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Bernie’s Foreign Policy Failure

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The next in my series of discussing the various postmortems of the Democratic primary will focus on Jeffrey St. Clair’s surprisingly harsh condemnation of Bernie Sanders in the pages of Counterpunch, which I’m sure really endeared him to his readers. St. Clair blames Bernie for believing his own rhetoric about his chances, misleading his supporters, his focus on blaming the Democratic Party “machine” for his losses, relying on consultants ready to throw him under the bus (although really what else was he going to do here), and, most interestingly, his many missed opportunities to stand out.

Sanders chided Clinton for her vote on the Iraq War, saying it disqualified her from being president. Yet, he never satisfactorily explained his own vote for the Clinton Crime Bill, which launched a 20-year long war on America’s blacks and Hispanics. If blacks voting for Clinton seemed irrational, blacks could easily justify a vote against Sanders for his role in backing the racially-motivated incarceration of millions of black Americans and putting 100,000 new cops onto the streets of urban America, with the predicable results ruined lives and dead youths. Payback is a bitch.

Of course, Sanders could have turned his anemic appeal to black Democratic voters to his advantage. It might have liberated him to frontally attack Obama’s dismal record (instead of huddling with him at the White House) as well as Hillary’s, without fear of losing support he never had.

His curious timidity against confronting Obama’s policies, from drone warfare to the president’s bailout of the insurance industry (AKA ObamaCare), hobbled Sanders from the starting gate. Obama and Hillary Clinton are both neoliberals, who have betrayed organized labor and pushed job-killing trade pacts across the world. Both are beholden to the energy cartels, backing widespread oil drilling, fracking and nuclear power. Both are military interventionists, pursuing wars on at least 12 different fronts, from Afghanistan to Yemen. Of course, Hillary and Obama are simply manifestations of the power structure of the Democratic Party itself, which is unapologetically hawkish. The same party Sanders belatedly joined.

But Sanders proved singularly incapable of targeting the imperialist ideology of the Obama/Clinton era. In fact, the senator is visibly uncomfortable when forced to talk about foreign policy. Even after the assassination of Goldman Prize winner Berta Cáceres by thugs associated with the Honduran regime, Sanders inexplicably refused to press Clinton on her backing of the Honduran coup that put Cácere’s killers into power. Similarly, Sanders awkwardly failed to land any punches against Hillary for her catastrophic Libyan debacle.

This is interesting, even if I don’t agree with all the points, nor about Hillary’s supposed responsibility for Honduras, which is far more complicated than her haters say. And saying Obama has “betrayed organized labor” really doesn’t hold water, even if you include the TPP, which is indeed terrible. But Tom Perez, arguably the best Secretary of Labor since Frances Perkins, does complicate this narrative at least a little, no?

But let’s just take this from a strategic perspective. What if Bernie Sanders had even the slightest interest in foreign policy and went after Clinton from the left? No, he wouldn’t have won the primary this way either. But he would have opened up a whole new line of critique at her greatest vulnerability. Yet Bernie was either unwilling or (likely) unable to do so. His ridiculous response when asked about Latin America showed just how utterly incapable he is on foreign issues, which in a globalized world, are deeply connected to his beloved issue of inequality in the United States. Of course, Sanders’ most vocal supporters loathe Clinton for her foreign policy, but they were doing the heavy lifting for him on these issues.

Again, would it have mattered in the end? Probably not, but it would have at least meant that the Democratic nominee was going to feel real pressure from the left on foreign policy as she has on domestic and labor policy. But really, what did Bernie do to make her moderate her foreign policy stances? Not much and that’s a missed opportunity.

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  • Pseudonym

    Isn’t their a certain former/occasional LGM front-pager who has strong views on Bernie’s foreign policy? Any chance of getting her perspective on this issue as well?

  • Rob in CT

    Bernie really had 1 core theme and FP wasn’t part of it. Which was limiting, and unfortunate.

    • He was and is anti TPP. That’s a good start. I’m not too distressed that he is more interested in the USA and its residents than Israel or China. No doubt he would have appointed a good Sec State (Kerry, maybe).

  • CP

    As someone who had no dog in the fight until late in the primary, my ultimate beef with Sanders was always that he felt like a one-trick pony. His thing was economic populism, and he never seemed terribly interested in buffing up his expertise beyond that into either social issues or foreign policy.

    • FlipYrWhig

      buffing up his expertise beyond that

      And then he didn’t really have “expertise” in economic populism either, other than that we could have Many Good Things if a crowd gathered outside Mitch McConnell’s window and demanded them.

      • efgoldman

        other than that we could have Many Good Things if a crowd gathered outside Mitch McConnell’s window

        He wasn’t going to win anyway, but his non-response to the Daily News “how” question absolutely killed him.

