Truth, Lies, and the Democratic Debate

With the focus on a potential Warren-Sanders rivalry, last night’s debate again let Joe Biden skate by without much scrutiny of his record.

Photo illustration: Soohee Cho/The Intercept, Getty Images

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Six of the remaining Democratic candidates met in Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday night for the final debate before the state holds the first caucus of the 2020 primaries on February 3. With the state of the race still fluid, the top contenders were all looking for a moment that might help them to distinguish themselves from the field. In the run-up to the debate, much of the media focus was on the apparent breakdown of the de facto nonaggression pact between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, with the latter claiming that Sanders had told her in a 2018 meeting that a woman couldn’t win a U.S. presidential election. The two clashed over Warren’s claim during the debate; Sanders repeated his denial that such an exchange took place, while Warren declined to retract the accusation. Meanwhile, the moderators once again allowed Joe Biden to avoid serious or detailed scrutiny of his record in the Senate, in particular his vociferous early support for the Iraq War.

Bernie Sanders: We have got to take on the fossil fuel industry and all of their lies.

Joe Biden: I would not meet with the supreme leader who said, “Joe Biden is a rabid dog. He should be beaten to death with a stick.”

Elizabeth Warren: The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they’ve been in are the women.

Mehdi Hasan: Welcome back to a new season of Deconstructed. I’m Mehdi Hasan and Happy New Year to you all, even though there’s nothing really that happy about it so far. On today’s show, we’re reacting to last night’s Democratic presidential debate, the last onstage showdown between the top six candidates before the Iowa caucuses in less than three weeks time.

BS: I did everything I could to prevent that war. Joe saw it differently.

JB: I was asked to bring 156,000 troops home from that war which I did.

EW: We have one general after another who comes in and says we’ve just turned the corner. We’ve turned the corner so many times we’re going in circles.

MH: Oh, and the big question of American politics was answered last night.

BS: Thirty years ago is 1990 as a matter of fact.

MH: Yes, 30 years ago is 1990. But today, let’s talk 2020 and the Democratic presidential race. If you’re a regular listener of this podcast, and I do hope you are, you’ll know that I like to talk about foreign policy. I like to point out the importance of U.S. foreign policy and I’ve been wishing for a while that these televised presidential debates devoted much more serious time and attention to foreign policy issues, especially to the endless wars and to the mess in the Middle East. Well, last night at the CNN debate in Iowa, ahead of the Iowa caucuses, and in the wake of Donald Trump’s reckless and probably illegal assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani which almost led to a full scale open conflict between the United States and the Islamic Republic. After all of that, we finally, finally got a discussion on foreign policy from the very beginning of a Democratic presidential debate.

But, and there’s always a but, it was a truly awful discussion, a right-wing discussion, a very hawkish discussion, the questions, oh, the questions, would you promise that Iran will never have a nuclear weapon as Trump did? That was a question for the Democrats on stage from the moderators. How would you stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon? That was another one. Would you leave troops in the Middle East or withdraw? Are there any circumstances when you would take military action without the approval of Congress other than an attack on the U.S.? It went on and on.

The moderators from CNN and the Des Moines Register newspaper in Iowa were in full belligerent mode and spent a lot of the night sadly regurgitating right wing republican talking points on both foreign and domestic policy. For example, the classic question of “how are you going to pay for it” reared its ugly head. But here’s the thing, while there were lots of questions about troops in the Middle East and nuclear weapons and endless wars, there were no questions about how we pay for troops in the Middle East. How we pay for nuclear weapons, how we pay for these endless wars, plus the new ones that Trump wants to start, but health care, “how are you going to pay for it?” Childcare? “How are you going to pay for it?” Free college? “How are you going to pay for it?” I mean, seriously, this is bullshit. It really is.

