Monday, April 18, 2016

Nothing says "leader" like waiting for everyone else to act first

I think that the New York Democratic Debate on April 14th settled the question of leadership in a rather compelling way. The question of leadership was pointed out in the following meme:

The meme above refers to the discussion during that debate about the transcripts of numerous speeches that Hilary Clinton gave to the large banks. For each speech, she hauled in at least $225,000. A fair number of observers are asking Hilary to release the transcripts of those speeches. So far, she has refused. She demurred at the New York debate and said that she would release the transcripts if every other candidate that did speeches at big banks would, too.

It is a fair question to ask someone who is running for president: will you release the transcripts of speeches you gave for big banks who happen to have a great deal of influence on public policy? We would like to see if the policy positions you share with the big banks are the same as the policy positions that you shared with us. If those two sets are not congruent, perhaps your unwillingness to share them is a reflection of your fear of what they will do to your campaign. These are all questions we should ask of any candidate for public office, especially the highest office in the land.

To his credit, Bernie Sanders has not given any speeches to the big banks. He simply is not interested in the money, and he has not created entanglements that would compromise his judgement. This is what leaders do.

It was reported that during a recent speech, Hilary Clinton's campaign set up a white noise machine to keep reporters from hearing her speech. From a privacy standpoint, this is a pretty smart thing to do. From a political standpoint, this appears to be an overt effort to obscure from the public, policy positions intended only for a small private group of individuals intending to buy influence. Is that leadership?

When Bernie gives a speech, he makes it loud and clear before large crowds. He wants television coverage for his live events, but has had trouble getting it. The mainstream press has been willing to show an empty stage vacated by Donald Trump instead of showing Bernie Sanders giving a speech to more than 20,000 people in a stadium packed to capacity. He doesn't need a white noise machine because he's a leader who is unafraid of the impact of his message on his campaign.

Hilary voted for the Iraq War. Bernie did not. The vote was 77-23. Bernie was the only independent in the Senate for that vote, led the opposition to the war and voted against it. Hilary voted for it along with 76 other members of the Senate and of them, and there were 29 Democrats and 48 Republicans who voted for it. 21 Democrats voted against it along with one Republican. Those who voted against it did the unpopular thing and were on the right side of history. They were not convinced that there was enough evidence to justify the war. That is leadership.

During that same debate, Hilary Clinton attempted to take the high road on gun control. She talked about Sanders voting 5 times against the Brady Bill for the time limits. She claimed that a significant number of guns from Vermont have made their way to New York. When it was revealed that only 1.2% of the guns the get to New York actually came from Vermont, she was asked why she put out that statement. She demurred again by saying that a lot of guns in New York are from out of state, but never explained her motivation for putting out that statement.

Maybe she's a strong supporter of gun control, but she sure seems to like selling arms to foreign governments with really bad human rights records. Especially when the Clinton Foundation gets a hefty donation from an interested party. I know, this sounds like a plot line from House of Cards. International Business Times has reported that as Secretary of State, Hilary authorized an arms deal worth $29 billion to Saudi Arabia. Two months before the deal was approved, Boeing gave $900,000 to the Clinton Foundation. I guess that cinched the deal.

Saudi Arabia isn't the only country on the shortlist. Mother Jones covered the same issue and has compiled a nice list of 20 countries that are implicated in the same kind of pattern:
The Saudi transaction is just one example of nations and companies that had donated to the Clinton Foundation seeing an increase in arms deals while Hillary Clinton oversaw the State Department. IBT found that between October 2010 and September 2012, State approved $165 billion in commercial arms sales to 20 nations that had donated to the foundation, plus another $151 billion worth of Pentagon-brokered arms deals to 16 of those countries—a 143 percent increase over the same time frame under the Bush Administration. The sales boosted the military power of authoritarian regimes such as Qatar, Algeria, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman, which, like Saudi Arabia, had been criticized by the department for human rights abuses.
A true leader is willing to thrust policy positions into the spotlight for open debate. A true leader doesn't take a position because it's popular. A leader takes a policy position that he or she believes in and shares it with everyone. And that leader makes every effort to ensure that policy positions are consistent with action and that they are consistent across the board. That is what I see in Bernie Sanders and that is why I support him.
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