Team Hillary Thinks It Has A Stake To Drive Through Bernie's Heart (Tonight)-- But, As Usual, They're Wrong
If the Democratic primary is decided on issues and if those issues are traditional bread and butter issues, Bernie Sanders will be the next nominee. Obviously, the Clinton Machine is doing everything it can to make sure the primary is not decided along those lines. Hillary's opportunistically-modified Wall Street agenda can't effectively compete-- at least not among Democrats-- with the decades of genuine, authentic populism that have shaped Bernie's platform. Her attack against his credibility is two-pronged: foreign policy (her supposed strong suit) and gun safety, where she claims he isn't progressive enough or, when he reassess his past position, he somehow isn't "consistent" or "authentic," two words it's hard to imagine her using as a weapon against anyone.
Her foreign policy claims are instantly dashed on one word that Bernie can employee but that Republicans can't: Iraq. On October 10 and 11, 2002, when Bush and Cheney were pushing their package of lies to drag a reluctant America into an ill-advised attack against Iraq both Hillary and Bernie were members of Congress. He was in the House and she was a senator. Republican Speaker Denny Hastert and Democratic Minority Leader Dick Gephardt jointly introduced H.J.Res. 114, the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq. It passed the House on October 10th 296-133. 215 Republicans voted for it and only 6 opposed it. 81 Democrats voted for the Bush-Cheney line and 126 Democrats were smart enough to vote NO, as did the House's one Independent, Bernie Sanders. Voting wrong that day in the House were would-be Speaker Paul Ryan and presidential contender Lindsey Graham. A few hours later-- but past midnight, so on Oct 11, the Senate voted for the war resolution as well, 77-33. The only Republican voting NO were Lincoln Chafee, although Jim Jeffords had recently switched from GOP to independent and he also voted NO. 48 Republicans-- including 2016 presidential contender Rick Santorum-- voted for war. 21 Democrats voted NO and 29 Democrats-- including 2016 presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden-- voted with Bush-Cheney for war. People voted for the resolution for one of two reasons-- either they thought they were somehow helping Israel-- like Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein and Joe Lieberman-- by attacking Iraq or they were genuinely too lame to see through the Bush-Cheney lies and imagined the U.S. was in danger.
Two days earlier, Bernie stood up on the floor of the House to oppose the invasion for 5 reasons:
• it would lead to the loss of lives of large numbers of American military personnel and Iraqi civilians.Pretty prescient... unlike Hillary or Biden. The Clinton Machine's other line of attack against Bernie is his record on gun safety, a record that earned him a D-minus from the NRA but that her surrogates try to paint as pro-gun. The silly, headline-grabbing story in The Nation last week upset some progressives, but it shouldn't have, even if the headline is stupid. Joan Walsh: "The Vermont socialist isn’t terrible on guns: Though the NRA endorsed him in his first race for Congress, he has a D-minus rating from the group. He supported the 2013 background-check bill, in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, and closing the gun-show sales loophole." So what's not to like? He voted against the Brady Bill and he believes states and not the federal government should set limits. He also voted for NRA-backed bills granting gun manufacturers legal immunity against claims by gun victims, and making it possible to carry checked guns on Amtrak.
• a unilateral invasion of Iraq would set a terrible precedent in terms of undermining international law and allowing other governments to do the same.
• a war in Iraq would jeopardize the effectiveness of the war on al-Qaida and international terrorism.
• the war in Iraq would be extremely expensive.
• the unintended consequences of the war-- who would govern Iraq after Saddam Hussein was overthrown and what role the U.S. would play in the civil war that followed.
Walsh didn’t say that Sanders has consistently supported specific gun-controls during his tenure in Congress, such as banning semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity bullets, nor allowing people to carry concealed weapons across state lines. Instead, she wrote that Sanders has an “open-minded approach to guns” that’s from “his political reality: He’s the senator from a pro-gun state that suffers little gun violence.”Hillary's pr people had more success with CNN. "Sanders' record on gun control has angered both anti-gun groups and the National Rifle Association," wrote Eric Bradner for their website.
That blurry synopsis is the conventional wisdom about Bernie and guns. It echoes reports from this summer recounting the NRA’s surprising endorsement. And like this detailed Politifact.com summary of all Sanders’s congressional gun votes, it notes that talking about guns is outside his comfort zone of economic inequality and justice.
