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Bernie’s Pro-Sandinista Past Is a Problem, and His Response Is Not Good

Bernie’s Pro-Sandinista Past Is a Problem, and His Response Is Not Good

A still from CCTV’s video of Bernie Sanders’s press conference about a trip to Nicaragua in 1985.
Photo: Screenshot via CCTV

A week ago, the New York Times reported on Bernie Sanders’s 1980s-vintage foreign-policy stands, which at times crossed over from mere opposition to American policy to outright support for communist governments. Sanders initially refused to speak with the reporters, but after the article appeared, he called one of them and gave an extremely crusty interview. Now he has a video framing the issue, which he says is about “my opposition to war” and refusal to apologize for his opinions.

Any politician is going to frame issues selectively, but Sanders is presenting a spin on the controversy so selective it completely fails to convey any of the points relevant to the controversy.

During the 1980s, the Reagan administration was giving military aid to the Contras, a right-wing guerrilla insurgency attacking the Nicaraguan government. Most Democrats opposed aiding the Contras while still deploring the communist Nicaraguan government.

The Times shows that Sanders went well beyond mere opposition to funding the war. He wrote to Sandinista leaders that American news media had not “reflected fairly the goals and accomplishments of your administration.” On a visit to the country, he attended a Sandinista celebration at which the crowd chanted, “Here, there, everywhere, the Yankee will die,” and complained that American reporters ignored “the truth” about Nicaragua’s government, telling a CBS reporter, “You are worms.”

This is all highly relevant to his presidential campaign. It not only sheds light on his foreign-policy thinking but also illustrates the sorts of attacks Sanders would face in a general election, if nominated. Given that he identifies as a democratic socialist and promises radical change, his defensive comments about a communist regime would help Republicans paint him in the most extreme light.

In his post-publication interview, Sanders largely refused to explain these comments. Instead, he berated the reporter, Sydney Ember, with insinuations that she lacks a basic factual understanding of the issues.

Ember: In the top of our story, we talk about the rally you attended in Managua and a wire report at the time said that there were anti-American chants from the crowd.

Sanders: The United States at that time — I don’t know how much you know about this — was actively supporting the Contras to overthrow the government. So that there’s anti-American sentiment? I remember that, I remember that event very clearly.

Ember: You do recall hearing those chants? I think the wire report has them saying, “Here, there, everywhere, the Yankee will die.”

Sanders: They were fighting against American — Huh huh — yes, what is your point?

Ember: I wanted to —

Sanders: Are you shocked to learn that there was anti-American sentiment?

Ember: My point was I wanted to know if you had heard that.

Sanders: I don’t remember, no. Of course there was anti-American sentiment there. This was a war being funded by the United States against the people of Nicaragua. People were being killed in that war.

Ember: Do you think if you had heard that directly, you would have stayed at the rally?

Sanders: I think Sydney, with all due respect, you don’t understand a word that I’m saying.

Ember is asking a pertinent factual question: Did Sanders hear the “Yankees will die” chant? His response to this question is to insist she is unaware of major historical events in the region, events she had just written a long New York Times story touching on and surely knew about.

Sanders again deflected questions about his praise for Ortega and accusing Ember of factual ignorance:

Ember: Do you believe you had an accurate view of President Ortega at the time? I’m wondering if you’re —

Sanders: This was not about Ortega. Do you understand? I don’t know if you do or not. Do you know that the United States overthrew the government of Chile way back? Do you happen to know that? Do you? I’m asking you a simple question.

Ember was questioning him aggressively. But she was not demanding he apologize. Nor was the questioning focused on his opposition to war, which most Democrats at the time shared. Is Sanders’s plan for dealing with attacks on these statements, if he’s nominated, to change the subject and lash out at the media? That doesn’t seem like a great plan.

Bernie Sanders’s Pro-Sandinista Past Is a Problem

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the national interest

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Bernie Sanders’s Pro-Sandinista Past Is a Problem

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He says he won’t apologize for opposing war. Fine, that’s not the issue.

