Sanders: A vulnerable general election candidate

Sanders: A vulnerable general election candidate

As Hillary Clinton was duking it out with her two male rivals at last Sunday’s Democratic debate in Charleston, SC., Bernie Sanders, the more threatening of the opponents, was getting help in the crucial state of Iowa from an unlikely source: Karl Rove.

A Republican operative who runs American Crossroads — the super pac working assiduously to defeat Democrats across the country — Rove sports the domed forehead of a high thinker, even though his thoughts are steeped in intrigues and political machinations of the vilest kind. As reputations go, Rove is an intensely reviled fellow in Democratic thinking, and it might not be altogether implausible to imagine whole array of Democrats at a sumptuous dinner retching spontaneously at the sudden mention of his name.

Rove: Working to derail Clinton

Rove: Working to derail Clinton

In the annals of negative campaign in American electoral politics, Rove has no competitor. But for him, John Kerry, current secretary of state, would have been president over President George W. Bush in 2004. It was Rove who torpedoed his ambition with the infamous Swiftboat ads, and it was also Rove who allegedly outed to the media the name of Valerie Plame, former CIA agent, for reasons that partly had to do with the fact that her husband, Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, was a Democrat. For that alleged role, Rove was investigated by a federal prosecutor but narrowly escaped indictment by a whisker. Had Rove gone down in that probe, it surely would not have been unimaginable to see Democrats nationwide drinking and dancing and falling over themselves in an orgy of hysterical jubilation over the political demise of a dangerous foe.

Rove

Rove

Below is part of Rove’s negative ad against Clinton:

“Ever wonder how Hillary Clinton can afford so many ads? Chances are, they were paid for with Wall Street cash,” says the ad. “Hillary Clinton’s gotten 54 times more money from Wall Street interests than from all of Iowa. Hillary rewarded Wall Street with the $700 billion bailout. And Wall Street made her a multi-millionaire… Does Iowa really want Wall Street in the White House?”

Clinton: On a slippery slope?

Clinton:  Democrats’ surest bet for the White House

Again, as the debate was underway, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and other candidates on the Republican side, were restlessly firing a profusion of envenomed tweets at Clinton. Even the Republican National Committee released a number of emails exclusively attacking Clinton and defending Sanders on guns, healthcare, and Wall Street, as the two candidates sparred over them and the other issues raised by the debate moderators Sunday night.

As if that wasn’t sufficient, the RNC reeled off an avalanche of tweets and instant opinions by selected mainstream media pundits and, using such opinions as a guide, entered the rather asinine adjudication that the septuagenarian senator was scoring a monumental victory over the former secretary of state. All of that was orchestrated to manufacture, and then drive, a certain narrative that would impel the Democrats to re-evaluate Clinton as a choice and compel them to switch to Sanders as a more plausible general election candidate. The following are just a few of the silly conclusions reached by the supercilious pundits:

Politico’s Mike Allen: “The Winner Of The First Hour… ‘Sanders, 29-To-1 – Blowout.’ “HED: ‘The Winner Of The First Hour…’ ‘”

NBC News’ Chuck Todd: “Who’s The Frontrunner? If You Only Watched The Debate And Didn’t Read Polls, You Might Assume Sanders.”

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza: “Sanders Is The Prime Mover In This Debate. He Speaks On Issue, Other Candidates — Including Clinton — React.”

We have seen repeatedly in the course of this presidential campaign cycle that the mainstream media gets easily animated by negatives about the Clintons. Regardless, its interest this time in calling the debate for Sanders so early is ostensibly to inspire a keen contest, a demolition derby, as only that produces a good copy and guarantees its job.

Now considering that Clinton is not running against a Republican candidate in Iowa in particular,  the question then becomes, what business have Rove and the RNC injecting themselves into an internal Democratic process, especially as Iowa approaches? Indeed, what dog have they in this ongoing Democratic fight?

The answer is that the Republicans crave a Sanders win in Iowa, and since survey results also project him to defeat Clinton in New Hampshire ( A new CNN/WMUR poll just released a couple of hours ago has Sanders leading Clinton by 27 percent in New Hampshire), those two victories, if pulled off, could inevitably ease his path to the nomination, especially if he also gets lucky enough to pick up South Carolina, Clinton’s only firewall in the early primary states. A Sanders’ nomination would then, so goes the Republican reasoning, enable the party of Lincoln to recapture the White House after eight years of languishing in the wilderness with nothing but howling winds and sight-blinding dusts as company.

But no matter what anyone thinks of the Republican meddling, there surely can be one inescapable conclusion. The Republicans are scared of Clinton and would rather prefer to run against Sanders in the Fall.

The above game plan is no harebrained scheme. It is the GOP’s surest gambit to get back to the White House, and this point should not be lost on the Democrats of Iowa and New Hampshire on whose votes a lot is going to ride in the nomination process: If they enable the nomination of Bernie Sanders, the Democratic party  will lose the White House.

As to the burgeoning support Sanders is getting from a vast swath of the Democratic base, especially from younger voters just coming into the political system for the first time, there can be absolutely no doubt.  After all, the same thing happened eight years ago when then candidate Barack Obama took the Democratic base and, by extension, the American political scene, by storm. In fact, Sanders sees his effort as not just a campaign but as a movement reflective of a zeitgeist spirit of this moment in history.