It’s only ever progressive causes that have to be costed and paid for. Blowing shit up, killing black and brown people in faraway lands, that never has to have a price tag. There are no budgetary implications. The money never runs out for endless war. By the way, I’ve said before on air and in print that every Democrat should answer the incessant questions about “how are you going to pay for this” or “how you going to pay for that” with one word, Mexico. Mexico is going to pay for it. I mean, if the Mexicans can pay for Trump’s wall, why can’t they also pay for health care and childcare and higher education? I’m just saying.

But back to foreign policy, Bernie Sanders got the first question of the night and gave what I thought was a strong answer.

Wolf Blitzer: Senator Sanders, why are you best prepared, the best prepared person on this stage to be commander in chief?

BS: I think my record speaks to that, Wolf. In 2002, when the Congress was debating whether or not we go into a war in Iraq, invade Iraq, I got up on the floor of the house and I said that would be a disaster, it would lead to unprecedented levels of chaos in the region. And I not only voted against the war, I helped lead the effort against that war.

MH: Joe Biden then got asked the Iraq question.

WB: Vice President Biden, you talk a lot about your experience, but some of your competitors have taken issue with that experience questioning your judgment in voting to authorize the Iraq war. Why are you the best prepared person on this stage to be commander in chief?

JB: I said 13 years ago it was a mistake to give the president the authority to go to war if in fact, he couldn’t get inspectors in to Iraq to stop what was thought to be the attempt to get a nuclear weapon. It was a mistake and I acknowledge that.

MH: Now, hold on. Let’s be clear about a few things here. It wasn’t a mistake to vote for the crime that was the illegal invasion of Iraq. A mistake is forgetting to file your tax return on time or saying four plus four is nine, or expecting good customer service from Southwest Airlines. That’s a mistake. Voting for an illegal war based on a pack of lies that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people is more than a mistake. It’s something that should disqualify you from running for president, especially when we’re still even now 17 years later, dealing with the consequences of that illegal war and catastrophic occupation. But here’s the other thing about that answer Biden gave, it’s so shamelessly dishonest, and Biden has got this Trumpian habit of telling bare-faced, easily disprovable lies when it comes to the Iraq War. He often says he opposed it from the moment it started which isn’t true, and which even his own campaign team had to concede recently wasn’t true. In the debate last night, he said he voted to give the president the authority to go to war if in fact he couldn’t get inspectors into Iraq. It wasn’t really a vote for war. Are you kidding me? Joe Biden was obsessed with taking Saddam down years before George W. Bush even entered the White House. Here he is in the Senate in 1998:

JB: The only way we’re going to get rid of Saddam Hussein is we’re going to end up having to start it alone, start it alone, and it’s gonna require guys like you in uniform to be back on foot in the desert taking the son of a — taking Saddam down. You know it and I know it.

MH: And here he is in the summer of 2003, shortly after the invasion, heaping praise on bush for invading Iraq, and saying he’d carry on backing Bush over that war.

JB: Some in my own party have said that it was a mistake to go to Iraq in the first place and believe that is not worth the cost whatever benefit may flow from our engagement in Iraq. But the cost of not acting against Saddam I think would have been much greater. The President of the United States is a bold leader and he is popular. The stakes are high. And the need for leadership is great. I wish he’d use some of his stored up popularity to make what I admit is not a very popular case, but I and many others will support him when he makes the case.

MH: None of this stuff was mentioned in the debate last night, not by the moderators, and annoyingly not by Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren either. They didn’t really lay a glove on him over Iraq, and Biden got off scot free again. In fact, not only did they not go after Biden, but the two progressives on stage decided to go after each other. Here’s the exchange everyone was waiting for given the row in recent days over a conversation that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren had in private with each other in 2018 at which Warren now says Sanders told her a woman couldn’t win the presidency while Sanders denies he said anything of the sort. CNN, obviously weren’t going to let that go. Even though they weirdly never bothered to ask either senator, what was actually said that night.

Abby Phillip: Let’s now turn to an issue that’s come up in the last 48 hours. Senator Sanders, CNN reported yesterday that and Senator Sanders, Senator Warren confirmed in a statement that in 2018, you told her that you did not believe that a woman could win the election. Why did you say that?

