Romney Sounded A Lot Like Bernie Sanders

Mittens was back in the news big time today with his accurate and articulate attack on Donald Drumpf. The problem is that he didn’t say anything about him that anyone paying attention didn’t already know. So, we’ll see how that goes.

What I want to bring to your attention, in case you didn’t get to hear Romney’s entire speech, is this nice little boost he gave to the Bernie Sanders campaign:

For the last three decades, the Clintons have lived at the intersection of money and politics, trading their political influence to enrich their personal finances. They embody the term “crony capitalism.” It disgusts the American people and causes them to lose faith in our political process.

A person so untrustworthy and dishonest as Hillary Clinton must not become president.

Sound familiar?

I have tried for a while now to point out that the subtext of Bernie Sanders’ criticism of Hillary Clinton is that she is, essentially, untrustworthy and dishonest, which is how Republicans have characterized her for years and exactly how Romney characterized her today. I have objected to this line of attack from Sanders for obvious reasons. She will be the Democratic nominee and it doesn’t help to have a fellow Democrat lob the same rhetorical grenade at her that Republicans have been using to blow up her chances to become president and, among other things, appoint a couple or three Supreme Court justices.

In case there is any doubt about what Sanders has been doing, let me take you back to that famous exchange between the two during a debate just a month ago. Sanders had said that Clinton represented “the establishment” and that he represented “ordinary Americans.” That’s fair enough for a primary campaign fight. Nothing wrong with that. But after she objected to the establishment label, Sanders came back with this:

SANDERS: What being part of the establishment is, is, in the last quarter, having a super PAC that raised $15 million from Wall Street, that throughout one’s life raised a whole lot of money from the drug companies and other special interests.

To my mind, if we do not get a handle on money in politics and the degree to which big money controls the political process in this country, nobody is going to bring about the changes that is needed in this country for the middle class and working families.

Now, any ordinary person, after hearing Sanders make this charge, would immediately conclude that Hillary Clinton is taking money from Wall Street, drug companies, and “other special interests” because she is part of a corrupt political process and she is selling herself and her agenda to the “big money” interests. Clearly, Sanders wants voters to conclude that Mrs. Clinton is corrupt and not to be trusted, which is why she responded this way:

CLINTON: Yeah, but I — I think it’s fair to really ask what’s behind that comment. You know, Senator Sanders has said he wants to run a positive campaign. I’ve tried to keep my disagreements over issues, as it should be.

But time and time again, by innuendo, by insinuation, there is this attack that he is putting forth, which really comes down to — you know, anybody who ever took donations or speaking fees from any interest group has to be bought.

And I just absolutely reject that, Senator. And I really don’t think these kinds of attacks by insinuation are worthy of you. And enough is enough. If you’ve got something to say, say it directly.

But you will not find that I ever changed a view or a vote because of any donation that I ever received.

Naturally, when someone is challenging your integrity, especially someone in your own party, you get a little defensive. And Mrs. Clinton sure did. She should expect that treatment from Republicans, but has a right to get a little upset about having to hear it from a fellow Democrat.

And Bernie Sanders hasn’t stopped. Here’s how The Wall Street Journal described his attacks on her integrity yesterday in Portland:

At a rally here ahead of Maine’s caucuses this Sunday, Mr. Sanders pressed Mrs. Clinton to release transcripts of her paid speeches to Wall Street firms and mocked the idea that anything she said could have been worth the six-figure speaking fees she collected.

The Bangor Daily News described what he said during that rally this way:

bernie in maineSanders has vowed to stay in the race and take his fight to the Democratic National Convention in July, and his supporters certainly don’t want to settle for Clinton, who has squabbled with the underdog over her ties to Wall Street and big banks.

He hit Clinton on that in Portland, saying there’s “one candidate” taking contributions from banks, the fossil fuel industry and billionaires, “and that candidate is not me.”

Let me be clear about this. I am all in favor of ridding our political system of big money. There is no doubt it is a corrupting influence overall, even though corruption is often hard to prove in any individual case. I was worried when Barack Obama took all that money from Wall Streeters in 2008, but as we all know now it didn’t exactly corrupt him. He still went after them with Dodd-Frank and most of them still hate him for it.

