Do Bernie Sanders' proposals make sense?

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2020

And why don't we ever find out?:
Do Bernie Sanders' various proposals actually make sense? More specifically, is it possible that they could ever be paid for?

Ron Brownstein has an analysis piece in the Atlantic designed to help people consider those questions. His essay is entitled, The Sixty Trillion Dollar Man. That may give you some idea of where he seems to come down.

In fact, Brownstein's essay runs beneath a double headline. Though we think his essay is very much worth reading, we'd quibble with the second part of the headline:
The Sixty Trillion Dollar Man
The price of Bernie Sanders’s agenda could be his biggest general-election weakness. But his rivals haven’t yet forced him to explain how he’d cover the full cost.
That headline criticizes the other candidates for failing to make Sanders explain how he'd cover the cost of his proposals. We'd be more inclined to point a finger at the upper-end press corps itself.

The Democratic candidates have now engaged in about three million debates. Moderators from the various networks have rarely succeeded in creating a focused discussion of any serious topic.

In part, the cattle-call nature of modern "debates" plays a role in this failure. On Tuesday night in South Carolina, there were still seven (7) candidates—two of whom were only there because they'd bought there way onto the stage—interrupting, cat-calling and changing the subject every time the chance arose.

Given that circumstance, a fair-minded person might pity the poor moderator. But let's consider two (2) questions asked Tuesday night by Gayle King.

Early on, the following question sent three analysts screaming out into the yard:
KING (2/25/20): Vice President Biden, I want to make—I want to bring us to another topic. We're in South Carolina. It's the first primary with a significant black voting population. Your numbers appear to be slipping with black voters. And I'm wondering if you could respond about why that is happening to you at this particular time.
Analysts wept! Do we want to see candidates forced to discuss major policy problems, or do we want to see them asked to audition for a role as a cable news pundit?

There's very, very little to gain from asking such a question of any candidate in a seven-hopeful debate. Sadly, four New York Times reporters discuss Biden's answer to this question on this morning's page A3, and none of them displays any sense that questions like this are a pointless waste of time.

(Biden's answer, in a nutshell: "I intend to win in South Carolina, and I will win the African-American vote." His exchange with King on this matter was time we'll never get back.)

The second question we have in mind came in the form of a statement. Fairly late in the debate, King told the candidates this:
KING: I know it goes fast, but a minute-fifteen is really a long time. So we'd ask respectfully if you would all please try to keep to the time.
King was referring to the amount of time each candidate was given to answer questions from moderators. A minute and fifteen seconds is really a long time, she said.

In fact, except in the world of modern punditry, a minute-fifteen really isn't a really long time. To wit:

Way back when, Theodore White wrote the iconic campaign book, The Making of the President, 1960. As part of that historic campaign, Candidates Kennedy and Nixon staged the first televised presidential debates.

In his discussion of those debates, White lamented the way the rules of those debates limited the candidates to answers which couldn't exceed two-and-a-half (2.5) minutes in length. White lamented thusly:
WHITE (pages 291-292): [T]here certainly were real differences of philosophy and ideas between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon—yet rarely in American history has there been a political campaign that discussed issues less or clarified them less.

The TV debates, in retrospect, were the greatest opportunity for such discussion, but it was an opportunity missed...[S]ince two and a half minutes permit only a snatch of naked thought and a spatter of raw facts, both candidates, whenever caught out on a limb with a thought too heavy for two-minute exploration, a thought seemingly too bold or fresh to be accepted by the conditioned American mind, hastily scuttled back toward center as soon as they had enunciated the thought...

If there was to be any forum for issues, the TV debates should have provided such a forum. Yet they did not; every conceivable problem was raised by the probing imagination of the veteran correspondents who questioned the candidates. But all problems were answered in two-minute snatches...
Nixon and Kennedy were limited to two-and-a-half minutes at a time. To White, this made it impossible to conduct a real discussion.

Today, candidates on crowded stages are told that they're lucky to get 75 seconds. Brief answers are given as crowds of hyenas leap about, interrupting at every turn, changing the subject where possible.