BS: Well, as a matter of fact, I didn’t say it. And I don’t want to waste a whole lot of time on this because this is what Donald Trump and maybe some of the media want. Anybody knows me, knows that it’s incomprehensible, that I would think that a woman cannot be president of the United States.

AP: So Senator Sanders, Senator Sanders, I do want to be clear here. You’re saying that you never told Senator Warren that a woman could not win the election?

BS: That is correct.

MH: CNN then turned to Warren and bizarrely acted as if Sanders hadn’t just flat out denied what he’s been accused of saying.

AP: Senator Warren, what did you think when Senator Sanders Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?

EW: I disagreed. Bernie is my friend and I am not here to try to fight with Bernie. But look, this question about whether or not a woman can be president has been raised and it’s time for us to attack it head on. And I think the best way to talk about who can win is by looking at people’s winning record. So can a woman beat Donald Trump? Look at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have last 10 elections. The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they’ve been in, are the women, Amy and me. And the only person on this stage, who has beaten an incumbent Republican, any time in the past 30 years is me.

MH: It was a great answer from Elizabeth Warren, a reminder that she knows how to stay cool and dish out some pretty nifty attacks on her rivals. But Bernie wasn’t happy about that last line from her.

BS: Just to set the record straight, I defeated an incumbent Republican running for Congress.

EW: When?

BS: 1990. That’s how I won. I beat a Republican congressman. Number two, of course —

EW: Thirty years ago.

BS: — I don’t think there’s any debate up here —

EW: Wasn’t that 30 years ago?

BS: I beat an incumbent Republican congressman.

EW: And I said I was the only one who’s beaten an incumbent Republican in 30 years.

BS: Well, 30 years ago is 1990, as a matter of fact.

MH: Let me just say two things here: number one, they’re both childishly arguing with each other about this stuff, arguing about who said what when each one basically suggesting the other is lying, while Joe Biden gets away with massive and much more consequential lies about his Iraq war record. And number two just for the pedants among you, Bernie Sanders defeated incumbent Republican House member, Peter Smith in Vermont in November 1990, 29 years and two months ago which means that technically Elizabeth Warren was wrong to say she’s the only one on stage to have beaten an incumbent Republican in 30 years, but who’s counting?

Anyways, let’s have a broader discussion now of what was and wasn’t said at last night’s debate who the winners and losers were and what’s going to happen to progressives torn between Sanders and Warren, especially in the coming Iowa caucuses. Let’s talk to two outspoken supporters of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. First up Nathan Robinson, who’s the editor of the progressive magazine Current Affairs, host of the magazine’s podcast, and he’s also author of the new book, “Why You Should Be a Socialist.” He joins me now.

Nathan Robinson, thanks for joining me on Deconstructed. What was the highlight of the night for you?

Nathan Robinson: Well, I mean, the debate was mostly pretty dull as far as these debates go. I think everyone was looking forward to that one moment where we would find out a little more about the allegation that Elizabeth Warren had made against Bernie Sanders and how each of them were going to respond to it. I mean, that’s the big moment of this debate.

MH: Yes, and I want to come to that moment, that debate in a moment. Do you think any of the candidates had a particularly bad night? Was there someone who had the worst night of all of the six on there?

NR: Well, you know, Joe Biden probably wouldn’t have had a very good night if it weren’t for the fact that he had a great night. And what I mean by that is Joe Biden’s performance was really pretty weak. It was probably in the bottom tier of his performances. He actually seemed to earn the name sleepy Joe that Trump gives him. But he had a great night in the sense that the other candidates didn’t attack him and he was the front runner, right? So —

MH: Bizarre, why didn’t they attack him, Nathan? Why don’t, why haven’t Warren, Warren and Sanders, and I said we’ll come to their spat about, you know what was said or not said in 2018. But what was weird was they don’t attack him in any of the debates. We were told by Team Bernie all week long in the run up to this debate that we were going to see an attack on Biden’s Iraq War record, there wasn’t really one.

