The Huge Trump Opposition Research File on Bernie

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(This is not the actual file.)

I really, really, wanted to take a break from politics this week. I’d rather be writing about flowers and butterflies and HeroRATs and inspirational people. But I’m writing with a sense of urgency.

After watching the Democrats, led by the brilliant Adam Schiff, weave a compelling case for the President’s guilt—and knowing the impeachment trial will probably result in acquittal—I feel even more strongly that the Democrats must present a unified front if they have any chance of defeating Trump and saving our democracy. 

In that regard, Bernie is really, really getting on my nerves and making me worry that he’s increasing the likelihood of a Trump victory. And I hope that the press, which did a poor job of focusing on Hillary’s “damn emails” while giving Trump and his background a pass, will start looking into Bernie’s past.  

A lot of it ain’t pretty. In fact, I fear that if he’s the nominee, we’re in for a disaster that could even help the Republicans retake the House.

As I try to practice lovingkindness, I don’t wish Bernie ill. I wish him a long, healthy, productive life—back in Vermont. To me, he has forfeited his right to be the Democratic nominee by once again slashing and burning his competition. 

I acknowledge that he’s attracted young people to politics with the Democratic Socialist ideas he has consistently espoused. He probably has the most devoted core of followers of any of the Democratic nominees. 

Unfortunately, a portion of the “Bernie Bros” are vindictive, misogynistic young men with so much anger that they have been compared to Trump’s adoring fans. 

And though they seem willing to follow Bernie anywhere, they didn’t listen to him when he called for them to vote for Hillary in 2016 (after he did what may have been permanent damage to her electability during the primaries). Instead, many of them voted for the totally unqualified Jill Stein, thereby helping Trump win.

Why am I so upset with Bernie? Because at a time when we need all the Democratic nominees united against Trump, he’s attacking them one by one. While the kerfuffle over whether he told Elizabeth Warren that a woman couldn’t be elected got a lot of play, the fact that his canvassers were badmouthing her door-to-door as an “elitist” received little attention.

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U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Image courtesy of flickr.com.

And now it’s Biden. As Paul Krugman wrote in The New York Times, 

“While the news media has been focused on the ‘spat’ between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, something much more serious has been taking place between the Sanders campaign and Joe Biden. 

“Not to sugarcoat it: The Sanders campaign has flat-out lied about things Biden said in 2018 about Social Security, and it has refused to admit the falsehood.

“This is bad; it is, indeed, almost Trumpian. The last thing we need is another president who demonizes and lies about anyone who disagrees with him, and can’t admit ever being wrong. Biden deserves an apology, now, and Sanders probably needs to find better aides.” (Emphases mine throughout.)

He’s also attacking Biden on his racial record, telling South Carolina voters, where Biden has a strong lead among African-Americans, that Biden has betrayed them.

I know, I know. Politics ain’t beanbag. And before I go more deeply into Bernie’s past, I agree that we have to give people credit for changing their positions.

Bernie has changed some of his, but he doesn’t give such leeway to others; he’s still castigating those who voted for the Iraq War, insisting his opposition alone makes him the candidate with the best judgment. 

As I note subsequently, he’s taken some highly questionable positions on international affairs in the past.

And when Trump has the megaphone, Bernie’s record, I believe, would make him more vulnerable than any other nominee. That’s a risk I don’t think our country can bear.

Writing in The Guardian, Geoffrey Kabaservice begins by saying that although his own politics are center-right, he has a “strange liking” for Bernie—for his authenticity, among other things. 

Kabaservice points out that the Democratic Socialism that would have been unthinkable not long ago is now as popular as capitalism among those ages 18-39, which explains Bernie’s popularity with young people. (If you’re struggling financially, free college tuition and college loan forgiveness sound quite attractive.)

But, the author also points out about Sanders: 

“The gentle treatment he received in 2016 from the media and the Hillary Clinton campaign (which ran few negative television or media ads against him) means that many Democratic voters haven’t yet learned about the distinctly non-progressive positions he has taken on certain issues throughout his senatorial career.”

What are some of those positions? To appeal to the social conservatives in his home state of Vermont, a largely white, older, pro-hunting population, Bernie has… 

—Long opposed gun safety legislation, voting against the Brady bill and legislation to make gun manufacturers accountable for their products’ destructiveness;

—Voted for the “Charleston loophole” by which the killer of nine African Americans in a South Carolina church obtained his weapon;

—Opposed gay marriage until at least 2006;

—Supported the 1994 crime bill that led to mass incarcerations of African Americans;

—Opposed various reforms to assist immigrants on the grounds that they would negatively affect American workers.

