Presidential Democrats?

W.J. Astore

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

TMW2020-02-19colorLARGE

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

bernie

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

debate

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 …

Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, and the Democratic Party

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Tulsi Gabbard in NH.  Yes, she can snowboard

W.J. Astore

In 2016, Bernie Sanders had a winning message and Hillary Clinton didn’t.  But Bernie’s message favored the working classes, not Democratic donors, so he was blocked and then sidelined.  Even so, Bernie loyally campaigned for Clinton, who lost to a political novice, celebrity TV host, and lifelong con man.

In 2020, Bernie Sanders has a winning message and the other leading candidates (Biden, Warren, Buttigieg) don’t.  Bernie’s message still favors the working classes, not the Democratic donors, so efforts are underway to block him again.

Consider Tom Perez, head of the DNC, and his selections for various committees for the convention.  They are the usual suspects: Clintonites, Obama followers, members of the military-industrial complex, big pharma and insurance companies, and so on.  Here’s a useful and funny video from Jimmy Dore that breaks it down:

 

Polls project that Bernie will win Iowa (Feb. 3) and New Hampshire (Feb. 11).  What will the DNC do next to torpedo Bernie’s chances?

Small wonder Bernie advocates for a political revolution.  But we’re not going to have one of those in America, not with the Democratic-Republican Party in charge.

A few more items.  Consider these two articles at Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR):

Corporate Media Are the Real ‘Sanders Attack Machine,’ by Julie Hollar

It’s Media—Not Bernie Sanders—That Have an Antisemitism Problem, by Alan MacLeod

The latter article details the mainstream media’s efforts to paint Bernie Sanders — who, if elected, would be America’s first Jewish president — as an anti-Semite!  Here’s an excerpt:

Have you heard the news? Democratic presidential frontrunner Bernie Sanders is antisemitic. Yes, yes, he’s Jewish, and has a long history of anti-racist activism—but that doesn’t matter.

So goes the story in several prominent media outlets, who accuse him of leading “the most antisemitic [campaign] in decades” (Washington Examiner, 12/13/19). While unable to point to Sanders’ own actions or words, the national press has associated him with hatred of Jews by attacking those around him. Throughout 2019, for example, Sanders supporter Rep. Ilhan Omar was constantly labeled antisemitic across the media for comments she made about the undue influence of the US/Israeli lobbying group AIPAC on American politics (e.g., New York Times, 3/7/19; Wall Street Journal, 7/12/19; Washington Post, 8/20/19).

Fox News (1/9/20) claimed Sanders would be “the most anti-Israel” president ever, conflating criticism of Israel and/or the Netanyahu administration with antisemitism.

Of course, corporate Democrats aren’t just against Bernie Sanders.  They’re against any candidate that threatens their privileges and power.  This includes Tulsi Gabbard, who is being boycotted by CNN even though she’s polling well in New Hampshire.  Consider the following:

NORTH CONWAY, N.H. — Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii says she’s still waiting to hear from CNN about why she wasn’t invited to take part in a series of town halls the cable news network is holding next week in the state that holds the first primary in the race for the White House.

“We have reached out, I think, more than once, and we received no explanation. I don’t even think we’ve gotten a response to date about why they’re excluding the first female combat veteran ever to run for president, the only woman of color in the race,” the four-term congresswoman and Iraq War veteran said Tuesday in an interview with Fox News.

Could it be any more obvious?  The fix is already in.  It’s always in.  The Democrats will do anything and everything in their power to block real change.

I know it’s unlikely, but I would love to see Bernie/Tulsi create a third party and run against Trump and whichever corporate tool the Democrats nominate.  Please, Bernie, if the DNC screws you again, don’t be a “team player.”  Give us a real choice — and pick Tulsi or someone like her as your running mate.

Riding the Trump Bull: What Democrats Get Wrong

bullriding
Better believe…

W.J. Astore

Wisdom can be found in many places.  I was watching Professional Bull Riding today, and the announcer (didn’t catch his name) dropped this pearl of wisdom:

Professional bull riding is not a sport based on hope.  It’s a sport based on belief.

I caught his meaning.  When you’re preparing to ride a bull, you can’t “hope” you’re going to stay on its back.  You have to believe you’re going to do it.  And even when you believe, often the bull is still going to win.