NR: No, I mean, he made the point that he’s made at every debate right, where he makes this mild criticism where he says Joe was on the wrong side, I was on the right side. But he just repeated his standard attack, and it’s not much of an attack. But he didn’t, you know, point his finger at Joe and say, you know, the blood of Iraqis is on your hands.

MH: Or even that your judgment was so bad, it should be disqualifying.

NR: Yes.

MH: Which was basically what Obama said in 2008 to Hillary Clinton.

NR: And is also pretty true, right? I mean, it’s probably the greatest atrocity that the United States has committed in this century and so it should be more serious than it is. So it is — I find it bizarre that Bernie Sanders doesn’t go after Biden more. It’s really, really strange.

MH: And Warren too. I mean, the both of them. It’s mad. She got a history of bad blood with him over the bankruptcy bill. I really thought during this race that she would go after him and neither of them — On Morning Joe, the other day, she was asked about Biden’s record, she dodged the question. It’s very weird and self destructive.

NR: It is. I mean, the thing is, this is a primary, he’s the front runner, if you’re not going to make the case for why the front runner is bad and why people shouldn’t vote for him and why his record is terrible, and he wouldn’t be a good president, how are you ever going to get yourself above where he’s at? And instead, of course, they’ve now turned on each other.

MH: Yes. And turning on each other, they had this exchange, as you said that everyone was waiting for. CNN asked the question to Bernie about whether he said a woman can’t be president, can’t win, he denied saying that. They then turned to Elizabeth Warren and acted as if he hadn’t denied saying that and said, what did she make of it when he said it, as if it was fact. What did you make of that whole exchange?

NR: Well, I mean, I think Bernie responded as well as he could have which is that he said, “Well, I actually encouraged Elizabeth Warren to run in 2015, and I wasn’t going to run because I wanted her to run.” And of course, Hillary Clinton got 3 million more votes. So saying, “Why on earth would I say a woman couldn’t win when I’ve been saying for years that a woman could be president?” And then as you say, they turned to Elizabeth Warren after that, and said, “How did you feel when Bernie Sanders told you a woman couldn’t be president?” and Warren didn’t answer that, right? She didn’t renew the allegation.

MH: I thought she did?

NR: Well, I don’t think she said, I don’t think she said I mean, I don’t think she said how she felt when Bernie told her.

MH: Yes, but she’s sticking to her line that he said it. She said, yeah, she disagreed —

NR: Yeah, she’s not walking it back, right, but she’s not doing what we might have expected which is like elaborating on what exactly was said.

MH: True, we never got to the bottom of what actually was said. It was weird. It was a weird journalistic misjudgment for none of those moderators to jump in and say, could you tell us what was said exactly? What was the exact phrasing? It’s bizarre to leave that hanging and none of the other candidates obviously —

NR: Right, it’s so important because that, everything depends on what Bernie was saying. Because —

MH: Yeah, was it a misunderstanding? Has one of them misremembered the conversation?

NR: And you could ask her, is there any chance that you, that he was just making a comment about how pervasive sexism is, and you interpreted that to mean a woman couldn’t win? And so Warren very quickly moved away from the actual allegation that is being made, and towards this sort of pitch for female candidates and for herself —

MH: And it was a good pitch. She got a lot of plaudits, both in the hall and online. She was very strong. She came well-prepped for that. Do you think she’s done damage to Bernie Sanders in the last day or two?

NR: Oh, I think so. I think so. Absolutely. I mean, I think, you know, from a position of being a credible progressive, a person who has a big progressive fan base and then launching an allegation of sexism, right, a fairly serious allegation. Now, she may not intend it as an allegation of sexism, but all the headlines of course are “Bernie Sanders thought a woman couldn’t be President.” I mean, that’s a very serious thing to try and tar someone with. So I think it absolutely —

MH: What would you say, what would you say, Nathan, to Warren supporters who say this started with Bernie Sanders at the weekend, we were told, Politico got hold of this script that his phone bankers, his volunteers were using in which they were, “trashing her” to use the Senator’s own phrase, that she was disappointed to hear that “Bernie is sending his volunteers out to trash me.”