        • delazeur

          That interview was when I went from “I’m not sure Sanders is suited for the White House, but I like his ideas” to “his heart is in the right place but he’s completely out of his depth.”

          • milx

            Ditto. Some of his supporters claimed that this was just an artifact of his incredible message discipline but the Democratic Party includes a lot of very educated people. If he had the chops, the Daily News article was a great opportunity to maybe go off the message discipline for a minute and prove some bonafides. I’m not sure someone can win in the Democratic Party without seeming bright or having expertise (Obama had at least the former in spades), but more importantly, I’m not sure we want people running the party who aren’t that smart or know that much. That’s generally not a great recipe for good governance even if you do happen to be mostly right on the general issues.

  • D.N. Nation

    His curious timidity against confronting Obama’s policies, from drone warfare to the president’s bailout of the insurance industry (AKA ObamaCare)

    1) Bernie didn’t really have the chops to talk about these specific issues, like it or not, and it showed.
    2) Obama, and by extension his policies, is very popular with Democrats. Even vague swipes at the Obama legacy got Bernie heat from potential voters.

    But for most of the last 10 months, Sanders wasn’t treated too harshly by the party. He certainly wasn’t “McGoverned” by the party’s political black bag teams and dirty tricksters. In fact, the Democrats were surely gratified to see Sanders out there, drawing attention to a dull and lifeless party that would otherwise have been totally eclipsed by the Trump media blitzkrieg. Sanders served the valuable function of energizing and registering on the Democratic Party rolls tens of thousands of new voters, who otherwise would have been content to stay at home playing Warcraft and Snapchatting about the latest Kardashian outrage. And the party elites knew from the beginning that he never had even an outside chance at beating Hillary. The race was over after Super Tuesday, when Hillary swept the southland. The rest has been political theater.

    I like this, even in its Old Man Yells At Cloudness. But I don’t like this:

    The most energetic political movement in the country right now is the combative Chicano-led masses stalking Trump and his racist retinue from venue-to-venue. If only there existed a similar movement haunting Hillary’s every step.

    Oh brother, yet another pudgy old white leftist giving big ups to violence that he never has to take a part in. Screw St. Clair, and screw Counterpunch. Mag should’ve been burned to the ground after its Nader-llatio in 2000.

    • CP

      “Chicano-led masses?”

      • D.N. Nation

        Randos throwing eggs and sucker-punching Trump supporters.

    • Warren Terra

      screw Counterpunch

      This, in spades. If Erik wanted to have a debate about Sanders’s level of interest in foreign policy (a debate that seems a bit moot now), he shoulda written it from scratch or found something to hang it on that wasn’t written by the execrable and published in a home for the inexcusable.

    • Scott Lemieux

      president’s bailout of the insurance industry (AKA ObamaCare)

      God, this is such horseshit.

  • Lev

    I fully agree with this. It wouldn’t have been hard to develop a critique of Hillary’s foreign policy that was accurate, effective and forced her to react and make at least some commitments on this front. Occasionally saying that she voted for the Iraq War (and even more occasionally saying that she made the Libya invasion happen) wasn’t it. Clinton is almost fanatically committed to militarized foreign policy and regime change in a party that’s mostly dovish and Sanders couldn’t do a thing with it. This was space that Jim Webb could potentially have filled, if he wasn’t as useless and full of himself as anyone since St. Ralph.

    • FlipYrWhig

      Clinton is almost fanatically committed to militarized foreign policy and regime change in a party that’s mostly dovish

      Uh, I’m not sure your assessment of Clinton or your assessment of the party are accurate there. I think the median Democrat, judging by both office-holders and voters, doesn’t want another Iraq War, for sure; but also is open to the use of military force to protect vulnerable populations and/or smite terrorists.

      So I’d say that Hillary Clinton is squarely in the mainstream of her party but loses points for having voted for the Iraq War (by thinking about the operation as having to do with human rights abuses and rogue state/terrorism “convergence”). I don’t see a lot of daylight between her and Sanders on philosophy, but Sanders gains points for having been more skeptical about the Iraq War.

      • Lev

        I don’t know, proposing a no-fly zone over Syria in response to Russian involvement seemed (and seems) to me to be an extremely provocative idea that could have dire implications. Do you really want to risk a fight with Russia over the remains of Syria? Or over Ukraine? Interesting that you ignored Libya there–to me, that example shows that in spite of what she says, she learned nothing from the Iraq debacle. Just get rid of the bad guys and put our bastard in, ad nauseum. Iraq, Libya, and next Syria. But what else should we expect from a candidate whose motto on foreign policy is “get caught trying” — as if there’s nothing to lose from trying and failing.

