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“Bernie Has Plenty To Lose”: The Sanders Campaign Is Divided Over How It Wants To Die

The night Hillary Clinton won the New York primary, the Sanders campaign sent two radically different messages about how it planned to proceed. In an interview with the Associated Press, senior Sanders adviser Tad Devine said the campaign would “sit back and assess where we are” after the five northeastern primaries on April 26. At roughly the same time, the senator’s campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, told MSNBC that there would be nothing to assess until the superdelegates cast their official votes at the convention.

“We’re going to go to the convention,” Weaver told Steve Kornacki. “It is extremely unlikely that either candidate will have the requisite number of pledged delegates … so it is going to be an election determined by the superdelegates.”

Weaver won that argument. Bernie Sanders lost four of five states on April 26, but continued campaigning aggressively, nonetheless, arguing that a win in California – combined with his superior performance in head-to-head polls with Donald Trump – would convince superdelegates to throw the election to him in Philadelphia.

Now, with Clinton set to clinch a majority of pledged delegates when the final six states cast their primary ballots Tuesday night, the Devine-Weaver divide is resurfacing – and their boss doesn’t seem to know whose side he’s on.

On Monday night, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Sanders campaign is divided between the “Sandernistas” – longtime Bernie backers from his time in Vermont and Congress who want to rage against the dying of the light – and those with broader ties to the Democratic Party, who believe Sanders’s agenda would be best served by uniting the party against Trump. Devine, who advised Democratic nominees Al Gore and John Kerry, speaks for the latter.

“What will happen hopefully when the voting is done, our two campaigns will begin to talk once more to one another and figure out where the common ground is,” Devine told the Journal on Monday night.

Weaver, who has worked as a Sanders operative since the mid-’80s, told the paper a different story.

“The plan is as the senator has described it: to go forward after Tuesday and keep the campaign going to the convention and make the case to superdelegates that Sen. Sanders is the best chance that Democrats have to beat Trump,” Weaver said. “The trajectory is the same regardless of the outcome in California.”

In most of his recent statements, Sanders sounds more like his campaign manager. On Monday night in Los Angeles, Sanders told supporters that a win in California would give him “enormous momentum” with superdelegates going into the convention. But earlier in the day, he struck a more “Devine” note – asked about whether he would endorse Clinton before the convention, Sanders replied, “Let me just talk to you after the primary here in California where we hope to win. Let’s assess where we are after tomorrow before we make statements based on speculation.”

For Weaver, there’s no cause for such assessments. Nothing hinges on the outcome in California. But his candidate sounds less certain. And not without reason. There are a lot of powerful voices whispering into his other ear.

Over the weekend, Sanders and President Obama spoke for over 30 minutes, according to CBS News. While the content of the conversation is unknown, the president has argued that Tuesday’s results will be decisive – and has indicated that he intends to endorse Clinton well ahead of the July convention.

Meanwhile, Sanders’s sole backer in the U.S. Senate, Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley, has called on Sanders to drop out once Clinton secures a majority of pledged delegates. The Vermont senator’s Clinton-backing colleagues – along with virtually every other elected Democrat – obviously agree.

If Sanders was looking for a way to sustain his campaign past a loss in California, the Associated Press’s decision to declare Clinton the primary’s winner on Monday night may provide one justification. In an interview with CNN on Tuesday, Weaver argued that the AP’s call – which was based on a revised count of Clinton’s advantage among superdelegates – was “suppressing voter turnout in six states across the country.”

But the Vermont senator has something to lose in defying the will of the Democratic Party. Should Democrats recapture the Senate, Sanders is in line to become chair of the Budget Committee – a powerful post, especially when held by a politician with a national following and first-rate donor list. If the democratic socialist opts for political revolution over party unity, however, his colleagues could ostensibly deny him that position.

Plus, Sanders’s superdelegate strategy works a lot better as a rationale for giving Democrats in California a chance to make their preferences known than it does as a means of actually winning the nomination. Barring an FBI indictment or medical catastrophe, Democratic elites are not going to overturn the will of their voters to give the party’s nod to a man who has been a Democrat for a little over a year.

But Bernie Sanders isn’t known for being terribly sensitive to political pressure. And at least one voice in his campaign is telling him to go down swinging. We’ll know very soon how loudly all the other voices speak.

