Sanders Rolling Stone interview

Rolling Stone magazine published an interesting article this week with a long Bernie Sanders interview by Tim Dickinson, who asks some of the harder questions I have been wanting to hear Bernie answer. I have problems with some of his responses.

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Photo from the Rolling Stone article.

His first question, in part, is, “The critique is not blaming Bernie Sanders for thinking too big, but critiquing Bernie Sanders for sweeping the ‘unpleasant truths’ of our political system right now – the way it ties everything up in knots – ‘under the rug.’”  He asks Sanders for specifics on how he would get things done. Sanders, who has not waited to hear the rest of the question, says it is an absurd question, Essentially the question is, how do you get your ideas passed in Congress.  Sanders answer resorts to his magical thinking about how if he wins he will bring with him a new Congress that he can work with.  It is magical because as we see later in the article he does not understand the idea of raising money for down ballot candidates.

Dickinson presses on, suggesting that he would still have Paul Ryan as a negotiating partner and Sanders says it is a fair question and then sarcastically responds that if he tried to convince Ryan, head on, to agree with him about taxing Wall St to pay for free college tuition, Ryan would not respond by saying, “why didn’t I think of that.” No, he agrees he would need a different strategy and that would be convincing the American people to fight for this proposal.  But, that does not address the realities of the current political system of representative government, which requires electing a lot of new people who agree with your ideas. This is something that cannot be done overnight.  It is so much more complicated than that and in the meantime you continue to have gridlock.  Sanders does not think he has to address this important concept when he tells his rallies of young people that they need to vote for him and he will change the political world.

In the article he does admit that he really doesn’t know how he will get his proposals passed.    He says, “Now is it easy to do? No. How do you do it? It’s a good question. And the truth is, right now I’m a bit busy running for president to have figured that out, other than to tell you that it requires a mass-based political effort bringing millions of people together to stand up and fight back.”

How do you organize those people once you have their attention?  How about a political party?  But Sanders, we remember, doesn’t historically seem to believe in political parties.  Political parties don’t just run independent campaigns; they work together to get elected many likeminded people who will then work together to run the country.

He criticizes Hillary Clinton for going to fundraisers to raise money instead of holding rallies as he has been doing.  What he doesn’t seem to care about is that she is raising money not just for herself, but for down ballot candidates.  Dickinson does not specifically ask Sanders to address why he has hardly given any of the money he has raised to other candidates.

When Dickinson ask him if he doesn’t win what will he do, he says that he can’t answer the question, even though it is a good one, because “that’s not where my head is right now.”  He apparently hasn’t even thought about trying to help other people who agree with him get elected.  Perhaps he could steer some of his supporters in that direction?

Sanders talks about changing the rules for the Democratic party, calling closed primaries a dumb idea.  But it is not the party that is closed, as Sanders has been implying, it is the primary.  People could join that party if they want to select the candidate that will represent the party which will appear on the ballot.  He says that the state is holding the election with the people’s money, so they should be able to vote in the primary.  But individual, “independent” people do not get on the ballot.  In our representative government, parties nominate people to represent them so that they can get on the ballot.  The party is open and if you don’t like what they are doing, you can join the party and try to change it.  But, you have to step up and join otherwise you are an outsider.  A lot of good is done by outsiders who heckle from the sidelines, but they can’t have it both ways.  You make change from inside or from outside.

In the article he responds to a question about bringing his droves of supporters into the Democratic Party by asking if he brought them to a democratic party meeting, “will they be welcomed? Will the doors be open?  Will the party hierarchy say, ‘Thank you for coming in.…?’ Or will they say, ‘hey we have a pretty good thing going right now. We don’t need you?’” He adds that he doesn’t know the answer.  That is outrageous and he should be called on it!

Sanders is running for the Democratic party nomination and yet he has increasingly spent his time criticizing the party in this way, suggesting that it is not an open process. Then he wonders why, if he doesn’t get the nomination, his supporters might be considering voting for Trump and not Clinton. It is posing these kinds of questions that forms the thinking of his supporters.

