By comparison, Bernie is practically a moderate

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn By Garry Knight -, CC0,

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn By Garry Knight –, CC0,

Writing about George Will’s column about Paul Ryan and Donald Trump earlier this week reminded me of a recent piece he did while in England writing about Brexit. The column I have in mind consisted mostly of marveling at what a total flake Jeremy Corbyn, the current leader of the Labour Party, is.

An excerpt:

That year, Corbyn was elected to the House of Commons. He spent his next 32 years opposing the monarchy; writing columns for a communist newspaper; expressing admiration for Hugo Chávez, whose socialism propelled Venezuela toward today’s chaos; proposing that taxpayers should be permitted to opt out of paying for Britain’s army; advocating that Britain leave NATO and unilaterally scrap its nuclear deterrent; blaming NATO, meaning the United States, for Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine; calling the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah “friends”; appearing with and funding Holocaust deniers and other anti-Semites; criticizing China’s Communist regime for deviationism in accepting some free markets; demanding that Tony Blair, the only Labour leader since 1976 to win a general election (three of them), be tried as a war criminal (for supporting the Iraq War); praising Iraqi insurgents killing Americans; and calling the killing of Osama bin Laden a “tragedy.” Along the way, Corbyn got divorced because his wife insisted on sending their eldest son to a selective school whose admissions policy recognized merit.

Last September, in a Labour Party process in which an intense fraction of 1 percent of the British electorate participated — a cohort intensely interested in things other than winning the next election — Corbyn was elected party leader with 59.5 percent of the vote in a four-way contest. He promptly named as shadow chancellor of the exchequer a former union official who lists in “Who’s Who” his hobby as “fomenting the overthrow of capitalism,” who says he was joking when he said that if he could relive the 1980s he would have assassinated Thatcher but who was serious when he praised IRA terrorist bombers. Corbyn’s shadow farming minister, a vegan, says, “Meat should be treated in exactly the same way as tobacco, with public campaigns to stop people eating it.” Corbyn, appearing with unmatched jacket and trousers and with his tie loosened at a St. Paul’s Cathedral service commemorating the Royal Air Force’s heroism in the Battle of Britain, refused to sing the national anthem.

Wow. Practically makes Bernie Sanders look like a moderate member of the Establishment — and a natty dresser to boot.

Actually, Will saw more of a comparison to Trump, as noted in his lede:

Misery loves company, so refugees from America’s Republican Party should understand that theirs is not the only party that has chosen a leader who confirms caricatures of it while repudiating its purposes.Jeremy Corbyn, the silliest leader in the British Labour Party’s 116-year history, might kill satire as well as whatever remains of socialism….

But what he writes about Corbyn highlights how far into extremism Labour has fallen since my man Tony Blair’s day.

Which brings me to an editorial today in The Wall Street Journal, “The Clinton Restoration.” The editors stress how far away from her husband’s and Blair’s Third Way politics Hillary Clinton has moved.

Some of that is true, and I blame Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and their admirers in the party. But aside from all the Identity Politics stuff (it’s been less than two days, and I’m already tired of hearing how “historic” her nomination is), I still think Hillary’s heart is more centrist than that — and she can be downright hawkish when it comes to national and collective security.

The WSJ editors sort of acknowledge that when they grudgingly grant that “We have some hope that she would come around to support the Pacific trade deal.” I hope so, too; and if they think it’s possible, I’m even more encouraged.

This is going to be a tough few months for that editorial board. To their minds, Hillary Clinton presents such a huge, inviting target. And yet they know what a disaster Donald Trump is, and would be…

24 thoughts on “By comparison, Bernie is practically a moderate

  1. Phillip

    Of course by comparison to Corbyn Bernie IS a moderate, because—guess what—Bernie is just a down-the-middle liberal, or Social Democrat to put it in mainstream Euro-political terms. If he’s considered “way left” by many (who fail to see that polls show majority support for many of his economic positions), it’s simply because the goalposts have been moved so far in the past 35 years.