NR: Yeah, I mean, the script seemed to say basically give volunteers a response if voters said, “Well, why shouldn’t I vote for this other candidate?” Right? And it said, “Well, you know, Elizabeth Warren, she can’t build the base like Bernie can build the base.” And Warren said, you know, “Bernie sent volunteers out to trash me.” Now, notably, Bernie Sanders has never said anything negative about Elizabeth Warren, right. There was this this volunteer script, it’s not clear that he knew anything about it. And then, of course, after she said he was trashing her, then she released like, pressed the nuclear button which is to say Bernie Sanders told me that a woman couldn’t be president. And so it’s a fairly extreme, I think breaking of the pact of non-aggression that has sort of stood between them where they really haven’t said negative things about each other.

MH: Does it mean that they can’t be on each other’s tickets now? When I had Bernie on the show a few months ago, he was suggesting that she might be a vice presidential pick?

NR: I think it was everyone’s assumption, right, that whoever out of the two of them won, the other one would probably be on the ticket to unify the progressive wing. I think it would be very hard now. There was a moment, if you noticed, at the end of the debate, where Warren approached Sanders and Sanders extended his hand, and Warren did not take it, and they seemed to have a kind of acrimonious exchange. I think it would be very, very difficult for if Bernie wins, for example, for him to pick someone who’s accused him outright of being a sexist who doesn’t think a woman can be president and did something that damaging to then pick that person as a VP.

MH: Although if he did pick her as a VP, he’d be showing the world that he does believe a woman can be president. That’s the job of the VP, to be president in waiting. In terms of trashing Warren, what do you say to people who say the Bernie supporters have been particularly anti-her because they want him to be the only progressive candidate. I’ve seen people have a go at you saying that Current Affairs, your magazine in the past was full of praise for Elizabeth Warren and her ideas and her policies, and since she became a threat to Bernie, you turned on her. I’ve seen people accuse you.

NR: I mean, it’s a little frustrating because actually, I think that’s a sign of my open mindedness. I tried. I was very positive about Elizabeth Warren. And in fact, I said that if Elizabeth Warren was winning, if she started winning the early states, that Bernie should drop out and endorse her. I was frustrated by a number of things that Elizabeth Warren said and did, things she said on foreign policy, the way she backed away from Medicare for All. And as I looked into her record, things that made me you know, and I documented at length things that I think she said that aren’t true or misleading. And I was kind of soured on her by her actions and her record, but I feel like I gave Warren a really fair shake. And I think that when Sanders supporters are frustrated with Warren, it’s not because they’re pathologically anti-Warren. It’s because they’ve been frustrated with her and this incident kind of is the culmination of that where she’s lost a really vicious attack against a candidate who has never said anything bad about her.

MH: Just, you mentioned about dropping out and endorsing one another. In terms of winning the nomination, progressives want either Sanders or Warren. If one of them doesn’t make the top three in Iowa next month, should they just drop out and throw their support behind the other to stop the corporate wing of the party, the Biden, the Buttigieg?

NR: Yeah, I mean, I think that has to happen, right? One progressive has to win. And if we continue with two in the race, then we’re losing the central advantage that comes from having multiple centrist candidates which is that the vote is split between Biden, Buttigieg and Klobuchar a little bit. So yeah, we have to really quickly, progressives, if they’re going to take this nomination away from the front runner, Biden, we have to unify behind one candidate. So whichever candidate is ahead, the other candidate needs to do everything they can to support the candidate who’s ahead and can win.

MH: Last question, your new book is called “Why You Should be a Socialist.” Tell us in a sentence, why Americans should vote for a socialist for president, vote for Bernie Sanders.

