Friday, October 16, 2015

Sanders: Right On the First Try

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is definitely from the left. He’s a self-described Scandinavian-style “Democratic Socialist.” He’s adamantly pro-union. He’s for single-payer health care.

But here’s the thing. This guy from the left has been consistently right. He’s been right a lot.
He was right on the Iraq War. When Democrats such as Hillary Clinton were eagerly swallowing the Bushista WMD story, spun up as it was out of wishful thinking, dodgy reports from questionable informants, and outright fraud, Bernie Sanders was one of the few people going, “Whoa. Hold on there a minute.”
Explaining his reasons for voting against an authorization of military force, Sanders, then a congressman, asked, among other things:
“Who will govern Iraq when Saddam Hussein is removed, and what role will the U.S. play in an ensuing civil war that could develop in that country? Will moderate governments in the region who have large Islamic fundamentalist populations be overthrown and replaced by extremists? Will the bloody conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority be exacerbated?”
So what happened? There was a civil war in Iraq that still goes on, and moderate governments are battling for their lives against Islamic extremists across the region.
Oh, and while the Bushistas were assuring us that the Iraq War would pay for itself and that we probably would be there no longer than six months, Bernie Sanders was pointing out in the same speech that “we should be clear that a war and a long-term American occupation of Iraq could be extremely expensive.” And he was right.
Hillary Clinton now says her vote to authorize military action in Iraq was a “mistake.” And on that, she is also right. But Bernie Sanders didn’t make the mistake in the first place.
He was right about the Patriot Act. While both Republicans and Democrats raced each other to give more and more of our privacy rights away to prove which one could be more committed to the war on terror than the others, Bernie Sanders voted against the Patriot Act and against the numerous bills extending it.
And, like most of us who have been calling attention to the dangers of increasing government surveillance powers since 2001, he has been pilloried by the right as a wacko at best and a terrorist sympathizer at worst, while the Democratic establishment has barely bothered to notice him at all.
Then Edward Snowden came along and revealed just a little bit of what the government’s been doing with the power we so blithely gave them, and suddenly we’re all Bernie Sanders.
As he says today: “Do we really want to live in a country where the NSA gathers data on virtually every single phone call in the United States — including as many as 5 billion cellphone records per day? I don’t.
“Do we really want our government to collect our emails, see our text messages, know everyone’s Internet browsing history, monitor bank and credit card transactions, keep tabs on people’s social networks? I don’t.”
And he’s right.
He was not only right, but eerily prescient on the Wall Street financial collapse that has been dragging this country down since 2008. As far back as 1998, in a blistering confrontation with Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, said that “Americans should be worried about the gambling practices of Wall Street elites.”
He warned that, given the sums of money being recklessly gambled by unregulated banks, the actions of even one man could “cause economic disruption and catastrophe throughout the entire world.”
In fact, over the years, Sanders spent a lot of time confronting Greenspan for being out of touch with the economic realities of working people.
All that time, the Very Serious People in the government (including Bill and Hillary Clinton) and the “liberal” media (including NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell, aka Mrs. Greenspan) were treating Greenspan like some kind of oracle and Sanders like a wild-eyed street preacher standing on a soapbox in the park.
But it was Greenspan, after the 2008 crash, who had to go before Congress and admit that he had “found a flaw in his ideology.” This is like the designer of the Hindenburg admitting that he’d “found a flaw” with the idea of using highly explosive hydrogen to lift his airship.
If, as seems likely, Hillary Clinton becomes the Democratic nominee, I’ll vote for her, because (1) I agree with her stances on more issues than I do with any of the Republicans, and (2) on the issues we disagreed on, there’s at least the possibility that she’s learned or can learn better (something that I can’t see anyone from the Republican Clown Car ever doing).
Until and unless that happens, however, I’m putting my support behind the guy who was right the first time.