 

By: Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, June 7, 2016

June 9, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Scandal Is In What’s Legal”: Holding Congress Accountable For National Security Agency Excesses

It didn’t generate much attention at the time, but in the closing days of 2012, while most of the political world was focused on the so-called “fiscal cliff,” Congress also had to take the time to reauthorize the government’s warrantless surveillance program. A handful of senators — Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — proposed straightforward amendments to promote NSA disclosure and add layers of accountability, but as Adam Serwer reported at the time, bipartisan majorities rejected each of their ideas.

In effect, every senator was aware of dubious NSA surveillance — some had been briefed on the programs in great detail — but a bipartisan majority was comfortable with an enormous amount of secrecy and minimal oversight. Even the most basic of proposed reforms — having the NSA explain how surveillance works in practice — were seen as overly intrusive. The vast majority of Congress was comfortable with NSA operating under what are effectively secret laws.

With this in mind, Jonathan Bernstein asked a compelling question over the weekend and provided a persuasive answer: “If you don’t like the revelations this week about what the NSA has been up to regarding your phone and Internet data, whom should you blame?”

There is, to be sure, plenty of blame to go around. The NSA has pushed the limits; federal courts approved the surveillance programs; George W. Bush got this ball rolling; President Obama kept this ball rolling; and telecoms have clearly participated in the efforts.

But save plenty of your blame — perhaps most of your blame — for Congress.

Did you notice the word I used in each of the other cases? The key word: law. As far as we know, everything that happened here was fully within the law. So if something was allowed that shouldn’t have been allowed, the problem is, in the first place, the laws. And that means Congress.

It’s worth pausing to note that there is some debate about the legality of the exposed surveillance programs. Based on what we know at this point, most of the legal analyses I’ve seen suggest the NSA’s actions were within the law, though we’re still dealing with an incomplete picture, and there are certainly some legal experts who question whether the NSA crossed legal lines.

But if the preliminary information is accurate, it’s hard to overstate how correct Bernstein is about congressional culpability.

Towards the end of the Bush/Cheney era, there was a two-pronged debate about surveillance. On the one hand, there were questions about warrantless wiretaps and NSA data mining. On the other, there was the issue of the law: the original FISA law approved in 1978 was deemed by the Bush administration to be out of date, so officials chose to circumvent it, on purpose, to meet their perceived counter-terrorism needs.

In time, bipartisan majorities in Congress decided not to hold Bush/Cheney accountable, and ultimately expanded the law to give the executive branch extraordinary and unprecedented surveillance powers.

In theory, Obama could have chosen a different path after taking office in 2009, but the historical pattern is clear: if Congress gives a war-time president vast powers related to national security, that president is going to use those powers. The wiser course of action would be the legislative branch acting to keep those powers in check — limiting how far a White House can go — but our contemporary Congress has chosen to do the opposite.

This is, by the way, a bipartisan phenomenon — lawmakers in both parties gave Bush expansive authority in this area, and lawmakers in both parties agreed to keep these powers in Obama’s hands. What’s more, they not only passed these measures into law, they chose not to do much in the way of oversight as the surveillance programs grew.

OK, but now that the NSA programs are causing national controversies again, perhaps Congress will reconsider these expansive presidential powers? Probably not — on the Sunday shows, we heard from a variety of lawmakers, some of whom expressed concern about the surveillance, but most of whom are prepared to allow the programs continue untouched.

Indeed, for many lawmakers on the right, the intended focus going forward won’t be on scaling back NSA efforts, but rather, will be on targeting the leaks that exposed the NSA efforts.

Conservatives, in particular, seem especially eager to leave these powers in the president’s hands — even though they have nothing but disdain for this particular president. And as Jon Chait explained, support for the NSA programs from the right will matter a great deal: “The Republican response is crucial, because it determines whether the news media treats the story as a ‘scandal’ or as a ‘policy dispute.'”

Michael Kinsley, referencing campaign-finance laws, once argued that in Washington, the scandal isn’t what’s illegal; the scandal is what’s legal. I’ve been thinking a lot about this adage in recent days.

If the reports are accurate and the NSA is acting within the law, but you nevertheless consider the surveillance programs outrageous, there is one remedy: Congress needs to redraw the legal lines. At least for now, the appetite for changes among lawmakers appears limited, which only helps reinforce the thesis about who’s ultimately responsible for this mess.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 10, 2013

June 13, 2013 Posted by | Congress | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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