However, The Nation and the other reports like it don’t shed real light on where Sanders is coming from. They don’t explain why he supports some gun controls but not others. Nor do they ask if there’s a consistency to Sanders’ positions and votes over the years? They simply suggest that Bernie’s position is muddled and makes a good target for Hillary.
Yet there is an explanation. It’s consistent and simpler than many pundits think. And it’s in Bernie’s own words dating back to the campaign where he was first elected to the U.S. House-- in 1990-- where he was endorsed by the NRA, even after Sanders told them that he would ban assault rifles. That year, Bernie faced Republican incumbent Peter Smith, who beat him by less than 4 percentage points in a three-way race two years before.
In that 1988 race, Bernie told Vermont sportsmen that he backed an assault weapons ban. Smith told the same sportsmen’s groups that he opposed it, but midway through his first term he changed his mind and co-sponsored an assault rifle ban-- even bringing an AK-47 to his press conference. That about-face was seen as a betrayal and is the background to a June 1990 debate sponsored by the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs.
...As has been the case in Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, he was accused by Smith in 1990 of taking some positions held by the NRA-- opposing some gun controls. He didn’t take that bait. Bernie stood by his defense the rights of rural hunters, and in his closing statement did what he always does-- turn the conversation toward what he thinks is the most relevant and big picture issue.
“I think the issues facing Vermont sportsmen and women, the issues facing Vermont’s environmentalists, are tied up with some very basic issues facing the entire country,” he said. “There is something wrong when the best environmentalists in this country tell us if we continue along the same road with energy consumption and energy development, if we continue alongthe same road in term of development, in terms of pollution, in terms of our dependency on the autombile, we may not have an environment to leave to our children and grandchildren. Clearly there must be radical changes in our national priorities. We cannot continue to do the same things that we have done.”
“The sportsmen and sportswomen of this state have the right to know, that in the years to come, that their kids and grandchildren will be able to enjoy the streams, the lakes, and the forests of the state,” he continued. “They can go out and hunt. They can go out and fish. But they are not going to have that unless we begin to control development, which is destroying the countryside, unless we preserve the family farm, unless we radically change the priorities of this nation, so that all people have the right to enjoy life, and not just the super rich.”
At next week’s first 2016 Democratic presidential candidate debate, it’s likely that his opponents will attack Bernie for his stance on gun control. He did not come out after last week’s Oregon mass shooting with a major new gun-control initiative. He issued a three-paragraph statement that was criticized by opponents as being too vague. And it’s true that gun control is not an issue that Bernie races toward. But Bernie’s statement was remarkably consistent with what he told Vermont sportsmen in 1990.
“The American people are horrified by these never-ending mass shootings,” he began. “Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the innocent victims. As a nation, we must do everything we can to put an end to this awful epidemic of senseless slaughter.
“We need a comprehensive approach. We need sensible gun-control legislation which prevents guns from being used by people who should not have them. We must greatly expand and improve our mental health capabilities so individuals and families can get the psychological help they need when they need it. We also have to tone down the incredibly high level of gratuitous violence which permeates our media.
“The shouting at each other must end. The hard work of developing good policy must begin.”
Russell Mendell-- savvier than any TV critic currently on the air. And Bernie's underlying critique of corporate media is baked into the cake of his worldview. Jack Shafer correctly asserts that Bernie doesn't expect the media-run DNC debate to be "a high-minded and nuanced discussion about the policies and prescriptions that would help Americans" because, in essence "the media’s chief goal, he believes, is to create a 'nation of morons,'" a view that goes way back at least to the 70s. "In his view, the media tends to trivialize the important issues if it covers them at all. It wants to cover campaign fights, not campaign debates. It over-relies on entertaining soundbites. Its news agenda is about generating profits, not producing quality journalism that will 'educate' the voters. And as powerful as the corporate media is, it seeks even more concentrated power through acquisition and consolidation... [N]o presidential contender in memory has confronted the media quite the way Sanders has-- and no candidate’s media criticism is as central to his or her core beliefs as Sanders’ complaints. He calls into question not only the product but the capitalist structure upon which big media subsists."
Is Martin O'Malley applying for a job in the Hillary Administration?
He has supported universal background checks for gun buyers, a ban on assault weapons and the closure of the so-called gun show loophole that allows sales to take place without background checks.