The problem with what Bernie is doing is that attacking Hillary Clinton’s integrity is the kind of thing that will leave some voters unable to vote for her, no matter how much Bernie comes to terms with the fact that she will be the nominee and he will have to endorse her and, presumably, campaign for her. It’s one thing to have policy disagreements with your opponent and challenge his or her judgment on this or that political decision. You can do that and still, after losing, endorse your opponent with credibility.

But it is quite another thing to challenge the trustworthiness and honesty of your opponent and then expect your most ardent followers—in Bernie’s case, mostly young folks—to believe you when you tell them they should put their trust in the person whose trust you have been questioning. Consider this recent headline:

Don’t Assume Bernie Sanders Supporters Will Back Hillary Clinton If She’s The Nominee

I will pull just one quote from that article. It was said by a Sanders supporter named Patt Coltem from St. Paul, Minnesota:

I would vote for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in a heartbeat. She’s just too shady. She’s a pathological liar. He’s the only other person in this race who doesn’t have someone backing him. Trump is crazy; he does a lot of weird stuff. I would prefer not to vote for him for president, but that’s how much I dislike Hillary Clinton.

We can only hope that there aren’t a lot of Patt Coltems out there. And we can only hope that Bernie Sanders will, if he keeps fighting to the bitter end, at the very least stop sounding like a Republican by attacking the integrity of the eventual Democratic nominee.

[Bottom photo from “Grassroots Action for Bernie”]

 

25 Comments

  1. The argument in favor of Drumpf is that he’s a racist first and foremost, but he’s rich and therefore he can’t be corrupted. This is not an unintuitive fact, Drumpf is corrupt because he’s rich, and he already shows every sign of bending every way for the rich. How can he possibly not? Has he said anything to suggest he’s going to stick it to the rich?

    So, how is it that anyone can claim that Clinton is more corrupt than Drumpf?

    Virtually no one who is not white or has any awareness of racism will vote for him and those people, aside from not being so insignificant would suffer most under a Drumpf America. But the matter of fact way that suffering is inflicted is financial. One thing that doesn’t seem to get a lot of attention is, who is going to make up a Drumpf administration? He doesn’t seem to have any actual plans, so the people he hires are going to define his presidency. Those people are inevitably going to be standard fare conservative Republicans. They’re going to do exactly what they would have done under Rubio or Jeb!. Wedge issues are off the table, but a rich guy is still at the reigns on the right. Wedge issues were always dead ends which never scored any points, but the rich always got what they wanted.

    So, how is it that anyone can claim that Drumpf is more left-wing than Clinton on either social or economic issues?

    Your argument is sort of a nonsensical blame-it-on-Sanders for Clinton’s moral weakness. The right wing never really cared about any moral/wedge issue, anyone who does would vote for Clinton. There is no argument that Drumpf is morally superior, less corrupt, or better for social justice. Drumpf is a rich racist who doesn’t give a shit. That’s why anyone votes for him.

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    • I’m not quite sure I follow your logic here. But I am sure you are wrong when you say that my “argument is sort of a nonsensical blame-it-on-Sanders for Clinton’s moral weakness.” What I blame on Sanders is that he is doing to her what Republicans have done, are doing, and will do on steroids this summer: question her integrity, her honesty, her trustworthiness, which, essentially, is saying she’s not fit to be president. If you far-left folks want to take that stand, that’s up to you. But if you take it seriously and don’t vote for Hillary Clinton, as some lefties are saying, then you can kiss any progress that has been made these last 7 years goodbye. And you can say hello to another 40 years of conservative dominance of the Supreme Court. If that is what you guys want, you have a very strange view of “progress.”

      Like

  2. Ben Field

     /  March 3, 2016

    Duane,

    I have also heard Bernie supporters express disgust with Clinton for following the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law, regarding e-mails as the SoS, and the possible indictments looming. As well the Clinton Foundation donors and continuing donations should she be elected. Many suspect the Clintons will continue to enrich themselves through the foundation and it’s offshoots. As you have noted, the media is not asking pertinent questions. What is your opinion as to the continuing operation of the foundation, should she be elected? These are the questions most Bernie supporters that I have spoken with have regarding Hillary.