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Trump wants to get rid of environmental regulations and the underlying climate science that informs U.S. policy

In the next few months, the White House will complete the rollback of the most significant federal effort to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, initiated during the Obama administration. It will expand its efforts to impose Mr. Trump’s hard-line views on other nations, building on his retreat from the Paris accord and his recent refusal to sign a communiqué to protect the rapidly melting Arctic region unless it was stripped of any references to climate change.

And, in what could be Mr. Trump’s most consequential action yet, his administration will seek to undermine the very science on which climate change policy rests.

Parts of the federal government will no longer fulfill what scientists say is one of the most urgent jobs of climate science studies: reporting on the future effects of a rapidly warming planet and presenting a picture of what the earth could look like by the end of the century if the global economy continues to emit heat-trapping carbon dioxide pollution from burning fossil fuels.

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Among some of these officials, that libertarian demand for medical freedom has displaced the traditional GOP view that it’s a civic responsibility to immunize your kids to prevent the spread of disease. As more politicians take an anti-mandate stand, some end up adopting bogus theories about the supposed harms of vaccination — threatening to roll back one of public health’s great achievements.

There’s something out there

The strange objects, one of them like a spinning top moving against the wind, appeared almost daily from the summer of 2014 to March 2015, high in the skies over the East Coast. Navy pilots reported to their superiors that the objects had no visible engine or infrared exhaust plumes, but that they could reach 30,000 feet and hypersonic speeds.

“These things would be out there all day,” said Lt. Ryan Graves, an F/A-18 Super Hornet pilot who has been with the Navy for 10 years, and who reported his sightings to the Pentagon and Congress. “Keeping an aircraft in the air requires a significant amount of energy. With the speeds we observed, 12 hours in the air is 11 hours longer than we’d expect.”

In late 2014, a Super Hornet pilot had a near collision with one of the objects, and an official mishap report was filed. Some of the incidents were videotaped, including one taken by a plane’s camera in early 2015 that shows an object zooming over the ocean waves as pilots question what they are watching.

“Wow, what is that, man?” one exclaims. “Look at it fly!”

Two dead, dozens injured after EF3 tornado hits Oklahoma

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That backfired

Just before Memorial Day weekend, the U.S. Army asked its Twitter followers how serving in the military has impacted their lives.

The tweet was part of a thread that included videos of Pfc. Nathan Spencer, a scout with the Army’s First Infantry Division sharing how the Army has positively influenced his life.

The call-out attracted nearly 10,000 replies, some of which echo Spencer’s remarks expressing pride in his service. But many of the responses illuminate the issues faced by those who serve including post-traumatic stress disorder, veteran suicide and life-long health problems.

“I am a Navy vet, I was a happy person before I served, now I am broke apart, cant even work a full 30 days due to anxiety and depression,” one tweet read. “I am in constant pain everyday.”

Mixed results in European parliamentary elections

Europeans dealt a blow to the continent’s traditional center-left and center-right politicians in elections for the European Parliament on Sunday, depriving them of a majority for the first time in favor of a fractured slate of pro-E.U. lawmakers, with small gains for the far-right.

Voters turned out in droves — the highest participation in 25 years — for the opportunity to take a shot at the parties that have steered Europe’s consensus-driven policies for decades.

Far-right leaders were on track for their best Europe-wide result ever, but it was only an incremental gain over their result from 2014, suggesting that despite years of tumult, voters might not be ready to give up on the European Union, or to embrace leaders who want to weaken it from within. Voters boosted Greens and other pro-European Union leftists, showing that voters who abandoned traditional parties were searching for new blood, but not a full-scale political revolution.

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And it only took almost four years

President Trump’s tweets don’t pack the punch they did at the outset of his presidency. His Twitter interaction rate — a measure of the impact given how much he tweets and how many people follow him — has tumbled precipitously, according to data from CrowdTangle. …

Trump’s interaction rate has fallen from 0.55% in the month he was elected to 0.32% in June 2017 — and down to 0.16% this month through May 25. (The metric measures retweets and likes per tweet divided by the size of his following.)