And his legislative accomplishments are thin at best, in large part because of his “go-it-alone approach.” In 2018, he got the least number of bills out of committee and to the floor (1 bill).

 Similarly, only 1 of his 31 bills and resolutions had a cosponsor from a different party. The Lugar Center’s Bipartisanship Index placed him last among all Senators for the past two Congresses.

So the man sets forth an incredibly ambitious agenda, and tells us that he’ll be able to pass it because of the “political revolution” he’s inspiring.

But his track record doesn’t indicate he’s got the temperament or relationships to do the hard work of enacting such transformative legislation.

Kabaservice calls Bernie’s chances of actually becoming President “close to nil.” He elaborates:

“I say this because in 2016 I got a glimpse of the Republican party’s opposition research book on Sanders, which was so massive it had to be transported on a cart. The Newsweek reporter Kurt Eichenwald, who got to see some of its contents, declared that ‘it was brutal…’”

Of course, I had to check Eichenwald’s 2016 article to see what was so damning.

It’s worth reading this piece because Eichenwald is describing “The Myths Democrats Swallowed That Cost Them the Presidential Election.”

Myth 1 is that the Democratic National Committee was all-powerful and engineered Hillary’s nomination by being unfair to Bernie. Eichenwald factually demolishes this premise and its implications.

Myth 2: That Sanders Would Have Won Against Trump

“I have seen the opposition book assembled by Republicans [against Sanders] and it was brutal. The Republicans would have torn him apart. And while Sanders supporters might delude themselves into believing that they could have defended him against all of this, there is a name for politicians who play defense all the time: losers.”

That comment hit me hard, as we know that one thing Trump and his minions are very good at is going on the attack. I could just picture him at his rallies, dropping one after another of the morsels that Eichenwald described.

“Here are a few tastes of what was in store for Sanders, straight out of the Republican playbook: He thinks rape is A-OK. In 1972, when he was 31, Sanders wrote a fictitious essay in which he described a woman enjoying being raped by three men. 

“Yes, there is an explanation for it—a long, complicated one, just like the one that would make clear why the Clinton emails story was nonsense. And we all know how well that worked out.

“Then there’s the fact that Sanders was on unemployment until his mid-30s, and that he stole electricity from a neighbor after failing to pay his bills, and that he co-sponsored a bill to ship Vermont’s nuclear waste to a poor Hispanic community in Texas, where it could be dumped.

“You can just see the words ‘environmental racist’ on Republican billboards. And if you can’t, I already did. They were in the Republican opposition research book as a proposal on how to frame the nuclear waste issue.

“Also on the list: Sanders violated campaign finance laws, criticized Clinton for supporting the 1994 crime bill that he voted for, and he voted against the Amber Alert system” [to alert the public to help when a child has been abducted]. 

Eichenwald states that Sanders is also vulnerable for his advocacy of universal health care (now “Medicare for All”) because it was tried in Vermont and failed due to excessive costs.

“Worst of all, the Republicans also had video of Sanders at a 1985 rally thrown by the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua where half a million people chanted, ‘Here, there, everywhere/the Yankee will die,’ while President Daniel Ortega condemned ‘state terrorism’ by America. Sanders said, on camera, supporting the Sandinistas was ‘patriotic.’

Eichenwald reported that he knew there were at least four other “damning” videos  but didn’t know their content. The folder holding the “oppo“ research was nearly two feet thick.

One piece called Bernie a communist who had ties to Castro, which Eichenwald says would automatically have resulted in the loss of Florida if he were the nominee.

“In other words, the belief that Sanders would have walked into the White House based on polls taken before anyone really attacked him is a delusion built on a scaffolding of political ignorance.”

And this stuff doesn’t even take into account all that the Trump crowd will make up about Bernie out of whole cloth. Fake news, doctored videos. None of it’s fair, none of it’s the way we want our politics to work, but we know it will happen. 

Sure, the Republicans will dig up dirt and make up stories about whoever is the Democratic nominee. I have my worries that if it’s Biden, the fake corruption involving Ukraine and his son will dominate the campaign.

But I find it telling that even as Trump is pushing those Biden conspiracy theories, he’s also encouraging the “Bernie as victim of the Democratic establishment” motif. He’d love to run against Bernie. If Bernie isn’t the nominee, Trump’s faux sympathy may win points, and votes, from disgruntled Bernie Bros in 2020, just as it did in 2016. 

In the meantime, I think every thoughtful person trying to decide who can best beat Trump—and be as effective a President as anyone can be in these polarized times—needs to consider what we really know about these candidates. 