    If Hillary has moved “far away from her husband’s and Blair’s Third Way politics,” have you ever considered that it might be not so much because of “Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and their admirers in the party,” but simply because her eyes might be a little bit open to what has actually happened economically in America since the 1990s? That she might realize that something didn’t work exactly has the Third-Way-ers had hoped, that even some economic prescriptions doled out by her husband may have come with a heavy price?

    You may be right about the hawkishness—but on domestic issues I think it’s actually the exact opposite of what you said—thinking back to her young years, I suspect her heart is not as terribly distant from Sanders and Warren as you may think. I think there still is compassion and caring and empathy in that heart, though perhaps with a dose of “centrism” (you call it centrism, I call it coziness-with-Wall-Street).

    In any case, whether Hillary is Third Way or not-Third-Way on economic policy will only matter if Trump drags the GOP down to historic defeat in both houses of Congress. If Congress remains in GOP hands, there will be little she will be allowed to do.

    1. Doug Ross

      ” I think there still is compassion and caring and empathy in that heart”

      You may have to wait on a Cindy Lou Who moment to increase the size of the Grinch’s heart.
      This is the same woman who wore a $11K jacket while giving a speech on economic inequality.

      I wonder if Bernie would settle for one key plank of the platform being replacing Obamacare with single payer. If Hillary got behind that idea, she’d probably win over most Bernie supporters.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        And I would applaud, too. As long as it didn’t prevent her from beating Trump.

        Because that’s what it’s about this year. Not about the good this or that candidate might do. It’s about avoiding the disaster of Trump.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Phillip, the extremism of Bernie doesn’t lie in his policy proposals, as politically and fiscally impractical as some of them might be.

      It’s in that whole, paranoid, “the 1 percent have all the money and power and are screwing the rest of us, so we’re gonna screw them back” paradigm of his. It was screwy when latter-day hippie wannabes were saying it while camping out in parks, and it sounds a lot more screwy coming from a grownup in a rumpled suit — someone who should have a more nuanced understanding of reality.

      The world just isn’t that simple. And it’s definitely not as convenient as being able to blame a mere 1 percent for all our troubles, giving the other 99 percent a pass.

      I just don’t see how anyone who’s lived for 74 years can say otherwise with a straight face…

    3. Brad Warthen Post author

      Another thing that makes Bernie extreme (or at least clearly outside the set of people who should be seriously considered) is that here’s a guy wanting to be POTUS, and thinking he’s qualified to be, who evinces NO interest in the most critical part of the job, the area where a president can have the most direct effects for good or ill — our relations with other countries.

      He’s just so wrapped up in his class war, going after the “billionayuhs,” that he expresses little interest in the rest of the world — even to the extent of getting ticked off when debate organizers wanted to talk about it…

      1. doug ross

        But part of the appeal of Bernie and Trump is exactly that they ARE focused on America and not the rest of the world. It’s a response to our going too far globally and neglecting the needs of Americans.

        You’re in the minority in your world view.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          One, I doubt that.

          Two, I wouldn’t be in a room filled with people who are qualified to run for president. Not that I’m qualified to be president. I’m just saying that if everyone in the room BESIDES me happened to be qualified, then I wouldn’t be alone in understanding the central role foreign affairs has in the job…

          Or for that matter, in a room full of former presidents since 1945 — or since Teddy Roosevelt, for that matter.

          Back in Jefferson’s day, a president could fantasize that we were this weak little country of self-sufficient yeomen farmers that was fortunately isolated enough that it could ignore the rest of the world.