Trump’s lines of attack have been repeated so much that they don’t shock anymore, says Toronto Star Washington bureau chief Daniel Dale. …

While the number of interactions per tweet Trump generates has increased 21% between his first six months and most recent six months, it lags way behind his follower growth of 110%. And he’s tweeting more, which could make any individual tweet less likely to stand out.

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The declining interest in visiting the South’s Civil War battlefields

The National Park Service’s five major Civil War battlefield parks—Gettysburg, Antietam, Shiloh, Chickamauga/Chattanooga and Vicksburg—had a combined 3.1 million visitors in 2018, down from about 10.2 million in 1970, according to park-service data. Gettysburg, in Pennsylvania, the most famous battle site, had about 950,000 visitors last year, just 14% of how many it had in 1970 and the lowest annual number of visitors since 1959. Only one of these parks, Antietam, in Maryland, saw an increase from 1970. …

The number of Civil War re-enactors, hobbyists who meet to re-create the appearance of a particular battle or event in period costume, also is declining. They are growing too old or choosing to re-enact as Vietnam War soldiers or cowboys, said Mr. Varnell, 49 years old. …

More recent history is also damping interest, said Kevin Levin, author of a coming book on the war. The fatal 2015 shooting of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., by a white man who had embraced the Confederate battle flag and the 2017 white-nationalist rally around a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Va., has transformed how people view Confederate imagery and, in turn, Civil War-related historic sites. …

Now, some museums and historical sites are working to draw a broader audience—younger visitors as well as more minorities and women—by telling a more complete story about the great conflict. Once underplayed subjects, such as slavery’s role in causing the war, are getting more prominence, with new exhibits in Richmond, Va., Atlanta and elsewhere.

Why the Trump administration’s bad-faith legal arguments will backfire with federal judges

The Achilles heel of Trump’s strategy is that his extreme positions are not fact-specific or nuanced and are easily disposed of as legally groundless. Judge Mehta specifically noted that the “legal issues presented do not require the court to resolve any fact contests because the material facts are not in dispute.” Because Trump challenged the very right of Congress to investigate these matters, the only facts the court needed to consider were basic facts that no one could possibly dispute.

That stands in stark contrast to prior disputes between the executive branch and Congress. For example, the dispute over certain materials subpoenaed by Congress in its investigation of Operation Fast and Furious resulted in litigation that took eight years to resolve. But the Obama administration did not take the categorical, aggressive approach that Trump has. Obama’s Justice Department produced some witnesses and documents and fought over other documents over which it claimed privilege. …

No court is going to rule that the Executive Branch can categorically refuse to produce evidence and witnesses from a criminal investigation of the president of the United States from the House of Representatives.

Trump’s team no doubt believes that once their initial arguments fail, they will advance more nuanced arguments that seek to protect only a limited subset of material from disclosure. But as any experienced litigator knows, a judge’s impression of a party’s position is influenced by the history of the litigation. Because Trump’s lawyers have not even paid lip service to our constitutional system at the outset, judges will be less inclined to take seriously their arguments later on. In addition, the decisions issued by judges denying Trump’s challenges will influence other judges who consider similar challenges brought by Trump to other Congressional subpoenas.

Goodbye to all that, U.S. Senate edition

“This place is definitely broken,” said Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico and a longtime advocate of government reform who surprisingly announced in March that he would not seek a third term in 2020 in his solidly blue state.

In assessing his political future, Mr. Udall said he had become convinced that he could do more to advance his progressive ideas on climate change, war powers and a comprehensive electoral overhaul by skipping another two years of relentless re-election fund-raising. Instead, he said, he intends to redouble his efforts in those areas in hopes of setting the stage for big changes should Democrats prevail next year, even though he won’t be back in the Senate himself.

“You don’t necessarily have to be there to see that they are completed,” he said.

Mr. Udall’s decision to not run again, discussed in an interview on Wednesday, showed how the gridlock infecting Congress and the wide political divisions in the country can frustrate even the most experienced lawmakers and make them rethink their careers. It also illustrates how overwhelming and time-consuming fund-raising for multimillion-dollar races can be, leaving lawmakers little opportunity for the work they are supposed to be doing.