He says, “It’s not my job to think that I can reach out and say to millions, ‘Do what I want you to do.’ That is not the way it works.”  He says how bad Trump is, but he can’t ask his supporters to vote for the candidate that beats him for the party’s nomination?  What?  Really?  He is asking them to vote for him and not for her.  Is it that, after all the things that he has said about his opponent and the party, he would find himself being hypocritical by turning around and telling them to support her?  If that is the case, then he should think about what he is saying now.  He should think about the kind of attitude he is creating toward her and the party.

He actually says, “Apparently, a lot of people who voted for me are not prepared to vote for Hillary Clinton.  Why is that?” Now that is an absurd question.  It is because you have told them NOT to vote for her and you have continually implied that you do not intend to tell them you think that they should vote for her.  To use one of Bernie Sanders favorite words, now that is just dumb.

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My Hillary memories

Some of the most vivid impressions I have from when I covered the 1992 Clinton Presidential campaign are actually of Hillary more than of Bill.  One I particularly remember, I think it was during the first time we were actually in Little Rock. We were standing out on the sidewalk in front of the Arkansas governor’s mansion and Hillary came out to send the governor/candidate off on his day.  She was wearing dark leggings and a long, red, blousy shirt and might have ever been barefoot.  After talking for a few minutes, she looked up at him with a hand on his chest and they gave each other a kiss goodbye.  I don’t know why that has stuck in my memory.  It just seemed so personal and authentic. A private moment between two people whose lives would become some public.  A cynic might say that they knew we were watching and it was after the Jennifer Flowers accusations were public, but they were down a long driveway, there weren’t that many of us at that time and I’m not even sure I was with a camera crew.

Another time, we were in a small town on a Sunday, somewhere in upstate New York, during one of the many bus trips.  The Today Show had joined us to tape a sit down interview with Hillary. I wasn’t involved, but as the NBC producer traveling with the campaign I was there, sitting with her as the crew was setting up.  I had been with her before, when I was the producer coordinating a morning live-shot, but I didn’t really know her and didn’t think she knew who I was, suddenly she called me by name.  I was blown away.  Maybe she’d heard someone call me by name, but I don’t think that Katie Couric, who had just borrowed my lipstick, knew my name and Jeff Zucker, knew it, but was not likely to have used it.  She has become famous for her ability to retain and call people by their names and it is one of her many impressive qualities.

I also remember her for her speeches.  Maybe it was because I had listened to his speeches over and over again, but when she gave a speech I remember being impressed, I think it was because they seemed so coherent.  I’m not really sure, but I was always happy when she was doing the speaking.  I suppose it could have been that we didn’t hear that many women speaking on the campaign trail back then.  It was a good thing that she was so good at it, because in the last few days of the campaign, Bill lost his voice and the doctor forbid his giving speeches, so Hillary was campaigning with him and doing the speaking.  They seemed to really support each other.

We got some insight into how he felt about her, when he had to answer our questions because of one accusation or another that came up about her during the campaign.  Another of those vivid memories was getting back on the campaign plane after a scrum on the tarmac, I think we were in Michigan, and standing in the galley with him, he talked about how surprised he was of people’s impressions of her and offered that she was really much more conservative than people thought.  At the time she was being accused of being a leftist.  I guess most Bernie supporters are too young to remember that.

Monday night I will attend the “She’s with Us” concert at the Greek Theater for a chance to hear her speak again in person. I’m looking forward to it.

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Bernie Sanders Leadership

 

(This was written several weeks ago.)

Is the reason that only one of Bernie Sanders fellow Senators is supporting his candidacy for President because of the kind of leadership he is currently showing?

