HomeUncategorized1/10 News Roundup & Open Thread – Bernie Sanders To Colbert: “I Will Do Everything I Can To Stop A War With Iran” (+ more)

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Biden and Bernie duke it out on war and peace

Last Saturday in Iowa, the day after an American MQ-9 Reaper dropped its ordnance on Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad, Joe Biden moved quickly to make himself the face of Democratic opposition to Trump’s drone strike. It was early evening at a Des Moines elementary school gymnasium, and despite the dip in temperature and the long lines to get inside, a larger and more engaged audience than the ones he attracted over the summer and fall was waiting for the former vice president.

It was a white-collar crowd—Des Moines-area lawyers and insurance industry professionals and a smattering of D.C. Obama veterans now in town to help Biden in the homestretch. The top lawyer at ICE under the last administration was there, and told me it was the first time he’d ever canvassed Iowa for a candidate.


Sanders’s foreign-policy views were first shaped by his left-wing activism during the Cold War, when the animating force on the far left was opposition to American adventurism in the name of anti-communism. As the mayor of Vermont’s largest city—a small town of 40,00, really—Sanders actually had a foreign policy. He visited Cuba, he became involved in Latin American politics centered on opposition to anything that smacked of U.S. imperialism, and he and Jane even honeymooned in the Soviet Union in 1988. (This litany of activities is frequently raised by Sanders’ rivals as deeply problematic for a general election against Trump.)

But when he got to Congress in 1991, Sanders spent the next few decades, first as a member of the House and then as a senator, strangely uninterested in foreign policy. When he ran for president in 2016, the old image of Sanders from his mayoral days as a pro-Sandinista Chomskyite is what stuck.

His 2017 speech was meant to address that. For years now, progressives have been debating how to articulate an American foreign policy that rejects what they see as the militarism of liberal internationalists, who make up the Democratic Party establishment, and left-wingers who reject any use of American power in the world as inherently tainted. Arguably, that was something Obama managed to achieve, but many on the left viewed him as just another militarist by the time he left office.

Sanders still peppers his foreign-policy remarks with a long recitation of America’s anti-democratic history, especially in Latin America and the Middle East, during the Cold War, and the worst mistakes of the post-9/11 era. But over time he has gradually shifted from an emphasis on how America has messed up the world in the past to how to confront looming threats to international democracy today.

He has repeatedly praised America’s role in creating the United Nations and expressed deep admiration for the Marshall Plan, which helped rebuild Germany and western Europe after World War II. In 2018, he identified growing authoritarianism as one of the great foreign policy challenges for the United States. It was a turning point for Sanders: The villains in that speech are not Americans meddling in Chile or invading Iraq, but the “the authoritarian axis”—a phrase that echoed Bush’s “axis of evil”—and in Sanders’s telling includes countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Turkey and Brazil, where there are “movements led by demagogues who exploit people’s fears, prejudices and grievances to gain and hold on to power” and are also handmaidens to billionaires and oligarchs, more familiar Sanders bogeymen.

While he called for a movement to “combat the forces of global oligarchy and authoritarianism,” the details of how a Sanders administration would use American power to do that have been vague. He had identified what he believed was the threat of our time but he didn’t say how America could counter it.

Meanwhile, Biden, along with most foreign policy centrists in the Democratic Party, has also shifted. As he pointed out in Iowa, Biden was a forceful internal opponent of the Obama surge in Afghanistan. He was deeply skeptical of the Libya intervention, which Obama came to regret, and Biden has recently called for removing most troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Biden and his ideological kin have recognized that there is almost no constituency left in the Democratic Party for the kind of hawks that dominated in the nineties and early 2000s.

But on the question of American leadership and whether American power can be virtuous, Biden is unequivocal. His campaign is premised on the idea that a President Biden can quickly restore America’s role as a force for good. For progressives that is not comforting. They fear that Biden and his advisers could easily revert to the hawkishness that dominated recent history.


part 2

In talking to Democratic foreign policy advisers across the spectrum, I heard people in Biden’s orbit caricature Sanders as a Corbyn-like old leftist who never outgrew his radical roots. And I heard Sanders’ allies describe Biden as a bloodthirsty neoliberal warmonger who will return to militarism once elected. The truth is that Democratic voters have forced both men to shift: Sanders to accept that if he wants to be president he needs to be comfortable with taking the reins of a superpower and Biden with the fact that the legacy of the Iraq War has poisoned the idea of liberal interventionism to an entire generation. (Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg fit neatly on this continuum, with Warren closer to Sanders and Buttigieg closer to Biden.)

All three—Sanders, Warren and Buttigieg—have tried to articulate an alternative vision to a Biden-style establishment Democratic foreign policy–what Sanders’ advisers call the D.C. “blob.”

And there are notable differences on some key issues. Sanders and Warren are willing to leverage aid to Israel to change the country’s behavior toward the Palestinians, while Biden isn’t. Sanders opposes the recent USMCA trade deal, while Warren and Biden support it. Sanders and Warren would leave almost no footprint behind in Iraq and Afghanistan, while Buttigieg and Biden want some forces to respond to any resurgence of al Qaeda and ISIS.

Progressives have also changed the politics of foreign policy. Democrats across the spectrum no longer believe that a reflexive toughness to international crises is a prerequisite for victory. In 2004 Kerry, who in his youth was most famous for his opposition to the Vietnam war, reinvented himself as a war fighter for the general election. (He lost.)

In 2020 the pressure for Democrats in their response to the killing of Soleimani was to show they would not exaggerate or dwell on his crimes in the Middle East and that they would not say anything that would encourage escalation with Iran. Warren originally tweeted that “Soleimani was a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans.” The next day, in a tweet that focused solely on Trump, she wrote that the president had “assassinated a senior foreign military official.” Gone was any description of Soleimani’s history in the region.

But in the end, the 2020 foreign policy debate among Democrats is likely to play out a lot like the 2020 domestic policy debate among Democrats: with the establishment candidate co-opting just enough of the left’s grievances to snuff out the challenge.

The Sanders wing long ago won the debate about deemphasizing the use of force, ending “forever wars,” prioritizing diplomacy, and bolstering relationships with democracies. But what the progressives have not yet been able to fully articulate—and there’s a vast literature that has tried—is how a President Sanders or Warren or even Buttigieg, who have all identified promoting democracy and curtailing the rise of authoritarianism as major modern priorities, would actually do that.

I asked a top adviser to Sanders about whether there are more details to add to Sanders’ 2018 call to reverse the rising tide of autocrats.

“We’re working on it,” he said.


it starts by not ousting socialist leaders, by not invading every country that we don’t control. pretty obvious.



I recorded the interview on the Today show. Bernie was good, but Gutherie was pathetic. They cut Bernie off and jumped to a weather forecast.


Here’s the video clip embedded in this tweet:

Watch @BernieSanders‘ full interview with @savannahguthrie about Iran, the 2020 presidential race and much more. pic.twitter.com/VGZ1wvExEo— TODAY (@TODAYshow) January 10, 2020

Don midwest
Don midwest

Bernie does well in the face of a confrontational interview

she tried everything to force him into a corner

but, he came out swinging and made excellent points

maybe he has been saying the same things for so many years

and acting on them

that he doesn’t have to play being a politician

he is an authentic politician

and the MSM does not know how to deal with that

as someone pointed out, he will really do what he says he will do


He rejected many of her premises, which was good.



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