Tuesday Reads: Bernie Sanders, Demagogue


Good Afternoon!!

Once again, I had to give myself several pep talks before I could get started writing this post. The attacks on Hillary Clinton from all sides are getting louder and meaner, but the nastiest rat-fucking is coming from people who claim to be “progressives.” Republicans might as well just sit watch and watch, because Bernie Sanders and his supporters are doing their work with incredible zeal.

I wish the DNC had just let Bernie Sanders run a third party campaign. I really believe trying to hand the White House to Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. Maybe he thinks that would trigger his livelong fantasy of a “political revolution.”

I know you all have seen these quotes from Sanders and his attack dog Tad Devine in the NYT by now, but I’m going to post it here again because it is simply shocking and unprecedented for a Democrat to attack another Democratic candidate in this manner.

But Mr. Sanders said the idea that voters would see Mrs. Clinton as better suited to win in November and do battle with a petulant Republican Congress was “quite a stretch,” adding, “There are people supporting Secretary Clinton who will spin anything for any reason.”

His advisers used the vacancy to highlight Mr. Sanders’s promise to overhaul the campaign finance system. Both he and Mrs. Clinton have vowed to appoint only justices who would overturn the 2010 Citizens United ruling, which allowed for unlimited political contributions. But Tad Devine, a senior adviser to Mr. Sanders, pointed to Mrs. Clinton’s support from a “super PAC” and her acceptance of donations from Wall Street executives.

“She cannot be trusted to appoint someone to the Supreme Court who will take the issue of campaign finance seriously,” he said.

Nevada supporters of Hillary Clinton have reported on Twitter about numerous dirty tricks on the part of the Sanders campaign. Today, @stylistkavin who describes himself as a “Proud SuperVolunteer” for Hillary has been posting about some really slimy behavior by the Sanders campaign, if true.

Kavin said he listend to this call himself. He is also reporting that Sanders supporters are knocking on people’s doors late at night and pretending to be canvassing for Clinton. Voters in Nevada have received calls from the Sanders campaign saying that Hillary is under investigation by the FBI. Finally, I’ve heard that Sanders people are calling. Republicans and asking them to vote for Bernie.

Obviously none of this has been verified, and I don’t expect the mainstream media to investigate; but these reports definitely fit a pattern of dirty tricks on the part of the Sanders campaign going back to Iowa.

Peter Daou: Bernie’s Dark Side: The Reckless War on Hillary’s Integrity.

Democrats have two candidates. Assume for the sake of argument that they each have a 50% chance of winning the nomination. And assume the Democratic nominee will face someone like Donald Trump or Ted Cruz in the general election.

With so much on the line, why is one of them waging an all-out war on the other’s integrity?

Why on earth would Bernie Sanders run a campaign premised on the destruction of Hillary’s public image?

As we’ve written: Hillary let Bernie off the hook in the last debate. She could have asked him a simple question: Does he believe President Obama is corrupt because of financial industry contributions? It’s a yes or no question that is central to the 2016 race.

Does Bernie think President Obama is compromised by Wall Street contributions? If so, he should have the courage to say it. If not, he shouldn’t imply that a female candidate would be influenced by donations or speaking fees. There’s a word for that.

The endless drumbeat that Hillary is dishonest is now driven directly from the top of Bernie’s campaign. The candidate doesn’t say it in so many words, but the inference is crystal clear. It is an “artful smear” where any mention of the “establishment” or Wall Street is a Pavlovian trigger designed to impugn Hillary’s character. The Wall Street Dog Whistle.

No matter how lofty and inspiring Bernie’s message, no matter how much he motivates younger voters, it is deeply unjust – and frankly, reckless – to run a campaign premised on the destruction of Hillary’s character through false innuendo. And make no mistake, Bernie’s campaign message and the behavior of his supporters have become less about something and moreagainst someone. His path to victory runs right through Hillary’s integrity. It’s a deeply regrettable turn of events in an election where Bernie had initially vowed to stay positive and issue-driven.

Daou may be biased toward Hillary, but he speaks the truth.

We can only hope that voters in Nevada and South Carolina will see through Bernie’s smear campaign. I never thought 2016 could get worse than 2008, but it is much worse. I just hope Sanders and his progs don’t force a repeat of what happened in Florida in 2000. The only difference between Sander and Ralph Nader at this point is that Sanders has access to DNC voter data.

There are a few journalists questioning the Sanders campaign’s tactics, but I don’t know if that will filter down to voters who get most of their information from TV and newspapers.

From Buzzfeed: Sanders Campaign Missteps With Influential Nevada Union And DREAMers Anger Activists.

Against the tightening race in Nevada, the Sanders campaign is still trying to catch up organizationally — and the battle for every Latino and union voter has become critical. At a union rally outside Palace Station Hotel on Friday, staffers for both campaigns were handing out leaflets. Some Hispanics approached by the Sanders campaign could be heard saying, “Si ya estoy con el,” or “Yes, I’m already with him.” Others, mainly Latinas, said they’re with “La Hillary.”