But fellow Vermonter Howard Dean could just as easily have said so of his own primary campaign in 2004 when he ran against Kerry.  Had Dean stood in that year’s general election against President Bush, he most certainly would have fared even terribly worse than Kerry who had won the nomination only to lose so narrowly to Bush. No dyed-in-the-wool liberal has ever won a general election in recent memory, let alone a candidate forged in the fire of socialism.

During the debate, Sanders touted his poll numbers against Clinton’s in hypothetical head-to-head match-ups against Trump and the other Republican candidates. Sanders, true, currently polls better than Clinton in that regard. But that is only because, unlike Clinton who is a vastly known quantity, and who has been mangled and battered over the course of two decades by the Republican attack machine, Sanders is still a shiny new object. By the time the Republican machine accomplishes its task of defining him, demonizing him as a “socialist” and branding him an old “senile” man, many of Sanders’ teeming supporters today would be so disconcerted they could switch to Trump or Rubio or Ted Cruz or even the gibberish manufacturer, Chris Christie.

If Sanders is nominated, he will not only be up against his Republican opponent, but he’ll be fighting an armada of billionaires who could pour so much of their vast fortunes into ensuring that a “Socialist” does not occupy the White House to strip them of their wealth. And because Sanders does not rely on super pacs and Wall Street money, it is hard to imagine how small internet contributors equip him with enough pretty penny to match the financial war chest of his Republican opponent.

And this: the Vermont senator is a very nice and decent man by nature. Sanders is way too gentlemanly for these things, for the rough and tumble of brutal presidential campaign which the Republicans cherish. The one looming ahead could be the nastiest in American history, and I think the old man is ill-suited for such a fight.

I have advanced at least four reasons why the Democrats should find a Sanders’ nomination highly abhorrent. Now it falls to me to give about the same number of reasons why a Clinton nomination is eminently desirable.

First, by a long distance, Clinton is a better general election candidate than Sanders and Martin O’Malley. About that, there can be little doubt. An audacious warrior for the little people, her track record at various times as first lady, senator and secretary of state speaks for itself. She is also a very knowledgeable and extremely capable presidential material who is a hundred times more suited for the office of the President of the United States than any of the Republicans vying for the same office today. We all saw her as she schooled the Republican witch-hunters on the highly discredited Benghazi Committee last October.

Unlike Sanders, Clinton is one hell of a candidate who knows how to engage the Republicans in the only thing the Republicans are so adept at: fighting nasty and dirty. She has got what it takes to take them on. Although her campaign war chest might not match what her Republican opponent will bring to the fight , Clinton could raise twice as much money as Sanders would.

I would like to see President Barack Obama campaign aggressively for a Democratic nominee as though his own life depends on it. He will have no qualms doing that for Clinton. And for all the right reasons. One, she has been embracing Obama’s achievements so unabashedly  the president must be delightfully surprised and flattered at the same time. Obama has achieved quite a lot despite Republican obstructionism, and I’m sure he would like those achievements to remain imperishable as he leaves office. Only Clinton can be a guarantor of those legacies. A Republican victory in the Fall, God forbid, would not only derail them, but would vaporize them faster than teardrops in a blast furnace.

Obama would also campaign ferociously for Clinton in a heartbeat because he understands the meaning of the old saw: one good turn deserves another. After all, Clinton’s husband, Bill, did that for him in 2012. Remember that compelling speech he gave at the last Democratic convention?

Which brings me finally to the most substantive reason why Clinton is a more desirable nominee than Sanders. Together with President Obama, I would like to see the former president fully unleashed again after his last outing in 2012. A Sanders’ win could depress his spirit and and ability to campaign diligently for him.

Let the Republicans nominate Trump  or Cruz. And let that nominee — whoever he may be — step forward with his message of doom and gloom and face the combined firepower of  two Democratic presidents, both of whom earned 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with the message of hope and infinite possibilities. Let’s have that contest between hope and doom and see who wins it.

Now, here’s what I wrote in my Facebook post of November 6, 2012, as all of America and the world awaited the results of the last presidential election: “The visuals of two presidents, former and current occupants of the address above double-teaming a Republican candidate bankrolled by a club of billionaire plutocrats, was always an exhilarating experience … But Clinton remained as fascinating as ever, and most times he made a more compelling case for Obama than he (Obama) did for himself. And even as his voice grew occasionally hoarse from speech after speech at rally after rally, his undeniable charm and power of persuasion shone through as his raucous crowds ate them up like toddlers savoring lollipops. From rhetorical highs to sarcastic jabs accompanied with intermittent smiles and hand gestures, the 42nd President clobbered Obama’s opponent as effectively as only he could. If Obama is re-elected tonight, a lot of the credit will go to Clinton, and deservedly, too. He was Obama’s most effective surrogate. ‘After listening to him speak,’ a lady reportedly said after one of Clinton’s campaign rallies, ‘you want to let him baptize you.’

Now that is what American voters are yearning for again. And that they could get only with a Clinton nomination.