Like reading a scathing review of a dirty restaurant or an evisceration of a bad movie, it's a real thrill to see politicians tear each other apart with ruthless attack ads. I think that's because deep down inside, we know they're all heels and deserve each other's abuse.
But there's a special kind of art to Hillary's attacks on Bernie Sanders. Sometimes they can be sharp and mean, like when she said his health-care ideas will "never make it in the real world." Sometimes they're friendlier, like when she acknowledged that they both share a goal of universal health care. Sometimes they're both at once (both of the above statements occurred within the same speech).
But whatever the tone, Hillary's clearly shifted into "destroy Bernie" mode and won't give up until she's standing victoriously over the smoking rubble of the early primary states.
Clinton's narrative du jour is that Bernie's a big dreamer with no idea how things work in the real world. She says she likes Bernie "in theory," with "ideas that sound good on paper." She pointed out that he's introduced a health care bill nine times over the last two and a half decades, and never got a vote in the House or a co-sponsor in the Senate.
Essentially, Hillary's saying: Let's give up on our dreams and settle. This was the same line of attack she used against Barack Obama in 2008, but this time it seems like it might be sticking a little more effectively.
Hillary's people are also lashing out at Bernie's interest in diplomacy with Iran, but that's a bit misleading. In truth, he's said that diplomacy can only happen when Iran makes concessions. (Also, for crying out loud, Hillary herself brags about her role in brokering the latest nuclear talks.)
For his part, Bernie's trying to shut those attacks down by discrediting the messenger. Hillary's part of the "establishment," he says, which is certainly true. (Though it's hard to imagine how someone can spend 25 years in Congress without becoming a little "established" himself.) He's also fond of pointing out that Hillary's on the payroll of the big banks that are eating the country alive. That's a good point, though not particularly surprising — oh, rich people like to give each other money in exchange for favors? Stop all the presses.
And Bernie's no match for the meanness coming out of Clinton surrogates. After Bernie released a new ad that almost completely lacks people of color, Clinton SuperPAC leader David Brock said, "it seems black lives don't matter much to Bernie Sanders."
Obviously that's dumb — Bernie's been marching for civil rights since Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech.
But hey, go ahead, Clinton & friends. Go ahead and attack Bernie. Remind the American people why dreaming big is stupid. You might win the election (FiveThirtyEight has Bernie forecast to lose in every early voting state except New Hampshire) but it'll certainly leave everyone in a lousy mood.