This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, July 22, 2015:
The National Taxpayer Union rates the performance of Vermont’s Senator Bernie Sanders, candidate for the Democrat Party’s nomination for president in 2016, at a lowly five percent out of 100. The American Conservative Union rates his performance barely higher, at 6.2 out of 100.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) has rated Sanders over the years at between a C- and F. And this despite the NRA’s dalliance with Sanders in 1990 that put him into the House, replacing a RINO, Peter Smith.
Wayne LaPierre, vice president of the NRA, wrote to the group’s 12,000 Vermont faithful in 1990 that “Bernie Sanders is a more honorable choice for Vermont sportsmen than Peter Smith. It’s not about Peter Smith vs. Bernie Sanders. It’s about integrity in politics.”
Peter Smith, an elite Republican member of the House at the time, made a disastrous political error. Having promised the NRA that he would oppose the “assault weapons” bill pending in Congress, he changed his mind. To punish him and make him an example for others, the NRA adopted the approach: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. It was enough to propel Sanders from relative obscurity as mayor of Burlington to a member of the House of Representatives.
It was to be only a one-term victory, if the NRA had its way. It promised to remove him in two years. They didn’t listen to Smith’s campaign manager, however, who said that once in, Sanders was savvy enough to stay in. Said Judy Shailor: “You won’t get him out. He’s one of the best master politicians I’ve ever come across.”
In a state with such divided loyalties as Vermont, Sanders became an Independent, calling himself a “democratic socialist,” leaving him free of labels and boxes that would otherwise inhibit his policies and his votes. One of only two states to vote against Franklin Roosevelt in all four of his presidential campaigns, Republicans dominated Vermont’s politics from 1854 until the mid-1970s.
Since then it has become one of the most reliably blue states in the union. In 2013 it became the 17th state to decriminalize marijuana, while in 2014 it was the first state to call for a constitutional convention to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United. That same year it also became the first state to require GMO labeling.
It is also known for being the state that allows its citizens to carry sidearms without first obtaining a permit, known nationally as “Vermont carry” or “Constitutional carry.”
To get that critical support from the NRA while catering to gun owners who have cherished that right since Vermont was established in 1791, Sanders promised to vote against the Brady Bill. True to his word, Sanders voted against the Brady Bill being offered in Congress. Five times!
This put him on Mark Joseph Stern’s watch list. Writing for Slate in May, Stern said that Democrats “should remember that the Vermont senator stands firmly to [Hillary] Clinton’s right on one issue of overwhelming importance to the Democratic base: gun control.”
Stern took Sanders to task not only for voting against the Brady Bill but for voting in favor of the NRA-backed Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act that protects gun makers and dealers from liability if firearms made or sold by them are used criminally. Stern called it “one of the most noxious pieces of pro-gun legislation ever passed.”
This naturally delighted Damon Root of Reason magazine who called Sanders the real “gun nut” in the race for the Democratic nomination for president. When Martin O’Malley’s political machine, driven by his Generation Forward PAC, launched an attack ad, Politifact checked it out and concluded that its claim – “Bernie Sanders voted against the Brady Bill, background checks, and waiting periods.” – was Mostly True.
This has enraged progressives who would like to label Sanders as one of their own. After all, Sanders toes the progressive line, at least most of the time. For instance, Sanders has bought the line of “excessive wealth inequality” in the country, calling the once-free market now a “rigged economy” that “just doesn’t belong to a handful of billionaires.” Accordingly he supports repeal of some of the tax deductions favored by the highest-income Americans and raising the capital gains tax rate on those same Americans.
He favors breaking up the biggest banks, saying in a politically savvy sound byte: “If an institution is too big to fail, it is too big to exist.”
He supports the concept of state-owned major industries to be controlled by workers’ councils. He wants to expand student loans. His bill, College for All Act, would use a 50-cent tax on every $100 of stock trades to fund free public funding for college students.
He has bought the “green” lie about global warming to the extent that he co-sponsored, with California Democrat Senator Barbara Boxer the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act in 2007, and won the top-rated senator award in the 113th Congress from Climate Hawks Vote.
He wants to eliminate the construction of new nuclear power plants and supports the DISCLOSE Act in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United.
On trade, however, he has opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which he called “a continuation of other disastrous trade agreements, like NAFTA, CAFTA, and permanent normal trade relations with China.”
And on foreign policy he tries to straddle that elusive middle ground, calling ISIS a “barbaric organization” and a “growing threat” to the United States, but opposing what he calls “perpetual war” in the Middle East to thwart and neutralize it.
But he thinks the surveillance state is out of control:
In my view, the NSA is out of control and operating in an unconstitutional manner. I worry very much about kids growing up in a society where they think “I’m not going to talk about this issue, read this book, or explore this idea because someone may think I’m a terrorist.” That is not the kind of free society I want for our children.
He wants more government control over businesses by mandating that they provide paid vacations and paid maternity leave for both parents, along with similar paid breaks given to workers suffering from cancer or other serious health issues. He cosponsored a bill that would force employers to grant their employees at least seven paid sick days a year in the event of a short-term sickness, to take care of routine medical care, or to care for a sick family member.
As a Jew, Sanders even has trouble sorting out right from wrong in the Middle East. Regarding attacks on Israel by Hamas in 2014, Sanders said:
This is a very depressing and difficult issue. This has gone on for 60 bloody years. If you’re asking me, do I have a magical solution? I don’t.
And when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Congress, Sanders was the first to decline to attend, saying:
I am not a great fan of President Netanyahu … I think in that region, sadly, on both sides, I don’t think we have the kind of leadership that we need.
His effort to walk the line between opposing interests was best expressed when he explained his support of the NRA-backed Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act:
If somebody has a gun and it falls into the hands of a murderer and the murderer kills somebody with [it], do you hold the gun manufacturer responsible? Not any more than you would hold a hammer company responsible if somebody beats somebody [else] over the head with [it].
We have millions of people who are gun owners in this country – 99.9 percent of those people obey the law. I want to see real serious debate and action on guns, but it is not going to take place if we simply have extreme positions on both sides.
I think I can bring us to the middle.
Middle? Or muddle? With no guiding light for his policies, no fixed star, and certainly no reference to the Constitution which he swore to uphold and defend, it’s no wonder observers can’t peg him or label him. He is, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”
That’s why the Freedom Index, which rates members of Congress on the basis of how closely they hew, or don’t, to the dictates and limitations of the Constitution, shows Sanders with a rating of just 26 out of 100.
Slate: Bernie Sanders, Gun Nut