The Slatest

Bernie and Hillary Call Cease-Fire in “Qualified” Fight

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton wave to supporters before the Univision News and Washington Post Democratic Presidential Primary Debate on March 9 in Miami.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

That didn’t take long. Less than two days after suggesting that Hillary Clinton was “not qualified” to be president, Bernie Sanders has had a change of heart. During a televised town hall on Friday morning, the Vermont senator said that “of course” his Democratic rival is fit for the job. “On her worst day she would be an infinitely better president than either of the Republican candidates,” Sanders said.

Bernie’s reevaluation of Hillary’s resume came after she made one of her own. “I will take Bernie Sanders over Donald Trump or Ted Cruz anytime,” the former secretary of state told reporters on Thursday, adding: “So let’s keep our eye on what’s really at stake in this election.”

Both candidates’ newfound of-course-they’re-qualified postures are marked departures from Wednesday, when this particular fight began. During an MSNBC interview that day, Hillary passed up three different chances to say that Bernie was qualified to be president, instead pivoting to his recent much-criticized interview with the New York Daily News and eventually saying that she’d “leave it to voters to decide who of us can do the job the country needs.” Sanders saw those comments as something approaching an act of war, and used a rally that night to unleash his blistering attack, saying that his rival’s vote for the Iraq war, support of past trade deals, and current ties to Wall Street all made her unqualified to be president.

As far as political fights go, this one was somewhere between arbitrary and absurd, depending on how generous you’re willing to be. In a strict sense, the only “qualifications” one needs to be president is to be a natural-born citizen who is 35 or older and has lived in the country for more than 14 years. Sanders and Clinton’s resumes, meanwhile, both check the boxes most associate with presidential candidates. Bernie has spent a quarter of a century as a lawmaker, while Hillary served as secretary of state and in the Senate. 

Still, the ordeal was the latest evidence that the Democratic race has become significantly more combative of late as both candidates campaign in delegate-rich New York, where a come-from-behind Sanders victory could reset the race while a Clinton win would move her one giant step closer to the nomination. Given the stakes, then, we’re probably seeing a ceasefire rather than a long-term truce. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Read more Slate coverage of the Democratic primary.