A rapid response guide to 14 classic anti-Bernie smears</h4
Roy Delfino is typical of the critics of Bernie Sanders, and his baseless propaganda and misshapen worldview embodies everything that is wrong with the current Democratic Party.
Normally, I would not pay Roy Delfino much attention at all, because he appears to represent only that tiny minority (8%) of Democrats who oppose Bernie Sanders. These are diehard Hillary supporters for whom She was the “most qualified candidate ever” and the Anointed One who was supposed to easily seize the Party’s nomination and then the White House. They consider it to have been righteous and just that Hillary Clinton be ensconced as President with a unified, Borg-like Democratic Party behind her. People like Delfino blame Bernie Sanders for having thwarted Her rightful, preordained, God-given ascension to the Oval Office.
In short, to paraphrase Ned Beatty in Network, Bernie Sanders had the temerity, the audacity to meddle in the primal forces of nature, and he must be punished.
However, Delfino’s pathetically bitter anti-Bernie screeds do provide a fairly comprehensive compendium of typical anti-Bernie attacks — attacks which will no doubt intensify if and when Bernie decides to run in 2020. As such, they are worthy of a serious rebuttal, one which I shall endeavour to provide here — along with a little “extra” content.
Tr🍩ll Smear #1: “Bernie is just a bad person.”
It must be noted that poor Roy, like so many diehard Hillary fans, is deeply mired in the muck of Identity Politics. Roy himself essentially admits this in his latest fusillade of baseless ad hominem trash bombs:
“I’m just sick of Bernie. This isn’t because of policy disagreements, or lingering bitterness from the primary. I just think he’s a thoroughly awful man.”
After such an introduction, I honestly don’t know why anyone would read further, but then I, like most Bernie supporters, reject Identity Politics in favour of those things that Delfino dismisses, such as policy.
Nonetheless, the defenders of the Establishment and Hillary Clinton always use personal smears when “punching left.” They dare not oppose Bernie or any other real progressive on policy, because that would expose their own corruption. Yes, Hillary did literally shout that Single Payer would “never, EVER happen” and yes, that did put her at odds with 81% of Democrats (not to mention FDR, Truman, etc.), but this is something that most establishment Democrats will not want to bring up when attacking Bernie. They prefer to attack Single Payer on the basis of “I support it in theory but it is just not practical or affordable now” (translation: “The Republicans won’t let us.”).
Clinton supporters had almost a cult-like fixation on Hillary as a person, her CV, her personal story, the religious belief that she was indeed “the most qualified candidate ever to run for President.” It was and remains all about HER.
Hillary supporters thus think that they can nullify the progressive revolt they face by denigrating what they consider to be its “leader”. Get rid of Bernie, they think, and the movement for change and reform within the Democratic Party will wither and die.
They are wrong.
Tr🍩ll Smear #2: “You think you know the truth about Bernie, but you don’t”
“Gaslighting” is the process by which politicians and/or the media try to influence public opinion by convincing people that what they think they know isn’t really correct.
In other words, gaslighting is the political equivalent of the old Marx Brother wag, “who you gonna trust, me or your own eyes?”
In attacking Bernie as a “bad person” we are being asked to reject decades of given thought and opinion. We are being asked to mistrust our own evaluation of the man, and we are being asked to believe that the voters of Vermont are completely ignorant about the man who was mayor of their largest city for 8 years and has served them in Congress since 1990.
Bernie’s popularity in his home state is simply unprecedented. In the 2006 Senate election, which was the most expensive in Vermont’s history, Bernie defeated his Republican opponent by 33%. He then won re-election in 2012 with an astounding 71% of the vote. Bernie has repeatedly won the title of “America’s Most Popular Senator” and in a 2015 Morning Consult Poll he was found to have an astonishing 83% approval rating by his constituents in Vermont.
Anti-Bernie gaslighters would have us believe, however, that the people of Vermont are either stupid, naive, or ignorant — or all three. They attack him not only ad hominem as a “bad person” disliked by his Congressional colleagues, but also as an ineffective legislator who has never accomplished anything. In other words, they say his sky-high popularity with Vermonters is based on nothing.
Again, they are wrong.
Tr🍩ll Smear #3: “Bernie is insufferably self-righteous, with nothing to back it up”
This argument is dual pronged, and meant to depict Bernie as someone whose “holier-than-thou” attitude has alienated him from other members and made him completely ineffective in passing legislation.
First, let’s tackle the cynical claim that Bernie is too self-righteous. This attack is actually an analogue to the general argument being levelled against Progressives by establishment Democrats, namely that insisting on “purity” is counterproductive, alienates “potential allies”” and will lead to legislative losses.
Let’s be clear: this argument about “purity” is really about corruption. Bernie and his Progressive base oppose taking money from Wall Street, Corporate America and billionaires. People like Delfino maintain that this is part of the game, and by adopting a “holier than thou” attitude towards this systemic corruption we are putting Democrats at a disadvantage, or as Tom Perez said, “you don’t bring a spoon to a knife fight.”
Obviously people like Delfino and Perez fail to realise that when you have two sides fighting with knives, the only real winner is the guy who sells them the knives.