The candidates have been asked about health care at every debate. Has anything of substance ever been nailed down, in even the tiniest way?

With that in mind, do Candidate Sanders' sweeping proposals really make sense? Is there any conceivable way he could pay for his varied proposals?

Isn't it time that someone tried to nail this basic point down? Brownstein is a valuable throwback to an earlier, less fatuous time.

THE RATIONAL ANIMAL'S GUARDIANS: The major discussion which never took place!

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2020

Drum tries to blaze a trail:
Could the federal government really afford Medicare For All?

You're asking a big major question. One is tempted to voice this reply:
Not at these prices it couldn't!
Why would the overall price tag possibly be a bit high? Once again, for the ten millionth time, we'll show you the remarkable data which, by upper-end rule of law, simply cannot be discussed:
Per capita spending, health care, 2018
United States: $10,586
Canada: $4974
France: $4965
Japan: $4766
United Kingdom: $4070
Why would it be a heavy lift to institute Medicare For All? Because, for reasons which go unexplained, we're paying more than twice as much for the product in question as those "peer nations" do.

It's hard to buy a fleet of cars if you're being charged 40 grand each for a type of car which everyone else is getting for $18,000. And so it would go, right here in these states, if we decided to go with Medicare For All.

Why are we paying $40,000 each for a fleet of $18,000 cars? By some system-wide rule of law which itself goes undiscussed, your press corps refuses to wonder.

Paul Krugman tried to raise this question about health care spending in a series of New York Times columns way back in 2005. His work on this topic was met with a chorus of crickets.

The locusts also sang last month, in response to Heather Long's front-page report in the Washington Post. When Long's report raised this same remarkable question, the roaches all scurried into cracks in the wall.

That said, so it goes. So it goes when the rational animal is confronted with a blindingly obvious question.

Back in The Summer of '05, Krugman cast himself in the guardian role, attempting to trigger a public discussion of an obvious question. Economists Case and Deaton did the same thing just last month, as described in Long's report.

The question couldn't be any more obvious, but this nation's upper-end rational animals are incapable of responding. When high-ranking players like Krugman and Case and Deaton cast themselves in Plato's classic guardian role, the children enter the zombified state which has long characterized our failing nation's flailing national discourse.

They look for something else to discuss, something dumber and more entertaining. As in this BREAKING report at Slate, they never fail to find it.

Having said that, let's be fair. We've said that Heather Long's front pager report produced zero reaction, and that isn't quite the case. Our favorite blogger, Kevin Drum, flagged and discussed her report over at Mother Jones.

Drum's post raised the types of question which would be discussed if the rational animals who crawl all over our upper-end press corps were capable of rational conduct.

In his post about Long's report, Drum improved upon Case and Deaton's work in an important way. He said the typical American family is actually paying an extra $12,000 per year in health care costs, not the mere $8000 "poll tax" Case and Deaton decried.

We're puzzled by Drum's "percentage of GDP" methodology; it seems to us the actual amount of excess spending may be higher yet. Setting that side for another day, here's Drum's explanation for all the missing money which makes universal health care in this country especially hard:
DRUM (1/7/20): If we spent at the OECD average level, we’d save more than $12,000 per family. How did our health care spending get so high?

That’s a complicated question, and it’s water under the bridge anyway. The real question at hand is: why don’t we make an effort to cut back to European levels? After all, they have perfectly fine health care even with much lower spending.

The answer to that is easier: It’s because most of our outsize expense comes from paying doctors more, nurses more, medical staff more, hospitals (and their workers) more, drug companies (and their workers) more, device makers (and their workers) more, and so forth. Thus, the only way to seriously cut back our health care spending is to pay people a lot less than they’re getting now, and this can be done only slowly if at all. You can’t suddenly tell doctors and nurses that they’re all getting 30 percent pay cuts. Hell, you can’t even do that to pharmaceutical companies, as much as we might like to. Aside from being massively disruptive, it would generate massive opposition. And in a democracy, massive opposition matter.
Is that where all the money goes? As a general matter, does all the missing money go to a wide range of people?

