Democrats would be insane to nominate Bernie Sanders
By Dana Milbank Opinion writer January 26 at 6:07 PM
I adore Bernie Sanders.
I agree with his message of fairness and I share his outrage over inequality and corporate abuses. I think his righteous populism has captured the moment perfectly. I respect the uplifting campaign he has run. I admire his authenticity.
And I am convinced Democrats would be insane to nominate him.
Hillary Clinton, by contrast, is a dreary candidate. She has, again, failed to connect with voters. Her policy positions are cautious and uninspiring. Her reflexive secrecy causes a whiff of scandal to follow her everywhere. She seems calculating and phony.
And yet if Democrats hope to hold the presidency in November, they’ll need to hold their noses and nominate Clinton.
Ultimately, I expect that’s what Democrats will do — because as much as they love Sanders , they loathe Donald Trump more. It seems more evident each day that Republicans have lost their collective reason and are beginning to accept the notion that Trump will be their nominee. And I doubt Democrats will make an anti-immigrant bigot the president by nominating a socialist to run against him.
Sanders and his supporters boast of polls showing him, on average, matching up slightly better against Trump than Clinton does. But those matchups are misleading: Opponents have been attacking and defining Clinton for a quarter- century, but nobody has really gone to work yet on demonizing Sanders.
Watching Sanders at Monday night’s Democratic presidential forum in Des Moines, I imagined how Trump — or another Republican nominee — would disembowel the relatively unknown Vermonter.
The first questioner from the audience asked Sanders to explain why he embraces the “socialist” label and requested that Sanders define it “so that it doesn’t concern the rest of us citizens.”
Sanders, explaining that much of what he proposes is happening in Scandinavia and Germany (a concept that itself alarms Americans who don’t want to be like socialized Europe), answered vaguely: “Creating a government that works for all of us, not just a handful of people on the top — that’s my definition of democratic socialism.”
But that’s not how Republicans will define socialism — and they’ll have the dictionary on their side. They’ll portray Sanders as one who wants the government to own and control major industries and the means of production and distribution of goods. They’ll say he wants to take away private property. That wouldn’t be fair, but it would be easy. Socialists don’t win national elections in the United States .
Sanders on Monday night also admitted he would seek massive tax increases — “one of the biggest tax hikes in history,” as moderator Chris Cuomo put it — to expand Medicare to all. Sanders, this time making a comparison with Britain and France, allowed that “hypothetically, you’re going to pay $5,000 more in taxes,” and declared, “W e will raise taxes, yes we will.” He said this would be offset by lower health-insurance premiums and protested that “it’s demagogic to say, oh, you’re paying more in taxes.”
Well, yes — and Trump is a demagogue.
Sanders also made clear he would be happy to identify Democrats as the party of big government and of wealth redistribution. When Cuomo said Sanders seemed to be saying he would grow government “bigger than ever,” Sanders didn’t quarrel, saying, “P eople want to criticize me, okay,” and “F ine, if that’s the criticism, I accept it.”
Sanders accepts it, but are Democrats ready to accept ownership of socialism, massive tax increases and a dramatic expansion of government? If so, they will lose.
Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire and former New York mayor who floated a trial balloon over the weekend about an independent run, knows this. As t he New York Times reported: “If Republicans were to nominate Mr. Trump or Senator Ted Cruz, a hard-line conservative, and Democrats chose Mr. Sanders, Mr. Bloomberg . . . has told allies he would be likely to run.”
President Obama seems to know this, too — which would explain why he tiptoed beyond his official neutrality to praise Clinton in an interview with Politico’s Glenn Thrush. “I think that what Hillary presents is a recognition that translating values into governance and delivering the goods is ultimately the job of politics,” he said. He portrayed Sanders as “the bright, shiny object that people haven’t seen before.”
It doesn’t speak well of Clinton that, next to her, a 74-year-old guy who has been in politics for four decades is a bright and shiny object. The #feelthebern phenomenon has at least as much to do with Clinton as with Sanders: Democrats are eager for an alternative to her inauthentic politics and cautious policies.
I share their frustration with Clinton. But that doesn’t make Sanders a rational choice.
By Kathleen Parker Opinion writer January 26 at 8:25 PM
The first question to Hillary Clinton from an audience member during Monday night’s Democratic town hall in Iowa must have been a blow from one so young — a potential new voter — this close to the caucuses.
The query came from a fellow who asked what her response is to his friends who say she’s dishonest. There was no beating around any bushes, so to speak, on that one. Flinching slightly, Clinton rested her expression somewhere between sadness and weariness.
Ever the pro, she rallied: “I’ve been around a long time. People have thrown all kinds of things at me,” she said. “They throw all this stuff at me, and I’m still standing.”
Clinton offered a similar response when asked about Benghazi: “I understand that they will try to make this an issue — I will continue to answer, and my defense is the truth.”
“They” presumably are Republicans and others who for decades have pointed out discrepancies between Clinton’s version of the truth and reality as checked against facts. She has, indeed, been around a long time, probably before her first questioner was born.
In one of her political ads, Clinton is shown repeatedly giving more or less the same speech about helping children realize their full potential — beginning in her college days through her various iterations to the present day. Her efforts on behalf of women and children are consistent, admirable and irrefutable. Yet one can’t help thinking upon seeing this ad, Boy, she’s been around a long time.
If you’re 22 or younger, your parents hadn’t brought you forth in time for Bill Clinton’s first presidential inauguration. If you’re at least 30ish, you probably heard grown-ups talking on TV about oral sex in the White House while your parents scrambled for the remote. I f you’re a baby boomer, you remember all of it and, if you’re not a member of the Clinton club, your memories are probably not fond.
Questions about Hillary Clinton’s honesty did not start with Benghazi or with emails and a private server, but began ages ago with any number of fabricated — or at least exaggerated — stories. Many may remember what New York Times columnist William Safire wrote about Clinton in 1996:
“Americans of all political persuasions are coming to the sad realization that our First Lady — a woman of undoubted talents who was a role model for many in her generation — is a congenital liar,” he said. “Drip by drip, like Whitewater torture, the case is being made that she is compelled to mislead, and to ensnare her subordinates and friends in a web of deceit.”
There “they” go again?
Safire’s concerns at the time — Whitewater, Travelgate, “lost” records — may seem remote and trivial to some, but the drip-drip he identified didn’t stop with the White House years. Subsequent to the various “-gates” were, for example, the story of coming under fire on a tarmac in Bosnia or about her having been named for the explorer Edmund Hillary, the first person to reach the summit of Mount Everest, despite her having been born about six years before his history-making climb.
These are such trivial stories to invent that one wonders why she bothered. The answer can’t be easily divined except as Safire suggested. Or, is it that she is reflexively prone to dissemble? Would this be a matter of habit, or something else? An innate need to inflate one’s status — even when it isn’t needed?
Even though these stories have been well-known at different times, they eventually fade or are dismissed as politically motivated. Politicians can reasonably bank on voters’ ever-shrinking memories, especially in the 140-character era of Twitter and YouTube, when most people would rather watch a leopard stalk and devour a crocodile. Well, I mean, who wouldn’t? It’s a pretty safe bet few enough will care what happened in 1996.
But more recent issues of inaccuracies are both concerning and consequential. We now know with certainty (thanks to an email from Clinton to daughter Chelsea the night of the Benghazi attacks) that the then-secretary of state knew it was a terrorist attack, contrary to official reports, in the days following, about street riots that escalated. We also know from the intelligence community inspector general that her private server contained information ranked beyond top secret, contradicting her assertions to the contrary.
What difference, at this point, does any of it make? When it comes to public trust in a presidential candidate — everything.