San­ders takes heat for so­cial­ist views

New front-run­ner tar­geted by Clin­ton al­lies, Repub­li­cans

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY S.A. MILLER

Welcome to the big leagues. Sen. Bernard San­ders is start­ing to feel that heat that comes with lead­ing the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial race in the key early states, with ri­vals from both par­ties slam­ming him for pro­mot­ing so­cial­ist views that they say are too far left for Amer­ica.

Mr. San­ders, a Ver­mont in­de­pen­dent who de­scribes him­self as a so­cial­ist but cau­cuses with the Democrats in the U.S. Se­nate, has been tar­geted for be­ing a left­ist both by a su­per PAC al­lied with ri­val Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton and by can­di­dates on the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial de­bate stage last week.

Cor­rect the Record, a su­per PAC run by long­time Clin­ton hench­man David Brock, cir­cu­lated an email high­light­ing Mr. San­ders’ praise of the late Venezue­lan strong­man Hugo Chavez and liken­ing the sen­a­tor to far-left U.K. politi­cian Jeremy Cor­byn, who re­cently was elected leader of the La­bor Party de­spite hav­ing, among other things, called for the abo­li­tion of Bri­tain’s mil­i­tary.

At the GOP de­bate in Cal­i­for­nia, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jin­dal and for­mer Arkansas Gov. Mike Huck­abee both made ref­er­ences to Mr. San­ders’ so­cial­ism.

Mr. Jin­dal, whose low poll num­bers rel­e­gated him to the early “kid’s ta­ble” de­bate, won­dered at Mr. San­ders’ surge in the Demo­cratic race de­spite his so­cial­ist la­bel.

“They have got a so­cial­ist that is gain­ing on Hil­lary Clin­ton. Folks, you can’t make that up. A so­cial­ist is do­ing well in the Demo­cratic pri­mary,” he said.

More than the Repub­li­can jibes, the at­tacks from Mrs. Clin­ton’s al­lies marked a new phase in the con­test be­tween the for­mer sec­re­tary of state and Mr. San­ders, who pre­vi­ously had care­fully avoided per­sonal at­tacks on each other.

San­ders cam­paign spokesman Michael Briggs said they were ready for the fight to es­ca­late.

“We un­der­stand this is the big leagues — this is hard­ball,” said Mr. Briggs. “I wouldn’t say we ex­pected it be­cause we are dis­ap­pointed. But it is what it is, and we’ll go with it.”

In­deed, Mr. San­ders quickly moved to use the at­tack to his ad­van­tage.

He re­sponded to the su­per PAC at­tack with a fundrais­ing email, net­ting $1.2 mil­lion within 48 hours of ask­ing sup­port­ers to help him fight back against “ugly, neg­a­tive cam­paign­ing.”

“I hope that sends a very clear mes­sage that the Amer­i­can peo­ple are sick and tired of pol­i­tics as usual and neg­a­tive cam­paign­ing,” Mr. San­ders said in an email thank­ing his sup­port­ers.

Mr. San­ders, who is beat­ing Mrs. Clin­ton in the polls in early-vot­ing states Iowa and New Hamp­shire, has re­fused to ac­cept sup­port from su­per PACs or do­na­tions from cor­po­rate mon­ey­men. He used the at­tack by Cor­rect the Record to draw a stark con­trast be­tween the po­lit­i­cal revo­lu­tion he wants to lead and the es­tab­lish­ment can­di­dacy of Mrs. Clin­ton.

“Frankly what the Clin­ton Su­per PAC is do­ing is noth­ing new. It’s the same-old, same-old neg­a­tive pol­i­tics that has gone on for years: throw mud and hope some of it sticks,” wrote Mr. San­ders.

“We are fight­ing for a dif­fer­ent kind of pol­i­tics. In­stead of hurl­ing dis­hon­est or out-of-con­text charges, we are try­ing to run an is­sue-ori­ented cam­paign — fo­cus­ing on the most im­por­tant con­cerns of the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” he said.

The email at­tack by Cor­rect the Record high­lighted some of the more in­flam­ma­tory com­ments by Mr. Cor­byn, such as his re­mark that the killing of Osama bin Laden was “a tragedy” be­cause he wasn’t af­forded a trial, and his pledge to in­vite his “friends” from the ter­ror­ist group Hezbol­lah to dis­cuss Mid­dle East peace.

It pointed to a news­pa­per op-ed penned by Mr. Cor­byn that char­ac­ter­ized the West as the vil­lain in con­fronta­tions with Rus­sia, say­ing the North At­lantic Treaty Or­ga­ni­za­tion’s “at­tempt to en­cir­cle Rus­sia is one of the big threats of our time.”

The pro-Clin­ton group then cited “sim­i­lar­i­ties” be­tween Mr. Cor­byn and Mr. San­ders, in­clud­ing Mr. San­ders’ pro­posal to end the U.S. nu­clear weapons pro­gram and his op­po­si­tion to NATO ex­pan­sion into for­mer Soviet coun­tries.

As for his con­nec­tion to Mr. Chavez, Mr. San­ders in 2006 helped ne­go­ti­ate a deal with Venezuela’s na­tional oil com­pany to pro­vide dis­counted heat­ing oil to low-in­come fam­i­lies in Ver­mont.

Mr. San­ders has never shied from his so­cial­ist lean­ings and mounted a pres­i­den­tial run with a lib­eral agenda, in­clud­ing call­ing for steeper tax­a­tion on the wealthy and break­ing the grip of bil­lion­aires on the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem.

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