NR: Well, in the United States, the people who have been, who’ve called themselves socialists, who have rallied under that banner have been on the right side of history from Eugene Debs opposing the war in 1917, to Martin Luther King in the 1960s to Bernie Sanders who was a fantastic mayor of Burlington and people didn’t think a socialist mayor would be a good mayor but it turned out he was. There’s a great American tradition of socialism. It’s always stood up for civil liberties. It’s always stood up for economic justice. It doesn’t have a record that people should be ashamed of and it’s something that we want to carry forth.

MH: Nathan Robinson, thanks for joining me on Deconstructed.

NR: Thanks so much. Nice to be with you.

[Music interlude.]

MH: That was Nathan Robinson, Bernie Sanders supporter, editor of Current Affairs magazine, author of the book “Why You Should be a Socialist.” I’m joined now by Murshed Zaheed, a Democratic Party strategist, former advisor and aide to then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and a strong supporter of Senator Elizabeth Warren. Murshed Zaheed, thanks so much for joining me on Deconstructed. What did you make of tonight’s debate? Was there a moment that stood out for you?

Murshed Zaheed: I have to say, I am beyond pleasantly surprised by the incredible performance of Senator Elizabeth Warren today. I have seen every one of these debates, I believe, this is by far the strongest performance she has ever had. And I think it’s the strongest performance of any candidate during this entire campaign season. Think about the intense pressure that she has been under for last 48-72 hours and the dramatic day yesterday until the statement came out and talk about the kind of nerve that she was under, the pressure that was she was facing and the way she came out the first 30 or 40 minutes. She crushed it.

MH: Interesting. So obviously, you’re a big supporter of Elizabeth Warren. I’m not surprised to hear you say she had a great night and she won the debate. So let me ask you this instead: who do you think had the worst night?

MZ: I think Bernie had a hard time. I think, I have to say I was very surprised the way Bernie reacted to the question about the one-on-one interaction, the dinner that Senator Warren and Senator Sanders had. I really thought that was a golden moment for him to take the high road and take the graceful road. Really —

MH: What should he have said? I mean, should he not, he doesn’t believe he said it, so why shouldn’t he would deny it?

MZ: I think he should have just pivoted and said that Elizabeth and I, we agree on most things, and I believe she could, I believe a woman can be president, and let’s not get caught up in semantics.

MH: She could have done the same too, though.

MZ: No —

MH: When she was asked the question, she doubled down and said he doesn’t believe a woman could be president.


MH: They both could have de-escalated.

MZ: That’s not true. I mean, if you think about it, it was Bernie who set the tone. But I also think Buttigieg had a hard time. I think Buttigieg does not look serious at all. He looked —

MH: We agree on that. It was not one of his good nights not that he’s had that many good nights.

MZ: Yeah, he’s just tossing out word salad left and right and really has no idea what the heck he’s talking about. And every answer he gave just opens up to further questioning and attacks on him.

MH: Consultant speak, his answers are all consultant speak. You tweeted earlier tonight during the debate, “Sad to see,” you said. “Sad to see Bernie is coming unglued, unhinged on the stage.” That’s a pretty vicious attack on a candidate who you yourself backed I believe in 2016. Unhinged, what’s the basis for that?

MZ: Absolutely. I mean, look, that was the instant reaction, and I was not the only one. He got into semantics of that he said-she said debate. It’s never a good position, good dynamics for a guy to be in when he is in a position that he has to be in a he said, she said position and he could have taken the graceful route and say that “We obviously, we had a misunderstanding. I don’t see it that way, but I also hear and appreciate where Senator Warren is coming from and I ultimately agree a woman can be president,” and just let it go.

MH: But here’s what I don’t get it. For me, I felt like they were both being a little bit childish. There was that weird, awkward moment where they argued about whether Senator Warren was right to say she was the only person on stage to have defeated a Republican incumbent in 30 years. And then they were arguing whether 1990 was 30 years ago or not. Why didn’t she let that go?

