A few days ago, a political tsunami washed over both Democratic presidential candidates. It happened due to the voiced speculation that one or the other is “unqualified” to hold the presidential office of the United States.
So who said what?
First we were told that Hillary said Bernie was unqualified, and then we were told that Bernie responded by saying the same about her. Bernie’s emails to supporters and statements made to a crowd during one of his rallies suggest that Hillary directly said he was unqualified, but her supporters won’t admit it for a second.
Breaking it down
We’ll start with the statement from Hillary in response to questions during an MSNBC interview, which you can read more about from Politifact (you can also hear their somewhat different ruling).
“Initially, Clinton said Sanders’ interview with the New York Daily News ‘raised a lot of really serious questions.’ In the interview, Sanders seemed to stumble over details about how he would implement some of his proposals, such as breaking up big banks.
‘So is he qualified?’ Scarborough said, asking if she thought Sanders was ‘ready to be president.’ Clinton said she thought Sanders hadn’t done his homework and ‘that does raise a lot of questions.’
Scarborough tried again, asking ‘But do you think he is qualified?’ Again, Clinton didn’t give a yes or no answer.”
When poked and prodded repeatedly by host Joe Scarborough on whether or not Bernie Sanders would make a fit commander-in-chief, she shied away from answering directly. That’s fine.
But not answering directly doesn’t mean she hasn’t answered the question. If she answered at all, then that leaves only one possibility: she answered indirectly. Well, guess what: she did answer, and she did so as indirectly as possible. She is a seasoned politician and she knows exactly what she’s doing. The point was to deliver a message quietly, and it was most definitely delivered: “Bernie isn’t qualified to be president. Vote for me. K, thx, bye.”
And in the other corner…
Bernie responded to these implied allegations using a more direct approach–we can only imagine he regrets it, considering the consequences.
The problem with arguing that Bernie Sanders said Hillary Clinton was not qualified to be president, while failing to admit that she said exactly the same thing to him like two seconds earlier, lies in the way Bernie phrased his retort–which by the way, was a response both mandatory and inevitable. To not respond to Hillary’s allegations would be politically untenable.
Here’s what Bernie actually said:
“I don’t believe that she is qualified if she is, through her super PAC, taking tens of millions of dollars in special interest funds. I don’t think that you are qualified if you get $15 million from Wall Street through your Super PAC. I don’t think you are qualified if you have voted for the disastrous war in Iraq. I don’t think you are qualified if you’ve supported virtually every disastrous trade agreement, which has cost us millions of decent-paying jobs.”
In order to properly break down what Bernie said (and therefore what he actually meant), you need a crash course in English grammar.
Bernie used a series of conditional statements to imply certain pieces of information about his political opponent were true (whereas Hillary used actual implications without the fancy-yet-confusing English grammar). These statements are often referred to as “If, then” statements.
Conditional statements work like this: if this, then that.
If, for example, my car is red, then my car insurance will be asininely, unfairly high.
Now here’s the problem with conditional statements. They are based on CONDITIONS. In order to accept one piece of information as true, you must do so on the condition that you accept the other piece of information is true as well.
Bernie’s statements are more confusing because he neglects to use the proper format, but they’re still conditional statements. So let’s take everything he said, and reformat it to make more grammatical sense to the average, under-educated American:
“I don’t believe that she is qualified if she is, through her super PAC, taking tens of millions of dollars in special interest funds.”
“IF she takes tens of millions of dollars in special interest funds through her super PAC, THEN she is not qualified.”
In other words, if you believe that Bernie Sanders said Hillary Clinton is not qualified to be president, then you accept that she takes tens of millions of dollars in special interest funds through her shadowy puppeteer super PAC. You don’t get to pick and choose which is correct. See how that works?
“I don’t think you are qualified if you have voted for the disastrous war in Iraq.”
“IF you voted for a disastrous war in Iraq (during which hundreds of thousands of innocent people were killed, ya know, before ISIS even got there and started slaughtering more), THEN you are not qualified.”
In other words, if you believe that Bernie Sanders said Hillary Clinton is not qualified to be president, then you accept that she voted for a war that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dead middle eastern people. I’m not going to debate whether or not that’s okay with Hillary or her supporters. I think the answer is clear enough. No wonder Hillary and Trump are buddies.
“I don’t think you are qualified if you’ve supported virtually every disastrous trade agreement, which has cost us millions of decent-paying jobs.”
“IF you supported numerous trade agreements that cost the United States millions of decent-paying jobs because they weren’t given a proper expiration date of two weeks, THEN you are unqualified.”
In other words, if you believe Bernie Sanders said Hillary Clinton is not qualified to be president, then you accept that she supported trade agreements that cost your estranged cousin Donnie his decent-paying job. You jerk.
Hillary’s comments, sly and cunning (but somehow still obvious). Bernie’s comments, direct and honest (but lacking substance).
So far, the media storm that followed Bernie’s comments has mostly suggested that his were sexist comments because some misogynistic politicians often speculate that women are simply unqualified to hold office. This argument is fundamentally absurd, as Bernie’s comments were a direct rebuke to Hillary’s, in which she strongly implied–or in politics, said blatantly–that he was unqualified to hold the office of president of the United States.
The funny thing about what Hillary and Bernie said about one another is that their comments perfectly reflect why their supporters love them in the first place. Hillary’s comments, sly and cunning (but somehow still obvious). Bernie’s comments, direct and honest (but lacking substance).
The conclusion to this mostly silly fiasco? Hillary’s own personal opinion is that Bernie may not be qualified based on a series of political fouls that have been made during his longer-than-expected-but-almost-certainly-doomed campaign for president. This is extremely clear from the statements she made, and no one should be debating this.
Bernie’s own personal opinion is that Hillary may not be qualified based on a series of political fouls that have been made while she held office. This is also extremely clear from the statements he made, and no one should be firing off media nukes at the guy for defending himself from a far more battle-hardened politician. Or at the very least, no one should be fooled into thinking any of it matters.
Both politicians make no illusions about what separates them from their opponent, and why. Stop pretending one did and one didn’t just because you like to argue semantics. Arguing semantics in the political arena is absurd.
Did Hillary make a mistake in uttering those words? No, not really. Did Sanders make a mistake in uttering those words? Yes, undeniably so. But it isn’t the huge gaffe that the mainstream media and Hillary’s supporters make it out to be–it isn’t even fair–and if her supporters really want to believe that Bernie is the devil while she’s the angel, then they have to admit the realities of grammatical correctness. But let’s just move on, and maybe talk about the politics that actually matter. So far, we definitely haven’t done that.
I know half of you are about to destroy me in comments (I gave you a lot of wiggle room), so have at it.
I love a good roasting.