I would also mention that this argument was completely debunked when Hillary Clinton outspent Trump literally 2 to 1 and still lost.
But let us look at the examples they give of Bernie’s “fellow Congressmen” claiming that he was unable to get anything done because people didn’t like his purist attitude.
Many Sanders detractors like to point to Congressman Barney Frank, who was a rabid Hillary supporter in 2016 and a major critic of Bernie’s anti-corruption stance.
Said Rep. Barney Frank, in ’91: “Bernie alienates his natural allies. His holier-than-thou attitude — saying in a very loud voice he is smarter than everyone else and purer than everyone else — really undercuts his effectiveness.”
“Bernie Sanders has been in Congress for 25 years with little to show for it in terms of his accomplishments and that’s because of the role he stakes out.”
But the idea that Bernie is disliked among his colleagues is pure bunk and is belied by the fact that Bernie was indeed a highly effective legislator and one who was able to work not just with Democrats but also Republicans.
I will “back up” this claim in the following section.
Tr🍩ll Smear #4: “Bernie was not an effective legislator and he never accomplished anything in Congress”
People who do not understand how Congress works may tend to downplay the importance of Amendments. This is wrong. Just ask any abortion rights activist what they think about The Hyde Amendment.
Moreover, what the AlterNet article makes clear is that Sanders managed to pass very progressive Amendments that helped working families and the poor, and he did so in a Republican controlled Congress.
This last fact is also important, because one of the biggest attack lines against Bernie is that he cannot work “across the aisle” to garner GOP support for his issues. As both the AlterNet and PolitiFact articles point out, Bernie was extremely effective at rallying bipartisan support for progressive legislation.
Sanders did something particularly original, which was that he passed amendments that were exclusively progressive, advancing goals such as reducing poverty and helping the environment, and he was able to get bipartisan coalitions of Republicans who wanted to shrink government or hold it accountable and progressives who wanted to use it to empower Americans.
So where does this “holier-than-thou” smear come from? Well, let’s take a closer look at Barney Frank, the powerful Chair of the House Banking Committee, who was instrumental in designing the Dodd-Frank financial regulations bill that bears his name. He is also one of the most vocal proponents of the “Bernie was isolated and ineffective” smear campaign.
Here is a 2012 quote from Barney Frank that you will NOT find in an article in which he attacks Bernie for insisting on so-called “purity”:
“People say, ‘Oh, it doesn’t have any effect on me,’” [Frank] says. “Well if that were the case, we’d be the only human beings in the history of the world who on a regular basis took significant amounts of money from perfect strangers and made sure that it had no effect on our behavior.” — Barney Frank to NPR
Immediately upon retirement from Congress, Barney Frank was given a cushy job on the Board of Directors of a $24 billion Wall Street Bank. This seems strange, when we are always told how strict and “tough” Dodd-Frank supposedly was on the banks, and what a great piece of “progressive” legislation it was.
In reality, Dodd-Frank was a watered-down bill that did nothing to reduce the size of the banks or keep them from posing a renewed danger to the world economy. Passing such faux-reforms is what gets a Congressman a seat on a Board of Directors once they leave what they cynically refer to as “public service.”
Suffice it to say, when people like Barney Frank criticise Bernie Sanders for being “holier-than-thou” about money in politics, there is a very good reason for them to do so.
Tr🍩ll Smear #5: “Bernie is a hypocrite”
There are several attacks of this genre. Let’s address them one by one:
“Bernie railed against superdelegates, but then tried to court their votes”
This argument is almost too stupid to bother rebutting. Superdelegates were always a part of the Democratic Primary process, but SDs don‘t get to cast their vote until the Convention. What Bernie and his supporters “railed against” were what they perceived to be two unfair circumstances:
The vast majority of superdelegates had declared for Hillary before Bernie had even announced his candidacy;
The media continuously counted the presumed (but unconfirmed) superdelegate count in all their reporting on the state of the race.
Bernie, like many in the Democratic Party, does not support the idea of superdelegates, but no one was ever suggesting that the superdelegates were not going to be part of the primary process. Bernie was simply calling for a bit of fairness to be applied to how the superdelegates acted, and how they were treated in the media.
As the race wore on, Bernie then tried to exhort the superdelegates to:
- Vote for the candidate who stood the best chance against Trump, which he believed himself to be, and which is the stated purpose and raison d’être for superdelegates in the first place;
- At the very least, vote in accordance with the majority of the Primary participants in their State — which should already be policy for a Party that calls itself “democratic”.
These are not unreasonable requests, and cannot be construed as a reversal of position or a cynical backtracking or betrayal. It is called “campaigning.”
“Bernie attacked others for having a SuperPAC, but then took PAC money himself”
These PAC attacks refer to National Nurses United, the nation’s largest nurses union, with over 155,000 members. The union has a SuperPAC, called Fund for a Healthy America, whose express mission is to support candidates who promote “Medicare for All” and “Holding Wall Street accountable” (you can read their full mission objectives here).
