Bernie Sanders, after being mobbed by fans, gets into a Mazda on Grove Street in San Francisco on Saturday. [photo credit: Paul Iorio]
Did Sen. Bernie Sanders really not mention Hillary Clinton by name in a speech in San Francisco on Saturday?
He did repeatedly mention Donald Trump, disparagingly, to robust cheers from a crowd at the headquarters of a local political candidate, Jane Kim. And he did mention Kim, a California state senate candidate for whom he'd come to campaign. But he made no direct reference to Hillary (unless the loud crowd drowned out a stray remark).
There are several possible reasons for the omission. First, Clinton can't lose California on a bet, so he's not needed for her here. Second, her name is likely not a big applause line among these lefties. (In the crowd, I saw no "I'm With Her" signs, but did see a couple Jill Stein buttons.) Or perhaps there's still bad vibes between the two former rivals.
The real reason is probably that he was there specifically for Kim (who, by the way, introduced Sanders by mistakenly saying, "It's an honor to endorse [Bernie]...").
After Kim corrected herself, Sanders took the mike and offered up vintage Bernie-isms about Trump, income inequality and affordable health care for all.
"Trump shows... you can be a multi-billionaire, you can have mansions all over the world, but if you...know how to use a corrupt system, you don't have to pay a nickel in federal income taxes," he said, to deafening cheers, whoops and howls.
"When we stand together, and do not allow the Trumps of the world to try and divide us up," we triumph, Sanders said, paraphrasing Kim.
And then more red meat for the deep-blue crowd: "If we were a poor country, yes, I could understand people sleeping out on the street," Sanders said. "But, brothers and sisters, we are not a poor country."
Most in the crowd acted like it was a Bernie rally at the height of primary season. Outside the gathering, a vendor sold Sanders t-shirts. Inside, there were leftover Bernie signs from the campaign.
And it was almost like a scene from "A Hard Day's Night" when Sanders was surrounded by wildly enthusiastic supporters as he exited the venue and tried to make his way across a sidewalk to his modest Mazda at the curb.
I was around an inch away from him, and wanted to mention that I'd interviewed him way back in January 1989 for a newspaper article, wanted to ask whether he might consider heading the Fed or Treasury in a Hillary regime. (Imagine a Socialist signing all our money!)
But I couldn't get a word or a selfie in edgewise as he made it through the aggressive crowd.
Sanders had no bodyguard, no tinted windows, no Lincoln Towncar or limo. And here he was at the tatty edge of the hard-luck Tenderloin district.
When he finally got to the car's passenger seat, he seemed winded and even rolled his eyes as if he had been truly taken aback by the intensity of the crowd.
Sanders drove away, a few fans trailing his car, which briefly stopped at a light at Market Street. From the open window, he waved goodbye and drove off to Mission Street to another rally, just another Mazda in the mid-day traffic.