Two Democratic senators—both women, both eyed as likely 2020 presidential candidates—made strong statements recently that appeared to send an important message to the party: The time of the Clintons is over.
And just as quickly, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) ran so far away from those statements that it sent another message: We're terrified of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
First, Warren, the Wall Street warrior who can't say three sentences without some cliché about "fighting," agreed with former Democratic National Committee interim chair Donna Brazile's contention that the 2016 primary was "rigged" for Hillary Clinton.
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Warren bluntly said, "Yes," when CNN host Jake Tapper asked her Nov. 2 if she agreed with Brazile's mournful book declaring the primary was "rigged."
But around the same time, Brazile began bizarrely claiming she never used the word "rigged" in her book—she did—and insisting that it was indeed a fair fight between Clinton and Bernie Sanders—she wrote it wasn't.
"While there was some bias at the DNC, the overall 2016 primary process was fair and Hillary made history," she told MassLive Nov. 9.
One week after saying Sanders got cheated, Warren gave an answer that read like a Clinton Foundation press release.
Then there's Gillibrand, who made waves when asked by the New York Times last week if she believed Bill Clinton should have resigned over his affair with Monica Lewinsky. "Ms. Gillibrand took a long pause and said, ‘"Yes, I think that is the appropriate response,"" the paper reported.
Treated in the media as a bold bit of party-bucking, her statement was reported as sending "shockwaves" through the Democrats. Even Hillary Clinton said of the comment: "I'm not exactly sure what she was trying to say," which I read as, "Damn, Kirsten."
But when MSNBC's Kasie Hunt repeated Gillibrand's comment back to her in a recent interview, she didn't mention the Clintons once and instead focused on how sexual harassment is bad and we must have a conversation about it.
"My point is that the tolerance that we had 25 years ago, what was allowed 25 years ago, will not be tolerated today, is not allowed today," Gillibrand said. "And that we have to have the kind of oversight and accountability that society needs so that we can protect people in the workplace, that people can function without having an unsafe work environment."
"So you're saying President Clinton created an unsafe work environment in the White House?" Hunt pressed.
"No, I'm saying that this conversation we are having today is really important, and that the kind of behavior that was tolerated a long time ago would never be tolerated today, and we can't allow it to be tolerated today," Gillibrand said.
"Elected leaders should not be held to the lowest standard. They should be held to the highest standard," she added.
Gillibrand had an opportunity to put this new standard to the test earlier in the interview, when she was asked if Sen. Al Franken (D., Minn.) should resign after being accused of groping and kissing a woman without her consent in 2006.
She didn't say he should resign, but she did say she was "personally disappointed."
And here's how Gillibrand wrapped up the interview. Like Warren's comments, it reads like a hostage situation:
HUNT: One final question on the question of the Clintons. You said that you're going to take donations from Senator Franken that you've received and give them to charity. Do you think you should do the same with the donations you've received from the Clintons over the years, or is that a different situation?
GILLIBRAND: Well, I admire Hillary Clinton. She is one of my greatest role models. She is someone I campaigned very hard—who I wish was president today. I think she's inspired women and girls all across the world, and I will continue to work with her in every capacity that I can.
HUNT: So it sounds like no, you won't be giving back that money from the Clintons the same way.
GILLIBRAND: I think Hillary Clinton is a extraordinary leader who has literally fought for women and girls her whole life and cares deeply about everything we talked about today.
Warren and Gillibrand are looking over their shoulders at a dynasty marked by scandal, corruption, and the most embarrassing political defeat in American history. What are they afraid of?