Senate Democrats and others have been encouraging Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont to abandon his quest for the Democratic presidential nomination and turn his attention to helping frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton get ready to take on a formidable Donald Trump this fall.
While the democratic socialist has a chance on Tuesday night to reboot his campaign with strong showings in Arizona, Utah and Idaho after a substantial loss from Clinton last week in five important states including Florida and Ohio, the delegate math is working against him and many analysts say it would be near impossible for Sanders to overtake Clinton before the Democratic convention this summer.
But the 74-year-old progressive is more determined than ever to remain in the race through the end, and insists that the complexion of the contest could change for him with victories in more hospitable states in the Southwest, West and northeast. “I am not a quitter,” Sanders told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in an interview from Salt Lake City, Utah last night. “We are going to fight this to the last vote . . . I think we have a narrow road – but a road -- to the nomination.”
One other thing came through loud and clear in last night’s interview: Sanders has become nearly as dismissive of Clinton’s foreign policy chops as Trump. Inadvertently or otherwise, Sanders is helping Trump and the Republicans by leveling stinging critiques of her judgement during her years in the Senate and then as secretary of state during President Obama’s first term.
“I have shown a lot better judgement than she has on foreign policy,” Sanders declared during the interview.
Seemingly riled by questions of whether Clinton was far better prepared than him to handle foreign policy, Sanders rattled off an indictment of Clinton’s repeated foreign policy blunders, starting with her Senate vote in 2002 supporting the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq that led to years of bloodshed, U.S. military casualties and terrorist activities.
As secretary of state, he said, she encouraged President Obama to support international military action that led to the violent toppling of Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi – another ill-considered move that triggered more civil war and intervention by ISIS and other terrorists. And he was perplexed that Clinton once boasted of being complimented by Henry Kissinger, the former Nixon administration secretary of state, who Sanders described as one of the “worst” secretaries in history.
“I think Secretary Clinton and I look at foreign policy in very different ways,” Sanders said. “I am confident that I have the judgement that brings together people to create a foreign policy that works for Israel that works for the Palestinians, that works for people around the world.”
Sanders has done surprisingly well among Democrats and some independents with his populist, anti-Wall Street, anti-establishment campaign themes and promises of free tuition at state-run colleges, national health insurance to replace Obamacare, expanded Social Security benefits and other high-priced social programs. His attacks on major “job-killing” trade agreements like Bill Clinton-era North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) have played well in the “rust belt” and helped him engineer a stunning upset of Hillary Clinton in Michigan recently.
A New York Times/CBS News national poll shows that likely Democratic voters are sharply divided over the presidential contest, with Clinton holding a slim 50 percent to 45 percent lead after running far ahead of Sanders for months. While Democrats’ enthusiasm for Sanders far exceeds that for Clinton, according to the survey, more than 70 percent are convinced that Clinton ultimately will win the nomination.
Except for Clinton’s vote for invading Iraq, Sanders had generally shied away from foreign policy – what Clinton claims as her strong suit. For the most part, the Vermont senator has been something of a dove throughout his long career in Congress, opposing US military force overseas and “nation building.”