Thanks to corporate media goading, the marathon reality show known as the New Hampshire Primaries threatens to devolve into a high school junk food fight.
On the Democratic side, the pressing exam question du jour is "Who's a progressive?" On the Republican side, there are no questions. There are only class clowns, and serious questions are not, and never were, in the script.
Last night, CNN's Anderson Cooper, fresh off his depraved New Year's Eve "comedy" gig with Kathy Griffin, pressed Bernie Sanders on his loyalty to Barack Obama and the Democratic Party. Sanders fumbled badly, first denying writing the blurb with his name on it for Bill Press's critique-from-the-left of Obama. Then he fumbled again, by pleading that Obama has had some progressive moments, despite all evidence to the contrary. Then he blew it big-time by suddenly pivoting from proud socialism and insisting: "Of course I am a Democrat."
Somebody just shoot me. If Bernie keeps this up, he's going to start losing the support of the nation's youth, who are really the ones instigating the new socialist wave in this country. As I have been saying all along, the Occupy movement never did die. Bernie himself seems to be shocked to find himself riding on the crest of this tsunami. Even some hardcore socialists and Greens have backed down from their initial attacks, which accused him of "sheep-dogging" new voters into the Democratic fold. With Bernie or without Bernie, socialism is the default position of the under-30 crowd now bearing the brunt of decades of harsh Clintonian neoliberal policies.
The only thing that saved Sanders's hide at last night's town hall, in fact, was another breathtaking gaffe by Hillary Clinton. (By the way, if Bernie says "I like and respect Secretary Clinton" one more awful time, I'll throw my copy of Howard Zinn at him. He should loathe and fear her, just like any self-respecting human for whom a modicum of survival is a top priority).
But back to the gaffe. When Cooper asked her if she'd made "a bad error in judgment" in accepting $675,000 from Goldman Sachs for three private speeches, she flippantly retorted: "That's what they offered!" (A bribe by any other name should smell as sweet.)
She went on to whine that since every other secretary of state has cashed in upon leaving office, why not her? And anyway, she burbled, she didn't know she was running until she formally announced last spring... despite the Ready for Hillary PAC and the pre-endorsements from nearly every establishment elite with a public office or a checkbook, and the fact that the New York Times had already established a full-time Hillary Desk by 2013, shortly after she left the State Department in order to "explore" her future career plans.
But back to Sanders. I think he's goofed by calling her a "moderate" who has no right to the progressive moniker - which then led to the inevitable demands for him to define his terms, and differentiate progressivism from liberalism.
He should simply and correctly call her a conservative, a right-winger, a neoliberal, or even a neocon, given her bellicosity. He should contrast the two wings of the Democratic Party and educate his younger audience on how Hill and Bill spearheaded the move to the right back in the 90s with their Democratic Leadership Council (now known as the New Democrat Coalition), aka the Third Way, aka the second wave of the Reagan Revolution. He should be noting that these centrists have long co-opted the word "progressive." The most glaring example is the Clintons' own corporate-funded Center for American Progress think tank, founded by her campaign manager and former Obama Chief of Staff, lobbyist John Podesta.
Another Clintonista-riddled centrist think tank is the Progressive Policy Institute, whose economic "studies" helped propel Bill Clinton to the presidency, pass NAFTA, and repeal Glass-Steagall. Most recently, the PPI wrote a plutocrat-soothing report which falsely claims that inequality has not risen since the 2008 crisis.
According to SourceWatch, the PPI has been funded by such corporations as Eli Lilly, AT&T, the Koch Brothers' Georgia-Pacific Foundation, Ameritech, Chevron, and BP. Bernie should really bring up the Clintons' hidden ties to the always-popular Kochs while he's at it. There are so many more Hillary-affiliated villains out there to pick on besides Lloyd Blankfein and Goldman Sachs.
Bernie and Hillary will be back at it tonight, in a face-to-face MSNBC debate co-moderated by Rachel Maddow and Truckle Chodd. I'll have the popcorn and the dog-eared Howard Zinn ready.
My advice to Sanders is to ignore the polls on Obama's continuing popularity and not be afraid to "distance" himself from a president who not only also took money from Wall Street, he also actively sheltered Wall Street crooks from prosecution. You can't criticize Hillary Clinton without also criticizing Barack Obama.
Sanders should call Obama out directly for cravenly calling the Trans-Pacific Partnership one of the most "progressive" pillars of his entire tenure. He shouldn't be afraid to mention that Obama has upgraded slave-trading Malaysia's human rights status just so that rich multinationals can exploit even more people and grow even richer. Ralph Nader can even helpfully supply Sanders with 10 reasons why there is nothing even remotely progressive about Obama's attempted corporate coup. It's not enough to simply accuse Clinton of "flip-flopping" on it after championing it 45 separate times.
There is nothing even remotely moderate about Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders should not stoop to honor her with that distinction. In Clinton World, progress is about as healthy as a metastatic cancer.If the Clintons have proven nothing else, it's that they will stop at nothing in their ruthless and immoderate quest for power.
** Update, 2/5. I have to say, it was a great debate, and although Bernie lost a few opportunities to verbally destroy Hillary, he got in plenty of jabs to render her relatively helpless. The withering look on her face as he railed against Wall Street fraud without needing to mention her by name was worth the price of admission. I didn't have to toss my dog-eared Howard Zinn at the TV, after all.
She obviously bested him on foreign policy factoids, given her four long wasted years of frequent-flying, bloodthirsty imperialistic experience. What can I say: the guy is not that into becoming Commander in Chief of the world's largest, most bloated military ever. Maybe if Bernie is elected, the war machine will just start to wither away through lack of interest. And the world, for once, will be safe from American democracy. (OK, so I'm getting way too ahead of myself and starting to sing John Lennon in my head.)
If you missed the debate and read about it in the New York Times, you probably got the mistaken impression that it was Hillary Triumphans all the way. Jonathan Martin and Patrick Healy took her aggrieved retort about being "smeared," and made it the lede and highlight of their slanted coverage.
My published comment:
I think I must have been watching a different debate from the one described here by Martin and Healy. The "bitterness and rancor" angle is highly overblown. Long before candidates entered the second half of the debate,
the tone became almost too civil on both sides. I think they both
realized they were being set up for a semantic food fight. And thanks to
the subsequent relative dearth of "gotchas" by the moderators, I was
able to learn a lot more about their positions. They actually spoke in
complete, uninterrupted paragraphs. What a refreshing change from the
boilerplate soundbites we've come to expect from the GOP's fascist
If you happened to miss the debate and were relying solely upon this
article for a recap, you were sadly misled. Clinton did not launch a
harshest of all harsh attacks on Sanders. If anything, she
disingenuously overreacted to his correct observation that Wall Street
has an outsize influence on politicians and his call to do away with the
legalized bribery of Citizens United.
Yet the opening paragraph of this piece would have you believe that Clinton destroyed Sanders in one fell swoop. Huh?
This is the Times doing what it does best: diminishing/attacking Bernie
Sanders through the same insinuation and innuendo that Clinton ascribed
to her opponent. It's a terminal case of journalistic OCD, and
apparently highly resistant to the usual therapy of fairness and
For a clear picture, simply watch the debate or read the transcript.