2016 presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.
Who is the rightful successor of the Obama Legacy? The fight to become the President’s standard bearer became the central theme of last night’s Democratic Townhall on MSNBC.
During the Townhall Hillary Clinton launched a series of attacks on Senator Bernie Sanders, alleging that he once encouraged disenchanted democrats to launch a primary challenge to President Obama’s second term in 2012. The attack while effective is also tactically blind to Clinton’s own previous actions.
Clinton has been informally running for President longer than any other candidate. One of the early narratives of her campaign was a direct rebuke of the Obama foreign policy. The Washington Post wrote that “there is little precedent for a secretary of state preparing a presidential campaign in part by criticizing the foreign policy being carried out by the administration she helped lead.” In the earliest moments of 2014 Clinton began a very public critique of President Obama’s Foreign Policy, highlighting moments when the President failed to heed her sage advice and the disastrous consequences of his naivete. At one point Clinton mocked the President (and his famous phrase) declaring that “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff is not an organizing principle” effectively attacking his reluctance to get the U.S. bogged down in long engagements.
While Clinton attempts to position Sanders as a disloyal soldier in the democratic ranks, her attacks on the President came at a much more precarious time for the President, while he was bogged down in the tumult of new complications in Iraq and the Ukraine. Clinton went even further, outpacing even right wing critics of the President becoming among the first to blame the President and the failure of his policies for the rise of Isis. Clinton stated in The Atlantic that “The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the Protests against Bashar al Assad-there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle-the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled”. The public spat evolved into a very embarrassing verbal joust, leaving a sitting President to publicly debate his former Secretary of State in the pages of the New York Times, in which he declared that the postulated scenario of success from Clinton’s recommendations had “always been a fantasy” (Washington Post 8/11/14).
Clinton’s early campaign was positioned to seek political benefits by distancing herself from the President. The Atlantic noted that Clinton repeatedly referred to the President’s policy as a “Failure” a remark she now assaults Sanders for making. As one who now seeks the mantle of the Obama Presidency, the inconvenient truth is that in the early months of 2014, Hillary Clinton was tacking right, praising President Bush and attacking President Obama as a failure (to summarize TheWeek.com 7/28/14).
The most costly charge for the Sanders team is the claim that Sanders once sought “someone” as a primary challenger for President Obama in 2012, however it is worth noting that the challenger most speculated about was Hillary Clinton. Team Clinton supporters, were the most vocal proponents of a Primary challenge for the President. In an article posted to TheHill.com frustrated democrats like Peter DeFazio suggested that a primary challenge might salve the wounds of disappointment he and other democrats felt about the President. A primary challenge he stated would “push the president and his advisers a bit……to give us back the candidate we had three years ago”. An unnamed lawmaker told TheHill.Com that Clinton was the only candidate that could “crystallize the issues”. The same liberal lawmaker told The Hill that “She could do the job and hopefully lead us to a better place”. The clamor culminated with articles like the Daily Beast’s “Hillary Told You So” in which numerous democratic acolytes loyal to Clinton asserted that the disappointment voters felt in Obama could have been avoided had voters made the wiser choice of electing Clinton. Redemption they argued could be earned by supporting a Clinton in 2012 primary challenge. While Clinton vociferously denied interest, fuel was given to fire by Clinton attacking her own Commander In Chief while serving as his Secretary of State, suggesting that Obama’s “Failure” economically was making her job harder as early as 2010.