Elizabeth Warren claims that in December 2018, she told Bernie Sanders that a woman could win the presidency in 2020, and that Sanders disagreed. Sanders denies this. According to his version of the meeting, Sanders said only that Trump would attempt to undermine a female opponent by using scorched earth tactics.
According to the Washington Post, two people “with knowledge” of the conversation support Sanders’s version. The Post doesn’t say whether these two people have first-hand knowledge or whether they are in the Sanders camp. I assume (1) they don’t and (2) they are.
Meanwhile, the New York Times says that “people familiar with the meeting” back up Warren’s version. In their account, Sanders said not just that Trump would “weaponize” gender to thwart a female candidate, but also that he would succeed.
However, the Times acknowledges that its sources weren’t at the meeting. Rather, they were briefed soon afterwards.
I don’t believe Warren’s account. For one thing, we know she’s dishonest. Ramesh Ponnuru reminds us that Warren denied her children went to private school when one of them did; she misrepresented her ancestry; and she said, ludicrously, that Democrats had warned her that no Dem could win a Senate race in Massachusetts.
For another thing, it’s implausible that Sanders would advance the claim that a woman couldn’t beat Trump, given that Hillary Clinton came close to doing so. Trump’s margins in the states that put him over the top were razor thin.
Don’t forget that in December 2018, the Democrats were giddy about their victories in the mid-term election just one month earlier. Female candidates had helped lead the charge. Thus, I doubt that Sanders would have thought he could sell Warren the proposition that a female couldn’t defeat Trump. And if he didn’t think he could sell it, he would have to have been an idiot to state it.
It’s possible that this is how Warren interpreted Sanders’s statement. It’s also possible that she’s misrepresenting what Sanders said in the hope of gaining an advantage over her rival for votes among women.
On balance, I consider the second possibility to be more likely than the first. The possibility that Sanders actually said a woman couldn’t defeat Trump runs a distant third to the two scenarios set forth in the paragraph just above.
By the way, it was vintage Warren to claim that Sanders said a woman couldn’t beat Trump and, in the very next sentence, say she has “no interest in discussing this private meeting any further because Bernie and I have more in common than our differences in punditry.” Feminists will regard the alleged difference about a woman’s chance of defeating Trump as more than a pundit’s dispute. Which, of course, is why Warren accused Sanders of making the statement.
In addition to a “difference in punditry,” there is now this difference between Sanders and Warren — one is telling the truth about their December conversation; the other isn’t, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
Even allowing for the soft ball nature of many of the questions CNN interrogators tend to pose at Democratic debates, there’s a pretty good chance that Warren will be called on to discuss her private meeting with Sanders. Similarly, there’s a pretty good chance that Sanders will be called on to discuss the anti-Warren script his campaign used against the Massachusetts Senator.
The gloves are off, as they should be this close to the Iowa caucuses.