The Democratic Debates, Part 10: Goin’ to Carolina

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Before things got ugly

W.J. Astore

Last night’s debate from South Carolina had much sound and fury, signifying nothing.  Early on, the moderators lost control, and the candidates (or “contestants,” as Bloomberg called them) interrupted and shouted over each other most of the night.  The overall impression was a Democratic Party without a core message; the overall winner was Donald Trump, who was hardly criticized (and indeed he was praised by Bloomberg for allegedly rebuilding the military).

As usual, the mainstream media (MSM), this time CBS, came off poorly.  As an old friend quipped to me, the MSM is clearly a Russian asset.  The usual “gotcha” questions were aimed at Bernie: Why does Russia support you; Why do you criticize Israel — the implication being that Bernie is a self-hating Jew; Will your programs bankrupt America; Is America ready to elect a socialist; and so on.

The so-called moderates like Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg were given plenty of time to make their case, and no “gotcha” questions were aimed at them.  Still, no candidate stood out in a positive light, which overall is a win for the front-runner, Bernie Sanders.

In fact, Bernie had a moment of courage (at least for this crowd) when he dared to criticize American foreign policy for its one-sided support of Israel as well as past interventions on the behalf of authoritarian dictators in places like Chile in 1973 as well as Iran in 1953.  Naturally, he had little time to make his points, and his critique of the Saudis and their authoritarian record was drowned out.  But, again, he alone of the candidates on that stage was willing to speak some unpopular truths to the American people, so kudos to him.

All night long, Bernie’s fellow “contestants” tried to paint him as a radical red.  But, as Bernie himself said, what’s so radical about single-payer health care, a higher minimum wage, and free college tuition in state schools?  It’s not like Bernie is calling for a government takeover of the means of production, i.e. real socialism.  However, the debate moderators were not about to make any fine distinctions, or any distinctions at all, between Bernie’s sensible calls for moderate reforms to crony capitalism and rabid communism.  And so the debate went nowhere.

Anyway, here’s a quick take on the seven candidates contestants:

Joe Biden: Once again, Biden came off as angry.  His message, such as it is, was that we need to return to the good old days of Obama.

Mike Bloomberg: Smug, arrogant, and dishonest, Bloomberg almost blurted out that he’d bought the new 2018 Democratic class in Congress.  It was his most honest moment of the night.

Pete Buttigieg: Smug, arrogant, and dishonest, Mayor Pete is a fresh-faced Ted Cruz.  Lyin’ Ted — meet Lyin’ Pete.

Amy Klobuchar: She said the biggest misconception about her was that she’s boring.  I’m not sure that’s a misconception.

Bernie Sanders: Passionate as ever, you can tell Bernie is fed up with these so-called debates.

Tom Steyer: The billionaire with a heart — compared to Bloomberg, at least.  Steyer tried to attack Trump and mentioned climate change, but issues didn’t matter in this sad debate.

Elizabeth Warren: Once again, she nailed Bloomberg for his racism, sexism, and his failure to disclose his tax returns.  She tried to position herself as the reasonable alternative to Bernie for progressive-minded Democrats, but it’s hard to see her surviving Super Tuesday.

If you missed this “debate,” count yourself fortunate.

Smearing Bernie Sanders

ticket

W.J. Astore

Just before Tulsi Gabbard announced her candidacy for the presidency as a Democrat, NBC ran a smear piece that suggested Vladimir Putin and the Russians loved her.  This smear was then repeated and amplified by Hillary Clinton, who suggested Gabbard was being groomed by the Kremlin to run as a third-party candidate, thereby ensuring Trump’s reelection in 2020.  There was no evidence for any of these claims — none.  Yet Gabbard was put on the defensive and her campaign (still ongoing) has been essentially redlined by the mainstream media.

Now it’s Bernie Sanders’s turn.  Bernie is much better known than Tulsi with a much larger movement behind him, so the DNC and the mainstream media have a modified tactic: rather than smearing Bernie as a Putin puppet, they’re suggesting the Russians are boosting his candidacy without his knowledge — the end game, naturally, is Trump’s reelection.  This was reported yesterday by the Washington Post and echoed today by the New York Times and other media outlets.  Here’s how NBC News put it today:

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., excoriated Russia on Friday after being briefed that the Kremlin is attempting to help his presidential campaign as part of an effort to interfere with the Democratic primary and the 2020 election.