What does this have to do with Trump and the Democrats?  Consider Trump as an intemperate bull.  Sure, he’s ageing, but he’s got plenty of kick left.  How do you “ride” this bull and defeat him?  Not by bringing a weak case of impeachment that you know is going to fail in the Senate.  Not by giving Trump several big victories, such as a massive defense budget and a new trade bill, so-called NAFTA 2.0.  Not by offering only the most tepid objections to his warmongering with Iran.

Consider the DNC and its preferred presidential candidate, Joe Biden.  Is a corporate Democrat who’s both compromised and fading really the best candidate to ride Trump out of office?  As Joe Biden himself might say, give me a break.

You can’t hope you’re going to ride Trump out of office in 2020.  You have to believe it.  And you have to give the American people a candidate with some balls, with firm and principled beliefs, a bull rider like Bernie Sanders or Tulsi Gabbard.

Hope may have been important to Barack Obama’s success in 2008, but it’s not going to defeat Trump in 2020.  To ride that bull, you have to believe.

The Truth Needs Its Own Channel

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W.J. Astore

Today’s article is a potluck of observations.  Please fire away in the comments section if I stimulate some thoughts!

  1. My wife today noticed how the weather is now militarized.  An “arctic invasion” of cold air is coming our way, or so the Weather Channel warned.  Do we need a new “Weather Force” to meet this “invasion”?
  2. The other day at the gym, I was watching the impeachment drama on two TVs tuned to Fox News and MSNBC.  For Fox News and its parade of Republican guests, the impeachment was a “hoax.”  For MSNBC, it was a foregone conclusion Trump is as guilty as sin.  I mentioned this to my wife and she had the perfect comment: “The truth needs its own channel.”
  3. A reader wrote to me about a piece I wrote in 2008 about all the “warrior” and “warfighter” talk used by the U.S. military today.  It got me to thinking yet again about the rhetoric of war.  Back in World War II, when we fought real wars and won them, we had a Department of War to which citizen-soldiers were drafted.  After World War II, we renamed it the Department of Defense, and after Vietnam we eliminated the draft, after which you began to hear much talk of warriors and warfighters.  In the 75 years since 1945, America has fought many wars, none of them formally declared by Congress, and none of them “defensive” in any way.  The longest of those wars (Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq) have been utter disasters.  Which is not surprising, since wars based on lies and fought for non-compelling reasons usually are losers.  So, how do you buck up the morale of all those volunteer troops while encouraging them not to think about the losing causes they’re engaged in?  Get them to focus on their warfighter identities, their warrior “cred,” as if it’s a great thing for democracies to fight constant wars.
  4. The New York Times endorsed Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar today as the Democrats best prepared to serve as president.  Looks like Jimmy Dore is right: establishment Democrats would rather lose to Trump than win with a true progressive like Bernie Sanders.
  5. The other day, I went to my local post office and saw the POW/MIA flag flying.  It got me to thinking: Who are the POWs/MIAs we need to remember today?  Don’t get me wrong.  As a retired military officer, I think we should remember America’s POWs and MIAs.  But I see no reason to fly flags everywhere to remind us of those veterans who were prisoners of war or missing in action.  Sadly, the POW/MIA flag is associated with conservative activism and reactionary views; it also can serve as a distraction from the enormous damage inflicted overseas by the U.S. military.  As Americans, we are constantly told by our leaders to focus on American victims of war; rarely if ever are we encouraged to think of war itself as a disaster, or to think of the victims on the receiving end of American firepower.

More on the POW/MIA issue: In the early 1990s, when I was a young captain, there were persistent rumors of American POWs who’d been deliberately left behind by our government.  These rumors were strong, so strong that the George H.W. Bush administration had to issue denials.

What are we to make of this?  One thing strikes me immediately: an often profound mistrust of our government exists within the military.  Our government has lied to us so often that some of my fellow officers believed it was lying again when it said there were no POWs remaining in Southeast Asia.  We just assumed our government was so wretched and dishonest that it would abandon our troops to their fate.

This is nearly 30 years ago but it’s stayed in my memory — the suspicion back then that those commie bastards still held U.S. troops and our own government was part of the cover-up.  (All those Chuck Norris and Rambo movies didn’t help matters.)