Are people in a wide range of sectors all taking an extra share, as compared to what their counterparts are paid in places like France? Is everybody taking a cut, producing our remarkable spending?

Is Drum's general explanation generally correct? Because this topic is never discussed, we have no real idea.

We can compare Drum's explanation to the one Bernie Sanders tends to supply. Again, this is the way the hopeful preached it in Las Vegas last week:
SANDERS (2/19/20): From Teddy Roosevelt to Barack Obama, this country has been talking about the need to guarantee health care for all people. And yet today, despite spending twice as much per capita, Chuck, twice as much as any other major country on Earth, we got 87 million who are uninsured or underinsured, we got over 60,000 people who die every year because they don't get to a doctor on time.

We're getting ripped off outrageously by the greed and corruption of a pharmaceutical industry, which in some cases charges us 10 times more for the same drugs. Because of their price-fixing, five hundred thousand people go bankrupt every year because they can't afford medical bills.
That was the candidate's full explanation for the fact that we spend "twice as much per capita as any other major country."

In fairness, Sanders was operating within our clownish "debate" system. Within that "system," candidates are asked complex questions and are given 11 seconds to respond, with baying wolves arrayed around them interrupting the whole way through.

For some, this system produces the illusion that some version of a "discussion" is taking place. Future experts despondently hang their heads when they see this charade occur.

Back to our two explanations:

Drum gave a wide-ranging explanation for the astounding data we've now posted for the ten millionth time. Sanders offered a narrower statement, in which one lone industry was mentioned and was accused of greed and corruption.

As a general matter, Drum tended to figure us the people; Sanders fingered the corporate swells.

Elsewhere, though, the crickets spoke. The rational animals within our "press corps" began discussing (partial) statements Sander had made in 1985 about a wildly tangential matter. The pundit corps focused on those (partial) remarks, as once they thrilled to the number of buttons on Gore's suit coats and on the exciting claim that he had "hired a woman to teach him how to be a man."

This is what our upper-end "press corps" does. Anthropologically speaking, this is who, and what, they are.

Back in 2005, Krugman attempted to cast himself in the guardian role. His work was met with systemwide silence.

Last month, Case and Deaton tried to take the "poll tax" route. Drum tried to discuss what they had said, but our cable stars never did. (Neither did the candidates, just to be fully inclusive.)

Your cable stars, rational animals all, engaged in their typical conduct. Kornacki was placed before the big board and told to rattle polling data. Pointless speculation followed, hours of it at a time.

Long ago and far away, Plato imagined a guardian class. In fairness, he also claimed that we were looking at shadows on the wall of a cave.

He just may have had that part right! But did he imagine a guardian class protecting the interests of the republic? According to despondent anthropologists, the way our species' brains were wired didn't allow for such conduct.

Why does the typical American family spend so much extra for health care? The data are simply astounding. But what explains those data?

Something tells the rational animals of the press that they mustn't go there. Something tells the other animals that we shouldn't notice their silence.

Our vaunted professors don't rise to complain. Over Ireland, the silence is general.

Tomorrow: Boo, Hoyt, Concord high school students ignored

The cable broadcast which didn't bark!

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2020

Coe interview disappears:
What happened in the world of cable news last Thursday evening?

Thank you for asking! All in all, the Fox News programs outrated their MSNBC counterparts by substantial amounts.

You can check the numbers at the TVNewser site. Here's how the numbers break down:

At 8 PM, Tucker Carlson attracted 3.8 million viewers, Chris Hayes just 1.6 million.

At 9 PM, 4.1 million people watched Hannity, as compared to 2.8 million for the Maddow Show.

At 10 PM, Laura Ingraham had 3.6 million viewers, Lawrence just 2.0 million. And at 11 PM, Brian Williams racked up 1.6 million viewers, as compared to Shannon Bream's 1.9 million at Fox.

