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Backing up Bernie

In every debate, Hillary brings up two things that i know are wrong, but that Bernie never pushes back on. I've come to understand that Bernie sees the debates as an opportunity to give his stump speech on a national stage, and that's understandable given the format of the debates, but at the same time i wish he was better at the back-and-forth. Since these things have come up multiple times already, Bernie ought to be ready with the obvious response, and i have to think that someone in his campaign has brought it to his attention, if he didn't know/remember these things himself. So it may be that he thinks it's not worth getting into a back-and-forth (the "if you're explaining, you're losing" philosophy) and he'd rather talk in broad strokes. And frankly it seems to be working for him better than i would have ever expected, so who am i to criticize? But given that i have infinite space here, i thought i might as well lay these things out.

The first is the fact that Bernie did vote in favor of one bill that deregulated Wall Street. Hillary is referring to the Commodity Futures Modernization Act. This is a bullshit gotcha from Hillary in several ways. First point is that when Bernie voted in favor of the CFMA, it wasn't the bill that it eventually turned into:

When Sanders voted for the House version of the CFMA in October 2000, the bill was not yet a total debacle for Wall Street accountability advocates. The legislative text Sanders supported was clearly designed to curtail regulatory oversight. The GOP-authored bill was crafted as a response to a proposal from ex-Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chair Brooksley Born to ramp up oversight of derivatives. But the version Sanders initially voted for was more benign than the final, Gramm-authored version...

Then, after the vote, the bill was changed in committee by top Clinton administration officials, especially Goldman Sachs bankster Gary Gensler, who is now the Chief Financial Officer of the Hillary Clinton campaign. Sanders then voted again for the bill when it was part of a giant must pass omnibus budget bill, and he made his displeasure about it known at the time and repeatedly since then (including when Obama appointed Gensler to a position in his administration).

It is incredibly audacious of Hillary to attack Bernie on this when it was her husband and her current CFO that pulled what was essentially a dirty trick to get the language they wanted into the bill, after the vote. And that's why it's extremely frustrating to me to see Bernie not push back on this. But i guess the history is kind of convoluted and inside baseball, and i console myself with the fact that it seems extremely unlikely that the average debate viewer will buy the idea that Sanders is weak on Wall Street regulation.

The second thing regards the debates about Glass-Steagall. Sanders fought against it when the Clinton administration repealed that law, and now he's proposing re-establishing a 21st century Glass-Steagall. The bill he has in mind is in fact Elizabeth's Warren's bill (which is also sponsored by John McCain, a nice example of the reaching across the isle that Bernie is supposed to be incapable of). And this bill absolutely includes addressing what is known as "shadow banking". But every time Bernie brings this up, Hillary pretends like he's talking about re-instating the 1933 version of the law with no adjustments, and then talks about her idea is better because she would address the real problem of shadow banking. Which of course the Warren/Sanders bill would as well. And what's really weird is how Hillary uses this as a deflection against re-instating any version of Glass-Steagall. So it just seems like a dodge. If Hillary were serious, she should sign on to the Warren/Sanders bill. Instead it just sounds like an excuse to me. But Bernie never calls her on it, or agrees that shadow banking needs to be addressed as well.

I've seen multiple pundits suggest that viewers' eyes glaze over at the mention of Glass-Steagall and shadow banking, so again Bernie may have the right approach in just sticking to a broad "break up the big banks" and let Hillary lose herself in minutiae. I acknowledge that i'm watching the debates from a different perspective than most voters, and what i'm looking for is probably irrelevant point scoring to the average person. But at least i can get these things off my chest here.

(One area where i definitely think Bernie needs to brush up is on foreign policy. Max Fisher at Vox makes an interesting argument that Bernie can afford to not invest much in foreign policy at the moment, but Bernie has to at least be able to answer a question on Afghanistan without somehow talking about Iraq instead.)

By fnord12 | February 5, 2016, 11:43 AM | Liberal Outrage


my brain starts shutting down when Clinton starts talking. i can't listen to someone who can talk for 10 minutes about NOT THE QUESTION! and when i do hear her, she's mostly repeating the wrong definition of "progressive".

Thanks for this. NPR only mentioned that he "now regrets" the vote, not the details about how the bill changed and how it got passed. (They did mention its overwhelming support in the House)

Min, historically "progressive" has meant everything from "liberal" to "supporter of Joseph Stalin". I'm not sure if there IS a wrong definition.