And the press needs to do its job!!

Annie

Continue reading “The Huge Trump Opposition Research File on Bernie”

Where Are the Lights of Liberty? We Are Better Than This!

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I stood with nearly 300 members of my community Friday night at a “Lights for Liberty” candlelight vigil in protest of the horrific treatment of immigrants on the US southern border.

This was one of 800 such vigils worldwide, all designed to persuade the government of this nation, a nation of immigrants, to stop using cruelty and dehumanization against children and families.

Think about that: people throughout the world gathered to register their horror at the policies and actions of the US government.

Two aspects of the presentations moved me the most. The first was a speech by a councilwoman from a neighboring community. She introduced herself as a “proud American” and an immigrant and described her journey from India when she was 11 years old.

Her mother was traveling with her and her two brothers to reunite with her father, who had arrived in the US two years earlier to make enough money so that he could bring his family to this great country for a happier, more financially secure life.

The councilwoman said she was apprehensive, but she was with her mother, so she knew everything would be OK. “I can’t imagine,” she said, “what it would have been like to have been taken away from my mother and brothers, and not know whether I’d ever see them again. I can’t imagine having to live under the conditions we’re hearing about—to have no food, no toothbrushes, no bedding, no clean clothes…”

The other presentation that brought me to tears was made by a series of teenagers, who took to the podium to read from the actual statements made by young people in our nation’s care.

These statements were recorded by attorneys who visited the Customs and Border Protection facilities in late June. You can find them at newsweek.com. Here’s a sampling:

“At 3 a.m. the next day the officers told us that our grandmother would be taken away. My grandmother tried to show the officers a paper signed by my parents saying that my grandmother had been entrusted to take care of us. The officers rejected the paperwork saying that it had to be signed by a judge. Then the officers took my dear grandmother away. We have not seen her since that moment.” -From a 12-year-old girl

“At Ursula, we have not been able to shower. The toilet is out in the open in the cage, there is no door for any privacy. There is water but no soap to wash our hands. There are no paper towels to dry our hands. We have not been given a toothbrush or toothpaste to brush our teeth.” -From a 17-year-old boy

“The day after we arrived here, my baby began vomiting and having diarrhea. I asked to see a doctor and they did not take us. I asked again the next day and the guard said: ‘She doesn’t have the face of a sick baby. She doesn’t need to see a doctor.’ My baby daughter has not had medicine since we first arrived. She has a very bad cough, fever and continues to vomit and have diarrhea.” -From a 16-year-old girl

The Trump Administration has made deliberate decisions to deter immigration by separating families and forcing children—from babies to adolescents—as well as adults to live in inhumane conditions. Threatened surprise raids on immigrants are part of this cruelty. American citizens are among those who have been rounded up and deported.

And we, the taxpayers, are footing the bill for all this: $200 daily in government-run cages; $700-plus daily in private facilities through which people such as former Chief of Staff John Kelly profit financially.

Who among us can turn a blind eye to the horrors that are being perpetrated by our government right now?

Border security is a legitimate issue—one that Congress should have resolved years ago. In fact, they came close: a comprehensive immigration reform bill, The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act passed the Senate in 2013 by a vote of 68-32. But the House failed to act.

Is it now possible, with Democratic control of the House, that if such a bill were proposed, Senator Mitch McConnell, who delights in calling himself The Grim Reaper, would even bring it to a vote?

He has already refused to consider more than 100 House-passed bills on healthcare, infrastructure, voting machine protection, and other issues on which large majorities of Americans agree.

But this is now an even more complex issue. Immigration had been down for several years. The increases lately are due to the grievous conditions in Central America (immigration from Mexico is actually down): poverty, homicides, gangs trying to recruit young teenagers, drug lords, and climate change.

Climate change is part of the worldwide impetus for migration that many countries in Europe are grappling with.

The situation on our southern border should send an alarm bell concerning what we have to look forward to if we continue to deny the existence of climate change and don’t act promptly.

Erik Kobayashi-Solomon, a contributor to Forbes, pointed out that the three countries from which most immigrants seeking asylum at our southern border are now fleeing—El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras—are part of an “ecologically fragile ‘dry corridor’ that has been hit in the last few years by alternating droughts and drenching precipitation which climate sciences have shown is related to warming global temperatures.”

Since about 1/3 of the people there depend on subsistence farming, it doesn’t take huge variations in climate to wreak havoc on their crops. They are then compelled to leave their homes and set out for cities—cities rife with corruption and run by criminal gangs. The author observes:

“So they make the rational choice to head north for economic security and rule of law.”