Brian attracted 1.6 million viewers to last Thursday's 11th Hour—unless you look at MSNBC's newly updated transcripts.

You guessed it! According to MSNBC's updated transcripts, there was no 11th Hour With Brian Williams program last Thursday night at all!

That's right! Ever since the end of last week, we've been waiting for MSNBC to update its transcripts. We wanted to show you excerpts of Brian's interview with Alexis Coe, author of the peculiar new book, You Never Forget Your First.

Coe's new book is remarkably strange. That said, there's a lot to learn from the credulous way major news orgs have bought the manifest nonsense Coe is selling. The major thing we learn is this:

Within the world of our "mainstream press," there's nothing so manifestly absurd that it won't be accepted by one and all, just so long as it promotes a favored tribal narrative. So it goes as Coe pretends to construct a cheeky new biography of George Washington, the nation's original president.

We wanted to show you what Brian and Alexis said last Thursday night. But while MSNBC has posted Brian's transcript for last Friday night's program, and even the transcript for last evening's show, it has skipped right past last Thursday night's show. No transcript is posted at all!

(No transcript appears for last Wednesday night because that was the night of NBC's Democratic debate.)

Coe's book is remarkably strange. The instruction comes when we see the way major news orgs, and major pundits, have accepted her manifestly weird presentations with no questions asked. But so it has gone in the past forty years as our clown-like national discourse has turned into a low-IQ stew of misdirection, entertainment and dust.

Eventually, we think we'll be able to show you what Brian and Alexis said. For today, we'll only report that a certain transcript has gone missing.

According to TVNewser, 1.6 million people watched Brian's show last Thursday night. But according to the slacker channel, there was no such program at all!

THE RATIONAL ANIMAL'S GUARDIANS: What Sanders said in '85!

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2020

What Sanders said last week:
Should Bernie Sanders be the Democratic nominee this year?

We don't have a firm view about that. By traditional standards, every candidate on last night's stage is unelectable. This complicates the decision a primary voter must make.

That said, the sitting president, Donald J. Trump, is also unelectable. And, by the rules of the game, someone has to be elected this year, assuming we have an election.

That conundrum set the stage for last night's embarrassing reenactment of the time-honored bar scene from Star Wars.

Who was worse—the moderators or the hopefuls? Our favorite exchange went like this:
KLOBUCHAR (2/26/20): So I have long supported the assault weapon ban. I am the author of the bill to close the boyfriend loophole that says that domestic abusers can't go out and get an AK-47—

BIDEN: I wrote that law.

KLOBUCHAR: That bill, along with— You didn't write that bill. I wrote that bill.

BIDEN: I wrote the bill, the Violence Against Women Act—

KLOBUCHAR: OK. You did do that.

BIDEN: —that took out of the hands of people who abused their—

KLOBUCHAR: OK. We'll have a fact check look at this.

BIDEN: Let's look at the fact check—

KLOBUCHAR: Oh my goodness.

BIDEN: The only thing that the boyfriend loophole is was not covered. I couldn't get that covered. You, in fact, when you were, as a senator tried to get it covered and Mitch McConnell is holding it up on his desk right now, and we're going to lose the Violence Against Women Act across the board.

KLOBUCHAR: OK. So if I could finish. I have the bill, anyone can check it out, to close the boyfriend loophole.
Who actually wrote the provision which would have closed the boyfriend loophole?

Reportedly, the text came to Biden in a dream when he was imprisoned on Robben Island. Why won't Klobuchar simply accept the basic facts of American history?

For our money, Candidate Biden is pretty much out on his feet. To her credit, Candidate Klobuchar seems to be sane, except when forced to stand within fifty yards of Candidate Buttigieg.

That said, voters were being asked to make their decisions on the basis of exchanges like the one we've posted—an exchange concerning the authorship of a loophole they'd never heard of. And then, there was the giant question—the question concerning what Candidate Sanders (partially) said in The Summer of '85.

