Bernie Sanders can't go more than a day or two without decrying the malevolent influence that billionaires inflict on America's political system:
Today's aristocracy is an American billionaire class that has unprecedented economic and political influence over our lives.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) September 24, 2016
Which makes it all the more fun that the democratic socialist and Democratic Party presidential runner-up is the tip on billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer's spear aimed at Millennials flirting with the mortal sin of voting for Libertarian Gary Johnson over Democrat Hillary Clinton. The Hill reports today that Sanders is the Clinton campaign's main weapon in whipping young voters, while Steyer is the main moneybags:
NextGen Climate, the group run by liberal billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer, is on the ground in eight battleground states with a message that is almost exclusively aimed at reaching the millennial voters who are energized by the issue of climate change.
Last week, the group threw six figures behind digital ads mocking Johnson as a climate change denier and warning millennials that climate change will cost them trillions of dollars.
The charge that Johnson is a climate change denier is a clumsy lie—as he said Monday night when I asked him about climate policy, "Well, number one is we are concerned with global warming. I do think it's man-caused." But that's hardly the most amusing part of this scare-the-kids campaign. For instance, here's Bernie warning against, uh, a protest vote:
Given the crises we face—income inequality, climate change, student debt—this moment in history is not the time for a protest vote.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) September 25, 2016
As many of the Bernie-or-bust delegates at the Democratic National Convention told me, the Sanders movement to them was about a "revolution," not obediently following the chief revolutionary's political orders. That's why so many of those (almost universally young) delegates repeatedly booed their own hero, and reacted poorly to the party's heavy-handed attempts to keep them in line.
The new wave of lefty Libertarian-bashing also brings the unintended consequence of reminding young people (and the rest of us) how old and off-puttingly square Democrats can be. For instance, here's House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) shaking her fist at clouds over Gary Johnson's haircut:
"Do you think most people who have said they're going to be for the Libertarian because they like his hairstyle or whatever it is are going to stick with that?" Pelosi said at a briefing in her Capitol conference room. […]
Pelosi said the Future Forum, a group of House Democrats in their 30s led by Rep. Eric Swalwell of Dublin, has identified four big issues that young voters care about: climate change, college affordability, Wall Street reforms and money in elections.
Pelosi said Sanders emphasized all those issues in his campaign, while the Libertarian Party platform "is to shut down public schools, eliminate clean air, clean water and every kind of protection in terms of regulation, dismantle Social Security, dismantle Medicare."
And the biggest howler of all: That when not they're not busy eliminating clean air, those dastardly Libertarians are pushing the nation toward war, based on the mother of all Transitive Properties in Tim Kaine's Mind:
[V]ice presidential nominee Tim Kaine raised the specter of the Libertarians as spoilers in an interview with Yahoo's Katie Couric last week, arguing that there never would have been a war in Iraq if Nader hadn't cost Gore the election.
"Casting a vote, a protest vote, for a third-party candidate that's going to lose may well affect the outcome," Kaine warned. "It may well lead to a consequence that is deeply, deeply troubling. That's not a speculation — we've seen it in our country's history."
"That's not speculation," Tim Kaine says, speculating that even if you accept the disputed notion that Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the presidency, the hawkish Democrat would have reacted to the post-9/11 specter of a possibly re-arming Saddam Hussein by turning the other cheek. This is wishful thinking bordering on historical delusion.
Even Salon (circa 2011, anyway), ain't buying it. As senator, Gore goosed his political careeer by casting a decisive vote in favor of the Gulf War. In 1993, the then-vice wrote a letter to Iraqi National Congress (INC) leader Ahmed Chalabi, affirming the Clinton administration's support, backed by military force, of the Iraqi opposition:
I assure you that we will not turn our backs on the Kurds or the other Iraqi communities subjected to the repression of Saddam Hussein's regime.
Our policy toward Iraq is clear. We insist on full Iraqi compliance with all of tlie United Nations Security Council resolutions. This includes U.N. resolution 688, which demands an end to Iraq's repression of its people and highlights the plight of the Kurds. Since April 1991, coalition forces have protected the inhabitants of northern Iraq from Baghdad's repression, and the Administration is committed to continuing that effort. […]
Secretary Christopher, National Security Advisor Lake, and I a solid commitment to INC representatives in our meetings, and we pledged our support for a democratic alternative to the Saddam Hussein regime. I can assure you that the U.S. intends to live up to these commitments and to give whatever additional support we can reasonably provide to encourage you in your struggle for a democratic Iraq.
In 1996, when Republican nominee Bob Dole criticized Clinton for lobbing cruise missiles into Iraq, Gore retorted, "Sometimes the U.S. has to take unilateral action when our interests are at stake." In May 2000, speaking at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Conference, Gore bragged on being an Iraq hawk and stressed that "it is our policy to see Saddam Hussein gone":
In 1991, I broke with many in my own party and voted to use force to stop Saddam Hussein's aggression in the Middle East. I believe in bipartisanship, most of all when our national interests are at stake in foreign policy. Throughout my service in the House and Senate, as many of you know, I was frequently among the small group that tried to build bipartisan bridges to bring Democrats and Republicans together in support of policies that would promote what is in our nation's best interest.
Despite our swift victory and our efforts since, there is no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein still seeks to amass weapons of mass destruction. You know as well as I do that as long as Saddam Hussein stays in power there can be no comprehensive peace for the people of Israel or the people of the Middle East. We have made it clear that it is our policy to see Saddam Hussein gone.
We have sought coalitions of opponents to challenge his power. I have met with the Iraqi opposition and I have invited them to meet with me again next month, when I will encourage them to further unite in their efforts against Saddam.
We have maintained sanctions in the face of rising criticism, while improving the oil-for-food program to help the Iraqi people directly. We have used force when necessary, and that has been frequently. And we will not let up in our efforts to free Iraq from Saddam's rule. Should he think of challenging us, I would strongly advise against it. As a senator, I voted for the use of force, as vice president I supported the use of force. If entrusted with the presidency, my resolve will never waver. Never waver.
Does that sound like a guy who would give Saddam Hussein the benefit of the doubt in 2002? Of course not. For instance, here's where Al Gore was at in 2002:
In September of 2002, Al Gore, then still a possible Democratic presidential contender, warned of the perils of acting unilaterally against Iraq. He urged Bush to take his case to the Security Council and ask for a resolution demanding "prompt, unconditional compliance by Iraq within a definite period of time." And if the Security Council failed? "Other choices"—Gore meant force—"remain open." After all, "Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to completely deter, and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power."
Bush, of course, followed Gore's advice.
It is the height of chutzpah to warn Millennials that their preference for an intervention-skeptic over the Democratic Party's biggest hawk could somehow lead to more war, citing as his evidence a candidate who selected Joe Lieberman as a running mate. But then, Hillary Clinton is throwing David Brock and Peter Daou at her Millennials problem, so that's about the level of honesty that you can expect. The next few weeks should make for unintentionally hilarious reading in the left-of-center press.