“The intelligence community has been very clear about it — whether Trump recognizes it not, or acknowledges it or not, they did interfere in 2016,” Sanders told reporters. “The intelligence community is telling us they are interfering in this campaign right now in 2020. What I say to Mr. Putin: If elected president, trust me, you will not be interfering in American elections.”

The Washington Post reported on Friday U.S officials have briefed President Trump, other lawmakers on Capitol Hill and Sanders, who has recently become the frontrunner in the Democratic contest, that Russians are helping his campaign. The Post cited people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

When you look further into these claims, the so-called Intelligence Community (IC) is not telling us specifically how the Russians are allegedly helping Bernie.  They just are.

This puts Bernie on the defensive.  Already known as a “socialist” who, we’re told, visited Moscow on his honeymoon, Bernie is being forced to issue denials as well as statements against Putin.  And this pleases the IC and the DNC to no end.  Get Bernie talking about Russia and Putin!  Force him to disavow Russian “support,” no matter how nebulous or false that support is.  Associate his name with the “bad guys,” the communists, just as Mayor Bloomberg linked Bernie to communism during the last debate.  “Cheap shot,” Bernie replied, but the cheap people are desperate and will do anything to win.

To the DNC, IC, and MSM, it doesn’t matter if these accusations of Russian interference are believed.  What matters is shifting the narrative and thereby weakening the credibility of candidates like Tulsi Gabbard and Bernie Sanders.

Anyone who criticizes or threatens the power and privileges of the military-industrial complex, the IC, and the MSM must be attacked and defeated.  There are literally trillions of dollars at stake here.  This is why other candidates issue no criticisms of these powerful entities.  Can you recall Mayor Pete, or Joe Biden, or Amy Klobuchar, or even Elizabeth Warren saying anything truly critical about the MIC, the IC, and MSM?  For the acronym-wary, that’s the military-industrial complex, the intelligence community, and the mainstream media.

Again, judge the candidates by the enemies they make.  The more the powerful smear Tulsi and Bernie, the more you know they are the candidates with principles and integrity.

The Democratic Debates, Part 9: Special Bloomberg Edition

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Look at the billionaire wanting to be called on

W.J. Astore

Feeling my own pain, I watched last night’s Democratic debate from Nevada, which I have to say sparkled in the first hour as Elizabeth Warren tore into Mike Bloomberg for his racism and sexism.  Indeed, all our regulars took their shots at the billionaire, but I thought Warren landed the most telling ones.  Throughout the proceedings, Bloomberg largely looked bored; perhaps he was mentally counting the billions he’d saved under Trump’s tax rebate for the richest.

Anyhow, I somehow endured the entire two hours, though the dishonest questioning of Bernie Sanders by the panel put me on edge.  Basically, they hinted he was an un-American socialist-communist who’d soon collapse from another heart attack.  It was that bad.

Here’s how I see the candidates and their performances, post-debate and in alphabetical order:

Joe Biden: I think he profits the most from Bloomberg being on the stage, because Uncle Joe no longer has the worst record.  As the other candidates went after Bloomberg, Biden could wax nostalgically about the good old days under Obama.  He did OK.

Mike Bloomberg: Mayor Mike is a mega-rich old white guy consumed by his own ego and smugness.  He didn’t even bother trying to connect with people.  Money is his connection.

Pete Buttigieg: Mayor Pete is mega-poor young white guy consumed by his own ego and smugness.  As he got into a few tussles with Amy Klobuchar, I found myself rooting for Amy.

Amy Klobuchar: She’s good when she’s delivering prepared lines, but she faltered when asked about her inability to name the president of Mexico.  She was both defensive and disingenuous, not the best combination.

Bernie Sanders: Bernie is always Bernie.  Consistent passion on behalf of workers is his sweet spot.  He hit a home run as he talked about socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for the poor.

Elizabeth Warren: Something about the presence of Bloomberg lit a fire under Warren.  She had someone to torch, and she hit the target.  She also brought her remarks back to people of color on several occasions.  Perhaps her best debate performance yet.

As usual, the mainstream media was awful.  Did you know capitalism is the religion of America?  Apart from Bernie, the candidates professed their belief in capitalism as if the almighty god of America is Mammon.  Then again, our money says “In [this] God We Trust.”  In all seriousness, there’s something truly unseemly about all the money-grubbing in these debates.

Of course, you already know what was missing in this debate.  There were no questions on foreign policy.  None on America’s wars.  None on the military-industrial complex.  None on Iran or North Korea or Venezuela.  There were questions on trade that involved China and Mexico, but that was about it.  But at least climate change was discussed.

