The Movement Goes Beyond the Man, Say Sanders Supporters
TRNN Senior Editor Paul Jay talks to a group of Bernie Sanders supporters exploring the strengths and limits of the campaign
TRNN Senior Editor Paul Jay talks to a group of Bernie Sanders supporters exploring the strengths and limits of the campaign
PAUL JAY: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay.
With Bernie Sanders running neck and neck with Hillary Clinton in Iowa, and according to most polls up around maybe ten points, or even a little more, in New Hampshire, everybody is taking the Sanders campaign a lot more seriously. I’m now in a room with a group of people who I think have been taking the Sanders campaign seriously right from the beginning, and we want to have a bit of a discussion about just who they are. So this is a completely unscientific cross-section of Sanders supporters in Maryland, and they’re–we’re now going to begin talking to them about why they support Sanders, and try to get a sense of where they, their thinking is in relationship to politics in America, and where Sanders fits into all of that. So thanks for joining us, everybody.
[Voices say thank you, scattered applause]
Keannu, you helped organize this today, and you’re involved with Sanders, I think it’s Maryland Students for Sanders, as well as Marylanders–Marylanders for Sanders. Give us a sense of who’s, who’s with us today.
KEANNU SMITH-BROWN: So, we have a mixture of Maryland for Bernie Sanders group members, or organization members. Maryland Students for Bernie Sanders. And we have three candidates who are endorsing Bernie Sanders in the Baltimore City Council race.
JAY: Okay, good. And, and what drew you into the Sanders campaign? How early in all of this?
SMITH-BROWN: Well, I was a Hillary Clinton supporter prior to actually doing my research, and once I did research it didn’t take me long to realize that Bernie Sanders was the man that deserved to be the next president of the United States.
JAY: Shy, what–have you been involved in political activity prior to Sanders?
SHYRONE RIDLEY: Not at all.
JAY: And what about him got you engaged?
RIDLEY: Well, I had met him many years ago. My previous occupation, I work with an airline, and my last base was Washington National. I worked at the Special Services desk, so all of the VIPs had to check in with me before boarding their flights to get their boarding passes. I have met Hillary many times. She checked in with me on Tuesdays or Monday. Actually, I had suggested to Hillary back in 2006 that she should run for president. She said, oh, Shy, I’m just happy being a senator. Well, whatever.
I never have been actively involved in politics until Bernie. I can relate to him because he is the common man. He’s not impressed by money, glitz, glamor, whatever. He’s a very frugal person, I can identify with that. He would get my vote, because here’s a man who actually survived and had to depend on unemployment insurance at one time early on in his life. Here’s a man who lived in a sugar shack up in Vermont without electricity. He did have running water. Here’s a man who cooked his food on what they called a [burno], a used coffee can with a toilet tissue in it and some accelerant to, to heat his food. Here’s a guy who is honest. You can believe what he says. He walks the walk that he talks. You know, he cannot be bought. He’s not interested in Wall Street. He’s not Hillary.
JAY: How do you assess the Obama presidency? There’s a lot of people in Baltimore, which you know is almost 65 percent African-American, that are rather disappointed with the Obama presidency, certainly didn’t live up to the expectations that caused so much excitement in the beginning.
SMITH-BROWN: If you look at what he’s done, he’s been a decent president, but he’s still an establishment candidate. And I think people realize that we–what we have now is not really what we expected. And the change that Bernie Sanders is bringing about is a different type of change. It’s a change that will change the establishment. It will change how government is run, and actually make government for and by the people.
KERRY HAMILTON: Well, he did state that he was going to attack big businesses and Wall Street. And what I like about him is Obama didn’t [pursue], he talked about, you know, giving money back to the poor, as far as helping the poor. He talked about tax increase for the rich. But he didn’t pursue it.
JAY: Bernie Sanders has not been very critical of President Obama. In the last debate, when Hillary Clinton was making her connection to Obama one of the centerpieces of how she spoke, Bernie was also talking about how he campaigned for President Obama and such. But he’s made a big deal out of not appointing Wall Street people as his finance team. Bernie Sanders has. Well, we know that’s exactly what President Obama did, and he let Wall Street essentially run his whole finance policy. But Bernie hasn’t critiqued that.
