Memo to Sam Stein: criticism and attack are not synonymous | #MSM bias on Blog#42

I have to take issue with Sam Stein for a poorly-written, edited, and produced piece that begins with a clip of Bernie Sanders on this morning’s SOTU that has nothing to do with the rest of the piece. The clip is of Jake Tapper asking Sanders about an accusation by Hillary Clinton that he, Sanders, is sexist.

The text of the piece states that Sanders has gone on the attack against Clinton by taking jabs at her, but does not substantiate the purported jabs themselves. In his second paragraph, Stein links the words “took actual swipes” to an MSNBC piece entitled “Bernie Sanders Highlights Differences With Clinton at Iowa Speech” by Alex Seitz-Wald, but doesn’t quote from it as I do here. That piece is more appropriately-titled though, in it, Wald does make a one-time use of the word jabs, as well.

Bernie Sanders Isn’t Gonna Back Off His Attacks On Clinton

And now, he’s going after her by name.

Headshot of Sam Stein
Sam Stein  Senior Politics Editor, The Huffington Post

“The Vermont senator, known for his nearly monomaniacal focus on his agenda, took actual swipes at Hillary Clinton on everything from her vote for the Iraq War to her ambiguity on the Keystone XL Pipeline and trade deals.

Though Sanders didn’t mention Clinton by name, the jabs weren’t subtle. Nor was the timing…”

“In an interview with CNN Sunday morning, Sanders didn’t back down from his charges. And though he declined to say whether this marked a “new phase” of the presidential campaign, he did go after Clinton by name this time.”

Curated from: Bernie Sanders Isn’t Gonna Back Off His Attacks On Clinton

Criticizing one’s opponent hardly constitutes an attack. Contrasting one’s record, as Sanders does here with respect to DOMA, the TPP, and Wall Street and comparing the positions he and others took against them can hardly be called jabs or swipes:

“Today, some are trying to rewrite history by saying they voted for one anti-gay law to stop something worse. Let us be clear. That’s just not true,” he said. “There was a small minority opposed to discriminating against our gay brothers and sisters. Not everybody held that position in 1996.””


“I did not support it yesterday. I do not support it today. And I will not support it tomorrow,” he said. “It is not now, nor has it ever been, the gold standard of trade agreements.” [TPP]


“You do not have six financial institutions having assets equivalent to 60 percent of the GDP,” he continued. “With all the economic and political power that these banks have, I think you’ve got to break them up. That has always — that has been my view for a very, very long time. That is not Hillary Clinton’s view.”

Memo to Sam Stein:

There is nothing new in these kinds of statements by Sanders. What’s more, he said things like this to Clinton’s face during the first debate:

On Iraq:

On the Iraq War vote, where Clinton now says her “yes” vote was a mistake, Sanders said he was there first as well. “Let me tell you that I listened to what Bush had to say, to what Cheney had to say, to what Rumsfeld had to say. I didn’t believe them and I voted no,” he said.

Recounting to one’s audience how events unfolded and how one voted as opposed to one’s opponent is what candidates do when they vie for office. Those are not jabs. Accusing one’s opponent of wrongdoing would be a jab. That’s hardly what Sanders did.

I totally get that the left side of the primary isn’t as exciting as the right. I really do. But you know what, Sam? You and all of your colleagues could make this primary more exciting by writing expository pieces that contrast and compare the candidates’ positions. The public is starved for those kinds of pieces and, you know what? Few, if any, of your colleagues at other publications have started writing those. So, instead of manufacturing slights where none were made, why not inform?

As for that clip of Tapper asking Sanders about Clinton accusing Sanders of Sexism, it’s a “happy accident” you included it. Readers should see it. It’s when Clinton behaves like this that she gives pundits like Maureen Dowd justification for writing that she plays the victim. The gloves just came off and she’s already crying sexism.

Sanders has been in politics for far longer than Hillary Clinton. He’s been a progressive, a civil rights leader and a feminist since long before Clinton stopped being a Goldwater Girl. Oh, and if you haven’t noticed, Bernie’s classy. He doesn’t whine.

As he began his run, six months ago, Sanders stated that he would not engage in negative campaigning nor would he run negative ads against his opponents. He also stated that, were he to fail in his bid, he would support Hillary Clinton. He’s kept his word on all counts, including coming to Clinton’s defense over email during the Democratic Debate. What most pundits failed to highlight, in their post-debate assessments, is that Sanders pointed to the ongoing FBI investigation of Clinton’s email problem and that that process is the appropriate avenue to exhaust.

Not engaging in negative campaigning and refraining from criticisms are two entirely different things. Clinton’s record contains plenty that can be criticized and Sanders has every right to do so. Expecting Sanders to run for office and only say nice things about his opponents is not only unfair, but disrespectful of Sanders and anyone who might support him.

It’s pieces like these that detract from good analysts’ reputations. Be fair. In the case of the Democratic primary, it’s really not that hard.

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