Most revealingly of all, the candidates were asked if the candidate with the most delegates should be the party’s nominee, even if that candidate lacked the requisite number for a first ballot win.  All the candidates said, “let the [rigged] process play out,” meaning let the establishment’s super-delegates determine the winner, except for Bernie, who is likely to be the candidate with the most delegates who gets screwed by the DNC this summer.

And there you have it.  Time for a third party and a true political revolution, Bernie.

All-Domain Operations: Hubris Unleashed!

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Integrate it all!  All-domains!

W.J. Astore

You can always count on the Pentagon to come up with jargon that unleashes hubris.  When I was in the Air Force, it was all about “global reach, global power.”  I also heard about “full-spectrum dominance.”  Now the latest buzzword is “All-Domain Operations.”  “All-domain” means land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace, which are supposed to be integrated by computers, with information being shared at the speed of light, or close to it.  The U.S. military will know so much, be so nimble, and act in such a coordinated fashion that its rivals and enemies won’t have a chance.

This is what the Vice-Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had to say about this:

“we’ll have a significant advantage over everybody in the world for a long time, because it’s the ability to integrate and effectively command and control all domains in a conflict or in a crisis seamlessly — and we don’t know how to do that.  Nobody knows how to do that.”

I’ve been hearing about “seamless” and “global” integration for a long time, and it’s never going to happen.  War is fundamentally messy, chaotic, a realm of chance, influenced by what Clausewitz termed “fog and friction,” and of course the enemy rarely reacts in ways that are predictable.  No matter.  A “global” vision of “all-domain” dominance has the virtue of justifying enormous defense budgets, so it’s likely here to stay.

As an aside, I do like the way the term has grown like Topsy, according to this report:

Breaking Defense readers have seen these ideas evolve rapidly over the last few years, with even the terminology becoming ever more ambitious, from Multi-Domain Battle to Multi-Domain Operations to All-Domain Operations.”

Yes — who wants only multi-domain battles when you can have all-domain operations?  Let’s show some ambition here!

Note how in this vision, there’s no talk of national defense or of upholding the U.S. Constitution.  It’s all about power projection in the cause of dominance.  It’s an enabler to forever war — one that will be increasingly driven by computers.

What could possibly go wrong with such a vision?

One thing is likely: if there’s ever a war of hubristic buzzwords in the future, the Pentagon might finally have a fighting chance.

Presidential Democrats?

W.J. Astore

Tom Tomorrow has the perfect comic to sum up America’s recent Democratic primaries for president:

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How can Bernie Sanders be electable when he keeps winning elections?  A paradox for sure.

Of course, the whole argument against Bernie Sanders is as dishonest as the primary process is long.  Let’s imagine Bernie Sanders gains the nomination and then defeats Trump in November.  Is Bernie going to become a dictator and enact all his “crazy” socialist ideas by fiat?  Surely, mainstream Republicans and Democrats in Congress are just going to roll over and approve all of Bernie’s “radical socialist” agenda.  Right?

If Bernie were to win, he’d obviously face strong opposition from establishment elites, who would oppose and try to block everything he’d try to do.  That said, the rich and privileged obviously don’t want to bother with such battles; they’d rather just nominate a “safe” centrist, or, even better, a person from their own ranks, like Mike Bloomberg.  You can count on Bloomberg acting to protect Wall Street and the 1%.  He’s got billions of reasons to do so.

As Bloomberg is foisted upon us by the lapdog media, other centrist candidates continue to fight for whatever money is left to sustain their campaigns.  Mayor Pete is flitting from fund raiser to fund raiser (shaking more money trees in wine caves?); Elizabeth Warren is making appeals to party unity (good luck with that); Joe Biden is straining to remain relevant (no more malarkey?); and Amy Klobuchar is seeking any traction she can find in a campaign characterized by market-tested bromides (“I know you, and I will fight for you,” a variant of Bill Clinton’s “I feel your pain”).

The best way to judge the candidates is by the enemies they make, which is why I strongly support Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard.  Yes, Tulsi is still in the running, perhaps only until Super Tuesday on March 3rd, but her message against regime-change wars and the military-industrial complex is much needed.

Go Bernie.  Go Tulsi.  We need leaders who are unafraid to speak truth.

Bernie Sanders Wins New Hampshire

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W.J. Astore

Bernie Sanders wins New Hampshire — as well as Iowa — and what headline do I see at NBC News?