As we noted yesterday, the sudden focus on this question comes from the part of modern campaign culture known as No Misdirection Left Behind.

Earlier in this very campaign, Candidate Harris assailed Candidate Biden for a position he'd taken all the way back in the 1970s. But as it turned out, Candidate Harris holds the same position today.

This awkward fact undercut the claims of greatness showered upon Candidate Harris in the aftermath of her attack. But whether it's Candidate Hart's possible girl friend, or Candidate Gore's three-button suits (one of which was brown);

Whether it's Candidate Clinton's treasonous Moscow trip, or Candidate Clinton's "extremely careless" behavior with a bunch of trivial emails;

Whether it's the temper displayed by Candidate Muskie while playing cards with the boys on the bus, or the fact that Candidate Dukakis didn't bunch Bernie Shaw in the nose when Shaw asked a deeply inappropriate question during a 1988 debate;

Whatever form the misdirection of the moment may take, the misdirection will always come when the rich come into our lives. This explains why we're now talking about what Sanders (partially) said in 1985 about a topic which no longer matters, as opposed to what he said last week.

What did Sanders say last week? He said something which is plainly very important! But he said something which, by the rules of the game, simply cannot be pursued within the American discourse.

In Monday's report, we were discussing this forbidden topic before Griff Witte came into our lives. Here's what Sanders last week. He said in the last Democratic debate, the one held near the casinos
SANDERS (2/19/20): Let me be very clear, two points. For a hundred years, from Teddy Roosevelt to Barack Obama, this country has been talking about the need to guarantee health care for all people. And yet today, despite spending twice as much per capita, Chuck, twice as much as any other major country on Earth, we got 87 million who are uninsured or underinsured, we got over 60,000 people who die every year because they don't get to a doctor on time.

We're getting ripped off outrageously by the greed and corruption of a pharmaceutical industry, which in some cases charges us 10 times more for the same drugs because of their price-fixing, Five hundred thousand people go bankrupt every year because they can't afford medical bills.
Thus spake Candidate Sanders—and he says this all the time! But as we noted in Monday's report, the topic goes undiscussed and unreported. By the unwritten rules of the game, this topic simply cannot be discussed within the American discourse.

Instead, we've now zeroed in on (partial) statements by Candidate Sanders from 1985. This is what happens when the rich come into our lives. Stated another way, this is what happens when the rational animal stages its latest charade.

On Monday, we approached this forbidden topic through the rarest of sightings—a front-page report in the Washington Post about American health care spending.

The report was written by Heather Long, an experienced economics reporter. She's the type of reporters who doesn't get asked to appear on MSNBC.

As we noted, Long's front-page report appeared on January 8. It started off like this:
LONG (1/8/20): America’s sky-high health-care costs are so far above what people pay in other countries that they are the equivalent of a hefty tax, Princeton University economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton say. They are surprised Americans aren’t revolting against these taxes.

“A few people are getting very rich at the expense of the rest of us,” Case said at conference in San Diego on Saturday. The U.S. health-care system is “like a tribute to a foreign power, but we’re doing it to ourselves.”

The U.S. health-care system is the most expensive in the world,
costing about $1 trillion more per year than the next-most-expensive system—Switzerland’s. That means U.S. households pay an extra $8,000 per year, compared with what Swiss families pay. Case and Deaton view this extra cost as a “poll tax,” meaning it is levied on every individual regardless of their ability to pay.
As we noted, Case and Deaton were actually understating the size of the annual "poll tax" visited upon the typical American family. If they had compared American health care spending to that in larger nations like England, Canada, France or Japan, the size of the extra annual spending which have been much more dramatic.

Long's report in the Post was a major outlier. This topic has been around forever. It goes to the heart of questions which have long defined our pseudo-discourse—questions about stagnant wages and about federal deficits and debt.

That said, this topic, by the rules of the game, simply cannot be discussed within the mainstream American press. For that reason, we're allowed, indeed encouraged, to discuss what Sanders (partially) said in 1985. But we aren't allowed to discuss a basic question:

Where's all the extra money going? What explains the very large "poll tax" paid by each family each year?