Behind the scenes, the Sanders campaign has angered people inside the Culinary Union — in instances both reported and previously unreported. The campaign has also unleashed demolition derby tactics on the DREAMers who have endorsed Hillary Clinton. Both have given the battle for Nevada a harder edge, and made activists, members of the union, and supporters of both candidates question the Sanders campaign’s tactics in the key state.

There have been concerns that the campaign has at times not used union labor. There was the time Sanders was set to stay at a non-union hotel, a big no-no among people close to labor groups, and Yvanna Cancela, the union’s political director called the campaign with a list of hotels he could stay at instead. Sanders never stayed at the non-union hotel. (“I would have done that for any campaign as a courtesy,” Cancela said, when asked to confirm it happened.)

There was the time — last week — when a reporter called Culinary officials to ask: Was it true that Bernie Sanders had personally convinced the powerful Nevada union to stay out of the race and not endorse Clinton, in effect helping him? The union official, according to someone with knowledge of the conversation, said no and asked where the reporter had gotten that information. It came from the Sanders campaign, the reporter said.

In the most publicized instance, in late January, two Sanders staffers wore Culinary Union pins to gain access to employee-only areas in four hotels in an effort to persuade union members to support Sanders. The union was “disappointed and offended,” leader Geo Arguello-Kline said at the time.

Read more at the link about Sanders’ attacks on DREAMers.

From Salon, a mild but interesting pro-Bernie critique: The Sanders campaign is flirting with danger: The two big warning signs coming out of last week’s debate.

It would be extremely premature to say that the media’s begun to turn against Sen. Bernie Sanders. But coming out of Thursday’s Democratic debate, there were signs that, on both the superficial and the substantive level, the media’s treatment of the Sanders campaign is about to lose some of its (relatively) soft touch….

During one of the few tense moments of PBS’s generally “chill” debate, Sanders, responding to Clinton’s explanation of how she will use her “political capital” once she is “in the White House,” sniped, “Secretary Clinton, you’re not in the White House yet.” The remark inspired some audible expressions of displeasure from the audience, and reminded some media observers of Obama’s “likable enough” moment in 2008….

Sanders has profited from the media’s lack of interest in challenging his self-presentation as a kind of non-politician. He’s similarly benefitted from his mostly-unchallenged self-presentation as a kind of happy warrior — angry and loud, yes, but in a lovably earnest kind of way. The Clinton campaign has desperately tried to get the media to challenge this image. Sanders has to be careful not to do it for them.

That brings us to the more substantive criticism that’s dogged Sanders in the past few days; and it’s one, I’d argue, that is more likely to resonate if the campaign press is already becoming less sympathetic toward Sanders on a personal level. It had to do with one of Sanders’ signature big, bold promises — namely, that he’d all but end mass incarceration before wrapping up his first term….
As Mark Kleiman, Leon Neyfakh, John Pfaff, Chris Hayes, Tim Murphy and German Lopez all noted, this is not simply a very ambitious goal. It is absurd, outlandish, ridiculous, disconnected — you name it. And not for the usual reasons that people say such things about Sanders’ promises, either. Not because it’s hard to imagine, but because it is impossible, full stop.
Read all the details at the link.
Quoting Sanders:

I believe that we have got to pass comprehensive immigration reform, something that I strongly supported. I believe that we have got to move toward a path toward citizenship. I agree with President Obama who used executive orders to protect families because the Congress, the House was unable or refused to act. And in fact I would go further….

“Somebody who is very fond of the president, agrees with him most of the time, I disagree with his recent deportation policies. And I would not support those. Bottom line is a path towards citizenship for 11 million undocumented people, if Congress doesn’t do the right thing, we use the executive orders of the president.”

This seems to come close to a promise to use executive action to defer the deportation of all of the undocumented immigrants who would be legalized under the legislative proposals Democrats have championed. (The Senate comprehensive immigration bill aspires to place 11 million on a path to legalization, but in practice would lead to legalization for closer to nine million people, by some estimates.) And indeed, this is what immigration advocates think they heard Sanders say last night….

In saying this, Sanders confirms that he believes the president has significantly more executive authority to grant deportation relief than President Obama believes he has. Obama’s most recent executive action — which is being legally challenged by two dozen states and will come before the Supreme Court this spring — seeks to defer the deportations of some five million people who are the parents of children who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents. But the administration deliberately excluded parents of DREAMers — people who were brought here illegally as children — because administration lawyers thought going that far would be legally questionable.

It seems clear to me at this point that Bernie Sanders is every bit as much of a demagogue as Trump or Cruz. He is making promises he can never fulfill; should be get the Democratic nomination, he may end up breaking the hearts of his young followers and driving them away from politics altogether.