It seems like some of the criticism of his legislative work has been that he takes extreme positions and then refuses to compromise.  That appears to be what he is doing now, faced with the prospect that he will not get enough votes to win the Democratic nomination.  He is digging in rather than show the leadership that would make it easier for some of his most avid supporters to make the transition after the convention and support the eventual nominee.

This has been said by a number of columnists in recent days: D.J Dione  Clinton and Sanders must make peace in his Washington Post column.  Eugene Robinson Sanders’s scorched-earth campaign is a gift to Trump also in the Post.

I am not suggesting that he suspend his campaign.  He is on the ballot in the remaining states and his supporters should be allowed to express their validation of what they have been fighting for so ably in the last year.  The campaign has moved the Democratic party and given attention to a number of important issues that would not have gotten the kind of attention they have.  Let’s hope that this has not been an ego campaign for Bernie and that he is serious about this being the start of a movement.

But, the movement will go nowhere if Hillary Clinton wins the nomination, which she is almost sure to do, and then does not win the election in November.  That would set back the movement because of all the damage that would be done with 4 years of a Donald Trump Republican Presidency.

His current tone makes me cringe.  His insisting to his young supporters that they do have a chance to win is just deceitful.  His threats this week to the Democratic Party about letting people in.  Really?  If your candidate doesn’t win that means you can’t be part of the party?  You don’t like the rules; you can’t be part of the party?

He has to know that everything he says out on the trail can and will be used in the next phase of the campaign.  It is why you need to choose what you say carefully.

There is a new, really horrible ad out by the Republican Senate Committee against Hillary Clinton and just today I read on Facebook that a friend of mine had not carefully questioned some of the accusations in the ad and written a Facebook post apparently questioning her candidacy.  Then he saw the WA Post’s Fact checker column addressing the ad and realized that he had responded too quickly.  But, that is exactly what happens in campaigns.  People hear things, believe them and can’t un-hear them.  For some, who are used to politics, then can do an about face and support the very person they have been railing against.  I am just not so sure that many of the young people who have been stirred into action by Sanders will be able to make the switch.

Sanders should know this.  He has been in this game too long to not worry that he won’t be able to lead these new voters to vote for the same person he has been demonizing.  Not when he can’t bring himself to say it.  When asked point blank recently by Rachel Maddow if he does not get the nomination would he support Clinton, all he would say is that he would do everything he could to prevent Donald Trump from becoming President.  A few weeks ago all he would say is that Clinton would have to earn their vote.  Really.  Be practical Don Quixote, how do you keep Donald Trump from becoming President once Hillary wins the nomination besides supporting her candidacy, campaigning for her and showing the kind of leadership that will ensure that those voters you brought into the system will vote for her?  What game are you playing with all of our lives?

Perhaps the article is NY Times, Bernie Sanders, Eyeing Convention, Willing to Harm Hillary Clinton in the Homestretch,” tells us what he is really thinking.  He refuses to change his tone and will continue to rail against Clinton and the party.  Senator Jeff Merkley, the afore mention only Senator supporting Sanders, says at the end of this article that you (referring to the party) can’t tell people that you don’t want to hear them and then turn around and ask for their vote.  But, if you tell your supporters that the party isn’t listening to them than it will be hard for you to turn around and tell them to support the party and Senator Sanders you know that is what you will have to do if you hope to, in the end, keep Donald Trump from becoming the next President.

Bernie Sanders, you are to be admired for that campaign that you have waged so far.  You have shown that there is a way to raise the kind of money needed to run a national campaign, you have put campaign finance front and center, ditto climate change and equal pay.  Now is the time for you to show that you are a real leader and can put the needs of the nation first by showing your supporters that it is just as important to know when it is time to compromise and get things done.  That is why so many Democrats are voting for Hillary Clinton, because they, like so many of rest of the Senate Democrats that are supporting her, believe that she will, as President, show that kind of leadership.

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Movie posters

Old movie posters at a book collector's auction

Old movie posters at a book collector’s auction

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Dickens Oil paint portrait

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