        • FlipYrWhig

          Whether you supported it or not, Libya was certainly a case of “the use of military force to protect vulnerable populations and/or smite terrorists,” as I framed it, and when it was ongoing the public supported some level of involvement but not ground troops. IOW Clinton’s stand seemed pretty much consistent with the public mood and the inclinations of the party she belongs to.

          ETA: IMHO influential Democrats are stuck between not wanting to let Rwanda happen again and not wanting to let Iraq II happen again. That’s why we need to think about these things, lest in our zeal to avoid the one we bring about the other (in both directions).

          • Lev

            See, this is the problem. Libya was sold as protecting the people of Benghazi, though there were questions then as now as to whether Gaddafi would have committed the slaughter, and received tepid support at best from the public. It was definitely not sold as regime change. But after the initial objective was achieved, it became obviously about destroying Gaddafi’s government. The UK-France-US coalition refused to settle for anything short of that, including (allegedly) an offer for peace talks by Gaddafi’s son. And even if we take the most generous possible interpretation, the end results were calamitous. The coalition created a new breeding ground for ISIS and yet another black hole of chaos in Africa and the Muslim world. Just what we needed.

            The road to hell is never paved with bad intentions. Obama, for all of his flaws, seems to understand this, and has at least thought about it a bit. Clinton gives no indication of ever having done so (“get caught trying”). And while Obama’s political identity is so wrapped up in his opposition to the Iraq War to such a degree that even a lot of dovish types have given him the benefit of the doubt on these questions, Clinton’s identity is quite different. It’s a lot like how Reagan was so identified as a tax cutter that he was able to raise taxes in Congressional deals without incident, but Bush was not so perceived and when he did the same, his party revolted.

            • Spiny

              The coalition created a new breeding ground for ISIS and yet another black hole of chaos in Africa and the Muslim world.

              It may have escaped your notice, but Libya’s war wasn’t started by the US, or France, or NATO. It was started internally, and had its roots in decades of Gadhaffi’s misgovernance. It was conducted on the ground almost entirely by Libyans. Stop attributing outcomes solely to the West.

              Clinton gives no indication of ever having done so (“get caught trying”).

              On the one war she bears direct responsibility for (Iraq and her vote for it as a senator) she has in fact spoken publicly about regretting that decision. What folks have taken to doing now is demanding she be repentant for military actions she never ordered, and some which never even happened. This is how “she spoke in favor of a no-fly zone in Syria that didn’t materialize” becomes “she’s a bloodthirsty warmonger who wants to start war in Syria”, and “she was part of the chain of events leading to Obama ordering action over Libya” becomes “she destroyed Libya”.

              I don’t think this is specific to Clinton, however, more a general symptom of the anti-war left’s intellectual malaise.

              • Lev

                With all due respect, this is weaselly. I’ve not characterized Clinton as a bloodthirsty warmonger or anything like that. I think she has good intentions, I just feel that she’s not realistic about how much good intentions are worth (essentially nothing) when it comes to foreign policy, and I’ve tried to use actual facts and things she’s said as much as possible.

                As for the content of this, the argument that the West didn’t start the Syrian civil war is a red herring. We chose to take sides and many predicted at the time that this would not end well. The notion that Clinton should be held only responsible for her votes and not how she influences the formation of public policy as a top government official (or as a presidential frontrunner) makes no sense to me either. It may well be that she takes more of the blame on Libya than she deserves. Then again, to this day she touts it as proof positive of her foreign policy acumen, so…

                • Spiny

                  As for the content of this, the argument that the West didn’t start the Syrian civil war is a red herring.

                  I’m sure you meant the Libyan civil war in this case, and it’s not a red herring when statements are made attributing outcomes in Libya to the coalition. You need to talk about what Libyans wanted and how they acted, because that in turn influenced how the coalition acted.

                  Those questions are much more relevant for the challenge of how to conduct US foreign policy in a way that doesn’t just avoid doing evil by commission while ignoring evil by omission.

                  Then again, to this day she touts it as proof positive of her foreign policy acumen, so…

                  Not really. She talks about it as a work in progress and something she doesn’t look back on the same way she does her vote on the Iraq war. There are good reasons she sees those two as very different.

                  My view on this is certainly colored by how absurd I think some of the accusations against her re: Libya are, so take that as you will.

                • CD

                  Lev @ 4:51:

                  Clinton is almost fanatically committed to militarized foreign policy and regime change

                  [email protected] 6:39:

                  I’ve not characterized Clinton as a bloodthirsty warmonger or anything like that.

                  Was there something about weaselly?

