Rutland Herald and Montpelier (Barre) Times Argus
Sunday April 20, 2016
It doesn’t have the drama of former Vermont Governor Howard Dean’s so called “scream speech” following his loss of the Iowa caucuses at the start of the 2004 Presidential primaries, which marked the end of Dean’s once promising campaign for the presidency.
Senator Bernie Sanders is actually on an impressive winning streak and increasingly has the sound and look of a man who has caught a strong case of presidential fever.
So I hate to be the bearer of bad news to his many fervid supporters in Vermont and elsewhere. However, the interview which the senator gave to the New York Daily News published this past week is going to be his final undoing - because it strongly implies that he really hasn’t thought through the domestic and foreign policies he is advocating – neither their potential consequences nor how they can be implemented.
I say this with no joy. I believe Sanders has made a major contribution to the national debate on several crucial issues including income inequality, the corruption of the political system, health care and climate change. And if he were currently two hundred or so pledged delegates ahead of Hillary Clinton instead of 200 behind, he could probably survive the Daily News interview, (which I’ll get to shortly.)
But because the Democrats don’t have winner-take-all primaries, Sanders already faced an insurmountable task to win the nomination. For instance, he won Wisconsin by double digits but only gained a handful of delegates more than Clinton. And even if he won over fifty percent of the pledged delegates in all the remaining primaries he would still not have as many elected delegates as Clinton.
The New York Daily News is a very popular tabloid, which supports Hillary Clinton. The entire interview, which was done April 1, was published this past Tuesday, with a devastating cover emblazoned with the headline “Bernie’s Sandy Hook Shame.” This was a reference to his opposition to allowing gun victim’s families to sue gun manufacturers. Although Sanders overall record on gun control is quite good, this is his Achilles heel on that subject. But in my view that was not the most damaging part of the interview.
Jonathan Capehart, member of the Washington Post’s Editorial Board, did an analysis of the interview which in itself was devastating.
“The Sanders conversation left me agape. From his own plans for breaking up too-big-to-fail banks to how he would handle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to dealing with the Islamic State, the man giving homegirl Hillary Clinton a run for her money seemed surprisingly out of his depth. Considering (breaking up the big banks) is the core of his campaign message, he should have been able to lecture his interrogators into a stupor with his detailed knowledge. Instead, Sanders sounded slightly better than a college student caught off-guard by a surprise test.”
When asked by the Daily News about negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, Sanders was even less sure-footed. This is part of that exchange:
“Daily News: Coming into office as a President who said as a baseline that you want Israel to pull back settlements, that changes the dynamic in the negotiations, and I’m wondering how far and what you want Israel to do in terms of pulling back.
Sanders: Well again, you’re asking me a very fair question, and if I had some paper in front of me, I would give you a better answer. But I think if the expansion was illegal, moving into territory that was not their territory, I think withdrawal from those territories is appropriate.
Daily News: And who makes the call about illegality, in your mind?
Sanders: Well, I think that’s based on previous treaties and ideas. I happen to think that those expansions were illegal.
Daily News: Okay, so if we were to find Israeli settlements, so-called settlements, in places that has been designated to be illegal, you would expect Israel to be pulling them back?
Sanders: Israel will make their own decisions. They are a government, an independent nation. But to the degree that they want us to have a positive relationship, I think they’re going to have to improve their relationship with the Palestinians.
Daily News: And I’m going to look at 2014, which was the latest conflict. What should Israel have done instead?
Sanders: You’re asking me now to make not only decisions for the Israeli government but for the Israeli military, and I don’t quite think I am qualified to make decisions.”
As the subject of the Middle East is one to which much of my career was devoted, I can only say that based on Sander’s evident lack of expertise and his diffidence, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would have him for lunch. President Barack Obama made the mistake of initially just asking for a freeze on Israeli settlements, and Netanyahu has made Obama’s life miserable throughout his presidency.
Finally, Sanders has frequently stated that based on his electoral successes he expects to persuade Democratic “Super” delegates - the more than 400 Democratic members of Congress, along with members of the Democratic National Committee and state party officials - to switch their support to him. As of now, most of these delegates support Clinton. Perhaps that’s because when Hillary has fund raisers with people like actor George Clooney, and raises what Sanders calls “obscene” amounts of money, that money goes into the Hillary Victory Fund. And so far, according to the Washington Post, Hillary’s fund has raised $26.9 million with more than $22 million of it going to the DNC and the state party committees for November’s election campaigns. Sanders has kept all of his donations to himself – so Good Luck Bernie! with wooing the Super delegates.
Meantime the key New York primary has begun with an escalation of sharp personal attacks between Sanders and Clinton over the other’s suitability for the presidency. This is understandable perhaps considering the stakes – but is more likely to be harmful than to do either candidate any good.
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