At last night’s Democratic debate in Flint, Michigan, we witnessed what may be the most tense moment yet among the Democratic contenders for the 2016 nomination. Now, some are suggesting it was a stylistic mistake by Bernie Sanders.
During a heated, back-and-forth discussion of being tough on Wall Street and the bailout of American automakers, this exchange took place:
Sanders was clearly on the attack, telling Clinton:
‘If you are talking about the Wall Street bailout where some of your friends destroyed this economy…’
Clinton tried to interject a counterpoint, remarking:
But the Senator from Vermont was having none of Clinton’s interruption, pointedly telling her:
‘Excuse me, I’m talking!’
It was a moment of great drama, a far cry from the insults hurled so frequently during GOP debates; but might it also have cost Sanders from the standpoint of style and politeness?
Those who support Clinton certainly think so, and the group Correct the Record immediately fired off emails to reporters in which they called the exchange Sanders’ “Rick Lazio moment,” a reference to the actions of former New York senate candidate Rick Lazio, then a Republican congressman, who in a 2000 debate with Clinton strode across the stage demanding that she sign a campaign finance reform pledge. His action was heavily criticized and considered by some to be an intrusion into Clinton’s personal space. Clinton went on to win that race for U.S. Senate.
Now the question arises again: Should a male candidate act with more deference to a female challenger? Is there a double standard for how men and women are allowed to act to a rival.
At another point during last night’s debate, Sanders also chided Clinton as part of a discussion on gun control, asking her:
‘Can I finish, please.’
Some pundits have questioned Sanders’ somewhat testy style during interviews and debates, saying it proves he does not have the calm demeanor and temperament needed in a Commander-in Chief. But is Senator Sanders anywhere near as rude as the GOP front-runner, Donald Trump? Is anyone?
Future Democratic debates will tell us a great deal about the still-developing dynamic between Clinton and Sanders. Stay tuned.