How to Call Someone Unqualified without Using the Word

Sam Seder has a point

I don’t think Seder is the first or the last to point out that this whole he-said-she-said-who-said thing is all really kinda silly. It’s frankly sad that any of us feel the need to respond to this at all, but this is what everyone from the “professional” media to twitter talked about for 24 to 48 hours, so let’s look at it. I actually disagree with Seder on  one point: you don’t have to say a word to make your meaning clear.

But what if . . .

English: This is the long form birth certifica...

The long form birth certificate showing that the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, was born at 7:24 pm, on August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Indulge me a moment, will you? Imagine, please that it’s 2008 and a major news personality asks Hillary Clinton, “Do you think Barack Obama is an American-born Citizen?”

Now imagine that she replies by saying, “Well, he hasn’t released his birth certificate yet, and that certainly raises a lot of questions.” Notice, in this made-up scenario that Clinton does not say, “Yes, of course he’s a U.S.-born citizen!” She could say that, and decide to keep the debate focused on “the issues.” But what is the overwhelmingly obvious implication of her failing to directly reply to the question with an affirmative, but instead give a nod to the birther movement?

In that hypothetical situation you can bet that major news organizations like CNN and the Washington Post would immediately begin publishing headlines like, “Clinton Says Obama Not a Natural Born Citizen” and “Clinton Agrees With Birthers.” Such headlines would be a certainty if on the night of her seventh state loss in a row her campaign was reported to be out to “disqualify” Barack Obama.

In the real world of the 2008 campaign

In reality, while it had nothing to do with the birther movement, Clinton did question Obama’s qualifications more than once in the 2008 race, and I don’t remember people getting picky about whether or not she used a specific word. Do you remember the “3:00 am Phone Call” ad? What was that if not an outright statement that only one candidate in the race was qualified to be in the White House? She also credited only herself and McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee with the “experience” needed to be President when she said that McCain “will put forth his experience. I will put forth my experience. Sen. Obama will put forth a speech he made in 2002.” What is that statement other than a direct dismissal of Obama’s qualifications to be president?

What’s this got to do with news this week?

So flash forward eight years to this week. Sure, if you want to nit-pick, Hillary Clinton did not say, “Sanders is unqualified,” but as Sam Seder in the clip above, and even Jane Sanders in her interview with Rachel Maddow, neither did she answer that he was qualified. Clinton was crafty. We give her credit for that all the time, and I have no problem giving her credit for that now. She was crafty. While seeming to dodge the question, she answered that he “hadn’t done his homework,” which infers what? That he is not qualified. And remember all of this was after this announcement that I’ve shared in a previous post this week:

“Disqualify.” Notice root word there, and if your mission is to disqualify someone, by definition, you are out to prove that person “unqualified.” So whether she said the exact word is completely beside the point. We knew from what she said and what she didn’t say. CNN knew, and though they tried to deny it later, The Washington Post knew exactly what Hillary meant, and that it was all part of what Clinton’s campaign had just reported that they were out to do. In fact, the articulation of the new slash and burn strategy from the Clinton campaign is obviously the only reason that next day Joe Scarborough used that word when asked Clinton in the first place, “Do you think he is qualified?”

As Sanders himself has said, “I do respect Hillary Clinton.” But this “qualification gate” is a bit puzzling and silly in light of how vitriolic other campaigns have been (Mr. Krugman, you’re over-stating the case again), including her 2008, “Shame on you Barak Obama!” The astounding thing about her craftiness in all of this is that so many of you bought it. And that has to make the Clinton camp very satisfied with themselves.

Why are we acting like school kids about this? And if she does become the nominee I hope she’s ready. I hope she doesn’t try to twist words and play the victim, because they will eat her alive. We all know that this response from a gentleman, who you know could be attacking you in ways he has refused to, is nothing next to the way the Republicans will tear her apart.

What qualifications was Joe referring to?

So let’s look at the claims that Secretary Clinton was making. Did Sanders bungle a New York Daily News interview? The New York Times, Democracy Now and and Huffington Post all soundly debunk that claim, and show the crooked journalism of the New York Daily News. Ana Kasparian and Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks lay this all out very well:

What has Bernie got to say for himself?

But how does Bernie Sanders himself respond to the qualification accusations? Does he really think Hillary Clinton is unqualified? Why did he say that? And speaking of disqualifying him, what about the other Clinton campaign tactic in play now, criticisms of his gun control record? Friday Senator Sanders was a guest on The View, so I’ll let him have the last word here tonight as he spoke for himself on these issues.

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