          And even then, it was a lie, as evidenced by Jefferson’s own actions. He was highly interested in international affairs (although he wrongly leaned toward France rather than Britain), and the boldest accomplishments of his administration had to do with foreign dealings (Louisiana Purchase, dealing with the Barbary Pirates…)…

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          And Trump has WAY more to say about the world than Bernie. He’s going to slap it around, make it his b___h. Insult the Mexicans with a wall and make them pay for it. Grossly offend the world’s billion Muslims by barring them from entering this country. Buddy up to Putin and purr at all the nice things he says about him. Make the Chinese follow trade policies that benefit us and not them. Tell all those people holding U.S. debt that we’re gonna, um, restructure it, the way he does with his bankruptcies…

          Basically, he plans to run riot in the world like a two-year-old on mescaline chasing a bull through a china shop…

      2. bud

        Just because he doesn’t advocate bombing everyone doesn’t mean he has NO interest in the rest of the world. Sheesh how hard is it to understand that focusing on the major issues germane to the American economy, health care, income inequality and the environment is far, far more important than continuing to support massive numbers of troops in places like Japan and Germany, bombing brown skinned people with drones or attempting to impose our will on everyone who talks funny. Bernie is really not especially liberal given where the rest of the developed world is headed. But you are right about one thing Brad we are in the midst of a class warfare. But the only class doing the fighting is the super rich class.

  2. Phillip

    Brad, the greatest national security threat to the long-term well-being of the United States is entirely internal. This election is clearly showing us, whatever one might think of Sanders, or Trump, or any of the candidates for that matter, that something seismic is happening. And we can expect greater, not less, political turbulence, in the decade or two ahead unless some significant adjustments are made. Of course, Presidents need to be able to handle our dealings with the world, but to Bud’s and Doug’s respective points, I happen to think Bernie is addressing THE major national security issue of our time.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I agree that we have a terrible domestic problem that needs to be addressed: The electorate has gone mad. I still don’t understand why.

      The ranting, gibbering voters seem incapable of explaining what’s happened to them. When they cite a reason, I have to ask: Were these conditions not in place in 2012, in 2008 — perhaps earlier? What is different now? It defies understanding.

      Maybe somebody (some old KGB guys, veterans of polluting our precious bodily fluids back during the Cold War?) put something in the water. I don’t know.

      More to your point, though — certainly the decline of the middle class is a problem, and not just because it discomfits the middle class. It is a problem on the larger stage, as economic decline makes it harder for us to lead globally. We need to be strong at home to make a difference abroad.

      An aside: I have to smile at polls that show people having trouble “maintaining” their consuming lifestyles, often because they haven’t had a raise lately. They should try having the overwhelming majority of their incomes eliminated, as I have. Talk about “economic dislocation.” But do you see me going out and voting for snake-oil extremists? Hardly. I know how intractable the forces that put me in this situation are, and I have no illusions that some politician can wave a wand and make it better.

      That said, it’s not about how I feel about my circumstances or how Trump or Sanders voters feel about theirs. Bottom line, our economy needs strengthening across the board, for the good health of the nation.

      The answer is growth — and as John Kasich emphasized, not just growth that benefits a few (“billionayuhs!”), but that spreads economic well-being throughout the population.

      Not only would that be good for American families, but — if we can sweep aside the Grover Norquist pathology — it would enable us to restore our crumbling (there’s that word, Doug!) infrastructure, which as much as anything makes us feel like a nation in decline…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        … Oh, and build the Navy back up, of course! 🙂

        Seriously, I read a story the other day about our moving a carrier (Truman) into the Mediterranean to counter the growing Russian (I initially started to type “Soviet,” but stopped myself) naval presence there. The story didn’t say so directly, but I got the impression that before that, we did not HAVE a carrier in the Med.

        Which, thinking back to my childhood and all the time my Dad spent there, is shocking…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Apparently, that WAS our only carrier group in the Med.

          But another has quickly followed it, which makes me feel a little better:

          USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group (Ike CSG) entered the US 6th Fleet area of operations on Wednesday in support of US national security interests in Europe. Following this deployment, US military presence in Europe and the Mediterranean has been increased ahead of the NATO summit in Warsaw as the Ike CSG joins the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group in the Mediterranean Sea….