JOSHUA “JT” STANLEY: I’m a big fan of Bernie, but I’m not a blind follower. That’s one of the things I have to be critical of Bernie on, is not attacking Hillary more, and also, though it wouldn’t be politically beneficial, but not so much cozying up to President Obama. President Obama, as was stated, putting a lot of Wall Street appointments. His second-biggest donor in the ’08 campaign was Goldman Sachs, and that has clearly shown in the way he has governed, the way the DOJ has pursued Wall Street prosecution. And it is, I think, it is important that it is clear. President Obama is very liberal in rhetoric, but on all substantive issues he is moderate. Even his biggest thing, healthcare, Obamacare, came from Romneycare in Massachusetts, which was drafted up by Conservative think tanks, and is very watered down.
JAY: And Bernie’s made a big point of how he helped draft the Affordable Care Act. He wants to go further with a single-payer, Medicare for all model, which is a big departure. But he still makes sure he positions himself as defending the Affordable Care Act.
STANLEY: I don’t think he would have positioned himself so much as a need to defend it had Hillary Clinton not gone on the offensive, and Chelsea Clinton, to say that he’s trying to dismantle it and try to portray his thing as he’s trying to take healthcare away from people. I don’t think this would have been invoked at all had the other side kept the debate honest instead of portraying Bernie as trying to take away healthcare. So I think that’s more of a reactionary thing to the rhetoric that was trying to portray him as very anti- the current gains that we have.
JACOB KRAVETZ: He is a very politically savvy man, although also a very idealistic one. You can see that with the fact that he supported Obamacare. He helped write it, because he knew that at that moment perhaps we couldn’t do better. But to say that, you know, now that we’ve made one step forward let’s stop and be satisfied, absolutely not.
JAY: And when you say you’re not a blind supporter–. Some, some of the critique has been that the Democratic party as itself, it’s institutionally, will never allow the kind of reforms that Bernie’s talking about. What do you make of that? And what–in terms of your own political history, have you ever been active in the Democratic party before?
STANLEY: No. I actually never thought in my lifetime I would see a viable candidate that I would actually want to support. So that’s where Bernie–.
JAY: I see a lot of heads shaking here.
STANLEY: I mean, I was a supporter of Bernie [through the] summer, but then Lawrence Lessig jumped into the campaign. And I honestly thought Lessig had a better campaign finance reform plan, and I’d like to see Bernie commit to making that his number one priority when he gets into office, is to get money out of politics. Not wealth inequality, not the environment, get money out of politics.
And so–and on the reforms. Yeah, I would say that the Democrats, especially under the, I believe it was the New Leadership Council that Bill Clinton, President Clinton ushered in, we had this diluted liberalism, these diluted Democrats, that were complicit with corporate interests. While the rhetoric would be against it, they would be complicit and go along with what the Republicans would do. And I think that’s very evident in the fact that, for example, Democrats are willing to pass through bills that, that shell out to these, to these, to these financial firms.
JAY: So, so let me, so let me ask you, why would you then not, listening, do you support, for example, Green party candidates, who I would guess have a program that you would even agree with even more than Sanders.
STANLEY: Bernie has a chance to get elected. I would like to see–and that’s why I, traditionally I do not vote for Democrats or Republicans. The 2012 election, I did a fill-in candidate for Buddy Roemer, who had a small campaign, never made it to any of the debates, but his only issue was getting money out of politics. So I will, after this election, other ones, if there is no viable candidate that truly shocks and inspires me like Bernie, I will vote Green party and I will write in fill-in candidates.
JAY: So Bernie doesn’t win the nomination. You’d go Green?
STANLEY: There’s no circumstance I’m voting for Hillary Clinton.
HARRY HUNTLEY: I think I would. I think you have to look at the broader issue. And Bernie talks a lot about his ideals, and like JT was saying, he’s a really idealistic guy. But you do have to look at what’s going to happen. So I could say, yeah, maybe I do agree with Jill Stein the most, but I recognize that if she doesn’t win, then I would rather have Hillary instead of Donald Trump.