In theory, our journalists and our professors should be rushing into print to discuss this important topic. But, with very rare exceptions, our guardians have long since walked off their posts, and so we face the current situation:

We're encouraged to discuss what Sanders (partially) said in 1985 about a topic which no longer exists. We aren't allowed to discuss what Sanders said on NBC in prime time just last week.

Our guardians from CBS behaved like fools last night. Their inanity and incompetence helped create what happened.

That said, our major news orgs have never tried to explain where all that extra money is going. When Long's report appeared in the Post, it triggered zero discussion.

Rachel continued to worry about how many years Roger Stone would get. Others kept dragging Kornacki before "the big board" to supply us with tons of pointless statistics. (No jacket; sleeves rolled up.)

The entertainment rolls along. But Long's report, a major outlier, came and went without notice.

Last night, we saw the fruits of this very familiar game. What Sanders said last week is extremely important. But, because it can't be discussed, we've returned to things he (partially) said in the summer of '85.

This happens when the rich come into our lives. The other rich won't tell you.

Tomorrow: As with Case and Deaton, so with Katherine Boo

Has MSNBC stopped producing transcripts?

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2020

Slacker channel cuts back:
Has MSNBC stopped producing transcripts?

We've begun to wonder. As of 6 PM Eastern this very night, transcripts seem to end with last Tuesday night's programs. We're still waiting for the transcript from Brian Williams' program last Thursday night, when Brian hosted alleged historian Alexis Coe to discuss her new, and very strange, book, You Never Forget Your First.

Who cares about Coe's new book, which principally concerns "The Thigh Men of Dad History?" The situation strikes us as highly instructive, not so much because this very strange book was written, or even because the book got published, but because of the way major news orgs, and major pundits, have accepted and affirmed its manifest nonsense with no questions asked.

In many instances, it's been a very long time since news orgs and pundits considered fact checking any claim, no matter how wacky or how improbable, so long as it broadly adheres to prevailing tribal narrative.

Your guardians have gone very far away, and they've also gone to sleep. In their place, we have a collection of pod pundits—sleepwalking boys and girls.

For Mike Pesca's interview with Coe for Slate, you can just click here. The podcast appears beneath these brain-damaged headlines:
Leave George Washington’s Thighs Alone
There’s more to the founding father than just his body
A jumbled transcript is included. In fairness, future anthropologists are already describing Coe's book as "the definitive text of end-times second-wave Dowdism."

As Williams did, Pesca swallows Coe's weird premises with zero questions asked. At this point, does Pesca try to get anything right? Despondent anthropological minds bemusedly want to know!

THE RATIONAL ANIMAL'S GUARDIANS: This day was always going to come!

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2020

When guardians attack:
This day was always going to come.

More precisely, this day was always going to come if Candidate Sanders became the Democratic nominee, or if it seemed he was getting close.

"If history teaches us anything," it teaches that it's better for this day to come sooner rather than later.

It would have been better for Democrats, and for Michael Dukakis himself, if the attack on the Massachusetts prison furlough program had come during the primary campaign, rather than later on, during the general election.

Alas! The attack came later on, with Candidate Bush changing William Horton's first name to "Willie." But the attack will always come, as it did this very day on the front page of the Washington Post.

The attack was written by Griff Witte, a well-regarded Princeton man (class of 2000). Near the end of the original version of A Moveable Feast, Hemingway described a different form of the attack which was always going to come.

A Moveable Feast is a memoir of the first, happy years of Hemingway's first marriage. Four pages from the end of the book, the end of the marriage starts like this:
HEMINGWAY: During our last year in the mountains new people came deep into our lives and nothing was ever the same again. The winter of the avalanche was like a happy and innocent winter in childhood compared to the next winter, a nightmare winter disguised as the greatest fun of all, and the marvelous summer that was to follow. It was the year that the rich came into our lives.
The next four pages end the book, with Hemingway composing a self-absolving though brilliantly fashioned account of the way he betrayed his first wife. It all started, Hemingway said, when the rich came into their lives, chasing after his own emerging success.