In addition to Bernie Sanders, the NNU PAC during the 2016/16 cycle contributed to 16 other candidates, as well as other Democratic causes and organisations, including a $1,000,000 donation to the Senate Majority Fund. They even gave to the Democratic Party in Illinois and Nevada, as well as Democrat-led campaigns such as Million Hoodies, Reclaim Chicago and Color of Change.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the NNU PAC does not take money from millionaires or from corporations or industry groups. The PAC is 100% funded by the nurses themselves. Obviously this makes it a very different animal from the “Ready for Hillary” PAC or the “Hillary Victory Fund,” which took in money almost exclusively from corporations, industry groups and especially from wealthy millionaires and billionaires.
“Bernie is a hypocrite because he won’t release his tax returns”
This one really is too silly to answer. I will simply say that Bernie did release tax returns in April 2016 and they showed he made just $205,000 in income.
I never understood this line of attack. All Bernie’s official Senate disclosures and other financial records shows him to be one of the poorest people in Congress, with a Net Worth equal to about 10% that of the average US Senator. I mean, what do they hope to find?
Also, he could not even be a hypocrite in this case because he never called for Hillary to release her tax returns.
I think it is also important to know why the Clinton campaign started calling for the returns — it was a direct response to the Sanders campaign calling on Hillary to release the transcripts of her speeches to the Wall Street banks. During 2012 to 2014, Hillary Clinton made $13 MILLION giving speeches to Goldman Sachs and other banks. Bernie called on her to release the transcripts. Clinton refused, and that’s when her campaign started demanding to see the Sanders’s tax returns.
As if it were somehow justified to compare asking about $13,000,000 in services rendered with demanding to see how Bernie spent his $205,000 a year.
Tr🍩ll Smear #6: “ Bernie ran a negative campaign and attacked Hillary unfairly”
This accusation actually makes me angry. Again, this accusation takes many forms, so I will deal with these one by one as well.
“Bernie retreated from his “damned emails” comment and went on to attack Hillary about her emails”
This is nonsense. Yes, in the first debate, when pressed by the moderators to comment on the growing email scandal, Bernie said: “I think the American people are sick and tired about hearing about your damned emails.”
However, it is true that Bernie was not downplaying the importance of the email issue, He just did not want to make it a major point of debate in the campaign. When pressed about the matter by the media (and of course he was constantly pressed about it) he answered, as he did to Jake Tapper, that his debate comment did not mean that he thought the email scandal was a “nothingburger.” Indeed, Bernie stated:
“That is, I think, a very serious issue,” Sanders said. “There is a legal process taking place, I do not want to politicize that issue. It is not my style.”
This comment is depicted by Bernie critics as a reversal, a backing away from the “position” they thought he took in the debate.
But that is not the case. In the minutes following the debate that night, Sanders was interviewed by CNN and asked to explain his “damn emails” remark. He replied:
“Well, what motivated that is that I think the American people want substantive discussions on substantive issues,” Sanders said. “There is a process in place for the email situation that Hillary Clinton is dealing with. Let it play itself out. As a nation, let us start focusing on why it is that so few have so much and so many have so little.”
So Bernie’s position on the email scandal was always consistent.
And yes, the email scandal was indeed a serious issue.
We know from Comey’s statements and other leaked information that the FBI conducted a CRIMINAL investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server. Moreover, we now know that this criminal investigation was launched in July 2015 — a full year before the DNCC. This means that during the entire Democratic Primary, one of the candidates was the target of an active FBI criminal investigation — a situation unprecedented in US history.
Unfortunately, Loretta Lynch used her position as Attorney General to force the FBI and other spokespeople to avoid using the word “criminal” and “investigation” when describing the email investigation. Rather, Comey said, they were ordered to use the word “matter” when referring to the Clinton emails. This in turn allowed the Clinton campaign, its surrogates and even Hillary herself to spin all sorts of yarns during the ensuing year, calling the FBI investigation a “security inquiry” and basically obfuscation the true nature of the investigation.
Many Hillary supporters were tricked by the smokescreen and really did believe it was non-issue, and that the FBI was conducting a security review rather than a criminal investigation. This despite Comey having gone on national television to say, “We’re conducting an investigation. … That’s what we do.” Indeed, he said he had no idea what a “security inquiry” even was.
Bernie has been attacked by Clinton supporters for implying that the American people would need to make a judgment about Clinton’s emails. But think of this:
What would have happened if every Democratic Primary voter knew that Hillary Clinton was the target of an ongoing FBI criminal investigation that had started in July 2015?
Only a blatant and blinded partisan would insist that such knowledge would not have had an effect on the Primary election.
When one considers the true nature of the investigation that Hillary was under for an entire year, and the fact that criminal charges could have easily resulted therefrom, the actions of Comey related to that investigation seem almost inevitable — and one might well make the case that had the Democratic Primary voters — including the superdelegates — known of the true gravity and danger of the situation, they might have acted differently.
Indeed, Bernie’s mentions of the email “matter” were extremely bland and almost benign in light of the actual nature of the situation.
“Bernie attacked Hillary for her Wall Street speeches and implied she was corrupt for taking money from corporations and wealthy donors”
Here we revert to the old “holier-than-thou” attack line. By asking to see Hillary’s transcripts, by contrasting his views on money in politics with those of Hillary Clinton, Bernie was somehow making the case that Clinton was corrupt.