          • Spiny

            ETA: IMHO influential Democrats are stuck between not wanting to let Rwanda happen again and not wanting to let Iraq II happen again. That’s why we need to think about these things, lest in our zeal to avoid the one we bring about the other (in both directions).

            Amen. Leftists who want to have any influence on the future of Democratic foreign policy thinking have to immediately stop lumping together Iraq, Libya, and Syria. It betrays a profound streak of uncritical isolationism and racism of the “they’re all the same for my purposes” variety. That garbage should be left to right-wingers.

            • Lev

              Nonsense. The errors in thinking in each case have been the same: destroy the current government and maybe the next one will be better. It’s perfectly reasonable to use them as points in an argument that the prevalent militaristic thinking is faulty and limited.

              And also BTW, typically people with winning arguments don’t accuse the other side of being racist.

              • Spiny

                The errors in thinking in each case have been the same: destroy the current government and maybe the next one will be better.

                What this argument leaves out is basically everything that happened in each country on the ground as well as the regional and international context in which it happened. In other words, it leaves out everything except the parts of the story that are relevant to leftists whose sole goal is to oppose US military actions. It’s a transparently mendacious line of argument to anyone who knows the differences between the three countries.

                Also: The US is quite obviously not trying to destroy the Syrian government. This is the kind of thing you wouldn’t say if you thought seriously about those differences.

                And also BTW, typically people with winning arguments don’t accuse the other side of being racist.

                Yet another right-wing line. And like most who make these kinds of arguments, you have yet to write one sentence on the opinions of Iraqis, Libyans, and/or Syrians, or what they asked for from the international community.

                • a_paul_in_mtl

                  “you have yet to write one sentence on the opinions of Iraqis, Libyans, and/or Syrians, or what they asked for from the international community.”

                  Well, this is in an interesting comment, with a lot to deconstruct. Which Iraqi, Libyan, and Syrian opinions are you referring to? Who was asking for what from “the international community”, and what is the “international community” anyway?

                  Take Iraq, for example. There certainly were Iraqis who supported the invasion, because they hoped they’d end up in power. That’s why you had Iraqis providing the Americans with dodgy “intelligence” to provide the pretext for invasion. Was that a good reason to invade?

                  And in that case, the “international community” was the U.S. and anyone who cared to join them on that little adventure.

                • a_paul_in_mtl

                  Then there’s Syria. Syrians, I imagine, have all kinds of opinions, and want different things from the “international community”. Assad and his supporters have requested and received aid from that part of the international community known as Russia, while ISIL has received aid from sympathetic members of the international community themselves, many going in person to fight for the cause.

              • Amid the recriminations, no one ever points the finger at the Libyans themselves — except, that is, for Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya’s ambassador to the United Nations, who bluntly faulted a succession of post-Qaddafi leaders he served for squandering a historic opportunity to lead the country toward a better future. Libya’s post-revolution governments, Dabbashi said, have been so incompetent that even the simplest of tasks, like delivering the mail, were beyond their meager administrative abilities. “Let me say that nothing was wrong with the coalition intervention in Libya,” Dabbashi told Foreign Policy in an interview at Libya’s U.N. mission. “The mistake was a Libyan mistake, and the main problem was that none of the governments of the past five years had any experience in state management.”

                http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/06/01/libya-isnt-hillarys-fault-says-libyan/

          • Katya

            ETA: IMHO influential Democrats are stuck between not wanting to let Rwanda happen again and not wanting to let Iraq II happen again. That’s why we need to think about these things, lest in our zeal to avoid the one we bring about the other (in both directions).

            This. The US’s lack of intervention is Rwanda should be a real source a shame and a warning, and inaction has consequences as much as action. Our intervention can have negative results, but so can sitting on the sidelines. Unless you are a true pacifist, these issues are just not black and white, especially not to those of us who remember the Bosnian and Rwandan genocides.

        • Hogan

          Can you point me to Clinton proposing a no-fly zone in Syria without Russian cooperation? A link or something?

          • Lev

            The whole initial point of the no-fly zone was to curb Russian moves in Syria:

            In an apparent break with the Obama White House, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called for the creation of a no-fly zone inside Syria Thursday, the day after Russian warplanes started bombing rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

            “I personally would be advocating now for a no-fly zone and humanitarian corridors to try to stop the carnage on the ground and from the air, to try to provide some way to take stock of what’s happening, to try to stem the flow of refugees,” Clinton said in an interview with NBC affiliate WHDH in Boston after a campaign event nearby.

            U.S. officials confirmed Wednesday that Russian planes had started bombing anti-Assad forces in Syria, but that they did not appear to be targeting Islamic State forces as promised. “I think Putin is playing a very dangerous and cynical game. He’s clearly doing everything he can to prop up Assad and to establish sort of a Russian presence in Syria and the broader Middle East,” Clinton added.