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    • Ben,

      To tell you the truth, I don’t give a damn about the Clinton Foundation stuff or the email stuff. None of it has anything to do with one simple fact: if we lose this election to any Republican, we will lose any progress that has been made and we will lose the Supreme Court for another generation or more. That’s the bottom line for me. And you know why? Because I actually believe in progress. And progress is possible with a Hillary Clinton presidency, no matter what you or I think about her morals, her enriching herself, or any other real or imagined failings she might have. Losing is not an option. There is too much at stake. That’s why I don’t like Bernie’s questioning her integrity. It is a lose-lose proposition if he continues doing it. And, sadly, it doesn’t look like he’s going to stop it.

      Duane

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      • Ben Field

         /  March 6, 2016

        Duane,

        Hillary earned $2.9 million dollars in speaking fees between 2013-2015 from large financial institutions and Bernie is completely “out of line” to imply that those institutions might seek favor? Her integrity is very much an issue. Her response to Stephen Colbert’s question of “Have you ever lied to voters” was very painful to watch. Bernie downplayed the E-mail issue, and the Clinton Foundation’s offshoots to his credit. Bernie has accumulated 40% of the popular vote in the primaries and is a legitimate representative of many people’s beliefs. Is he only allowed to criticize her Iraq vote and SoS experience? Rules underlying past elections are out the window this year. Anti-establishment is driving the bus and who’s elected is a toss-up versus Rubio or Cruz and if it’s either Dem. nominee versus Trump, we win according to polls. Suggesting Hillary is the only one capable of bringing progress and Bernie and his supporters are impeding that doesn’t help Hillary, but might cause lost votes instead. Still voting Democratic!

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        • Ben,

          I’ll respond to some your points because I think you raise important issues, my friend:

          1. Obviously I would vote for Bernie in the general election.
          2. I agree with you that most Bernie supporters will vote for Hillary, but not all.
          3. And to the degree that not all of them will vote for her has a lot to do with the charge of dishonesty levied against her by Bernie and his supporters. He is free to attack her on all of her positions, past and present, but not on her integrity. It is potentially self-destructive for our party. And I care about our party, even if, apparently, Bernie doesn’t much care about it.
          4. He is feeding into, in some cases profiting from (Karl Rove’s PAC and others are spending lots of money attacking her already) the Republican narrative against her by suggesting she is dishonest. I don’t like that. Plus, I think it damages our chances of winning in November. I don’t like that a lot.
          5. The speaking fees, as I have said, bother me, too. And, yes, in some cases those bankers and some of her big donors give money for influence (some, though, just might be Democrats!), but, as in the case of Obama taking record amounts of cash from Wall Street, that doesn’t mean they will necessarily get the influence they may be trying to buy.
          6. “Anti-establishment” is not driving the bus in our party. The establishment in the Democratic Party is trouncing him. She is almost half way to the nomination in pledged delegates (those she won by winning contests) and superdelegates (the “establishment” folks). He is way, way behind. Most analysts see no plausible way for him to catch up.
          7. Pay no attention to national polling showing either Sanders or Clinton beating Trump. At this point, those polls don’t mean anything (and many of them show Rubio or Cruz beating us!). They are almost worthless right now.
          8. I never suggested that Hillary is the only one capable of “bringing progress.” Of course Bernie could bring progress—if he could get elected. I don’t think he can, so naturally I don’t think he can bring much progress from Vermont.

            Duane

          9. Like

          • Ben Field

             /  March 7, 2016

            Duane,

            To say that Wall Street, and financial interests donations and super PACs don’t necessarily influence politicians rings a little hollow. Following the near bankruptcy of our country in 2008, not one person was indicted or sent to prison for defrauding the government. A man in Joplin defrauded FEMA with a tornado loss claim of $750, and was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison. A local attorney defrauded his clients of $500,000, and received a 22 month sentence. The financial industry defrauds and nearly bankrupts the nation, not one goddamned person sentenced. This is what drives the anti-establishment voter. Most suspect those and continuing donations are the only reason for no indictments.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Of course there are people who give money to politicians for the purposes of influencing outcomes. I agree with Bernie on that whole issue. We need a different system, something I have been saying for 7 years. But, as Obama demonstrated in 2008, it is possible to take money from people on Wall Street (money he needed to win) and still do a decent job of stopping them from doing again what they did before. Was the result a perfect one? Nope. But it showed me something about Obama. Most Wall Streeters don’t much care for him these days.