When he announced his own retirement this month, Senator Michael B. Enzi, a 75-year-old Wyoming Republican who is the chairman of the Budget Committee, said he would rather spend his remaining time in the Senate working on budget issues than campaigning.

The Republicans have a long way to go when it comes to recruiting and supporting female candidates

GOP consultants and candidates acknowledge their recruitment and resources lag far behind Democrats. And no centralized group exists to provide hiring advice, social media guidance, press training, or messaging tactics to candidates. Democrats, on the other hand, have the behemoth EMILY’s List network, as well as groups focused on recruiting immigrants, women of color, female veterans and more.

“The support structure needs to be more than the idea that you can get some PAC dollars from random PACs out there,” [former North Carolina House candidate Leigh Brown] said. “I didn’t know how to hire. I’m an outsider to this.”

Republicans are not blind to the problem. A growing number of outside GOP groups are dedicated to boosting female candidates since the House GOP’s official campaign arm doesn’t play in primaries. “Winning for Women” launched a new super PAC in response to the devastating losses Republicans suffered in 2018.

A troubling story out of Germany

Per the Guardian:

Germany’s government commissioner on antisemitism has suggested Jews should not always wear the traditional kippah cap in public, in the wake of a spike in anti-Jewish attacks.

“I cannot advise Jews to wear the kippah everywhere, all the time, in Germany,” Felix Klein said in an interview published Saturday by the Funke regional press group. The remarks were criticised by the Israeli president as representing a “capitulation” to antisemitism.

In issuing the warning, Klein said he had “alas, changed my mind compared to previously”.

Antisemitic attacks are on the rise in a number of European countries, and a survey of Jewish people across the European Union carried out in December found 89% of Jews feel antisemitism has increased in their country over the past decade, while 85% believed it to be a serious problem. Antisemitic hate crimes rose by 20% in Germany last year, according to interior ministry data, which blamed nine out of ten cases on the extreme right. There were 62 violent antisemitic attacks, compared to 37 in 2017. France has also seen a spike in violent incidents.

The advice is earning criticism, however, including from the U.S. ambassador, per the Jerusalem Post:

The US government’s most high-profile ambassador in Europe, Richard Grenell, said Jews in Germany should not conceal their religious identity, and urged them to wear kippot in defiance of a statement from Germany’s commissioner to combat antisemitism that Jews should avoid wearing kippot in public.

“The opposite is true,” tweeted Grenell, the US ambassador to Germany. “Wear your kippa. Wear your friend’s kippa. Borrow a kippa and wear it for our Jewish neighbors. Educate people that we are a diverse society.” …

Julie Lenarz, a London-based expert on antisemitism, wrote in response to Klein’s announcement: “This policy punishes victims and rewards perpetrators. Instead, Germany should issue an unequivocal warning to those who threaten Jewish life – far Right, far Left, or Islamist.”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told The Jerusalem Post by email: “Unacceptable, Germany! Jews should never be relegated to second-class citizens. Stand with your Jewish neighbors, punish antisemitism from the extreme far Right, far Left and Islamist.”

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A federal judge has temporarily blocked part of President Trump’s plan to build a wall along the southern border with money Congress never appropriated for that purpose. …

Gilliam wrote that the government’s position “that when Congress declines the Executive’s request to appropriate funds, the Executive may simply find a way to spend those funds ‘without Congress’ does not square with fundamental separation of powers principles dating back to the earliest days of our Republic.”

The law the administration invoked to shift funds allows transfers for “unforeseen” events. Gilliam said the government’s claim that wall construction was “unforeseen” “cannot logically be squared” with Trump’s many demands for funding dating back to early 2018 and even in the campaign. … About $1 billion has been moved from military pay and pension accounts, transfers that Gilliam ruled against Friday, but no money has been transferred from the emergency military construction fund for which the president declared a state of emergency in February.

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