For more on this: The POW/MIA issue is still very much alive and is discussed by H. Bruce Franklin in his article,  “Missing in Action in the 21st Century,” available at hbrucefranklin.com.  As Franklin noted recently to me, “What we now think of as the Trump base was organized originally in this [POW/MIA] movement.”  Now that’s a fascinating comment.

What say you, readers?

The Democratic Debate, Part 7

debate

W.J. Astore

I watched the Democratic Debate last night from Iowa featuring the top six candidates.  Here’s my take on the candidates and their prospects:

Joe Biden: It’s bizarre that Biden, still ahead in most polls, is hailed as doing well in these debates as long as he shows up and avoids making major gaffes.  To use a sports analogy, it’s as if you put your ace pitcher into the game and applaud him for giving up only ten runs while walking five and throwing three wild pitches.  At least he competed, right?  Biden didn’t do poorly last night, but he didn’t shine either.  Mr. Excitement he’s not, and that doesn’t bode well if he’s the Democratic candidate for president against Trump.

Pete Buttigieg: Mayor Pete has one talent: he knows how to please older people with vapid talk that seems sincere and serious.  He has almost zero support among African-Americans and very little support among people his own age and younger.  What is his path to victory?

Amy Klobuchar:  Klobuchar poses as the adult in the room, a moderate who rejects the “crazier” notions of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.  Clearly, she’s against progressive politics, but what does she stand for?

Bernie Sanders: Sanders is the one true progressive on the stage.  The man is a model of consistency and heart, and he has the strongest movement behind him.  He has the best chance of defeating Trump, but his dedication to people over corporations and profits makes him an anathema to establishment Democrats.

Tom Steyer: Steyer, a billionaire, has embraced climate change as his issue of choice.  At least he puts his money where his mouth is, but he has virtually no chance to gain the nomination.

Elizabeth Warren: Warren’s campaign concocted a phony controversy in an attempt to gain traction as the Iowa caucuses loom.  Basically, the Warren campaign claims Bernie Sanders said a woman can’t win the presidency.  It’s total nonsense.  Sanders denied it, and there are multiple video clips of Bernie advocating for a woman as president.  After Sanders issued his denial, Warren refused to address it.  She also appeared to refuse to shake his hand after the debate.  Apparently, Warren thinks the best way to distinguish herself from Bernie is to play the gender card, just as Hillary Clinton attacked Bernie in 2016 for the alleged misogyny of the so-called Bernie Bros.

As the debate dragged on, I thought carefully about which one of these candidates truly has a chance to defeat Trump in November.  Who has passion, vision, heart, and the ability to take on Trump and to call him out on all his lies and misdeeds?  I see only one candidate who can do this and win: Bernie Sanders.

Trump Wishes Peace to Iran while Accusing Democrats of Enabling Attacks on U.S. Troops

Trump US Iran, Washington, USA - 08 Jan 2020
Trump boasting of big missiles while denouncing Democrats

W.J. Astore

I watched Trump’s speech today to the nation on Iran.  It had the usual boasts about the U.S. military and its “big” and “lethal” missiles, the usual bombast, the usual lies.  But this passage of his speech truly struck me as beyond the pale:

Iran’s hostilities substantially increased after the foolish Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2013, and they were given 150 billion dollars, not to mention 1.8 billion dollars in cash. Instead of saying thank you to the United States, they chanted Death to America.

In fact, they chanted Death to America the day the agreement was signed. Then Iran went on a terrorist spree funded by the money from the deal and created hell in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration.

That’s right: the missiles used against U.S. forces last night we’re paid for by the Obama administration.  Not only that: Iran went on a “terrorist spree” funded by the “foolish” Iran nuclear treaty, spreading “hell” throughout Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq.  I’m sure glad Saudi Arabia, Israel, the United States, and other military actors in the region never spread any “hell,” despite all those Hellfire missiles launched from American drones.

So here’s a new claim for you.  If the U.S. military is losing in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere, the culprit is clear: the Obama administration and by extension the Democrats, the appeasers who funded Iran and made possible all of its “terrorist” activities.

Best of all, Trump wished peace and prosperity to the Iranian people, but you heard nothing about working peacefully and in prosperous ways with the Democrats.

Clearly, Trump sees the real enemy of America: Obama and the Democrats.