The Bernie attackers maintain that by pointing out the fact that Hillary had SuperPACs and he didn’t, he was attacking her. This is simply not the case. He is simply stating what every sentient person knows to be true.
Does the money from Wall Street influence the people who accept it? Of course it does. This is not news, and it is not a personal attack — it is a plain and simple fact.
Barney hates Bernie’s “holier-than-thou” attitude about money in politics.As Laurence Koltikoff of Boston University described in an article in Forbes called “Financial Reform R.I.P.”:
“Dodd-Frank is not just a prescription for regulatory sclerosis. It is a bonanza for Wall Street lobbyists and lawyers, who will help determine what this law’s 283,985 words actually mean.
“In 1990–2009 Wall Street and its friends in the insurance and real estate industries spent an average of $2,973 (in 2010 dollars) per congressman and senator per day on campaign contributions and lobbying. All this spending kept full financial disclosure off the table and helped today’s top 10 financial giants to dominate the industry.”
Yes, Barney, your point is well taken, and good luck in your new career on Wall Street. Don’t let the revolving door hit you.
Tr🍩ll Smear #7: “Bernie stayed in the race too long, and he used his campaign to damage Hillary and the Democrats”
This line of attack is especially pernicious, because it seeks to somehow place blame for Trump on Bernie and his supporters. That because the Sanders campaign went all the way to the convention, it left the Democrats divided and weakened.
Poppycock. This assumes that the Democrats were not already divided and weakened. The Democratic Party had been fractured and had been losing members steadily for years.
Moreover, Bernie cannot be blamed for losses at the ballot box. The Democrats had been in a death spiral at the polls since Obama took office:
As far as staying in the race as long as he did, Bernie had several reasons for doing so, and — contrary to what his detractors may say — they were all for the good of the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton.
Hillary supporters frequently say that Bernie did not campaign “hard enough” for Hillary, and that he did not do enough to convince his supporters to vote for Hillary. This is bullshit.
Let’s not forget that it was a very hard-fought campaign, and the WikiLeaks email revelations did not make Bernie supporters feel very loving or appreciative toward either Clinton or the DNC.
By staying in the race, Bernie kept his followers engaged in the political process. By fighting for every delegate, he was able to get some of “his people” on the Platform Committee. And by having at least some influence in that committee, he was then able to go to his supporters and claim that he — and they — had been instrumental in forging the “most progressive party platform in history.”
This was an important part of his message to his base. There was no way he could get them to love Hillary and suddenly be “with Her.” Sanders voters were and are totally issues-based. And so Bernie was able to appeal to that preoccupation with issues by pointing to the Platform document and asking them to “vote for the Party that supports these things.”
The result was that 88% of Sanders supporters voted for Hillary. Jill Stein, in the end, garnered only about 1% of the vote.
Tr🍩ll Smear #8: “Bernie “stole” and misused his supporters’ money”
This is a particularly egregious attack because it smacks so openly of antisemitism. The main attack line here is that Bernie “played” his supporters, treated them as suckers, kept his campaign going longer than he should have, just so he could fleece his unwitting, starry-eyed idealistic supporters for more of their $27 donations. This is disgusting.
Roy Delfino particularly takes aim at Bernie for his supposed mendacity.
“Let me remind you that Bernie has a history of funneling campaign money to his wife, and that Tad Devine was cashing in to the tune of $810,000 a month. Does dragging a lost cause on for four pointless months, using false promises of victory to extract money from “struggling students”, “seniors on Social Security” and “workers earning starvation wages”, seem like something an honest man would do?”
As I said, you can almost smell the antisemitism in this one. Anyway — let’s debunk this piece of garbage as follows:
“Bernie has a history of funneling campaign money to his wife.”
Lets see what the truth is, from that same article:
in 2005, Vermont Republicans accused Sanders of having steered campaign contracts to members of his family during his 2002 and 2004 House campaigns. According to a 2006 article in Roll Call, Bernie Sanders’ wife, Jane Sanders, and stepdaughter, Carina Driscoll, were paid $95,000 for ad-buy placement, database administration, and miscellaneous consulting services during those campaigns. Such arrangements are legal, but … when it became an issue in 2006, Jane Sanders stopped taking commissions.
Full disclosure: I had a friend who ran for Senate in 1990, and he “funneled” money to me in return for writing press releases and handling his PR. So string me up as well.
When Bernie bashers say “Tad Devine” he really mean “Devine, Mulvey, Longabaugh Inc.” (that is what is on the FEC records). DML is a media production and design house. They were the ones who produced Bernie’s amazing commercials, including the famous “America” campaign ad, which became so famous it even has its own Wikipedia page. Indeed, a study showed that the commercial that Tad Devine‘s company produced “moved people the most” and “made viewers feel happiest” according to a study by Vanderbilt U.
Best of all, according to an email published by WikiLeaks, the America ad made Jennifer Palmieri, Hillary Clinton’s Communications Director, break down and cry. She then watched it repeatedly, and each time it gave her “chills”.
Hell, I’d say that makes Devine’s company worth the money all by itself.
Tr🍩ll Smear #9: “Bernie hyped the WikiLeaks scandal to his own advantage”
Now this attack is one of the ones that makes the least sense. And in order to make it, the Anti-Bernie Tr🍩lls need to do some pretty impressive mental gymnastics.
