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The Failure That Never Happened—And Three That Did

Bernie Sanders' interview with the Daily News and Hillary Clinton's record

(Photo: Eli Christman/flickr/cc)

The Failure that didn’t happen

The Clinton campaign, and the Establishment in the media, the Democratic Party, the punditocracy, and assorted other self-interested corporations and PACsters are desperate to bring Sanders down after his Wisconsin victory made it 7 of the last 8 primaries for Bernie (including the ex-pat primary).

Lacking anything tangible, they decided to invent a failure out of thin air, by declaring Bernie’s interview with the Daily News “pretty near a disaster” to quote the Washington Post --a take on it that was pretty consistent with the rest of the Establishment.

But if you read the transcript of the interview instead of the manufactured hype about “bungling” the interview, you’ll see that Sanders handled himself well. 

One of the things the Establishment has been focusing on is their contention that when pressed, Bernie didn’t have a plan to break up the banks.

Andrea Germanos at CommonDreams has an excellent article entitled “In Fact, Sanders has a Very Clear Plan on How to Break up Too-Big-To-Fail Banks” which quotes people not in the tank for Hillary, and they are universally positive. 

Germanos quotes economist Dean Baker, who said:

When asked how he would break up the big banks Sanders said he would leave that up to the banks. That's exactly the right answer. The government doesn't know the most efficient way to break up JP Morgan, JP Morgan does. If the point is to downsize the banks, the way to do it is to give them a size cap and let them figure out the best way to reconfigure themselves to get under it.

Most of the rest of the criticisms also disappear when you read Sanders’ answers, rather then the manufactured hype. In fact, Juan Gonzalez, who was at the interview, said, “…overall, I thought his performance was excellent.

Three Failures that did happen

The criticisms Hillary and her supporters launched on Sanders was meant to complement the claim that her experience gives her an edge.  She’ll be “Ready on Day One,” she’s “a progressive [sic] who knows how to get things done,” she’s “been in the situation room …” you know the drill.

But at the end of the day, experience counts for you only if you got things right, or at least learned from your mistakes.

Hillary is pretty much batting zero on all counts.  Bernie, on the other hand, has been on the right side of major issues for decades, now.

Here’s 3 glaring examples of her lack of judgment and how much they cost us.

The Panama – US Trade Promotion Agreement.  In 2011, as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was a strong supporter of the TPA and praised it in a statement released after it passed.  Here’s what she had to say:

"Taken together, these initiatives are the leading edge of a job-creating trade agenda that will open markets, level the playing field for our businesses and workers, and champion America's working families in an age of tough global competition. They deserve the historic and widespread support they received in Congress tonight. We will continue our work to rebuild an American consensus on trade."

The reality of the TPA is that it chiefly benefited large international corporations at the expense of American workers, robbed the US of tax revenue, and provided a way for the uber rich to dodge taxes. Oh, and that “American consensus” on trade she spoke of was part of a broader agenda of trade agreements such as the TPP that she now says she opposes. But less than a year ago, she was calling the TPP “the gold standard” of trade agreements.

Ms. Clinton is either a slow learner, or she lacks judgment, or she’s responding to her constituency … large multi-national corporations with deep pockets.

Sanders, on the other hand didn’t need to flip flop on the issue. He got things right back then, as he does now.  Here’s what he had to say on the floor of the Senate in 2011, where he was one of few to oppose the TPA:

In 2008, the Government Accountability Office said that 17 of the 100 largest American companies were operating a total of 42 subsidiaries in Panama.  This free trade agreement would make it easier for the wealthy and large corporations to avoid paying U.S. taxes and it must be defeated.  At a time when we have a record-breaking $14.7 trillion national debt and an unsustainable federal deficit, the last thing that we should be doing is making it easier for the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations in this country to avoid paying their fair share in taxes by setting-up offshore tax havens in Panama.

Wow.  Talk about good judgment.  

The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.  Perhaps no policy in the last 40 years has been as devastating to our interests as the Iraq War.  It has cost the US trillions of dollars, it expanded terrorist activity and created new terrorist groups, and it crippled our relations with both friend and foe across the world. Four thousand, four hundred and ninety-six American service men died, and more than 32,300 were wounded.  And that figure doesn’t include that tens of thousands more suffering from PTSD.

The war was sold by innuendo, fabricated intelligence and systematic intimidation of those who opposed it and even those who questioned the weak case the Bush administration was making.

It took judgment and courage in equal measure to oppose it, and few did. Hillary Clinton supported it, and was a strong advocate for regime change. 

Bernie Sanders was a leader in opposing it.

Both Sanders and Clinton had access to the same data.  Only one made the right call. 

Hillary has since admitted that her vote was a mistake.  Fair enough.  But did she learn?

Libya – doubling down on regime change.  Hillary Clinton was one of the chief proponents of interceding in Libya, when the Arab Spring spawned an active opposition to Gadhafi.   With Robert Gates, the Secretary of Defense; Joe Biden, the vice president; Tom Donilon, the national security adviser arguing against interceding with military force, President Obama was against the idea by 51-49, as he put it.  But Clinton lobbied heavily for bombing in two separate calls from Paris and Cairo, where she was meeting with allies. 

It gets worse.  Whereas Obama seems to have learned that it’s important to have a plan for “what happens the day after …” Ms Clinton advocated the use of military force in Syria, making her 0 for 3 on regime change.

ISIS rose from the ashes of the failed Iraq and Libya policies.  They are “the day after.”  Ms Clinton seems to have learned little from her devastating mistakes. The bottom line is that top intelligence analysts and the  raw data suggest that US intervention in the Mid-East has created more terrorists.

While Sanders did vote for a non-binding resolution calling for Gadhafi to step down, he is also on record saying it would not be worth it to use military force to make it happen.  And he has been consistently against regime change. So once again, he’s on the right side of history.

And he also advocates trying to build an Islamic coalition to address terrorism, rather than pursuing the policy that has increased terrorism and created ISIS.  

Wow.  What great judgment.

John Atcheson

John Atcheson

screen_shot_2017-07-26_at_9.09.47_pm.pngJohn Atcheson is author of the novel, A Being Darkly Wise, and a book on our fractured political landscape entitled, WTF, America? How the US Went Off the Rails and How to Get It Back On Track, both available from Amazon. Follow him on Twitter @john_atcheson

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