That's largely what happened today on the front page of the Post. This day was always going to come. This morning, with hard-copy headline included, it started like this:
WITTE (2/25/20): Rivals rip Sanders' past praise of Communists

The mayor of tiny Burlington, Vt., was back from Nicaragua and eager to share the good news.

The country’s Soviet-backed government—forged via armed rebellion—was cutting infant mortality, reducing illiteracy and redistributing land to peasant farmers. Its Sandinista leaders, branded terrorists by the U.S. government, impressed him with “their intelligence and their sincerity.”

Three years later, Bernie Sanders was fresh off the plane from Moscow
, reveling in the beauty of the land and the contentedness of the people.
That headline might make readers think that the piece is about what Sanders' "rivals" have said. In fact, Sanders is being "ripped" today by the Washington Post itself, in a way which is thoroughly familiar and was always going to come.

It's better that it's coming now. But it wouldn't hurt to understand the way these formats work.

As he starts, Witte almost seems to forget that our own nation, the United States, was "forged via armed rebellion" too. We're currently being told that you never forget your first (president), but our first president engaged in years of armed rebellion, as many other people have done.

Today's attack really began when Anderson Cooper came into our lives. On Sunday, he interviewed Sanders on 60 Minutes. The exchange in question was presented as shown:
COOPER (2/23/20): (Voiceover) Back in the 1980s, Sanders had some positive things to say about the former Soviet Union and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.

Here he is explaining why the Cuban people didn't rise up and help the U.S. overthrow Cuban leader Fidel Castro:


SANDERS (videotape from the 1980s): He educated their kids, gave them health care, totally transformed the society, you know?

SANDERS: We're very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba but you know, it's unfair to simply say everything is bad. You know? When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?

COOPER: A lot of political dissidents were imprisoned in Cuba.

SANDERS: That's right. And we condemn that. Unlike Donald Trump, let's be clear, you want to—

I do not think that Kim Jong Un is a good friend. I don't trade love letters with a murdering dictator. Vladimir Putin, not a great friend of mine.
We don't get to see the actual question Cooper asked in real time. But understand this:

In this exchange, Sanders was being asked about things he said more than thirty years ago. Viewers were offered one tiny example of the allegedly troubling things he said.

If our society's guardians hadn't abandoned their posts a long time ago, viewers might be wary concerning the capacity of such presentations to shed much more heat than light. That's especially true if major news orgs can edit the interview in which the topic is raised.

Alas! Our guardians quit us a long time ago! Our journalists are routinely fatuous, are often tools of power. Our academics (including our "logicians") are strongly inclined to be lost in the weeds of super-specialization.

Given the general silence of our journalists and our academics, very few people ever step forward to challenge the ways of our upper-end press corps. We the people have rarely been schooled in the ways of selective presentation.

Our guardians walked away long ago. In their place are people like Witte, people who adopt the trappings of the guardian role.

This has led to many heavily tilted attacks on past presidential candidates. Note the sanitized way Witte remembers one of these past attacks:
WITTE: Sanders is not the first would-be president to confront scrutiny over long-ago travels. When he ran in 1992, Bill Clinton faced questions over a 1969 trip to the Soviet Union. John F. Kerry, the Democrats’ 2004 nominee, took heat from Republicans for a 1985 visit to Nicaragua—the same year that Sanders visited.

But Clinton was in Moscow as a student tourist,
while Kerry went to Managua as a senator preparing to vote on whether to back President Ronald Reagan’s plan to spend millions of dollars funding the ruling Sandinistas’ rivals, the Contras. While there, Kerry challenged the government over its curbs on individual liberties, and he carried back to Washington a proposal for peace.