First, they must make the difficult, schizophrenic argument that:
Indeed, the entire Russian hacking story was predicated on the idea that the DNC emails were hacked by Russian operatives, then passed to WikiLeaks in order to damage the Clinton campaign.
This story has since been debunked and proven to have been a hoax that was “cooked up” by John Podesta and Robby Mook on the night of the election. Still, the Anti-Bernie crowd still want to believe it, because to not do so would be to place blame somewhere else (like at on the candidate), and they feel that Bernie played a role in this.
The proof? Bernie said things like:
“I mean, there’s no question to my mind and I think no question to any objective observer’s mind that the DNC was supporting Hillary Clinton, and was at opposition to our campaign.”
Well, duh. This is milquetoast. And yet in the mind of the Bernie attacker, this is heresy, this is outrageous calumny worthy of condemning.
The mere fact that Debbie Wasserman Schultz had been National Co-Chair of Hillary’s 2008 campaign was highly problematic. It indicated a very strong relationship between the two, and one can imagine it was only natural that DWS would want to “make up” for the failure of 2008 by guaranteeing her good friend the 2016 nomination.
Add to this the fact that virtually all of the superdelegates had pledged to vote for Hillary before the Primary even started, and these are clear indications of the bias that Bernie mentions.
I will not get into the fact that the debate schedule was minimised and planned to the detriment of the newcomer, the fact that there was clear manipulation of the Primary process in places like NV, NY and CA — these are arguments for another time and place.
For this attack, however, it is sufficient to mention the mental gymnastics and schizophrenic argument above, and couple it with two clear points:
- If there were no evidence of DNC bias, why did Debbie Wasserman Schultz (plus 4 other top DNC heads) have to suddenly announce her resignation on the day before the convention?
- Why is there currently a lawsuit charging the DNC with fraud, currently making its way through the courts? (Note: at a hearing in April, a federal judge refused to grant the DNC’s request to dismiss the suit)
For a long time, no Hillary supporter had been able to give me a straight answer on that one. They mostly said it was to “save face” or “just for optics”.
But now, with this new Anti-Bernie attack line, they can explain that she was “forced” to resign because of Bernie’s “vicious attack.” Apparently, phrases like “the DNC was supporting Hillary Clinton” and was “at opposition to our campaign” was just too much for poor little Debbie to take. Please.
Tr🍩ll Smear #10: “Bernie is a sleazy, dishonest campaigner and he is abusive to his staff and the media”
This is just another collection of ad hominem attacks that have nothing to do with policy, and the attacks often rely on very anecdotal and anonymous information.
Bernie lied to his supporters in Nevada, causing a riot to break out
This is laughable. It has been well-documented that the Sanders delegates were misled and mistreated by the NV Democratic Committee, and that a fraud was perpetrated at the convention. The plain fact is that Sanders had 2,124 delegate slots to the State Convention and Hillary Clinton had 1,722 delegate slots to the State Convention. And yet Clinton ended up with 33 more delegates actually being seated. The Bernie side maintained that 64 Sanders delegates were improperly denied seating, which tipped the balance to Clinton. This caused a nonexistent riot that was reported by one biased reporter to discredit Sanders and the sanders supporters.
The charge that Sanders himself was responsible for the “fracas” is one based on an allegation that it was a group of Sanders supporters who filed a so-called “minority report” claiming that the 64 Sanders delegates were denied seating illegitimately.
The fact that it was a Bernie supporter who filed the report somehow blows back to Bernie, and so, the attack goes, he should be responsible.
Except, the minority report in question was actually filed by Leslie Sexton, who is a member of the Nevada State Democratic Central Committee and was a Co-Chair of the Credentials Committee responsible for seating the delegates.
Bernie has nothing to apologize for in Nevada.
Bernie’s campaign acted fraudulently
This attack is a wide-ranging one, and goes back to all manner of accusations about Sanders campaigns having misrepresented endorsements they did not have, and so on. This is very small beer. To condemn someone for reprinting an article praising the candidate, calling it an “endorsement” when the publication had not officially endorsed Sanders — well, that is a pretty small thing to hang your hat on.
And in the case of the 2016 race, there is only ONE lawsuit alleging fraud committed in a campaign, and it’s against the DNC.
There were also allegations of FEC violations because some people may have contributed one too many $27 instalments, or — like me — they contributed from overseas. This is also small potatoes, compared to the massive fraud and collusion that was committed by the DNC and the Clinton campaign systemically and nationally and over the course of a full year.
I would rebut all of these charges with the simple fact that the ethics complaints (3 of them) filed against the Sanders campaign were all field by David Brock, a well-known Clinton partisan and someone who was paid handsomely by the Clintons for running one of Hillary’s PACs (Correct the Record) and now Shareblue, which runs what the Seattle Times calls a “Twitter army to voice outrage on Clinton’s behalf”. Indeed, Vanity Fair and even Brock himself describe Shareblue as “The Breitbart of the Left”.
So when it comes to these types of attacks, one really should “consider the source.” And if anyone disses you for referencing an article in Breitbart.com, point them to that Vanity Fair piece.