SUZANNE LEBOVIT: Well, I’m a retired federal employee. I’ll just say that to say that I could not be involved in politics at all until I retired. But I have been following history for a long time, and I looked at Bill Clinton’s presidency, and I remember when NAFTA was passed. And NAFTA literally hit me on the head. There was a, I was coming out of Port of LA, and a Mexican truck coming up from Mexico, a piece of it fell off and hit my car. And that was, like, so emblematic of what NAFTA was doing, was downgrading all kinds of laws that were protections for our country, for people, for workers, sending jobs overseas. And Bill Clinton had done that, just as surely as he sneaked in the, the lowering of Glass-Steagall before he left office.
And, and so–and Bill Clinton was a very clever president, and yet–and so a lot of people went along with him, always. Democrat, he’s, he’s done some good things, and so on and so forth, and a lot of people went along with him. But, but he was passing things that were really sneaky, and really allowing big business and the lowering of protections on Wall Street. And I only see Hillary Clinton as a repeat of that. And then I noticed that there was this whole blackout on, on Sanders anyway. And I began to dig some more, and he looked better and better.
RUSSELL NEVERDON: Well, I, I think that what drew me to him was I didn’t see him as a Democrat, I didn’t see him as a non-Republican, I just saw him as someone who saw that change needed to happen in America, and that’s what I identified with. I think oftentimes we get so caught up in party that we forget about the people, and that’s what was refreshing to me, that Mr. Sanders was all about getting back to the business of taking care of the people, and let the politics work itself out in the end. So that was the draw to me.
JAY: Had you any involvement in Democratic party politics prior to this?
NEVERDON: I had. I’ve been a registered Democrat, and–. But the more, as time began to go on, I began to see that I really had more of an independent philosophy, which is it should be the most qualified person. Who’s going to do the best job for the people?
JAY: But what made that Sanders for you? Because on the face of it, supposedly Hillary Clinton’s more experienced, and so on.
JAY: You’re from, you live in Baltimore.
NEVERDON: I live in Baltimore.
JAY: Bernie Sanders has not made much of an impression on African-Americans in Baltimore, as far as I can tell. He came here for an event, it was not much of a turnout. But it’s going to be a major issue, especially heading into South Carolina. Why do you think he’s not having more traction amongst African-Americans? Because again, on the face of it, you would think his message would.
NEVERDON: Well, I think what is happening, or what’s been missing, is, is we haven’t had responsible journalism and coverage. I’m thankful for your network.
RIDLEY: Their heads are stuck on Hillary, or whatever. Number one, a lot of African-Americans are disenfranchised, they don’t–politics doesn’t interest them. They will believe–you know, they’re stuck on the Hillary thing, they want a female president. Well, I mean, certainly.
JAY: I understand it’s partly a media problem, and I, and I acknowledge that, because a lot of people are just not even hearing what he’s saying at all. But for example, Hillary gave a token use of the words ‘systemic racism’. And I know she threw it out because she met with Black Lives Matter, and now she can use it as word. But there actually is such a thing, and does he address it?
DONNA PLAMANDON: Here in Baltimore we’ve got a whole lot of police officers that live in Pennsylvania and come in from Delaware. They don’t even live in Baltimore City. Bernie’s pretty well addressed that, that the police force within areas of the city, those officers should look like those areas. They should live in those areas. They should be part of those communities.
JAY: And he’s also called for demilitarizing the police, which is an important point.
HAMILTON: And also have security officers around the mom and pop stores. That’s where the murders, that’s where the shooting, that’s where the violence is.
SMITH-BROWN: Criminal justice reform is one of the main problems–well, one of the main ways that we can solve the problem that African-American communities have. Bernie Sanders specifically talks about the fact that African-American unemployment rates are high. Why? Because people who are coming out of schools, maybe they don’t have enough money to go to college. And so what are they doing in their time, they’re on the streets, maybe.
JAY: Tell me what Bernie has to do to make more inroads amongst the African-American community across the country.