            She may later have reworked the formulation to include Russian involvement, in which case it’s unclear what its actual purpose would be. Presumably not shooting down Syrian Air Force planes. Then what?

            • Hogan

              humanitarian corridors to try to stop the carnage on the ground and from the air, to try to provide some way to take stock of what’s happening, to try to stem the flow of refugees,

              • Lev

                no-fly zone
                noun
                a designated area over which aircraft may not fly without risk of interception, especially during a conflict.

                Hillary Clinton called for the creation of a no-fly zone inside Syria Thursday, the day after Russian warplanes started bombing

                Surely the intention here is plain.

                Ultimately, the only real solution here is a peace settlement between Assad and the rebels. That would accomplish what you said. This…will not. For one thing, it does nothing on the ground.

                • Hogan

                  I answered your question. I’m sure you don’t like it, but it’s an answer based on your own evidence. How does she achieve her “what then” if we’re at war with Russia?

                  Oh right, that’s the part she didn’t really mean, because she’s Clinton and everyone knows she’s fanatically committed to catastrophic military responses to every problem.

        • Alex.S

          Which is why, shortly after proposing the no fly-zone, she included “Russian cooperation” as a prerequisite for it.

  • sam

    There are a few Bernie-stans that I continue to follow on twitter (not engage with, but just follow, as they were somewhat interesting people before this election so I’m trying to give them the benefit of the doubt), and they are just OBSESSED with the Honduras situation.

    From my admittedly poor understanding, the situation down there was bad on all sides, with no one covering themselves in glory – that the elected government was trying to rewrite the constitution to entrench themselves, and the military coup, while itself a terrible, illegal, and criminal enterprise, was an attempt to stop the power grab. And a lot of people got killed in the process. So no real “good” side there. And this all happened only a few months after Obama took office – not that that’s an excuse, but it’s not like they had spent years fomenting some sort of junta rebellion a la Reagan.

    But that’s all an aside – the Bernie-stans were simply obsessed with the idea that Clinton, on her own and not, you know, as a representative of Obama, was somehow entirely responsible for the mess down there, and that Saint Bernard was going to make it all better somehow. Pure wish fulfillment/projection.

    • EliHawk

      I really do feel that for some people on the left it’s always 1954 and United Fruit and the Dulles Brothers are charging into the streets of Guatemala. You see the paranoia any time someone even mentions how much of a clusterfuck Venezuela is these days, that it’s all somehow the CIA’s fault.

      • CP

        That’s kind of not entirely unreasonable: it’s not as if that stuff went out with Eisenhower. Democratic presidents on the whole aren’t as bad about this (anymore), but it doesn’t really strike me as that paranoid that people’s first thoughts go to Langley when a right wing coup happens in Latin America (or elsewhere).

        Venezuela, of course, is a different story. (Though even there, the latest CIA influenced coup attempt was in 2002. Not ancient history).

        • efgoldman

          the latest CIA influenced coup attempt was in 2002. Not ancient history

          And who was preznit?

      • djw

        No kidding. Shoehorning the Honduras situation into the Cold War Latin America policy framework is incredibly strained.

    • D.N. Nation

      I won’t be accused of making-light-of-by-ignoring Honduras when it became this silly HOT TAEK comeback for so many Bernie fans. Matt Bruenig should maybe tone down being a dick to people on Twitter? OH YEAH WELL HONDURAS IS WORSE.

      • Hogan

        “And what about the Negroes in the South?”

    • Warren Terra

      I really don’t get the hate for Obama in re Honduras. What happened in Honduras wasn’t great, but to all appearances it wasn’t the result of any meddling by Obama’s administration, and the Obama administration was reluctant to recognize the post-coup administration. What exactly do the critics want? An American invasion to restore democracy?

      • Gregor Sansa

        Personally, I think Clinton mishandled Honduras.

        Yes, Zelaya was angling to stay in office. Guess what: there was no way he was going to succeed. Even if everything had gone the way he was planning it, there was just not enough time in his term for him to take all the steps he would have needed. So, not a worry.

        The oligarchy hated him. Most especially, the jet-set types, the ones who are as based in Miami and Caracas as at home, and who are ready to spout the latest neoliberal think tank line.

        Clinton, or at least her department, was aware that things were heating up. They actually discouraged the coup from happening two days earlier. If they’d been willing to go public and say that a coup would not be acceptable, they could have stopped it from happening.

