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Seizing on Establishment Panic, Sanders Sharpens Contrast with Clinton

'It is great to be against the war after you vote for the war. It is great to be for gay rights after you insult the entire gay community by supporting DOMA.'

"What leadership means is not simply following the majority," Sanders said. (Photo: AP)

With just a few days to go until the Iowa caucus, Bernie Sanders spoke to an evening rally in Burlington, Iowa on Thursday and made some of his boldest statements yet criticizing Democratic rival Hillary Clinton's political track record and Wall Street ties.

Sanders, who has faced an escalation of establishment ire in recent weeks, made a sharp contrast between his principles and his rival's—such as his early and consistent opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Keystone XL pipeline, the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton.

"Check the record, find out where my opponent was on all of these issues," Sanders said. "It is great to be against the war after you vote for the war. It is great to be for gay rights after you insult the entire gay community by supporting DOMA."

In recent months, Clinton has come out against the TPP and the Keystone XL pipeline, despite her previous support for both projects. Sanders depicted her evolution as calculated—responding to public opinion rather than taking a principled stance.

"It's great to finally, kicking and screaming, come out against the TPP, but where were you on all of the other trade agreements?" he said. "It is great to come out against the Keystone pipeline after supporting the Keystone pipeline."

"So what all of this is about—what it's about—is that what leadership means is not simply following the majority. It means having the guts in certain moments to say, you know what? I don't care what the Washington Post editorial board has to say," Sanders continued, referring to the Post's controversial critique of his campaign on Wednesday. "And I don't care what Fox television may be saying. What's right is right and what's wrong is wrong."

As the days count down, recent polling indicates that Sanders has a four-point advantage among likely caucus-goers and continues to gain public favor nationally. In fact, as Brent Budowsky writes for The Hill, it is Sanders' growing popularity that seems to have ignited the corporate backlash against him—exposing the establishment's back-door "bedlam."

"Virtually the entire Washington and Wall Street establishments are now in a state of panic about the possibility of a [Sanders] victory in the Iowa Democratic caucus next Monday," Budowsky writes. "What the insider Washington Democratic establishment fails to understand is that the issues Sanders raises have great appeal to the broad nation."

In a speech earlier in the week, Sanders criticized Clinton for attending a private fundraiser with an investment firm in Philadelphia, while he stayed put with the voters. "Frankly," he told a crowd in Mason City, "I would rather be here with you."

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