SMITH-BROWN: I think Bernie Sanders is doing it just now. He’s going to not just Iowa, he’s not just going to New Hampshire, but he’s making sure that he is going to the communities that African-Americans are, the population is high. If you look at it, he’s appointed many people to his cabinet thus far, or to his campaign cabinet, that is, thus far, that are very prominent in the African-American community. I mean, Nina Turner, when I hear her speak so passionately about how much Bernie Sanders is going to do for our community.
If we think about it, and if we understand why African-Americans are being discriminated against, as I mentioned, we have the, the school-to-prison pipeline. Bernie Sanders definitely does address the fact that instead of investing our time in prisons or our money in prisons, maybe we should invest it in education. And also, the reason why African-Americans are being subjected to racism and police brutality is because of those reasons, such as lack of education, or such as lack of, of money in their pockets.
JAY: I don’t understand, frankly, why Bernie hasn’t addressed unemployment, which is the number one problem–the number one problem in Baltimore, really, isn’t police, and it’s not even the crazy murder rate. It’s crazy unemployment. And every–you know, you go talk to people in the communities, what to do about crime in the communities, and the answer always is jobs. It’s not more policing. And I’m not hearing from the Sanders campaign a plan for employment. And you know, the obvious one would be something akin to what Roosevelt did in the ’30s, a straightforward government hiring employment program, that is paid for by higher taxes, or–. And I’m not hearing that. And if Baltimore needs anything, it needs something like that.
FRANCESCO LEGALUPPI: Well, I mean, I agree it does need something. I don’t know whether it’s necessarily like that. We have an example here in Baltimore, to comment on what was said a moment ago. The public sector should not necessarily become a private employer. What do I mean by that? The city of Baltimore has had an example of it–it became a hotelier. And it’s been an–it has been an experiment that, with all due respect, was best not tried. I think we do need to create incentives, and we need to make sure that those who are given the incentives carry out and do what they’re supposed to do. Because frankly, right now, if I can say Baltimore is not ready to step in as a public entity and act like a private one, I would venture to say that there are no [country]–.
JAY: I wouldn’t say act like a private one, I would–I would suggest if you’re having a program that’s supposed to be socialist in one form or another, then the public sector’s critical to that plan. And there’s lots of examples, not in Baltimore but in other cities and certainly other countries, where public sector enterprises work very well. In fact, better than private, on many occasions.
LEGALUPPI: Well, I mean, don’t get me wrong–.
JAY: But whether it’s, whether it’s through a public sector or something else, I’m not seeing how–like, for example, how much employment came out of the $750 billion plan that President Obama did. It saved some teachers jobs, it saved some police jobs. But once that money was gone, those jobs started to go away again.
You could say when that trillion dollars is spent, whoever’s going to have a contract under that infrastructure program you can’t pay less than $20 an hour, $25 an hour. There’s things you could do. You could also be saying–I haven’t heard him talk about the Employee Free Choice Act, which was something that President Obama promised the unions, and completely cratered on. And in the first two years, when they controlled both houses, could have. Which would have gone some way to making it easier to organize unions. Because the real problem in the country, certainly the minimum wage is a problem, but the bigger problem is how many people aren’t in unions, and why wages are so low. The whole global economy’s getting paralyzed because demand is so low, because so much money’s in so few hands. So like, taking on the billionaires also means doing something to help raise wages. I’m–.
HUNTLEY: I got a couple of different things I want to say on that. So you were talking about unions. And I think having unions or having the minimum wage, driving up the wages, would be hugely beneficial to employment. And because–and detrimental to unemployment. Because it would give more money in the pockets of the people who are going to go out and buy things, not money in the pockets of people who are going to go out and invest it. If I’m currently working a $7.25 an hour job, and then I get $15 an hour, I’m not going to spend all of that on, or even the majority of that, on putting it into, like, a retirement account. I’m going to be working on going and shopping at mom and pop businesses, on buying a new home, which stimulates the housing market and building houses. So that, I think, will help employment–or hurt unemployment.
And the other thing you were talking about, his infrastructure program. He has said we’ll build a lot of jobs with that, and then decrease unemployment that way. And also the, taking tax credits from the fossil fuel industry and then moving them towards renewable industries can help with a more–while it won’t necessarily lower unemployment, it will make employment more dependable, because a lot of the jobs with non-renewable resources are boom and bust. So you have guys making a ton of money in an oilfield and then you have to leave. But if you do solar, which is something he’s advocating for, they can be doing solar consistently.