              As for the lack of criminal convictions, it is a little more complicated than blaming that on campaign donations. The truth is that trials against individuals involving what happened in the financial industry would be very long, complicated, and, ultimately, frustrating adventures. It turned out it was much easier to go after the financial institutions themselves, which the Justice Department did, getting nearly $200 billion in settlements or in fines. Now, that means that a lot of crooks got away with what they did, for sure. That is certainly unseemly and unjust. There has been only one conviction that I know of. But, again, it appears to have more to do with how complex these issues surrounding what happened around 2005-2008 are and with the idea that a lot of what went on was just plain greed-inspired mismanagement and not necessarily deliberate fraud. It is hard to prosecute someone for being greedy and stupid. And in the cases were real fraud was being committed, a prosecutor trying to get a jury to understand that whole mess probably seemed like an impossible, and costly, chore.

              Still, I wish there were limits on campaign contributions because, as I have argued, the whole thing stinks. There are moneyed interests that give to both parties for various reasons, but the real damage is done by those moneyed interests practically capturing an entire Republican Party. That reality is being challenged right now, what with the rabble in that party have finally decided they have had enough and are either going to put Trump or Cruz, enemies of most of the big donor class, on the general election ballot.

              Duane

              Like

  3. King Beauregard

     /  March 3, 2016

    Even if Bernie were not himself trashing Hillary’s reputation through insinuation — way to campaign clean, Bernie! — he has demonstrated no willingness to rein in his supporters who are far less measured in their commentary about Hillary. They’ve collectively been working to poison the well, and I don’t see much hope that earnest Bernie supporters will turn around and support Hillary, even if Bernie asks nicely in June.

    Of course, Bernie has demonstrated no ability or willingness to rein in his supporters on ANY topic, so his leadership skills are completely untested. Sure he can stir up crowds by telling them what they want to hear, but that’s not the same as leading, that’s just seeing where the crowd is going and running out in front of them.

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    • I wouldn’t say he has shown no willingness to rein in his supporters. I seem to remember him telling some of them to stop booing her at one of his rallies. But at some point, if he keeps attacking her on integrity, enough of his supporters will boycott the general election, which in the case of young people, could really hurt. And he needs to say right now, before this thing gets out of hand, that his supporters, should he lose the nomination, should and will most certainly support Hillary Clinton. He has to know there is at least one, and probably more, Bernie-loving organizations out there who are championing the idea that they will not, under any circumstances, support her in November. A simple speech from Bernie addressing that specific issue would demonstrate real leadership.

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      • King Beauregard

         /  March 4, 2016

        I hope he is more forceful than the “please be polite” response to the Bernie Bros that his communications director tweeted. Most Web sites that let you participate in their forums are harsher in their Terms and Conditions than Bernie’s lone tweet was.

        I think Bernie likes his cult of personality too much to say anything that might make some of them mad. I hope I’m wrong.

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        • I hope you are, too. But I have to admit I have also noticed something developing that could be described as a cult of personality. I hate to say that, but I’m just being honest. The Bernie that started this whole thing, the one I used to see on MSNBC before it threw away most of its progressive hosts, is different from the one I see today. And for one of his followers to write in here and say he thinks Bernie would win a general election by 10 or 15 points is a sign that some folks, good, decent folks, are being charmed into embracing irrationality.

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  4. Ben Field

     /  March 3, 2016

    ” They’ve collectively been working to poison the well, and I don’t see much hope that earnest Bernie supporters will turn around and support Hillary, even if Bernie asks nicely in June.”

    That is a bit of stretch to say his supporters are poisoning wells. I would support the Democratic nominee if it was a yellow dog before I voted Trump or whoever is last standing as I think most of his supporters would as well. There is much baggage with Hillary and he hasn’t been out of line with criticism. This isn’t a coronation, and if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. You can rest assured there will be no end to the crap the GOP flings at her.

