On the eve of the 3rd Democratic debate, Ed Rendell (former Pennsylvania Governor, former Philadelphia Mayor & District Attorney, and former DNC Chairman) penned a Washington Post op-ed attacking Senator Elizabeth Warren over campaign contributions and defending former Vice President Joe Biden against her attacks.
Here’s the thing: he is not wrong.
The substantive point of Rendell’s essay, that Warren is skirting her pledge to avoid big-money donors, is accurate. As is Rendell’s explanation of how a massive amount of Wall Street money still flowed to the Obama campaign in 2008 despite a similar pledge. And yes, even the claim that Warren is being hypocritical by attacking Biden for tapping some of the same donors who filled her coffers is legitimate.
The problem is, the defense SHOULD have come from Biden himself, not from a surrogate.
Biden could have added a jab at Warren to his stump speech.
He could have confronted Warren directly in tonight’s debate.
He could have issued a position paper on campaign finance reform and used Warren’s playing fast-and-loose with the rules as an example of loopholes that need closing.
But he did none of those. Instead, he enlisted cheap-shot artist and misogynist Ed Rendell to do the dirty work of attacking Warren.
How many people will actually read the op-ed? For many folks, the Washington Post is behind a paywall, so that limits exposure. But they will see that headline, that Elizabeth Warren is a hypocrite, and it will stick to her throughout the campaign.
Quick, tell me ONE position John Kerry staked-out in 2004?
Can’t, right? But you know he was a flip-flopper, right? But you remember this?
“I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.”
This is not the first time Rendell has taken aim at Warren, so it raises the question of what his motivation is and why he seems to fear Warren gaining influence? In 2016, when speculation increased that Hillary Clinton (who had secured the 2016 Democratic nomination at that point) might select Warren to be her running mate, Rendell opined,
“I think Elizabeth Warren is a wonderful, bright, passionate person, but with no experience in foreign affairs and not in any way, shape, or form ready to be commander-in-chief.”
Given Donald Trump’s false claims in 2016 about Hillary Clinton’s failing health, that statement from the former DNC Chairman would have been plastered in every Republican attack ad had Warren been the Vice Presidential nominee. And should she head the ticket in 2020? Trust me, that statement will come back to haunt Democrats every day of the campaign.
Remember back in 2008 when Hillary Clinton campaign co-chair Bill Shaheen suggested some questions reporters might ask of candidate Barack Obama, specifically related to his past drug use?
‘When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?’ There are so many openings for Republican dirty tricks. It’s hard to overcome.”
The issue became fodder for Fox pundits and ads from outside the campaign, but at last Senator John McCain (the 2008 Republican nominee) had enough character to let the issue die.
Rendell took a different tack in 2008. He was a Clinton supporter who stated publicly (and often) that the reason Barack Obama was remaining competitive with Hillary Clinton in the primaries was because the media was giving Obama a free pass and pointing out every bit of baggage Clinton carried. Hell, Rendell even praised Fox News for their attacks on Obama.
“I think during this entire primary coverage, starting in Iowa and up to the present, Fox has done the fairest job, has remained the most objective of all the cable networks … You actually have done a very balanced job of reporting the news, and some of the other stations are just caught up with Senator Obama, who is a great guy, but Senator Obama can do no wrong, and Senator Clinton can do no right.”
Ed Rendell hurt Elizabeth Warren with this op-ed.
He also hurt Joe Biden, highlighting Biden’s big money fundraisers and pool of elite donors (in the present tense) as a way of pointing out Warren’s hypocrisy over once the same donors (in her past).
Maybe the biggest benefactor is Senator Bernie Sanders? With his grassroots fundraising, he is largely above the fray on the issue, so he can highlight the differences between his campaign and the others and attack the others for taking so many fat-cat donations. By the way, there is a Sanders-themed video game now that allows players to battle “fat cats” and avoid “mudslingers.” People turned-off to Biden by Rendell’s op-ed will turn to almost equally Warren or Sanders in most cases as second choice, polls show. And people turned-off to Warren by Rendell’s op-ed are more likely to turn to Sanders than Biden.
There is nothing wrong with political insiders like Ed Rendell choosing sides during the primaries. Most do, and most eventually fall in line behind the nominee. But back in June of this year, when dicsussing whether and of the other Democratic primary candidates would attack Biden in the first debate over his close working relationships in the past with segregationist Senators, Rendell warned that,
“Any Democrat who attacks another Democrat in these debates is going to pay a price for it.”
Maybe he should have clarified that his warning only applied to candidates attacking candidates in debates, as he sure seems to think surrogates attacking candidates in op-eds is fine?
Otherwise, someone might call him a hypocrite.