JAY: I think that today or yesterday the report was that it’s been the warm–2015 was the warmest year in recorded history. There was very little said in the last debate about climate change, by either candidate, but including Bernie. I may be wrong, but I think O’Malley said it once, and maybe Bernie said it once. Not much emphasis on it at all. What do you guys make of that?
STANLEY: Well, for me, as a utilitarian, the biggest thing for me is global warming. That’s what’s kind of the biggest impact. It’s not my biggest passion, but that’s the issue I go to, because that’s what’s logical. And that’s why I like to see, even–I think a shortcoming of Bernie, to be honest, is the fact that he hasn’t said that this is the biggest issue facing us, and that he hasn’t committed to saying we’re going to get money out of politics, and then go after solving global warming.
KRAVETZ: You know, even if you’re very concerned about things like national security and things like that, both CIA reports, you know, being done say that climate change is a huge security threat, as well as perhaps one of the major underlying causes of a lot of unrest in the Middle East and, you know, things like the rise of terrorism. Clearly there are other pieces to that as well.
But I mean, I agree that he did not mention it enough in this most recent debate. But you know, I think that to his credit he did make the point when he was asked, you know, what is the greatest threat facing America. At the second debate, I believe, he said it was climate change. Then there was an ISIS attack. He was then asked, given the fact that there was just, you know, an attack, a terrorist attack in Paris, do you think, would you change your opinion to global terrorism being larger? He said absolutely not. Climate change is absolutely the largest threat that either the United States or anywhere in the world faces currently.
JAY: I get–I mean, my research notes–.
KRAVETZ: Yeah, you can go to FeelTheBern.org, you know, that is actually a volunteer-created website that probably, easily has the most comprehensive–[inaud.].
JAY: Let me tell you what we get off, off the BernieSanders.com, okay. Ban fossil fuel lobbyists from working in the White House. Okay, it’s good. End the huge subsidies to benefit fossil fuel companies. Okay, I think even President Obama’s talked about that. Create a national environmental and climate change justice plan that recognizes the heightened public health risks faced by low-income and minority communities. Okay, that’s sort of mitigating the issue.
Bring climate deniers to justice–I’m not sure what that means–so we can aggressively tackle climate change. It talks about taking on, for example, ExxonMobil. Have they actually known about the dangers of climate change all this while, and in fact been paying people to deny it. It’s good. Fight to overturn Citizens United, which kind of, everything always comes back to the issue of funding. But there isn’t a vision, for example, of a massive public works program to build a green infrastructure. When, when President Obama came in and saved General Motors, he saved it as a conventional auto company. One can debate it, but that was, one would think, a wonderful opportunity to have converted Detroit into a green machine, and with a whole vision for that, and he didn’t.
I mean, doesn’t [one] want to hear that kind of thing from, from, from Bernie Sanders? Go ahead, because you’re, you’re, you’re nodding oh, no. Bernie’s good.
LEBOVIT: Some of these things–I mean, did Roosevelt know he was going to have a WPA before he was elected? No, he–.
JAY: No, I think Roosevelt actually ran against such things. He ran for a balanced budget.
LEBOVIT: Exactly. So some of these things are organic and come along as they come along.
JAY: I’m saying if you’re talking about taking on climate change and reaching the kind of objectives scientists are telling us we must, we can’t keep doing business as usual.
LEBOVIT: Right. But, but we have to–.
JAY: And, and it’s a, it’s a real sea change that’s required.
LEBOVIT: True. But some of it has to come along slowly and organically. It can’t–I think that, and I think he also knows, that if he tries to go against these huge organizations immediately, all at once, that’s a slap in the face. We already know–I mean, when Obama came into, when President Obama came into office, after a while I could tell that he owed, he owed big business. He had, he had strings attached that were going to bring him down on some issues.
