Campaigning in New York City on Thursday, Hillary Clinton struggled to make her Metro Card work. She swiped once and then tried again. Unphased, she tried five times until she could finally move through the turnstile like she's moved past other obstacles throughout her life. Hillary Clinton is relentless--an attribute that propelled her to become a two-term New York Senator, develop an encyclopedic knowledge of foreign affairs as Secretary of State and run for president twice.
This week, her unstoppable ambition became a shortcoming. Her seemingly flawless resume was called into question.
In the midst of a post-Wisconsin Sanders campaign victory lap, Jeff Weaver--campaign manager to the Vermont senator--sent a message to Hillary Clinton and her supporters. "Don't destroy the Democratic Party to satisfy the Secretary's ambitions," he demeaned on CNN's The Lead With Jake Tapper.
The remark coincided with another. Bernie Sanders told the press at a Philadelphia news conference that Hillary Clinton is not "qualified" to be president. "I don't believe that she is qualified if she is through her super PAC taking tens of millions of dollars in special-interest funds," he said before citing her ties to Wall Street, support for the "disastrous" War in Iraq and endorsement of also "disastrous" trade deals.
The Sanders campaign's latest criticism is multi-dimensional. First of all, Weaver's attack on Clinton's "ambition" casts her as a Tracy Flick character--a stereotypically, unabashedly ambitious woman. The trite probe turns female ambition into a flaw and makes excessive effort a con, casting a shadow over her accomplishments. His comment gives candor to a sarcastic 2006 Onion article titled "Hillary Clinton Is Too Ambitious To Be The First Female President."
Second of all, Sanders' retort is both an attack on the entire political system and a rephrasing of his previous criticisms of Clinton. Since the beginning of his campaign, Sanders has spotlighted Clinton's record of supporting trade deals, vouching for the Iraq War and accepting money from Wall Street. Now, he's reframed the issues, arguing for the first time that Clinton's past makes her unqualified for a return to the White House. The approach is especially biting as Clinton has based her campaign on the premise that her resume is precisely why she's qualified to be president.
Further, Sanders' remarks actually indict the entire political system. Almost every seasoned politician has accepted money from special interest groups. The trade deals Clinton supported were extremely popular at the time. And, Sanders was one of only six senators to oppose funding for the Iraq War back in 2008 when he was still an Independent. According to Sanders' model, steadfast involvement in party politics makes you unfit for the White House, which ironically might actually be true this election given the rise of Trump.
All in all, the Sanders campaign succeeds in raising valuable questions about the American Presidency in 2016. Are we not ready to break "the last glass ceiling" as Clinton refers to her potential ascent to the White House? Are establishment politicians no longer White House material?