Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders and the Liberal Hawks

A dove in the '80s, something more complicated since then


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The race for the Democratic nomination got a little livelier this week, as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders officially launched his presidential campaign. Sanders' challenge to frontrunner Hillary Clinton has focused on economic issues, not foreign policy, but it's been generally understood that he isn't the hawk that she is. She voted for the Iraq war in 2002; he voted against it. She led the charge into Libya in 2011; he was more cautious. Also, he's a self-proclaimed socialist, a guy who visited Nicaragua in the middle of the contra war to take a meeting with the Sandinista president. Rightly or wrongly, socialists are usually presumed to be foes of U.S. foreign policy.

In Sanders' case, that presumption was correct when he was mayor of Burlington in the 1980s. When he ran for Congress in 1990, though, he started striking a different note. As David Broder put it in August of that year:

Google News Archive

Sanders did indeed win it. Once in office he voted against the first Gulf War, so you might be tempted to write off those comments as election-year rhetoric: the sort of stuff a radical might mouth to persuade voters he's more "reasonable" and "moderate" than they assumed. But he generally backed Bill Clinton's interventions against Saddam—he voted for the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998, for example. And he endorsed the Kosovo war in 1999, a position that prompted 25 frustrated antiwar activists to occupy his office in Burlington.

Even under George W. Bush, Sanders' foreign policy positions showed a mix of hawkish and dovish impulses. (Over at today, Justin Raimondo is excoriating the Vermonter for a variety of his votes in this period, such as his support for the Iran Freedom Support Act.) Sanders has continued that mix in the Obama years—he opposed arming and training anti-ISIS fighters, for instance, but supported airstrikes in the region.

That record is far less interventionist than Hillary Clinton's. But it is entirely possible that a head-to-head debate between Sanders and another potential Democratic candidate, Jim Webb, would reveal that Webb is now more of a dove than his socialist rival. That would be a remarkable result, given that Webb was working for Ronald Reagan's Department of Defense while Sanders was hanging out with the Sandinistas. But that was in the 1980s, and the '80s were a long time ago.

NEXT: Christie Should Really Stop Bragging About That Time He Used the PATRIOT Act to Entrap an Idiot

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  1. With Sanders you get socialism mixed with unpredictable hawkishness? Count me in!

    1. A pox upon your house!!!

      Where, oh where is that fire breathing eagle?

      1. You will see it Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

  2. A socialist turns out to be more violent than previously suspected? How counterintuitive!

  3. So is Bernie’s plan to subtly make Americans appreciate Hillary more by being an even more frightening alternative?

    1. He doesn’t think that far in advance, Cupcake.

      He is just gross.

    2. I think you’re on to something.

      He and Hillary have done nothing but compliment each other through the press.

      1. They both make Dennis Hastert look like a viable choice. Ick.

  4. Such a confusing (dynamic!) man.
    Redistribution, deoderants, war.

    I’ll just vote for Ron Paul again.

  5. I would love it if Bernie Sanders was the Democratic nominee. We can only dream.

    He has NO chance of winning the nomination though.

  6. Between his rape fantasies and his spittle, the guy just gives me the heebie jeebies.

    1. My sentiments exactly.

      He can sound somewhat reasonable for being a commie’ fuckhead.. But at the same time the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when he speaks.

      Thank Jebus he has absolutely no shot at being president.

  7. Socialists ultimately are always hawks. Their idea of state is defined by its violence.

    But, it does appear to me to be mainly an our violence is good, their violence is bad (blue vs red) thing. With a few nuances I think his voting record is pro Dem violence all the way.

    I love the fact his campaign launch in which he blasted corporations, and especially how we waste our time with competition rather than creating wealth, specifically mentioning too many deodorants, was sponsored at least in part by Ben and Jerry’s, owned by Unilever, which is one of the world’s, if not the world’s, largest makers of deodorants.

    Guess who gets to make the one deodorant in his socialist utopia?

  8. Pat Paulsen had more intellect and importance than this smelly, stinky, filthy little leftist twerp that goes by the name of Sanders.

  9. Socialists, let’s be clear, have no problem with violence so long as it furthers their own agenda or narrative.

  10. Trotsky was no dove.

  11. Being against US foreign policy is not indicative of being anti-war. Meeting with communist dictators is less so.

    1. I was going to say much the same thing. The fact that a committed socialist was against an aggressive military stance toward the Soviet Union is hardly an indication that he has a deep and abiding commitment to peace.

  12. You know who else was a war-mongering “socialist”?

    1. Warty’s mom?

    2. Eugene V. Debs?

    3. Norman Thomas?

    4. (but yes, every statist believes in the violence of the state, by definition)

    5. Orwell?

    6. Every goddamn Pope for the last 2,000 years.

  13. The 20th C warmongers were progressive communists: Wilson, FDR, LBJ. They love the centralized government and all of its functions that keep the centralized planners busy by shitting all over free citizens with their rules, taxes, conscriptions, and regulations.

  14. Sanders-communist. Nothing complicated. Just because he may say or do something mainstream, is meaningless.

    Even a broken clock is on time twice a day. The article is an example of garbage, dressed up to look as though
    it’s worthy of debate.

  15. Isn’t this Bernie fellow a one time porno writer. Violent Rape writing can’t be seen as erotica by most non socialists.

  16. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.

    This is wha- I do…… ??????

  17. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ??????

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