          Ike CSG consists of aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3, guided-missile cruisers USS San Jacinto (CG 56) and USS Monterey (CG 61), and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 26 with its associated guided-missile destroyers USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), USS Mason (DDG 87), USS Nitze (DDG 94) and USS Stout (DDG 55)….

          1. Brad Warthen Post author


            Here’s a photo of the Ike being replenished while under way. Somewhere, I have video I shot in 1971 of my Dad’s ship — he was then XO of an oiler out of Pearl — carrying out this same operation.

            But apparently, these ships don’t have to do this as often as back in the day:

            According to the US Navy, Ike CSG ships are the centerpiece of the Great Green Fleet initiative, which emphasizes use of energy conservation measures as a key combat enabler to allow ships to go farther, stay longer and deliver more firepower….

        2. bud

          The story didn’t say so directly, but I got the impression that before that, we did not HAVE a carrier in the Med.

          What’s the problem? How does a carrier in the Med make me any safer? Pure waste of money in may opinion.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Sometimes I get the impression that if Bud had been around at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack (my photo of the Arizona Memorial just took its turn in the header position above, which made me think of this), he’d have said:

            “What were we doing with all those American ships thousands of miles from home? That’s nothing but a waste of money and a naked, uncalled-for provocation to Japan! We had no business being there, projecting imperialism! All those American boys dead, and it’s our fault! This is all about that neocon Roosevelt trying to get us into that foreign war in clear defiance of the will of the American people! Let Europe and Eastasia burn themselves down; it’s no threat to us…”

            1. bud

              Can’t answer the question can you? I’m expected to be persuaded by a WW2 analogy. Why can’t you engage in a debate on the current situation?

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Arizona Memorial, seen from Ford Island. Arizona Memorial, seen from Ford Island.

                No, Bud, I can’t possibly answer the question to your satisfaction, or Doug’s, either. There is nothing I can say to either of you that you won’t completely dismiss, because you both entertain this notion of a United States that can just shrivel back to its own borders and have nothing to do with the rest of the world.

                How can I build an argument that satisfies you when we share no underlying assumptions? With regard to the role that the United States plays and should play in the world, you see black where I see white. Believe me, I hate to admit the impossibility — I’ve lived my whole life believing in the power of reason, believing that if I just come up with the right words, there will be a meeting of the minds. But I’ve got a decade of failure behind me when it comes to discussing such matters as this with you.

                And of course I knew that you would dismiss ANYTHING that bore upon the Second World War, which is why I explained why it came to mind. (Which was my having just seen the above image.)

                But my point wasn’t about Hitler or Tojo or any of the other reasons that are usually advanced for dismissing such analogies.

                My point, which I thought was clear, was this: We have always had isolationists among us (and I have always disagreed with them, and there was always a huge cognitive barrier between them and internationalists like me). They were, in fact, the majority in this country when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

                Seeing that image of the Arizona Memorial, taken from the perspective of Ford Island, caused me to picture in my mind Battleship Row — all that naval power just lined up so thick that if a Japanese bomber missed one, he was likely to hit another.

                And it occurred to me that from the perspective of someone who can’t imagine why we’d need ships in the Med, this was an EXTREME case of us having ships where they had no business to be — far greater than a mere carrier group in the Med. (Yeah, you could say, “Well, it was a U.S. territory.” But any good isolationist should be able to dismiss that as rank imperialism.)

                I’m quite serious about this. Give me an explanation, consistent with your philosophy that is dismissive of the need to have U.S. ships stationed around the world, that justifies having that fleet there. I don’t think it can be done.

                Battleship Row, seen from an attacking Japanese plane. Ford Island is in the foreground. Battleship Row, seen from an attacking Japanese plane. Ford Island is in the foreground.

                1. Doug Ross

                  I am not an isolationist. I think the U.S. should engage with the rest of the world. What I don’t believe is that the U.S. is responsible for protecting the rest of the world or using excessive military force to try an “fix” areas of the world that existed for centuries before the U.S. existed.

                  For all we’ve done for the rest of the world, why are we not respected more?


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