During Thursday’s Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton confronted Bernie Sanders on his continued insinuation that she is somehow tainted by financial industry contributions:

I would just say, I debated then Senator Obama numerous times on stages like this, and he was the recipient of the largest number of Wall Street donations of anybody running on the Democratic side ever. Now, when it mattered, he stood up and took on Wall Street. He pushed through, and he passed the Dodd-Frank regulation, the toughest regulations since the 1930’s. So, let’s not in anyway imply here that either President Obama or myself, would in anyway not take on any vested interested, whether it’s Wall Street, or drug companies, or insurance companies, or frankly, the gun lobby to stand up to do what’s best for the American people.

Hillary is absolutely right. And in my view, she let Bernie off the hook. She could have asked him a simple question: Does he believe President Obama is corrupt because of financial industry contributions?

It’s a yes or no question that is central to the 2016 race. Does Bernie think President Obama is compromised by Wall Street contributions? If so, he should have the courage to say it. If not, he shouldn’t imply that a female candidate would be influenced by donations or speaking fees. There’s a word for that.

The endless drumbeat that Hillary is dishonest is now driven directly from the top of Bernie’s campaign. The candidate doesn’t say it in so many words, but the inference is crystal clear. It is an “artful smear” where any mention of the “establishment” or Wall Street is a Pavlovian trigger designed to impugn Hillary’s character. The Wall Street Dog Whistle.

No matter how lofty and inspiring Bernie’s message, no matter how much he motivates younger voters, it is deeply unjust – and frankly, reckless – to run a campaign premised on the destruction of Hillary’s character through false innuendo. And make no mistake, Bernie’s campaign message and the behavior of his supporters have become less about something and more against someone. His path to victory runs right through Hillary’s integrity. It’s a regrettable turn of events in an election where Bernie had initially vowed to stay positive and issue-driven.

Let’s examine the Bernie/Obama relationship further. What is Bernie’s true posture toward the President?

Speaking as a progressive who has been critical of American drone policy and of some aspects of the extension of Bush’s transgressions on civil liberties (such as indefinite detention), I can understand the progressive critique of President Obama. Indeed I was an early and vocal critic. But there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the President has done a tremendous job of moving the progressive agenda forward in the face of an intransigent Republican Party. His signature accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act, is a monumental achievement, and something Hillary worked on decades before.

Bernie stated during the debate that he and President Obama were friends:

As you know, he came to Vermont to campaign for me when he was a senator. I have worked for his re-election. His first election and his re-election. But I think it is really unfair to suggest that I have not been supportive of the president. I have been a strong ally with him on virtually every issue. Do senators have the right to disagree with the president? Have you ever disagreed with a president? I suspect you may have.

Is that the full story? To bolster Hillary’s assertions that Bernie has positioned himself in opposition to the President’s legacy, her campaign released an extensive fact-sheet to the media listing the following proof points:

It’s hard not to draw a clear inference from all this: any voter who wants to preserve and extend President Obama’s signature accomplishments should vote for Hillary Clinton.

And one last thing: that Bill Press book Bernie promoted? The publisher’s mission is to “provide a forum for the creative people, bedrock principles, and innovative ideas of contemporary conservatism and to chronicle the historic reforms those people and principles would bring.”

Their other authors: Donald Trump. Rush Limbaugh. Glenn Beck. Laura Ingraham. Michelle Malkin. Karl Rove. Oliver North. Dick Cheney. James O’Keefe, noted producer of false and inflammatory videos. Convicted felon Dinesh D’Souza.

Does Bernie Sanders really want to be pushing this?

bill press