MZ: Look, I believe Elizabeth. She’s right that a woman can win and she’s right that a woman should win. And here’s why I think that, you know, I think it is time in terms of where this country, it is time for the moment we’re in.

MH: But Murshed, we never got to the bottom tonight of who said what in that conversation. The moderators didn’t actually ask either of them what was exactly said, but here’s what I don’t get: clearly these two friends got into a fight tonight, got into a spat tonight. And what I don’t get, as you say, she’s a fighter and she is a fighter. And yet I didn’t see her go after Joe Biden very much tonight. Why didn’t she go after Joe Biden in a much tougher way?

MZ: It was not just her. Bernie Sanders didn’t do much —

MH: — Neither of them went after Biden. Why?

MZ: I think that’s a good question that you all need to ask both campaigns. I think that’s a great question. I’m in total agreement with you. I would like to see be discussed Biden’s record on bankruptcy issues. I would like to see be discussed Biden’s terrible record when it comes to our foreign policy in terms of how he cheerleaded Bush going to war against Iraq. I want to discuss all of that. And I’m frankly stunned that we didn’t get a chance to see that. Perhaps it could be attributed to the way CNN set up the debate. You know, they asked a lot of these questions that are clearly tilted towards the right, you know —

MH: Very much so. I agree with that. I was saying that on the show earlier. In terms of winning the nomination, progressives want either Sanders or Warren as the candidate. If one of them doesn’t make the top three in Iowa next month, should they just drop out and throw their support behind the other in order to stop Biden and/or Buttigieg?

MZ: I think everybody should compete hard with everything they have, as long as they have the resources. If they have the resources to compete, they have ideas to share, they should keep competing. And I have been in enough politics for a long time to know that I’m not going to make predictions of what is going to happen in 18 days or 17 days and who should do what, you know —

MH: Not a prediction. I’m just wondering whether you’re worried that they’re going to carry on splitting the left vote and allow a corporate-wing candidate through the middle.

MZ: My focus is on President Warren — Senator Warren and the campaign she’s running and she’s right in the thick of it. People have tried to pronounce her campaign dead over and over again, yet she keeps coming back. And she just keeps coming back. And she keeps coming back despite dealing with misogyny and sexism in all ends and despite facing attacks from the right, from the left, from the — I mean, the hard, hard, hard left, the corporate media, the White House, everywhere. I mean, you can see right now, President Trump, Donald Trump Jr. is essentially taking Bernie Sanders’ side on Twitter right now. They’re taking hits from everybody. Here she is within two three points and as good a chance as anyone. So, I’m not ready to really think beyond Iowa and New Hampshire. You can have me on your show then and I can give you another opinion then.

MH: Last question, if you had to summarize in a sentence, a single sentence why someone should vote for Elizabeth Warren in Iowa next month, what would you say?

MZ: In Elizabeth Warren, we are going to for the first time have a Democratic president in the White House who’s going to use every strategic tool and executive tool at our disposal to enact a progressive vision in America.

MH: Murshed Zaheed, thanks for joining me on Deconstructed.

MZ: Thank you so much for having me, Mehdi, really, really appreciate the work you’re doing.

MH: Thanks so much, have a great night.

[Music interlude.]

MH: That was Murshed Zaheed, Democratic Party strategist, former advisor to Harry Reid, and a strong supporter, as you heard there, of Senator Elizabeth Warren. And that’s our show. Deconstructed is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept. Our producer is Zach Young. Our theme music was composed by Bart Warshaw. Betsy Reed is The Intercept’s editor in chief.

And I’m Mehdi Hasan. You can follow me on Twitter @mehdirhasan. If you haven’t already, please do subscribe to the show so you can hear it every week. Go to to subscribe from your podcast platform of choice, iPhone, Android, whatever. If you’re subscribed already, please do leave us a rating or review – it helps new people find the show. And if you want to give us feedback, email us at Thanks so much! See you next week.

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