But he has also voted to allow guns in national parks and on Amtrak trains, opposed a five-day waiting period for gun purchases and backed for a 2005 measure that shielded gun manufacturers from liability for shootings.
Sanders was pressed Sunday on that 2005 vote-- one that's drawn new criticism from liberal groups during his presidential bid. He said he's open to "another look" at the issue.
"That was a complicated vote and I'm willing to see changes in that provision," Sanders said. "Here's the reason I voted the way I voted: If you are a gun shop owner in Vermont and you sell somebody a gun and that person flips out and then kills somebody, I don't think it's really fair to hold that person responsible, the gun shop owner.
"On the other hand, where there is a problem is there is evidence that manufacturers, gun manufacturers, do know that they're selling a whole lot of guns in an area that really should not be buying that many guns. That many of those guns are going to other areas, probably for criminal purposes. So can we take another look at that liability issue? Yes."
The vote to protect gun manufacturers from lawsuits could hurt Sanders the most. In the past he has voted to make it easier to sue airlines for crashes over water, machine tool makers for injuries that happen after 18 years of use, restaurants over mislabeled food that contributed to weight gain and more.
It's not clear how many of Sanders' supporters would be turned off by his gun votes. Russell Mendell, a 30-year-old Democratic voter in Boulder, Colorado, said he won't hold those votes against him.
"I think you can go back on any candidate who has been around for 30 years and find some issues that you don't agree on," he said. "I agree with Bernie Sanders on about 95 to 96 percent of things. I am not going to agree with any candidate all the time."
Sanders never shrinks from speaking what he considers to be truth to media power. During an August campaign swing through Iowa, Sanders once again confronted reporters over the content of his questions, coming across as a press critic.So... here you can contribute to Bernie's campaign.
“The corporate media talks about all kinds of issues except the more important issues,” Sanders said, hitting the trivialization check-box. “And time after time, I’m being asked to criticize Hillary Clinton. That’s the sport that you guys like,” he continued... [Bernie:] "With considerable forethought [TV capitalists] are attempting to create a nation of morons who will faithfully go out and buy this or that product, vote for this or that candidate, and faithfully work for their employers for as low a wage as possible."
...[W]hereas Clinton or Trump might parry with the press for sport (as Trump, in fact, did Thursday night, devoting much of his speech in Las Vegas to media complaints), the Sanders press critique doesn’t stand separate from his critique of capitalism: In fact, his complaints about the media are part of the central animating principle of his entire political career. “We live in a nation in which a handful of very, very wealthy people have extraordinary power over our economy and our political life and the media,” he said in an August speech, reducing the corporate media to a mouthpiece for the rich. And we know how he feels about the rich... "I’m not sympathetic to government control of the media,” he told the crowd, but added that, “corporate control of the media is equally dangerous."
...Today, out on the hustings as he faces Clinton in the presidential primaries, Sanders continues to pour his press lectures into reporters’ notebooks. In mid-summer, the Huffington Post collected several examples of Sanders denouncing coverage of campaign fundraising, polling, gaffes and trivia: After Sen. Marco Rubio accidentally struck a kid in the face with a football, Sanders cluck-clucked that the incident “will get more coverage than Marco Rubio’s position on Social Security.” He tweeted about the “corporate media” diverting attention from the important issues. ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl got the thanks-for-the-question-but-no-comment treatment after asking him if Clinton is “honest and trustworthy.” In August, when Ana Marie Cox of the New York Times asked him about Clinton’s hair, he drew on four decades of experience in chastising the press to put her in her place.
“OK, Ana, I don’t mean to be rude here. I am running for president of the United States on serious issues, OK? Do you have serious questions?” he said.
Historically, the Sanders press critique has disparaged corporate control and reportorial priorities, but only rarely does his grouching light directly on the way the press reports on him.
“I don’t have a problem with the way I’m covered,” he said in August. “Do I think I’m being covered any worse or any better than other candidates? No. Has anyone ever heard me say that? ‘Gee, you’re being unfair to me.’ I never said that. But this is what I will say. I want you to talk about and force discussion about climate change. Do you think you do that enough? I would like you to force discussion on poverty in America.”
And here you can contribute to Bernie's campaign and to the campaigns of other Democrats who have endorsed him. Remember, he can't do it all alone.