        Once it had happened, Honduras was fucked. Clinton made the call that she’d slap the wrists of the oligarchy by revoking some visas (good move), but discourage any actual attempts to restitute Zelaya, even symbolically. I think that latter part was the wrong call. Symbolically putting him back would have sent a much stronger message to future coup plotters. (There was a near coup in Guatemala not too long after. Didn’t happen because when they actually investigated the guy who’d supposedly been killed by the president, it turned out to be suicide by hitman. But it was touch and go for a week or so.)

        Clinton and Obama also should have been more overt about how the asshole republicans making kissy faces with the golpistas did not speak for the US.

        So I’d give her a C+ on those events. And that’s on a curve, because I know that Bush would have been an F.

        I think it’s a valid criticism for Bernie supporters to use, but it’s not an argument ender.

        • sam

          Right. No one covered themselves in glory. But it’s still a pretty big leap from “they made some bad decisions in the aftermath of a situation they did not actually control” to “Clinton is personally responsible for the assassination of Berta Caceres”.

          And also, the way they speak about Clinton as if she’s some sort of rogue agent, running around imposing her own personal vision of international relations? Sure, she’s generally more hawkish than Obama, but as SOS, she was obligated to carry out his diplomatic priorities and represent his administration at the end of the day.

          • She was responsible for all the bad Obama FP and had no influence on any of the good Obama FP.

    • ColBatGuano

      The idea that the situation in Honduras would have had even a marginal effect on the primaries is ridiculous. 99% of the people in this country would have had no idea what Sanders was talking about if he brought it up.

  • EliHawk

    the Clinton Crime Bill, which launched a 20-year long war on America’s blacks and Hispanics.

    Saying the Clinton Crime Bill launched a 20 year long war on America’s blacks and Hispanics is ahistorical nonsense. This was decades after the Rockefeller Drug Laws, long after the 80s mandatory minimums, long after states had greatly increased mass incarceration and built prisons out the wazoo (Mario Cuomo, liberal icon, lamented that he also built more prisons than any NY Governor in history). It was the culmination of 30 years of the politics of crime and fear and drug use, and it was bad in a lot of ways. But pretending that it arrived sui generis is just Clinton blaming horse hockey.

    • addicted44

      It also ignores what is surely one of the great unexplained mysteries of the modern US.

      The sharp, and extremely rapid, drop in crime.

      A LOT of the leftwards shift of the US populace on crime and punishment, as well as the move towards urbanism (and the corresponding problems of gentrification) are explained by the fact that crime in cities has plummeted since the 80s and 90s.

      That does not excuse the bad policies that were enacted, but it does explain why everyone, including black leaders, were in favor of them at the time.

  • Jeff Ryan

    “Racially-motivated incarceration of millions of black Americans”? Really? Because the federal government doesn’t have “millions” of any kind of prisoners, so it’s kind of hard to figure just where this rant come from.

    States have lots more prisoners, but the federal Crime Bill didn’t create state crimes or sentences. This is the sort of sloppy rant that I’m sure makes the writer feel very righteous, but is easily decimated in under what, five minutes? Not good for the old credibility.

    And by the way, those additional police officers weren’t such a bad idea. But it would appear the writer didn’t even live during the high crime days of the ’70s through the early ’90s, so how would he know? Oh yeah. He could have researched it.

    • Phil Perspective

      States have lots more prisoners, but the federal Crime Bill didn’t create state crimes or sentences.

      It gave shit tons of money to states to build more prisons. Also, didn’t that crime bill have the VAWA folded into it? So yeah, it was dirty way for the Majority/Minority Leader and Speaker to get their caucuses to vote for the bill.

      • FlipYrWhig

        Giving Republicans some of what they want and Democrats some of what they want while drafting a law, in order to get support from both sides? THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE OR SINCE

        • wjts

          To be Scrupulously Fair, it hasn’t happened so much since.

          • FlipYrWhig

            Touche — but that’s because Bill Clinton’s Team Dem worked it so well that Mitch McConnell resolved to make it impossible for Barack Obama’s to get away with the same maneuver.

  • FlipYrWhig

    Probably not, but it would have at least meant that the Democratic nominee was going to feel real pressure from the left on foreign policy

    What is a left view of foreign policy, though? I mean that as both a rhetorical question and a real question. Maybe what’s overdue is the development of a broad lefty critique of US foreign policy beyond “Don’t invade countries and don’t kill innocent people.” Those are good rules, but there’s a whole lot else to take into account. Bernie Sanders, the person, didn’t seem to think about it very much, but I’m also not sure that Bernie Sanders supporters collectively would have much of a consensus about what they’d want Bernie to say if he _did_ say something about it.

    • There’s no question that the entire American left does not think enough about foreign policy in anything close to a serious manner.