So I think maybe Bernie Sanders is trying to avoid some of that, and trying to gain coalitions. But the other thing is it’s a lot of, a lot of the people in some of these coalitions, all the, the Sierra clubs and the, and the National Resource Defense Council, and, and all these other organizations, have sort of been way on the left for a lot of people. And I think in order to get mainstream America to truly understand exactly what’s going on, and to go along with it, I think we, as people, because we are going to be involved in all of this, we’re not just going to elect a president and go home and say, hey, do your job, is, is that we have to–we have to go along with a lot of this so that it becomes understandable. Especially because a lot of, of other organizations are fighting so hard against this. So it has to be slow.
PLAMANDON: He’s always said that as president, he can’t do it alone. And that’s what this coalition is all about.
JAY: Mind you, President Obama said the same thing.
PLAMANDON: That’s when our work really begins, is once he gets elected, is that we are the ones that have got to go out and still wake people up, and get involved in whatever that little niche is that is our hot button, whether it be climate change, whether it be banking reform, whether it be, you know, childhood poverty. Whether it be the prison-industrial complex. We’ve all got to find our niches, and group together, just as Occupy did. We got into all of these little working groups after that, and we all went into our, into our specific little groups, and those areas that hit our hot buttons. And he says he can’t–he never said that he can do it all. He said he needs us. The work starts the day after he’s inaugurated.
JAY: I think you can hear from my questions, partly challenging you and partly I see there’s weaknesses, but it’s all in relation to what. So related in, to Hillary, it’s a no-brainer, frankly.
But there’s an area which isn’t so clear, and that’s foreign policy. And I’d like to know what you guys think about Bernie Sanders’ foreign policy. Who wants to go ahead?
DEAN YATES: Well, speaking as a, as a vet, and vet for Bernie, foreign policy’s very important to my constituents, or my fellow members of the vets. If you look at what Bernie has done in the past, he voted against Iraq in ’92, he voted against Iraq in ’93.
JAY: Voted for the bombing of Kosovo in ’99.
YATES: He did. He did. But he saw that as a genocide. There was genocide going on there, and he, he thought that that was, you know, more appropriate use of force in that situation, rather than–there was no, there was not going to be a diplomatic end to that situation in Kosovo. But he focuses on diplomacy. He said, he said straight all the way along, war should be the last thing that we should do. When it comes to the situation today, if we look around, you can look in the Middle East, you can look at ISIS, you can look at Syria and the millions of immigrants that have fled the threat of ISIS, and have spread across Europe, it’s a situation that the next president is going to have to deal with.
JAY: What do you make of his positions, for example, he essentially supports President Obama’s strategy in Afghanistan. He has supported the arming and various forces in Syria. And even moreso, I mean, I would think most, most people who analyze this with any objectivity would say that one of the forces for destabilization in the region, one of the greatest forces for destabilization, is Saudi Arabia. And yet he’s calling for Saudi troops and Qatari troops to intervene in Syria, whereas the Saudis and Qataris helped foment some of the worst Islamic extremism in Syria.
YATES: Well, you know him better than me on that. But what I get from what he’s saying, what Bernie is saying about Syria, is that he would, he wants the Muslims to carry the, carry the battle to the Muslims. I mean, it’s basically ISIS–.
JAY: But does that make sense to you? You’re asking the Saudi monarchy–because it’s not about Muslims, it’s about elites who are in power. And the Saudi monarchy has been, you know, has actually been helping create the Taliban, helping create al-Qaeda. Certainly in its early stages, and who knows what now. They’re very close to the, to Pakistan, who’s played a very negative role. I mean, he’s going to be commander in chief. And–.
YATES: I think it makes–.
JAY: And Jacob–who wants to–go ahead.
NEVERDON: Yeah. Also as a vet, my concern is, or what I applaud him on, is that his stance is, is that charity starts at home. So until we begin to fix our own issues that we have here, we can’t really lead the way where people are looking to us for strength. So when he’s making these tough choices and he’s voting in certain ways, and from what I follow, because I’m concerned from a military standpoint, is unfortunately in war, you have to make the, the choice of the lesser of all evils. What, one, gets as close to the objective or the mission at hand, and two, what’s the least amount of collateral damage that you incur as a result of how do we deal with this situation?