I’ll share more links in the comment thread. What stories are you following today?

Did David Koch Buy the VP Nomination for Paul Ryan?

Roger Stone

Via Shawn Russell at Dailykos, former Republican dirty trickster Roger Stone claims to have learned from “sources” that Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan as his VP at the behest of David Koch, who promised in return to donate another $100 million to the Romney/Ryan cause. Stone writes at his blog The Stone Zone:

I’ve waited a few days to lay out my analysis of the selection of Paul Ryan for the VP slot on the Romney ticket. Unlike politicos like Dick Morris who bad-mouths the selection privately and shills for it publicly, I’ll tell you what I really think. My sources tell me David Koch played a key role in Ryan’s selection and that Koch’s wife Julia had been quietly lobbying for Ryan. The selection was cemented at the July 22nd fundraiser Koch held for Romney at the former’s sumptuous Hamptons estate.

Koch pledged $100 million more to C-4 and Super PAC efforts for Romney for Ryan’s selection.

It sounds like a conspiracy theory, but even Joe Conason has weighed in on it. According to Conason:

Any such transaction would represent a serious violation of federal election laws and perhaps other statutes, aside from the ethical and character implications for all concerned. Although Stone is not the most reputable figure, to put it mildly, he has been a Republican insider, with access to the party’s top figures, over four decades. His credentials date back to Nixon’s Committee to Reelect The President and continue through the Reagan White House, the hard-fought Bush campaigns, and the Florida fiasco in 2000, when he masterminded the “Brooks Brothers riot” that shut down the Bush-Gore recount in Miami-Dade. Peruse his site and you’ll see his greatest hits and the attention he has drawn from major publications.

I’ve known Roger personally for years and always considered him intelligent and amusing; also extremely dangerous and even erratic. Sometimes I’ve been surprised by how much he knows about the inner-most workings of his party – even when he is clearly persona non grata among the current power elite. 

Conason says there is a “ring of candor in Stone’s story.” As Conason notes, Roger Stone may have scores to settle with the Republican Party, which he left early this year to register as a Libertarian. Here is what Stone wrote at the time:

To real conservatives the freedom of the individual is paramount. No one should be able to tell you what you can eat, drink, smoke, or marry, or what kind of gun you can own. We don’t want to be snooped on by an all-knowing big brother government. That is the essence of liberty. The Republican Party has become both a party of big government and also an authoritarian party that would tell us how to live.

That the Republican Party can only produce Mitt Romney, who was an independent during the Reagan-Bush years (and only converted to conservatism after serving one term as governor, never intending to run for re-election while always planning to run for president), Newt Gingrich, a thrice-married egomaniac with delusions of grandeur and Rick Santorum, a religious fanatic, who would tell other people how to live, as presidential candidates proves the GOP may be going the way as the Whigs.

As Conason noted, Stone is a wingnut and unpredictable, but he knows everyone in the Republican Party–he was an insider’s insider. He worked for Nixon’s Committee to Reelect the President (CREEP), and worked in the campaigns of every Republican President since Nixon and served as Senior Adviser to Jack Kemp. Stone was accused of being involved in the Willie Horton ads for Bush I, and he is believed to have been the organizer of the “Brooks Brothers Riot” during the Florida recount in 2000.

In 2008, Stone founded Citizens United Not Timid in 2008. He formed the group in order to slime Hillary Clinton (note the initials in the name), and it ultimately morphed into the infamous Citizens United.

In his blog post, Stone wrote of his distaste for Paul Ryan’s claim of being a libertarian. He even criticized Ryan’s wardrobe!

The idea of Paul Ryan as a libertarian is a joke. Ryan is a big government, Washington DC Republican who votes to fund foreign interventionism and the erosion of our civil liberties. Ryan began his political career as an acolyte of one of my heroes, Rep. Jack Kemp. Yet Ryan has wandered far from Kemp’s genuine concern about the poor and disadvantaged. Ryan has become more of a faux deficit hawk and less of a pro-growth proponent.

Then there is the question of Ryan’s clothes. I’m not sure if he gets his threads from the Salvation Army or the Goodwill. His suits are too large as are his dress shirts. He appears to be wearing a plastic belt. The Romney team should enlist supply-side guru Larry Kudlow to coach Ryan, not on economics but on how to dress.

It could be that Stone’s admiration for Jack Kemp is at the root of his disgust with Ryan. Ryan claims Kemp as a mentor, but hasn’t really followed his example.

Yes, I know this sounds crazy, but look at all the craziness we’ve seen so far in the 2012 campaign. We have to ask ourselves: after all the dishonesty we have seen from Mitt Shady, can anyone who is paying attention really dismiss Stone’s allegations out of hand?

UPDATE: Roger Stone was not involved in the founding of Citizens United. That organization was founded in 1988 and has been headed by David Bossie since 2000. Thanks to Violet Socks for the correction.