Bernie Sanders is now the front-runner — and moderates may be too divided to stop him

Why is it necessary to “stop” Bernie Sanders?  What is so radical about Medicare for all, free college tuition, student debt relief, a higher minimum wage, and tax reform that benefits workers?

The next few months are going to be hard to endure for any American with a brain.  For example, Chris Matthews at MSNBC equates Bernie’s democratic socialism with hardcore communism and suggests Bernie’s policies could end with him being executed in Central Park.  No — I’m not kidding!

 

In another delusional MSNBC video, Bernie’s supporters are compared to Nazi Brownshirts:

Chuck Todd Cites Quote Calling Sanders Supporters “Digital Brownshirt Brigade”

As covered here at Real Clear Politics.

So, the reality is that Bernie Sanders not only has to defeat “moderates” like Mayor Pete and Amy Klobuchar (a strong third in New Hampshire).  He has to overcome the Democratic National Committee and the mainstream media, especially MSNBC.

Speaking of MSNBC and its negative and cynical coverage of Bernie, not all voters are fooled:

As one reader commented on our Facebook page, “OMG exactly the same tactics as in UK [United Kingdom] over [Jeremy] Corbyn followers. Trotsky rabble, Corbineestas, etc.”

Well, if you can’t beat ’em, smear ’em as a red, as dangerously radical, or alternatively as thuggish Brownshirted fascist Bernie Bros.

The establishment’s desperation is obvious.  Go Bernie!

The Democratic Debates, Part 8: Live Free or Die

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W.J. Astore

Last night, seven candidates took the stage in New Hampshire to joust before next Tuesday’s primary (where hopefully the votes will be counted quickly and accurately, unlike in Iowa).  Showing my usual streak of political masochism, I watched the entire debate; after tossing and turning in the night, here’s my take on how the candidates performed.

Joe Biden: Biden seems to be fading fast.  He came in fourth in Iowa and is slipping in the New Hampshire polls.  In this debate, he came across as angry but unfocused.  He has a “Get off my lawn!” vibe.  Biden’s never done well as a candidate for the presidency (see 1988 and plagiarism), and this time is no different.

Mayor Pete: Buttigieg talks a lot but says very little.  To me, he panders to the audience while simultaneously being disingenuous.  (I was waiting for someone to ask, “Where’s the beef?” when he stopped gabbing.)  For a politician, these are marketable skills, but Democrats are going to need a lot more than this to defeat Trump.

Amy Klobuchar: She had a very good night.  Especially strong was her closing statement.  But another way of putting this is that she was well coached and well prepared.  Perhaps she’ll pull moderate votes from Mayor Pete, which would only be a good thing.

Bernie Sanders: Always passionate, always on message, Bernie had a solid night.  But Bernie’s personal warmth doesn’t translate well in these debates.

Tom Steyer: Steyer had a good night as well, positioning himself for future contests in Nevada and South Carolina.  I’m warming to Steyer because I think he’ll take votes from Mike Bloomberg.

Elizabeth Warren: The more you listen to Warren, the more you realize “I have a plan for that” is not a compelling answer.  Warren has a habit of starting her replies with, “So, look …”  She proceeds to lecture the audience with a “smartest person in the room” vibe.  Lord knows we need competence in the White House, but I don’t think she’s connecting well enough with voters.

Andrew Yang: It was great to see Yang back on stage, since he tackles questions from a different angle than his rivals.  Still, he didn’t get much time to speak, and it’s hard to see him staying in the race for much longer.

Who wasn’t on the stage?

Mike Bloomberg: The $60 billion dollar man, Bloomberg is testing whether the presidency can be bought.  You’ve heard of the golden rule, as in he who has the money makes the rules, so who knows?

Tulsi Gabbard: Tulsi is staking everything on New Hampshire, where she’s held more town halls than any other candidate.  Will her ground game pay dividends?  Due to the high number of registered independents in NH, she has a chance to make an impression.

Final Comment

As usual, questions from the mainstream media, in this case ABC News, were framed to put progressives on the defensive.  Of course, no questions were asked about runaway military budgets, the widening gap between the richest Americans and everyone else, stagnant wages and personal bankruptcies, gun deaths and mass shootings, or climate change.  Even racial issues were ignored until the last third of the debate.  As ever, consent was manufactured by keeping topics and answers within narrow boundaries approved by the establishment.  And so it goes …