Bernie is not just a “grumpy grandpa” — he is harsh and abusive
This is one more baseless ad hominem attack, and one that dovetails with the “holier-than-thou” theme — and it is one that is really based on some pretty thin evidence, such as the following:
“He yelled in meetings all the time,” says one of Sanders’ former Senate staffers. “He’d yell, ‘I don’t want to hear excuses! I want to get it done!’”
Oh, that poor, poor snowflake. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would consider such an “outburst” to be inappropriate. And if that poor delicate flower of a staffer cannot realise that ”politics ain’t beanbag,” then s/he needs to find another profession.
Sanders is also accused of being rough with the media, hanging up on reporters or ending interviews when they refuse to discuss the things he wants to talk about. As you might guess, Bernie always wants to talk about the issues, and he accuses the media of talking about “the horse race.” I say, good luck making that argument — we know how everyone LOVES the media.
Tr🍩ll Smear #11: “Bernie is Pro-NRA, Pro-Gun, voted 5 times against the Brady Bill, etc.
First, let’s be clear: Bernie is no fan of the NRA. He took one donation from them in 1990 and that is all. Moreover, Bernie is by no means the most pro-gun Democrat out there.
Indeed, throughout most of his career, Bernie has had a solid “F” from the NRA.
Still — the anti-Bernie croud prattle on so let’s take the charges one buy one:
“Bernie voted against the Brady Bill 5 times”
This is a particularly cynical attack that was hatched by the Clinton campaign in 2015. It is the quintessential political smear in that it takes votes out of context and makes it appear that Bernie opposed the provisions of the Brady Bill on principle or as a matter of conscience. This is not the case.
Bernie won his first term in Congress in 1990 by promising to oppose mandatory waiting periods. It was part of his platform, and he ran on that pledge; it was a promise he made to his constituents, 35% of which said that the waiting period issue was a “major reason” for voting for Bernie.
As Jeff Weaver explained to PolitiFact:
“He wasn’t opposed to states having (waiting periods) if they wanted to. The Republicans wanted to repeal waiting periods in states that had them, and Bernie voted that down,” Weaver said. “He said he would be against waiting periods, and he kept his word to the people of Vermont.”
The Brady Bill would have mandated a federal background check and a federally mandated waiting period for people buying handguns. The waiting period was vehemently opposed by the people of Vermont, a state which has NO gun control at all, and whose citizens (and voters) oppose gun control measures as a matter of dogma.
Many say that Sanders has a “mixed” record on gun control, but in reality, his record as a Congressman and a Senator is 100% consistent with those of his constituents. Bernie is known for his integrity, and part of that integrity is to vote the way the people who elected him want him to.
Despite opposing the federal mandate for waiting periods, Bernie opposed Republicans trying to force states that did have waiting periods to repeal them. Moreover, he has always supported background checks (the other part of the Brady Bill), and he voted for the Assault Weapon Ban.
“Bernie voted to allow guns on Amtrak”
This is a really stupid accusation. Yes. Bernie voted for Senate Budget Amendment Nr. 798, worded as follows:
“To ensure that law abiding Amtrak passengers are allowed to securely transport firearms in their checked baggage.”
Thats right: so people can carry their guns in CHECKED BAGGAGE only.
All this bill did was give Amtrak passengers the exact same rights to travel with firearms that airline passengers already had under TSA guidelines §1540.111.
“Bernie voted to protect firearm manufacturers from liability”
This refers to Bernie’s support for the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which protects gun manufacturers and sellers from lawsuits that hold them liable for dealing in firearms that end up in criminal hands.
This is a philosophical vote that Bernie has explained often, and it is a vote he stood by until recently. He used to defend his vote as follows, from his conversation on Meet the Press:
“If you were a gun shop owner in Vermont, and you sell somebody a gun, and that person flips out and then kills somebody, I don’t think it’s really fair to hold the [gun shop owner] responsible. … On the other hand, where there is a problem is there is evidence that gun manufacturers do know that they’re selling a whole lot of guns in an area that really should not be buying that many guns — that many of those guns are going to other areas, probably for criminal purposes. So can we take another look at that liability issue? Yes.”
So Bernie was always willing to revisit the liability issue. But since then, Bernie has gone from wanting to tweak the PLCAA to actually wanting to repeal it alltogether.
Indeed, when Democrats introduced a bill in January 2016 to repeal the PLCAA, Bernie supported it.
So, yes, Bernie has “evolved” on this particular issue, and has been in favour of repealing immunity for gun manufacturers since at least January 2016.
“Bernie is supported by the NRA, owes his career to the NRA, etc.”
Indeed, it was his full-throated support for the Assault Weapon Ban that earned him the ire of the NRA, who then poured money into the 1994 election to unseat him, popularising the bumper sticker slogan “Bye Bye Bernie”.
As mentioned above, throughout most of his career Bernie has had a solid “F” from the NRA. His grade rose slightly when he did not vote to repeal the PLCAA, but that will nocw change as Bernie joins Democrats to repeal those protections for gun manufacturers.
Here is a great video that explains Bernie’s views on gun control.