    Like

    • King Beauregard

       /  March 3, 2016

      Visit a Sanders echo chamber — say, salon.com — and you’ll find that a lot of Sanders supporters seriously believe that Trump would be a better president than Hillary, that’s how passionately they have grown to hate Hillary. Try to tell them about Hillary’s actual record (the one that shows her backing progressive causes over and over in year 25-year career) and you are immediately denounced as a DNC plant.

      It’s not about whether Hillary can stand the heat, it’s about what happens in the general election. From where I sit, the Democrats will have to do what they always do: win elections, or lose them, without help from the Left.

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      • King Beauregard

         /  March 3, 2016

        Side note, one thing I’ve noticed about the Sanders echo chambers is, the locals LOVE the conspiracy theories. Two black women take the stage at Netroots Nation … ? That’s got to be Hillary’s doing, or the DNC, or the GOP. Two more black women at Seattle … ? That PROVES Hillary’s behind it! And when black writers share their negative experiences with Sanders supporters, well of course they’re lying and Hillary put them up to it. Anyone who supports Hillary over Bernie is a sellout in league with Hillary, be they civil rights champions or Planned Parenthood. Write a column suggesting that Bernie is in any way short of perfect and it is proof that you’re on Hillary’s payroll.

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        • You have hit on one overlap with the Trump phenomenon, although I hope to God it isn’t as widespread on our side as it is on their side. The idea that there are people out there who would seriously vote for either Bernie or Trump is not only weird, it is frightening. And I think at the root of such “thinking” is the tendency toward believing everything that happens is somehow part of a conspiracy.

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      • Much of Salon’s comment section is populated by people who are the left’s version of the Tea Party. It is their way or no way. No compromising. Stupid and nasty argumentation, etc. It is really disgusting at times. And many of Salon’s writers now are purposely playing to such people. That’s why we can’t have nice things, I guess.

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    • Ben, you said, “There is much baggage with Hillary and he hasn’t been out of line with criticism.” I don’t mind his criticizing her Iraq vote or her State Department tenure or any decision she has made in her political career. That’s all fair game. But I do mind, and I am starting to get really worried about it, that his essential message is that she is dishonest and not to be trusted. It’s sort of like how Republicans are now talking about Donald Trump. They all claim he is unfit for office, yet to a man the other candidates say they will nevertheless vote for him. How crazy is that? I don’t want that sort of thing happening on our side is my point.

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      • Ben Field

         /  March 7, 2016

        Duane,

        Bernie has made no such claim that Hillary is unfit for office. He has only pointed out her speaking fees and pointed out what we all know. These sums of money are not donated for altruism, they are in reality, usually it is an offering with expectations of favorable consideration. One might suggest that supporting Hillary with her baggage is more similar to the GOP’s situation. I don’t think we need to argue over our Democratic candidates, but we should support whoever receives the nomination.

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        • He hasn’t directly made the claim that she is unfit for office, but by suggesting she is dishonest, he is certainly implying it. That bothers the hell out of me because I am a Democrat. I belong to the Democratic Party. I care about what happens to it. And I care about what happens in November, thus I don’t want anyone trashing the integrity of our eventual nominee, especially in ways nearly identical to the way Republicans are trashing her.

          Again, like you I will obviously support whomever receives our party’s nomination.

          Duane

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  5. Ben Field

     /  March 3, 2016

    My point is Bernie has about 40% of the popular vote and you can’t make a blanket statement that his supporters will vote for Trump because of Hillary hatred. Just not factual, probably as a result of the echo chamber monitoring. I assure you the people that I know who support Bernie, will vote for the Democratic nominee as opposed to the insanity that is the GOP. That is the only issue that matters.

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    • Ben,

      I never made such a blanket statement. I am sure that most Bernie supporters will end up supporting her. But I don’t want to lose one vote. I think the general election may be very, very close and I don’t want even a sliver of the vote from our side to go to theirs or, more likely, stay home and not vote at all out of spite. We can’t afford that.

      Duane

      Like

      • Ben Field

         /  March 6, 2016

        Duane,

        I failed to address the post. I was responding to King Beauregard’s comment. I think you know most of Bernie’s supporters will also support Hillary as he will certainly instruct them to do such.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Ben Field

     /  March 3, 2016

    Side note, going trout fishing at Roaring River in am and wil be off the grid for 3 days.

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