JAY: I understand what you’re saying, but I’m talking about something specific. He’s talking a lot about how the Saudis and the Qataris should put skin in the game and actually send troops into Syria. Well, in a sense they’ve got skin in the game. They’ve been financing a lot of these extremist groups in Syria, and helped to–I mean, frankly they helped turn what was beginning as a kind of a, a movement, Arab Spring kind of movement against Assad, they helped militarize it and turned this into such apocalyptic disaster for the Syrian people. And then you’re asking them to come in and help, and they’re going to be part of the solution.
NEVERDON: But the, the problem is, and just very briefly, is–the problem is is that any time that there’s money and influence, and there’s somebody who’s backing something, you can’t turn the hands in a direction that you might project what you think should happen. And I understand why he’s saying get some more skin in the game, because it’s like, we can’t constantly fight the battles of others forever. But the problem is is that once you get that, that wheel spinning, you can’t control those with [inaud.] influence that.
JAY: But it’s a little disingenuous. Because it’s not fighting the battles for others. This is a lot to do with the basic U.S. foreign policy since World War II, that the United States should be the dominant power in the region. And if that’s your underlying assumption, and everything flows form that, including a one-sided alliance with Israel and a completely one-sided support for the Saudis.
KRAVETZ: If you look at any opportunity that he has had to avoid, sort of, exploratory and interventionist warfare, especially at, as in the case with Iraq, where that was a large amount of corporate money and interest playing into increased profits, I mean, Saddam Hussein, honestly, did not–you know, there were many other ways to make America safer that did not involve–.
JAY: You can’t minimize that Hillary voted for the Iraq war, and he voted against. It’s a big, it’s a significant difference.
KRAVETZ: Right. And I think that if you look back at his YouTube videos of his statements on the floor of Congress, about when he voted against the Iraq war, that what he says in his analysis of how he made his decision was extremely telling as, as someone who’s extremely wise, and thinking through exactly what it means to get involved in another country, what it means to inflict violence upon other people, most of whom are not, you know, are not enemies of America or enemies of really anyone. They’re just like us, trying to live our lives. And you know, he examined all of the, you know, what was going to come next? What were going to be, you know, all of the fallout of this. And he recommended, you know, I think what we’re going to do is we’re going to be opening up a can of worms here. And if you look back and see, it’s almost chilling how prescient he was in terms of what the effects of the Iraq war were going to be in global politics.
So I think that he has a good understanding of when we try to make interventions that, you know, there are a lot of unintended consequences, and we need to be very careful in that. When it comes to, you know, battling ISIS, and–.
JAY: He’s been very reticent critiquing President Obama’s foreign policy, either in any of the–.
KRAVETZ: I think that in part that that comes to a little bit of unfortunate–I would like him to be more vocal about it. I think that it comes a little bit to pragmatism in that he takes a look at, you know, unfortunately sometimes when you criticize, you know, your sometime allies here, the other party is so completely hawkish and xenophobic that, you know, you don’t want to, you know, sacrifice the, you know, the enemy of perfect, right. You know, is not, is [good], right. So we want to keep, you know, things moving forward here, right.
JAY: But if I understand correctly, he, for example, has not critiqued the drone program.
KRAVETZ: I think that–I think that he thinks–. I would critique the drone program. I think that it is a better program than sending large-scale invasionary forces. I think that that is, you know, a worse policy.
JAY: But one of the things that’s the obvious–I hate to keep, to use the phrase, because it’s so overused, but the elephant in the room is Israel. If you keep maintaining the U.S. policy which is so one-sidedly in support of Israel, and even defend them at the times of these onslaughts against Gaza and the occupation and so on, you know, it’s, it’s part of what inflames the whole Arab world against the U.S. It’s clearly not the only thing, as some people suggest. But it’s certainly a significant one.
And President Obama, although, you know, had a departure with Netanyahu over Iran, and you know, the whole, the agreement, which Bernie Sanders supported, President Obama has described himself, and others have agreed, as a great friend of Israel. He’s done very little on the issue of Gaza or the occupation. And I have not heard from Bernie Sanders a real, a different position, really. And that, isn’t that part of really, if you want to get to a place where the Middle East is not filled with people that hate America, that’s one of the important steps.