Tr🍩ll Smear #12: “Bernie voted to give the Minuteman Militia immunity”
This is a VERY weak attack, and has to do with an extremely inconsequential amendment which Sanders voted for. Essentially, it forbade the US Federal Government from giving the Mexican Government information about the (private) Minuteman Militia roaming the Southern Border.
The vote was largely symbolic, because the Feds don’t share that info anyway.
Rep. Olav Sabo, a Minnesota Democrat and ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee, was the sole member of his party to speak on the amendment … He said Customs officials had told him they already didn’t share information with the Mexican government except for where required by treaty.
“If people want to put it in the bill, I guess that is okay because it apparently does nothing,” he quipped.
So all sides agree that the vote was largely symbolic. Bernie’s vote was probably based on his suspicion of government tracking/spying and sharing of personal information. Certainly there was nothing nefarious or even remotely racists about this vote.
Tr🍩ll Smear #13: “Bernie voted against Immigration Reform”
This is another extremely cynical attack because it glosses over or omits many important factors that were at play in the subject bill.
Yes, the 2007 Immigration bill did offer 12 million undocumented immigrants a chance to enroll in a “guest worker program”, but such programs are what Bernie Sanders calls “semi-slavery” and highly exploitative of the immigrants while at the same time very destructive to overall wages for working Americans.
During debate on the bill, Bernie said this:
“It is not about raising wages or improving benefits. What it is about is bringing into this country over a period of years millions of low-wage temporary workers with the result that wages and benefits in this country, which are already going down, will go down even further.”
In short, there were some very unsavory aspects of this bill that a pro-labor union supporter like Bernie Sanders, along with labor organisations and immigrant rights groups, simply could not accept:
AFL-CIO opposed guest-worker programs, which were expanded in the bill to win Big Business and GOP support. More strikingly, it lost the support of several pro-immigration groups, such as the League of United Latin American Citizens.
“LULAC cannot support a bill that will separate families and lead to the exploitation of immigrant workers,” said Executive Director Brent Wilkes in a May 2007 statement. In June 2007, the American Immigration Lawyers Association said it “cannot support enactment of the Senate bill in its current form,” citing no fewer than six major problems.
In general, Bernie has consistently opposed “open borders” because he sees it as a Reagan era (neoliberal) initiative to exploit poor foreign workers while driving down wages at home. So he was already predisposed to oppose the 2007 bill, which allowed for such exploitation.
The fact that AFL-CIO, LULAC and AILA all opposed the 2007 immigration bill means that Bernie did the right thing in voting against it.
Tr🍩ll Smear #14: “Bernie is a Russian Stooge, a Putin Plant, a Kremlin Puppet, etc.”
This is an extremely unhinged attack that seeks to paint Bernie as some sort of pro-Putin anti-American who colluded with Russia to win, or whatever.
I suppose it was only a matter of time before the “Russia-Gate” hoax spread to Bernie Sanders. Apparently Putin was not just working overtime to get Trump elected, he was already hard at work in 2015 sending out his flying monkey trolls to support Bernie Sanders. Sigh.
The Russia-related attacks on Bernie are multivalent, but I will address each attack line below.
“Bernie spent his honeymoon in the USSR”
This is a very old smear. And given the fact that the USSR no longer exists, it’s surprising that people still use it. But then again, we have seen Democrats and others refer to today’s Russia as “Soviets” and “Communists”, so it is not surprising that the most ignorant will still pull this chestnut out of the bag.
Here’s the real story:
In 1988, when Sanders was mayor of Burlington, the city formed a “twin” city relationship with a Russian city called Yaroslavl — Remember, this was one year before the Berlin Wall fell, at the height of Gorby’s Perestroika and the thawing of East-West relations. The sister-city program was a total success and is still going on today — see http://burlingtonyaroslavl.com.
That year Sanders traveled on an official trip to meet his counterpart, the mayor of Yaroslavl. The trip, which was made with 10 other people, including prominent businesspeople and city officials, was scheduled for the day after his wedding, so he invited his wife to come along. Now, you can say that maybe he should not have taken his wife on a trip for official city business, but you cannot make any more out of it than that.
“Bernie voted against increased sanctions on Russia”
Peter Daou on twitter:
“So Bernie Sanders was 1 of 2 (out of 100) senators to vote against Russia sanctions. And 1 of 4 to vote against the Magnitsky Act.”
There were two reasons to vote against the sanctions that Congress sought to impose on Russia in 2017.
First, these were simply not good for US relations with our Allies. The EU was virulently opposed to these sanctions, and threatened retaliation. Jean-Claude Juncker, EC President, decried the sanctions saying “‘America First’ cannot mean that Europe’s interests come last.”
Second, and more importantly, the sanctions bill targeted not just Russia but also Iran, and threatened to undo the Iran Nuclear Deal — arguably the greatest achievemenbt of Barack Obama’s Presidency and one which Hillary Clinton gladly took credit for. Bernie was and is a staunch supporter of Obama’s Iran deal, and he refused to vote for anything that threatened to destroy Obama’s — and Clinton’s — signature achievement.
