Hillary Clinton and “A Very Negative Campaign”
Donald Trump’s comments on abortion rights during Wednesday’s MSNBC town hall have sparked a media hailstorm. Both candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, along with the media, have slammed Trump hard about his statement that a ban on abortion would involve some form of punishment for the woman. Even pro-life advocacy groups and Republican rival Ted Cruz have come out in criticism of Trump’s comments.
On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders, speaking to Rachel Maddow, called Trump’s comments “shameful” and “beyond comprehension”. He added a footnote to his attack, in which he criticized the media for giving Trump too much space to spew what he referred to as: “every day another stupid remark”. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, jumped on the chance in order to construct a frankly strange attack against Sanders. While campaigning in New York, she said:
“Last night, Senator Sanders agreed that Donald Trump’s comments were shameful but then he said they were a distraction from, and I quote, ‘a serious discussion about the serious issues facing America.’ To me, this is a serious issue. And it’s a very serious discussion.”
Abortion rights are, indeed, a very serious issue. Donald Trump’s comments, however, are not part of a serious discussion.
Clinton’s attack on Sanders comes off as strange because, although she herself is strongly on the side of abortion rights, Bernie Sanders happens to be even more pro-choice than she is, and has been very vocal about it.
Clinton knows this, and she understands what Sanders was saying in his MSNBC interview: that the media has consistently rewarded Trump’s hateful comments with disproportionate publicity, and that this encourages Trump to come out with more and more outrageous statements.
When even pro-life groups and ultra-conservatives like Ted Cruz come out in criticism of Trump, this means that his position is so ridiculously out of touch with reality that it could never materialize. In that sense, it IS indeed a distraction. What’s more, when the media continue to treat Trump’s speech as that of a serious person, this helps normalize this kind of talk and can draw extremist elements of society out of the shadows when they see that these remarks are being taken seriously.
Hillary Clinton knows where Sanders stands, but apparently has no qualms about twisting her opponent’s words and taking them out of context. This is not the first time she has willfully distorted Sanders’s positions and record. She did it last month when she falsely accused Sanders of not supporting the 2008 auto bailout, and of supporting border vigilantes.
And yet, she and her campaign claim that Bernie Sanders is running a “very negative campaign” against her, simply because he has called her out on her actual positions and actual record.
The timing of the Clinton campaign’s recent fuss about Sanders’ negative “tone” is of the essence. The noise being made about negative campaigning is not news. This ad, run by the Sanders campaign in January, sparked the first accusations that Sanders was reneging on his intention to run a positive campaign. On February 13th, Clinton responded with this ad.
Who is the one running a personal, negative campaign here? And can we think of an explanation for the timing in which these accusations have surfaced?