      • FlipYrWhig

        I remember a fairly vigorous debate about the military ventures under Bill Clinton (the Yugoslavia operations, Haiti, Rwanda, etc.) — about human rights universalism and/as imperialism, about balancing civil society with military force, and so forth — but IMHO the dark stain of the Iraq War under Bush obliterated all of that. Now it’s pretty much as though that 1990s debate never happened, and we get to have it all over again without any lessons learned on any side: Libya, Syria, et al.

        • Bootsie

          It’s sorta annoying how any conversation about what the US can do in the world is almost always shut down by “BUT BUT BUT IRAQ”.

          • Lev

            Almost as annoying as how it assumed that “what the US can do in the world” is automatically interpreted as “bomb some country.”

      • bender

        A blogger with another political perspective named John Michael Greer says that the reason for this absence of serious thought is that most Americans, including those on the Left, get economic benefits from American hegemony.

        If there were no imperial wealth flowing to this country from less powerful places through trade and military arrangements that put the people of those countries at a disadvantage, more equitable distribution of the nation’s wealth would be insufficient to support a welfare state or the American middle class lifestyle.

    • AMK

      The evidence for Bernie’s foreign policy “leftism” stems from what, exactly? He’s made noises about cutting the defense budget, but his big social programs were going to be funded by big tax hikes on the wealthy, not scrapping aircraft carriers. His great “leftist” stand on the Middle East was the 10-second observation that maybe Netanyahu shouldn’t kill Palestinians indiscriminately (which was heavily qualified with the usual self-defense talking points every Democrat uses). Bernie opposes TPP because it hurts American workers…when he talks about foreign workers, he uses the same short, vague generalities as Obama and every other Dem.

      I’m not a leftist in any sense, but I’m not seeing how any of this is “leftism” far outside the Democratic mainstream. And there’s nothing that prevents somebody who’s solidly left on the domestic front from being mainstream or even a hawk on foreign policy….look at LBJ or FDR.

  • efgoldman

    It might have liberated him to frontally attack Obama’s dismal record

    Totally disqualifies this klown from any analysis or commentary. Lives in the same fantasyland as the worst of the Berniebots.

    But he would have opened up a whole new line of critique at her greatest vulnerability.

    Maybe, but probably not. His “plans” would probably be as useful and detailed as “How would you break up the banks.”

    • Hogan

      Totally disqualifies this klown from any analysis or commentary. Lives in the same fantasyland as the worst of the Berniebots.

      It’s Counterpunch, so that goes without saying.

      • efgoldman

        It’s Counterpunch, so that goes without saying.

        I’d never heard of it before – and plan never to hear of it again.

        • Warren Terra

          I’m surprised it’s still around – for a long time, it existed to collect subscriptions from people too deluded to realize Alexander Cockburn was irredeemable scum.

      • JMV Pyro

        Aren’t they the place that let an Holocaust denier publish a defense of Pol Pot?

        • Origami Isopod

          Yes. Click at your peril.

    • Hercules Mulligan

      His “plans” would probably be as useful and detailed as “How would you break up the banks.”

      Jesus, are we still debating this nonsense? Sanders’s answer in that interview was perfectly appropriate and logistically correct, as even many of his detractors were forced to admit. Amazing that with so many actual things to criticize about the Sanders campaign, people latch on to smears like this.

  • MDrew

    It might have helped if some of the rest of the party with similar-ish views on foreign policy had been willing to step up and run or at least step in with genuine criticism of Clinton in this area rather than just being willing hacks for Clinton, Inc. FP was a liability for Sanders, but when opposition is limited to essentially one person in an entire party (sorry Martin O’Malley, you just don’t move the needle), you’re going to find out that the one guy has limitations. No one else stepped up, ergo Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy record was essentially ratified as the foreign policy of the Democratic Party by default. Good times.

    The entirety of the job of opposing and critiquing Hillary Clinton from within the Democratic Party should not have come down to Bernie freaking Sanders.

    • efgoldman

      The entirety of the job of opposing and critiquing Hillary Clinton from within the Democratic Party should not have come down to Bernie freaking Sanders.

      Maybe the rest of the actual Democratic party, while understanding she isn’t perfect, really wanted her to be nominated.

      • MDrew

        That’s terrible for everyone. Vigorous debate within the party – played out in its highest-profile decision – is essential. Going from 2008 to 2024 without such exercise is no good.

        Granted, Sanders provided that, but he only did because the party was willing to let it slide that long. (That is, he only ran when it became apparent how little representation of the viewpoint of his part of the party – and debate in general – there would otherwise be in the primary.) And as the OP points out, the FP element was not sufficiently pursued.