“Bernie voted against the Magnitsky Act”
The Magnitsky Act was a horrible piece of legislation that sought to impose sanctions on specific Russian individuals. In this it was a new sort of blacklist and violated US and international laws as well as human rights protocols. According to The Nation, it also brought us closer to World War III:
Congress has recklessly and needlessly jeopardized US-Russian cooperation in vital areas from Afghanistan and the Middle East to international terrorism and nuclear proliferation. Even if Moscow’s tit-for-tat reactions to the Magnitsky bill are pro forma and toothless, its adoption, along with the US-Russian impasse over missile defense and NATO expansion, brings us even closer to a new cold war. Judging by its voting record in recent years, Congress hasn’t seen a war it doesn’t like — hot or cold.
The Act targeted specific individuals whom the US would deem guilty of human rights abuses, and prevented them from entering the US or doing business in the US. But it was never clear how a person’s name could get on the list. Apparently it was widely open to interpretation.
This smear is a bit tricky since there is evidence that Hillary Clinton also opposed the Magnitsky Act because at that time one of the people targeted was a banker who had paid Bill Clinton $500,000 to give a speech in Moscow.
“The Sanders Campaign was helped by Putin and Russia”
This weirdo attack seems to have originated in the fevered dreams of Eric Garland, a prominent Trump-Russia conspiracy theorist. The idea is that Russian bots and trolls were working for Sanders and against Clinton. It is true that some pro-Sanders Facebook pages were inundated with spam ads and postings that were anti-Clinton, but these were not aimed to influence the outcome of the election.
The vast majority of anti-Hillary trolling came from a small town in Macedonia, where they make money by driving traffic to their clients’ web sites. They do this by getting people to click on ads and posts. They are not political. Indeed, the first wave of such spam was anti-Bernie.
As with the famous Russian Facebook ad purchase, it was really not until AFTER the primary was over that the anti-Hillary ads started to appear.
So the main point gets murky. In some cases, they argue that Bernie was helped during the Primary, and in other cases they claim his supporters were influenced in the general election to NOT vote for Hillary. In either case, Bernie is not actually involved. And in the second case, it is obviously false because more Bernie voters went on to support Hillary than did Hillary supporters support Obama in 2008 (88% to 75%).
Tr🍩ll Smear #15: “Bernie and Jane are Corrupt”
The screwy accusation of “bank fraud” started by right wing smear merchants and now pushed by anti-Bernie Democrats.
This smear has two iterations:
1) Jane Sanders committed bank fraud to obtain a loan for her employer, Burlington College, based on false income projections from donors.
2) Bernie Sanders worked with his wife Jane to commit fraud by applying “political pressure” to the bank that provided the loan
You may wonder why I have not addressed this particular smear earlier. It is because I honestly thought that this line of attack would go away. Also Paste Magazine had run a great article in May 2017 explaining why this smear is totally baseless.
Yet, like the zombie narratives from the deepest, most fevered swamp of the far Right, this thing just refuses to die.
The accusation is based on a complaint that was filed with the Vermont US District Attorney’s office in 2016 by one Brady Toensing, the VT Vice Chair of the GOP and a well-known conservative bag man famous for stirring up trouble for Vermont Democrats and liberals. As Paste Magazine explains:
Toensing, also a junior partner at diGenova and Toensing, a DC law firm with a reputation for slinging mud at Democrats (Victoria Toensing, Brady’s mother and senior partner at the firm, was a prominent voice from the right during the Benghazi boondoggle), filed a formal complaint in January of 2016, with the U.S. Attorney alleging willful misconduct by Sanders, which prompted the DOJ investigation into the school’s closure.
The False Complaint
Toensing claims to have filed the complaint “on behalf” of member of the Catholic diocese of Burlington, which he claims was damaged through the sale of the property to Burlington College when it was under Jane Sanders’s management. The main thrust of his complaint is that the property owned by the diocese was bought for $10 million, but the church only received $8 million. According to Toensing thi smeans that the Diocese was damaged by that $2 million shortfall.
Except the Church itself does not agree with Toensing’s claim. Quite the opposite, in fact.
As Bishop Christopher Coyne told Vermont Public Radio:
“At the time, we were very satisfied with the $10 million purchase price on a property that was assessed … at $6 million. So the offer from Burlington College was about $4 million more than the property was worth,” says Coyne …
“We’re very satisfied with the outcome at the end, even though we didn’t receive the full $10 million,” Coyne says of the settlement. “We walked away with a pretty good price, and at this point we’re not interested in pursuing any further matter in this.”
If there is one thing you need to know from this story, it is that the Church actually ended up receiving $8 million for a piece of property that was appraised at only $6 million.
- There is no victim: the alleged victim actually benefitted from the deal
- The Sanders family received nothing from the transaction
- Neither Bernie nor Jane can be said to have benefitted in any way from the alleged “fraud”
Why are the FBI involved?
The FBI are bound to investigate every complaint that is duly filed in a District Attorney. However, the FBI has not said that anyone is a target of the investigation and so far there have been no criminal or civil charges even discussed in this matter.
The entire smear is a totally fabricated case made up by a local GOP operative known for filing false accusations.
TURN IT AROUND
If someone comes at you with this smear, ask them why they are on the same side as the Tensing family, who persecuted hillary for Benghazi. Ask them why they are helping Brady Toensing, who was the Trump campaign manager for Vermont.