STANLEY: When you talk about how his position has not really deviated from the current Obama administration–.
JAY: On these, on these specific things.
STANLEY: Well, I think particularly that’s just because the media has not really focused on that as much of an issue here. That’s not been the focus of Bernie’s campaign. I feel like the media has not really put that under that much of a scope.
JAY: On these specific things.
STANLEY: But to come down to it, yeah, there’s–that specific niche of foreign policy. Then I think–because it’s been mainly focused on ISIS, for example, with Iran.
JAY: You can’t disconnect ISIS from these issues, here.
STANLEY: No, no. I’m not saying we can. I’m just saying–I think when we’ve seen the evolution of Bernie’s policy, it’s been when obviously there’s more, like, a microscope under it. Bernie, given when he started his campaign didn’t have anywhere near as much political infrastructure as Secretary Clinton did. And so coming out with all this stuff takes time. And so if it comes under a spotlight, yes, it’ll be addressed, and that’s where we’ll see differences.
No one’s saying it’s perfect and no one said we were here, that we specifically came to Bernie for his foreign policy and for these solutions. I think we’re more attracted to him on other, what we think are more grandiose issues.
HAMILTON: I wanted to piggyback and say, too, you’ve got advisors. You’ve got people that you might say, well, I wanted to try this what do you think? But you make the ultimate decision.
STANLEY: But on that particularly, I think what we’ve seen of any of the candidates is what we think is best at the table. And if there are better solutions, such as the academics and the experts you cite, that come up with better solutions, then if they’re put forth to the table, I hope he adopts them.
JAY; But why, why aren’t, why aren’t you all more concerned about foreign policy issues?
HUNTLEY: I would say–you can’t deny it, Hillary Clinton does have more experience in foreign policy.
JAY: Yeah, as a, as a terrible hawk, but yes.
HUNTLEY: Yeah. That’s the thing. She has a lot more experience than Bernie. But experience is really different from judgment. Bernie was talking in Iowa the other day and he said, yes, Secretary Clinton had a lot more, of experience. She had more experience than me. Dick Cheney has a lot more foreign policy experience than me, too.
JAY: Okay, three final words, who wants to be one of the three for final, third word? More than three.
KRAVETZ: Well, I think a lot of it is that, you know, a lot of us are [A], and a lot of this conversation has been about Bernie and what we like about him, and how, you know, why we all want to support him. And I think that that’s a really big deal. But I also think that what Bernie has been pointing out and what some people here have alluded to is that he is a tip of an iceberg and he is a, he’s a figurehead that a lot of us are gathering around, a lot of true progressives are gathering around. But this is, if we want to make it real, you know, about a lot more than him.
And so I hope that, you know, win or lose, that this sort of progressive network and this grassroots action that we’ve been starting, you know, is going to then end up, you know, if he, if he wins the nomination and we go on, we’ll obviously be continuing to campaign for him and to campaign for these other, you know, people supporting Bernie’s agenda. But if he loses, you know, that just means we have to try twice as hard to make sure that all the other areas, you know, governor, local elections, state election, all 435 Congress seats are up. And you know, every single one of them needs to be fought over. And if Bernie gets elected and we don’t do that job, it’s going to be a Pyrrhic victory. And if he doesn’t get elected but we still fight and we still make large progress elsewhere, that will be, as he has said the whole time, the real point of this.
You know, I heard an interview with Donald Trump earlier where he said that if he loses the presidential election, all of this will have been, in his opinion, all of his efforts will have been for nothing. Right, truly exemplifying that this is all about his own self-aggrandizement. And you know, the feather in his cap of his career. You know, that’s what this is about for him.
SMITH-BROWN: Yes, thank you. I just want to say, you know, thank you to not only the Real News, but thank you to all of the supporters, especially that we have gotten. The reason that we’re here today is that we believe that change can take place, especially under the leadership of Senator Bernie Sanders. And we don’t just believe in words, we believe in action.
JAY: Okay. Thank you, everybody.
So that winds up this discussion with some supporters of Bernie Sanders. Thanks very much for joining us on the Real News Network.
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