“Recent reporting from Jonathan Blitzer at the New Yorker and John Carlos Frey at the Marshall Project makes a convincing case that climate change is a major underlying cause of the recent pick-up in northward migration from Central America.”

Poverty isn’t currently considered by our government a legitimate reason for asylum, but it’s realistic to believe that many of these people requesting asylum also fear for their lives. Why else would they make the obviously dangerous trek from their homes, their children in tow?

Instead, they are caged and deprived of basic necessities. And even though family members in the US are often available to take them in, the government doesn’t contact these people, deliberately worsening the overcrowded facilities situation.

President Trump did inherit an unresolved immigration problem. The New York Times has editorialized that “All Presidents Are Deporters in Chief.”

That dubious honorific was given by immigrants rights groups to President Obama, though his administration sought to deport primarily criminals and created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a pathway to citizenship for the young people who were brought here as babies and have known only the US as their home.

Though we may wish to embrace every last soul seeking refuge here, that isn’t possible.

But the question The Times raises is what kind of Deporter in Chief a President is—or will be.

In faulting this President, the editors state:

“For Mr. Trump, deterrence of illegal immigration has been a guiding principle — if not by means of a wall, then by means of cruelty toward migrants, from the squalid conditions in detainee facilities to separating children from their parents.”

“It’s the complete, 100 percent focus on harsher options that will deter the influx, with a disregard for managing what’s happening,” a Department of Homeland Security official told The Times earlier this year. “We have a lot more families, a lot more unaccompanied children, and the focus has just been on how can we deter, rather than how can we handle.”

But, writes The Times:

“…deterrence alone can’t explain a slew of other moves — scaling back a program that protects the families of members of the military and veterans from being deported, for instance. It doesn’t explain the frantic — yet unsuccessful — effort to put a question about citizenship on the census, which experts agree would lead to an undercount of people in immigrant-heavy communities. Nor does deterrence explain removing deportation protections from nearly one million people who live in the country under the auspices of humanitarian programs or because they were brought to the country as children.”

As one of the signs at the “Lights for Liberty” vigil I attended said: “We are better than this.”

We must insist on a rapid end to the cruelty, the family separations, the conditions that are leading to epidemics of scabies, lice, and chicken pox in the overcrowded facilities—even to several deaths.

In addition to comprehensive immigration reform, we need adherence to legal processes and humane care for those who seek asylum—and a Marshall Plan to improve life in their countries of origin so that many of them can return there safely.

One more thing isn’t getting enough attention. The dirty big secret is that illegal immigrants are an important part of our nation’s economy.

Undocumented immigrants pay an estimated $11.6 billion a year in taxes,  and since they tend to live in the shadows, they use fewer governmental services.

If Trump succeeds in substantially lowering the numbers of undocumented immigrants, our economy will suffer. The jobs he claims the immigrants are taking? They are jobs most Americans refuse to accept. Hotels are already worrying about who will clean the rooms; farmers are wondering who will harvest the lettuce.

What’s more, Trump’s policies have also been directed at reducing legal immigration. That, too, will have a negative impact on our economy. Here, verbatim, are some myths and facts about the issue from PBS NewsHour:

Myth #1: Immigrants take more from the U.S. government than they contribute.
Fact: Immigrants contribute more in tax revenue than they take in government benefits.

Myth #2: Immigrants take American jobs.
Fact: Immigrant workers often take jobs that boost other parts of the economy.

Myth #3: The U.S. economy does not need immigrants.
Fact: Immigrants are key to offsetting a falling birth rate.

Myth #4: It would be better for the economy if immigrants’ children were not citizens.
Fact: Children with citizenship are more productive workers.

And an AP fact check on this issue, also from PBS NewsHour, notes the following:

“The fact is that 75 percent of immigrants arrived legally, according to the Pew Research Center. In general, the entire immigrant population is increasingly better educated than native-born Americans.

They’re more likely to have jobs. They’re less likely to commit violent crimes. They help fuel economic growth. And as a group over time, they’re no more a drain on taxpayers than native-born citizens.

Moreover, for all the attention to the southern border, in recent years immigrants to the U.S. have been more likely to come from Asia than from Mexico.”

So I return to the sign I saw at the “Lights for Liberty” Vigil that said: “We Are Better Than This.” I emphatically agree.

And I hope that sometime very soon, most Americans in this, our nation of immigrants, will dismiss the lies and distortions and appreciate the value of welcoming new immigrants (who often become our friends and neighbors), knowing that when it comes to understanding their role in our country—and in our economy— We Are Also Smarter Than This.

Annie