Bernie Sanders told an Iowa crowd he has a better chance of beating Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton does, at a Tuesday stop in Fort Dodge, Iowa.
“From the bottom of my heart, if you want somebody who is going to beat Donald Trump, I think Bernie Sanders is that candidate!” cried Sanders, evidently embracing Trump’s habit of referring to himself in the third person.
Reporting on this comment, the UK Guardian expresses doubts that Sanders can get past the Clinton machine to take his shot at Trump. She’s still ahead of Sanders by 12.7 points nationally, although her lead in Iowa is down to 4, and Sanders is up 7 in New Hampshire. (Presumably they’re talking about polling averages, because the latest shocker from CNN has it Sanders 60 percent vs. Clinton 33 percent in New Hampshire.)
Surprise narrative-busting wins in the early states are the fabled launch-pad for dramatic campaigns. Of course, if the FBI makes a surprise appearance in this particular drama, all bets are off.
Sanders is still reluctant to play Clinton’s corruption against her — undermining the “Honest Bernie, Man of Conviction” claptrap. A truly honest statist/socialist would be a bitter enemy of Clinton-style obfuscation, lawlessness, and influence peddling. Sanders is not much more interested in holding Democrat royalty accountable than Clinton is.
He’s also on the wrong side of a Democrat power structure clicking robotically into place behind Clinton, and a Party political machine that schedules debates on weekends in obscure venues, so hardly anyone gets to see his acclaimed left-wing passion pitted against Clinton’s special-interest Pez dispenser.
Sanders used Martin Luther King Day to try cutting into Clinton’s minority support, and he and his supporters have complained about the media treatment of his campaign. He joked in Fort Dodge that the media doesn’t cover important issues well, but “if I slipped on a banana peel here, it would be on the front page of the newspaper.”
The big problem facing Sanders is that it’s extremely difficult for any Democrat to run against the media, even one who can offer a convincing argument that it’s been reporting on his campaign poorly. (How many casual news consumers know what Sanders has been saying about the Obama economy, particularly unemployment?) Running against a candidate like Clinton who has admirers, friends, campaign boosters, and former employees at every news network is hard enough for Republicans, whose voters are generally receptive to media-bashing.
Sanders’ best bet is to keep his supporters excited by talking about a “revolution.” An elderly Clinton supporter at his town hall in Fort Dodge asked him how he could get a divided Congress to deliver on big socialist promises, such as single-payer health care. “I’m not a magician,” he answered. “The only way we get real change in America is when millions of people stand up and demand it. That’s what the political revolution is about.”
The Wall Street Journal describes what he meant by a “revolution”:
He said the fate of his entire agenda—not just health care—depends on the revolution upending the status quo. Increasing the minimum wage, spending more on infrastructure, providing tuition-free college and ensuring equal pay for women are all broadly popular with Americans, he said, but aren’t being done because entrenched interests oppose them.
He didn’t give much detail about how the revolution will come to pass, other than electing him president. He said that Republicans will reconsider their views, for instance, on free college, if they see “a million young people” outside their windows demanding it.
Mr. Sanders connected the revolution to one of his core issues: what he calls a corrupt campaign finance system that has lawmakers ignoring the voters’ will. The solution, he said: “People from the grassroots level stand up and say enough is enough! Start doing the bidding, Congress, of the American people, not your billionaire sponsors.”
For all of Sanders’ talk about revolutions, most of that is the same gobbledygook Hillary Clinton preaches – promising to force other people to pay for free goodies for your constituents is hardly novel. Casting greedy Republicans and their evil Kochtopus billionaire backers as the intransigent obstacles blocking this tidal wave of “free stuff” is what Barack Obama spent every day of the past eight years doing.
It’s tough for a guy who’s been in Congress since before many of his voters were born to portray himself as an “outsider,” but if anyone can provide the contrast that would help him do it, it would be Hillary Clinton. However, NPR noticed Sanders backing away from even that profitable campaign line in Iowa by failing to push his attack on Clinton for taking speaking fees from Goldman Sachs – one of his most effective lines during the last, unwatched Democrat debate.
Actually, Sanders did bring up the Goldman Sachs thing at another event in Iowa later the same day… in the most passive/aggressive way possible. “You won’t hear me attacking my Democratic colleagues,” the Guardian quotes him declaring, followed by: “Without naming any names, Goldman Sachs also provides very, very generous speaking fees to some of the candidates.”
Sanders indulged in a bit of crowing about how “Today, the inevitable candidate doesn’t look quite so inevitable as she did eight and a half months ago,” but in truth he backs down every time he throws a punch that lands on Clinton. Musing on the amount of money certain financial institutions pay her for speeches isn’t enough to draw blood – it has to be linked into a larger critique of Clinton as the nexus for Big Government corruption and influence peddling.
That could be devastating, coming from the far-left wing of the Democrat Party, especially if Sanders had the guts to mention that Barack Obama was no slouch at steering billions of taxpayer dollars into the hands of his top contributors. Evidently that’s more a “revolution” than Sanders signed up for.
Clinton is nevertheless worried enough to hit back. “Seeking to blunt Sanders’ momentum, Clinton has suggested that nominating the self-declared democratic socialist would be the party at risk of losing to Republicans in November,” NPR reported. “Clinton has also accused the senator of flip-flopping on guns, and also called his health care proposal expensive and unrealistic.”
Clinton also took a shot at Sanders on foreign policy Tuesday, releasing “a joint statement from 10 former Obama and Clinton administration diplomats who are questioning Bernie Sanders’ ability to handle foreign policy issues, including working with Iran and fighting ISIS,” as reported by CNN.
“The stakes are high. And we are concerned that Sen. Sanders has not thought through these crucial national security issues that can have profound consequences for our security,” read the statement. “His lack of a strategy for defeating ISIS – one of the greatest challenges we face today – is troubling. And the limited things he has said on ISIS are also troubling.”
Here again, Sanders has an easy way to hit back – he’s up against Benghazi Clinton, the architect of the appalling disaster in Libya, after all. Instead, he talks about the urgency of “normalizing relations with Iran,” with a dose of the same passive-aggressive bitching about Tehran’s support for terrorism that he uses to remind his voters about Clinton’s Goldman Sachs speaking fees.
There probably isn’t a big American constituency that thinks Obama didn’t appease Iran enthusiastically enough. So Sanders isn’t going to get anywhere by letting Clinton off the hook for her planet-shaking disasters as she slams him as a foreign-policy naif.