Campaign Consultants Did A Real Disservice To Bernie Sanders
October 28, 2015

The thing about campaigns is that they have consultants. And consultants can either be a real asset, or an expensive mistake. (I'm looking at YOU, Mark Penn.) This is not about Bernie, or Hillary. It is about attitudes, fog of war, and how consultants can take everyone's eyes off the issues.

This is from an article in Bloomberg News today.

Now, at the DoubleTree, three members of the Sanders high command—campaign manager Jeff Weaver, communications director Michael Briggs, and field director Phil Fiermonte—were reflecting on what Clinton's record might say about her character. All agreed that Sanders and his staff believed that Clinton had moved to the left on numerous issues, from the Trans-Pacific Partnership to the Keystone pipeline, for purely political reasons: to foreclose daylight between her and Sanders. I asked Weaver if he thought that made her, as some longtime Clinton critics argue, a craven hypocrite and opportunist?

“A craven hypocrite?” Weaver replied, grinning slyly. “That's a little bit harsh, don't you think?” Then he added, with a chuckle, “Look, she'd make a great vice president. We're willing to give her more credit than Obama did. We're willing to consider her for vice president. We'll give her serious consideration. We'll even interview her.”

These consultants were interviewed just after Saturday's Jefferson-Jackson dinner, where all three candidates turned in a solid performance. They drew lines between themselves and the other candidates, and for the most part, managed to do it without eviscerating each other personally.

Then one group of guys got together with a reporter after the event and said that thing. That sexist -- yes, sexist -- condescending and altogether arrogant thing.

This follows some criticism directed at Hillary Clinton for joking during her speech that when women talk, they're often seen as shouting. Some in the Sanders camp took serious umbrage to the idea that she would suggest there was as much as a whiff of sexism going on there.

I've said before that I haven't made a final decision about who I will vote for in the primaries. That is still the case. But when consultants make condescending remarks about how they'll consider the little lady for the number two spot behind the man, it doesn't warm my heart toward that candidate.

I've been sitting here willing myself not to write this, telling myself I'm overreacting, that it's just frat boy political consultants being frat boy political consultants and I shouldn't let it color my attitudes toward Bernie.

Okay. I'm trying really hard not to let it color my attitudes toward Bernie. I'm still undecided about the primary. He's not ruled out.

But do you suppose there are women out there who are reading those remarks who might feel as though comments like that are intended to alienate them? It's a little bit difficult to hear those very same consultants whinge about unfair accusations of sexism in one article while simultaneously oozing it in another one.

Politics is a dirty business. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are grownups who can handle their own battles over policy and politics. But these This is what all those grassroots donors paid for? Guys to crow about how they'd condescend to consider the little lady for VP?

I'm pretty sure that's not what donors flocked to Bernie Sanders to get. Bernie can pitch and win his policy ideas without low sexist blows from his staff. They should apologize for that temporary lapse into fraternity-speak.

By the way, the thrust of the Bloomberg News article appears to suggest the consultants were pissed about Clinton taking him on over guns. This is a policy weakness Bernie has and must confront, especially in Iowa. That's fair game, just as it was fair for Bernie to go after her on his consistency over the Iraq war. I wouldn't view either of those jabs as unfair or below-the-belt.

But by sneering about how they might "interview" the current frontrunner for VP, they took everyone's eyes off the issues the candidates framed and put it right back on them. And not in a good way. Good work, guys, but not particularly helpful to your candidate.

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