Americans want free stuff!

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W.J. Astore

Once again, I’ve come across the talking point that Americans who support candidates like Bernie Sanders just want a bunch of free stuff.  You know: non-essentials like health care and education.  What are these freeloading Americans thinking of?

We live in the richest country in the world, yet we seemingly can’t afford health care and education for our people.  Yet we can afford roughly a trillion dollars each and every year for national “defense.”  Why does the Pentagon want so many “free” bombers, fighter jets, drones, aircraft carriers, and missiles?  Why do the militarists always get what they want, with few complaints about the price?  (And let’s not forget roughly $6 trillion wasted on the Iraq and Afghan Wars, or for that matter the trillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street and the banks.  Why did they get so much “free” stuff at taxpayers’ expense?)

We truly need a political revolution in this country, which is why I support Bernie Sanders.  He’s the only candidate who truly gets how rigged our system is — how it’s become an oligarchy, even a kleptocracy, that favors the richest and most powerful among us.  Sanders has been a model of consistency for decades, and he’s as genuine as a public servant can be.

No candidate is perfect, but Bernie will move this country in a fairer, more humane, direction.  He realizes health care is a human right.  He realizes education shouldn’t put students into a form of debt peonage.  He realizes hardworking Americans deserve to be paid more, deserve better benefits, deserve to be treated with dignity.

We need to combat an attitude in this country that says rich people are our winners and the poor are losers.  We in America are still taught to idolize the rich and fear or despise the poor. The rich represent “success” and the poor are supposedly lazy or just losers. Can’t they just get a job?  Can’t they pull themselves up by their boot straps?  If you’re poor, it’s all your fault — this is still an all-too-common idea.

We need leaders who understand the working classes and want to work for them.  Bernie Sanders is that kind of leader.

Impeaching Trump the Cynical Way

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#NoResistance

W.J. Astore

Dare I say I haven’t been watching the impeachment proceedings against Trump?  That’s because the charges brought against Trump by the Democrats are weak.  They are basically for Trump acting like Trump.  The Donald is not, never has been, and never will be a public servant.  His existence as president revolves around rallies, golfing, watching Fox News, tweeting, and attending an occasional meeting, party, or other photo op.  If you want to impeach him, why not for not doing his job as chief executive?

What Trump did with Ukraine is what Trump has always done.  He pressured a guy to dig up dirt on another guy who could be a potential rival for his job.  For Trump, this isn’t a crime: it’s business as usual.  He has no grasp of his constitutional duties as president and no interest in learning.

Trump’s next crime has been to stonewall with lawyers and the like while going on the attack.  Again, this is par for the course for him.  He tells his underlings not to obey Congressional orders to testify.  He fights delaying actions.  He lies.  He’s used these and similar tactics his whole life and has lived to fight another day.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think Trump is unqualified to be president.  I’d like to see him gone.  But the charges the Democrats have brought are incredibly weak compared to the damage Trump has already wreaked.  That damage, however, is largely bipartisan, meaning if the Democrats (like Nancy Pelosi) were to call Trump to account for his real crimes against America, they’d implicate themselves as well.  And that’s not about to happen.

The analogy I’ve heard more than once for Trump’s impeachment is that it’s like going after Al Capone for income tax avoidance rather than his murderous reign as a gangster.  Even here, though, it seems more like we’re going after Capone for unpaid parking tickets or for playing Italian opera too loud.

We’ve been told impeachment is a political act, not, strictly speaking, a legal one, and that surely is the case here.  The cynic in me says this: Establishment democrats, led by Nancy Pelosi, knew they had to do something against Trump, if only to appease activists within the party.  Yet they also know they can’t remove Trump, not only because the Senate is controlled by Republicans, but because they can’t charge him with real crimes without implicating themselves, e.g. continuing to sell arms to Saudi Arabia and supporting the House of Saud no matter what in the name of profit and the petrodollar, even if that means a genocide in Yemen.  (It’s a lot worse than cajoling Ukraine to issue a negative statement about the Bidens, right?)

The Democrats know impeachment will fail in the Senate, but they can at least say they took a stand, even if they’re up to their necks in the swamps of DC.  It’s all so sad and sordid, and so predictably the behavior of an opposition party that offers no real opposition.

Readers, what do you think?