Bernie Sanders is firing back after an obviously panicked pro-Clinton super PAC launched a smear campaign against the rising Independent challenger.
The Huffington Post received an email from pro-Clinton super PAC Correct The Record that tried to connect Sanders to dictators and terrorists:
The email, sent to a Huffington Post reporter in response to an article about Corbyn and Sanders without any agreement that it would be off the record, was meant to flag Corbyn’s “most extreme comments.” Among those was the suggestion that the assassination of Osama bin Laden was “a tragedy,” since there was no attempt to arrest the former al Qaeda leader and put him on trial. The email also cites Corbyn’s comment that he’d invite his “friends” from Hezbollah to come to the U.K. to discuss peace in the Middle East and an editorial in which he said that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s “attempt to encircle Russia is one of the big threats of our time.”
The more serious stretch comes as the email highlights how Sanders helped negotiate a program with Venezuela’s national oil company in 2006 that provided discounted heating oil assistance to low-income Vermonters. The senator said it was “not a partisan issue,” in the state, which was the sixth to make the deal. His support for the program was apparently enough to merit a mention since Corbyn has written that the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez’s “electoral democratic credentials are beyond reproach.”
Sen. Sanders responded with an email to supporters, “Yesterday, one of Hillary Clinton’s most prominent Super PACs attacked our campaign pretty viciously. They suggested I’d be friendly with Middle East terrorist organizations, and even tried to link me to a dead communist dictator. It was the kind of onslaught I expected to see from the Koch Brothers or Sheldon Adelson, and it’s the second time a billionaire Super PAC has tried to stop the momentum of the political revolution we’re building together.”
Sanders campaign spokesperson Michael Briggs said, “It is disappointing that Secretary Clinton’s super PAC is spreading disinformation about Bernie,” Briggs wrote. “This is exactly the kind of politics that Bernie is trying to change. To equate bringing home heating oil to low-income Vermonters with support for the Chavez government is dishonest.”
This type of attack against Sen. Sanders is a sign of panic over falling poll numbers, and it is worst strategy imaginable for defeating Bernie Sanders. The Democratic candidates had been running a campaign based on the issues. It was refreshing that neither side went negative on the other.
If the argument is going to be that Bernie Sanders is too far to the left for a Democratic Party that has been moving left over the last seven years, that discussion won’t end well for Clinton’s super PAC supporters. Democrats are interested in Sanders because he is a pure fighter for the left.
The facts are that Sen. Sanders isn’t much more to the left than Hillary Clinton. While they were in the Senate together, Clinton and Sanders voted the same way 93% of the time, but the differences were big. The two candidates differed on an immigration reform bill, continuing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and bank bailouts.
The Negative campaign tactics will likely backfire and make Sen. Sanders more popular with Democratic voters. Democrats deserve better than negative smear campaigns. The Democratic Party has two intelligent candidates at the top of the polls. These candidates should be focused on debating the issues.
Ugly smear campaigns belong in the Republican primary. They should have no place or merit in the decision-making process for Democratic voters.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association