Campaign watch: When do misstatements turn into lies?


From Tsongas and Bradley to Sanders:
As everyone knows, Bernie Sanders is the "authentic" candidate in this year's Democratic race.

In the past quarter century, there has often been such a candidate. In 1992, Paul Tsongas was the authentic candidate, as opposed to the untrustworthy Bill Clinton.

In 1999, Bill Bradley was dubbed the authentic truth-teller. He was running against Candidate Gore, who had a serious problem with the truth, just like his dishonest boss.

This year, Candidate Sanders is highly authentic, unlike Candidate Clinton. If Sanders wins the nomination, we'll be first in line to vote for him, as would have been true with Tsongas and Bradley before him.

That said, we thought we saw an old pattern emerge on our TV machine last night. The whole thing started with Jane Sanders' appearance on the Maddow Show.

Jane Sanders is a major adviser to her husband's campaign. After substantial song and dance, she seemed to tell Rachel that Bernie was trying to dump this whole "unqualified" thing.

Bernie Sanders has moved on, Jane Sanders plainly said.

Jane Sanders even seemed to agree with Maddow on a very basic point. Candidate Clinton never said that Candidate Sanders was unqualified.

That exchange went like this:
MADDOW (4/7/16): I don't mean to get too granular and specific about it, but I am struck by the fact that she was asked, over and over again, "Is he not qualified? Is that what you're saying? Is he not qualified? Is he not qualified?" And she wouldn't say, "No, he's not qualified." She was asked three times.

SANDERS: She also didn't say, "Of course he is."

MADDOW: "Yes he is." Right.

SANDERS: But if you look up in the definition of what unqualified is, and read a lot of things that she and her surrogates were saying, that's why reporters—

MADDOW: You think that was the implication.

SANDERS: That was why the reporters saw it as the implication.
There was a lot of song and dance, and a lot of air, in Jane Sanders' full discussion of this matter. That's especially true since she represents the more honest, authentic campaign.

But Sanders seemed to acknowledge, at several points, that Clinton never actually made the statement in question—that reporters simply took it as her implication.

In reality, "reporters" tend to say the things that feed their narratives and stimulate their wars. At any rate, Jane Sanders then proceeded to say that Bernie has said good-bye to all that:
JANE SANDERS (4/7/16): Now, I think they should all go back to the issues and deal with that and Bernie—Bernie has moved on. He has said, OK, let's not use the word "unqualified." Let's use the word "contrast." Why do I think I'm better than her on trade, on Keystone pipeline? Your story just now, I mean, he was very much opposed to it. Secretary Clinton was for it.
Bernie has moved on, she said. He has said, "Let's not use the word unqualified." But along the way, she repeatedly acknowledged the obvious:

Clinton never actually said that Sanders was unqualified. In Jane Sanders' generous assessment, that was simply what those honest reporters thought they heard!

Coming from the authentic camp, that struck us as an air-filled presentation. But then, just two hours later, there was Candidate Sanders himself, appearing with Seth Meyers.

As this exchange occurred, we thought of Tsongas and Bradley and others. We also found ourselves asking a question: When does a basic misstatement turn into a lie?
MEYERS (4/7/16): A lot of news this week. You made a comment about Hillary Clinton being unqualified for the office of president. Is that something you regret saying?

SANDERS: Well, it was said after she and her campaign said that I was unqualified.

MEYERS: Well, I didn't hear her say you were unqualified. I heard her fail to say you were qualified. But I didn't—she didn't say unqualified.
The more authentic candidate avoided that rejoinder for a while, then said, “I hope very much that we can have an issue-oriented campaign...But if people attack me and distort my record, we will respond.”

To watch that exchange, click here. Let's return to the statement by Sanders which caught our attention:

"It was said after she and her campaign said that I was unqualified."

There the authentic candidate goes again, one of the analysts cried.

As we've told you in the past, it happens every time. Whoever is running against a Clinton or Gore is dubbed more honest, more authentic. Apparently as a result, this too happens every time:

When these candidates come to see that they're receiving that slack from the press, they tend to take advantage by "misstating."

In 1992, everyone knew that Tsongas was the honest one, while Clinton was slick and dishonest. Later, we learned that Tsongas had lied about the state of his health—and that he would have died in office had he gone to the White House.

In 1999, the press corps was especially sure that Candidate Bradley was honest and authentic, especially compared to Gore, who just couldn't stop his inexplicable lying. By December of that year, Bradley was disgracing himself with the utterly bogus claim that Candidate Gore was the race-baiting fellow who brought us Willie Horton.

(A few years before, in his best-selling book, Bradley had explicitly explained how false that old RNC canard actually was. Now that he'd been deemed honest/authentic, he had room to "misstate.")

Saint McCain was also deemed honest and authentic that year. Result? By the South Carolina and Michigan primaries, he was lying through his teeth about his beliefs and his campaign's actions. Later, he apologized for one of his lies in South Carolina. Inevitably, the press corps swore that this apology once again showed how authentic and honest he was.

Last night, the more authentic candidate appeared with Seth Meyers. Rather quickly, he repeated a claim that simply ain't true. As with Trump, so with Sanders—even his wife can't seem to stop him!

In November, we'll be first in line to vote for Candidate Sanders. That said, this ancient, tremendously stupid pattern really does get a bit old.


  1. Yes, our two candidates are once again playing into the hands of the republican press by going at each other. It is just depressing. That said, when the issue of the private server came up, Bernie didn’t stare off into space like he had no idea what was happening. He called BS on the idiot press. But when Ms. Clinton is confronted with a bogus issue against Bernie, rather than putting it to rest, she lets the press say that she agrees. When she should have shouted “I said no such thing!” Now she’s shocked, just shocked that Bernie’s upset. Yes, Bernie is being overwrought. He’s used it to get at their differences in a way that makes him look like a school boy – really everyone knows Ms. Clinton is qualified. Then her comeback was childish too. Please, our team, find someone else to yell at. How About that Crazy … (the other target rich environment)

    1. Wow! Such skill at reasoning you have.

    2. Ummmm, she DID shout "I said no such thing" and so did many members of the "press."

      Bernie -- or somebody in his camp -- read a Washington Post headline then went bonkers. Didn't even bother to read the story to see if it supported the head. He just went bonkers.

  2. The triumph of semantics, Hillary and Sanders are just the same- except Hillary is more electable, right Bob Somerby?

  3. I don't understand how Somerby can say he will vote for Sanders over Clinton. I think that has to be the straw that breaks this camel's back. I don't need to read this blog any more. I cannot learn anything from a man who looks at these two candidates thoroughly and decides to vote for Sanders.

    1. I don't think that's what Somerby meant, although his wording coiuld be clearer. His column is basically critical of Sanders. He finishes by saying that, nevertheless, "In November, he'll be first in line to vote for Candidate Sanders." As I read it, there's an implicit clause, namely, "If Sanders is the Democratic candidate." Note that Bob didn't say he would vote for Sanders in the primary.

    2. "I cannot learn anything."

      You could've stopped there -- we'd have believed you!

  4. Al Gore's claim that he took the initiative in creating the internet is 90-95% more accurate than Bill Clinton's recent claims about his Welfare reform bill to Black Lives Matter Activists. Perhaps the Democratic superdelegates should be working for a brokered convention as well!


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