The reasons the mayor of Burlington, Vt.—population 38,000—would repeatedly cross the world’s great geopolitical chasm are less straightforward.
In that passage, Witte crafts an insinuation about Candidate Sanders' motives back in the 1980s. As he does, he forgets to remember the way Candidate Clinton's motives were slimed when the rich came into our lives during the 1992 Clinton-Bush campaign.

He forgets to recall such moments as this, as reported in the New York Times:
ROSENTHAL (10/8/92): President Bush tonight accused Gov. Bill Clinton of not telling the truth about his visit to Moscow as a student in the late 1960's and sharply criticized the Democratic nominee for demonstrating against the Vietnam War while he was studying in England.

In an appearance on the CNN program "Larry King Live" that was broadcast around the country and abroad, Mr. Bush made one of his strongest attacks yet on Mr. Clinton's opposition to the Vietnam War...

[...]

Asked by Mr. King what he thought about Mr. Clinton visiting the Soviet Union while he was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford in 1969, Mr. Bush seemed to choose his words carefully. He avoided any direct accusation but at the same time clearly conveyed the impression that he had suspicions and disapproved.

"I don't want to tell you what I really think, because I don't have the facts," he said. "But to go to Moscow one year after Russia crushed Czechoslovakia, not remember who you saw? I really think the answer is, level with the American people."
For starters, please don't miss the absurdity of what President Bush said. He said he didn't have the facts, but there was something he really thought, though he wasn't going to say it!

As it turned out, the rich had been going through Candidate Clinton's passport files hoping to find some evidence of treasonous conduct. In December 1992, then-attorney general William Barr found "that there was possible evidence of White House involvement in a criminal act," though the subsequent multiyear investigation did not produce criminal charges.

In the childish language we love so well, the episode came to be known as Passportgate. For the late Robert Parry's history of this appalling episode, you can just click here.

That's the sort of thing which happens when the rich come into our lives during White House campaigns. When they trigger new episodes, people like Witte tend to erase such events from our collective memory.

For whatever reason, Cooper wanted to know about things Sanders said back in the 1980s. As everyone surely knows, inquiries of this type will often shed vastly more heat than light.

That's especially true when agents like Witte bring their own selectivity in. Witte's report includes a lot of paraphrase, a great deal less quotation.

What did Sanders actually think about Nicaragua and the Soviet Union back in 1985 and 1988? We don't know, and the chances are very slim that anyone will ever find out.

Once an episode like this is triggered, the downward spiral begins. Regarding Sanders' past thoughts about the (Gorbachev-era) Soviet Union, Witte makes us wait till paragraphs 50-52 before we get to read this:
WITTE: [Back in 1988], Sanders expressed hope that, after “a dismal history,” the Soviet Union could be redeemed by moving “forward into some of the early visions of their revolution, what their revolution was about in 1917.”

William Taubman, an Amherst College historian of the Soviet Union who was living there at the time, said Sanders’s comments need to be understood in the context of the moment, which was dominated by then-leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of opening and liberalizing his nation.

“He was not doing what the real suckers might have done, which was to say, ‘Gosh isn’t it wonderful?’ ” Taubman said. “I don’t think he was a dupe.”
As the rich tend to do when they enter our lives, Witte sells Sanders' rapture about "the beauty of the land and the contentedness of the people," though only in paraphrased form, in his second paragraph 2. He saves the direct quote about the Soviet Union's "dismal history" until paragraph 50.

The rich alwaye enter our lives during White House campaigns. Because our guardians abandoned their posts a long time ago, we tend to be quite unschooled in the face of this behavior.

Al Gore said he invented the Internet! Bill Clinton went to Moscow!

Gary Hart seems to have a girl friend! (We know because we hid in the bushes outside his home!) Candidate Muskie wept!

This is the way these lifeforms function. The people who should be warning us have long since abandoned their posts.

It's better that this has started now. But what follows won't be pretty, and it will be very dumb.
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Tomorrow: Guardians ignored

Also this one: Hillary Clinton was "extremely careless!"

Incredibly, the Maddow Show explicitly took James Comey's side. So our guardians work.