        • ColBatGuano

          Vigorous debate within the party

          This always looks good during the primary season. The press loves a good “Democrats in disarray” story.

        • EliHawk

          Thinking that the only time there’s vigorous debate in a party is during a Presidential primary is one of the reasons the left is so terrible at actually influencing the electorate.

  • Jordan

    I don’t know, this wasn’t his issue and wasn’t his expertise. Focusing on what he was actually good at worked amazingly well for him, even if it didn’t deliver everything that we could have wanted in all things.

    Sounds fine to me.

    • MDrew

      I tend to agree with this, in combination with my above point that there should have been others in the race to pursue this area with more expertise. No one anywhere, at any point, has claimed that Sanders is The Complete Candidate. As you say, he did a limited suite of things very well, and it took him extremely far given the appropriate ex-ante handicapping.

      • Jordan

        Ya, that all sounds right.

    • ForkyMcSpoon

      But if that’s the approach he wanted to take, he shouldn’t have let himself believe the hype that he was going to win.

      If he had stayed focused on promoting his views and less on attacking Clinton or petty process bickering, I think it would’ve been better for both him and the party.

  • JMV Pyro

    Of course, Sanders could have turned his anemic appeal to black Democratic voters to his advantage. It might have liberated him to frontally attack Obama’s dismal record (instead of huddling with him at the White House) as well as Hillary’s, without fear of losing support he never had.

    Maybe I’m reading this wrong, but this is a neon-flashing violation of one of the things Erik posted about yesterday. You cannot and should not have a political revolution in this country without the support of African Americans. I find the fact that St. Clair seems perfectly fine with ignoring them entirely while building a coalition to be repulsive.

    • Hercules Mulligan

      Yes, I must say, a lot of this article sounds like the foreign policy version of “if Sanders had done [everything that would have endeared him to people like HA Goodman/would have alienated genuinely progressive voters] then he would have won!”

  • milx

    I think the Honduras / Cáceres link to Clinton is tenuous as heck and I find her explanation (move quickly to new elections to preserve the piece) to be both believable and commendable. More importantly, though, doesn’t it seem clear in the current political zeitgeist that Hillary’s FP turn to the right was incredibly savvy? She has been able to utterly diffuse any kind of national security advantage the Republicans might have this election and thereby keep her run secure against a horrible terrorist attack in October. If anything, she seems even more trustworthy on FP and national security than Trump making it a net win. We live in a country that, despite sizable pacifist + isolationist minorities, is still hawkish on national security and wants a robust, aggressive American foreign policy. I don’t see Sanders going more gung ho dove as being better for his campaign; he already clearly had won the vote of any voter who was going to make anti-imperialism their most important issue. There wasn’t an untapped vein there to keep excavating.

  • JB2

    ” . . .100,000 new cops onto the streets of urban America”

    Who could possibly have a problem with more patrol officers on the streets of high-crime cities? Not the residents of those cities, I assure you. And I’m not talking about raid vans and SWAT teams, but well-trained, experienced street cops.

    (I admit, I have some self-interest here: when I started as an assistant prosecutor in ’93, we didn’t even have voice mail for our phones. When we eventually got computers, we were told that the funding came from the Clinton crime bill).

    Glad I stopped reading Counterpuch years ago.

    • pseudalicious

      Who could possibly have a problem with more patrol officers on the streets of high-crime cities?

      Who indeed? There are definitely no Americans with a well-founded, evidence-based fear of cops, no sir.

  • PatrickG

    I clicked through, because open minds yadda yadda…

    the pro-Clinton machinations of Debbie (Does DNC) Wasserman-Schultz.

    It’s CounterPunch, so I’m not really surprised, but comparing DWS to a porn star is pretty indefensible.

    Or is she a whore? I can never keep up with Ultra Progressive terminology these days.

    Edited to add: I thought it was the neoliberal camp who hated The Youngs:

    tens of thousands of new voters, who otherwise would have been content to stay at home playing Warcraft and Snapchatting about the latest Kardashian outrage.

    As the kids say, LOL.

    • pseudalicious

      It’s CounterPunch, so I’m not really surprised, but comparing DWS to a porn star is pretty indefensible.

      Yeah, I was about to post that. Ugh.

  • wengler

    I’m still looking for a US politician claiming they are a foreign policy ‘expert’ that isn’t a hawk. I know some people think that Obama is a dove, but that’s hard to accept for a guy that signs off on a kill list every Tuesday. Hillary has run on policies that were much in line with Jeb Bush including the nonsense ‘Syrian airspace belongs only to the US and its allies’.

    It’s been at least a decade since I regularly read Counterpunch, but the authors there stating Bernie is a rightwing sellout is par for the course.

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