflammatory, and the story contained little that was new. After all, Sanders has been saying for weeks that he intends to campaign aggressively until the end of the primaries, in mid-June, and that he is hoping to defeat Clinton in California, on June 7th. To this end, he has continued to depict his opponent as the candidate of élites and big money, as he has been doing for many months.
Devine’s focus on the here and now was what you would expect from a campaign operative. If you read his statement carefully, it actually contradicts the notion that Sanders’s campaign is conducting a battle to the death, oblivious to the implications for the general election. [Continue reading…]