During the sixth Democrat debate, in Milwaukee, Wis., Sen. Bernie Sanders didn’t get nasty with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or anything. However, the guy known for yelling about banks and corporations and being nice enough to defend Clinton from her email scandal had a moment of true, policy-based smackdown.
In the previous debate Clinton touted the praises of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who controversially served under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Hell, when Clinton had Kissinger’s old job, she often “relied on his counsel” in her own words. This is all part of Clinton’s MO of proving that she has experience – real, solid experience. You see, she is not just a collection of wish lists for Millennials!
The problem with that experience? Many people consider the 92-year-old Kissinger to be a war criminal because of his involvement in the deaths of (at the very least) thousands thanks to U.S. bombs that hit Cambodia and Laos during the Vietnam War.
In Milwaukee, Sanders, who is sometimes frustratingly gentle with Clinton, got tough. You know, like he is about banks. In one of those rare moments that was both a perfect sound-bite and substantial political point, Sanders said the words “I am proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend.” No, let’s let him explain it in full.
Illegal bombing and setting the stage for Pol Pot’s Killing Fields. Kissinger is not a great guy to call for a chat with at 3 AM. Sanders’ people even put out a statement afterwards explaining in full why Kissinger is such a nasty guy in case the youths didn’t quite get it.
The Sanders campaign rapid response on Kissinger is straight fire pic.twitter.com/d8CUNsF3nN— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) February 12, 2016
I feel like Sanders didn’t even bring up the *really* bad parts of Kissinger’s record in Bangladesh and Indonesia.— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) February 12, 2016
Mentioning that Kissinger also egged Nixon on with his dirty domestic tricks such as wiretapping enemies and going after proto-Edward Snowden Daniel Ellsberg after he leaked the Pentagon Papers sounds positively petty. Getting an assist on the Killing Fields really makes your other accomplishments seem minor.
Now, Sanders being Sanders, he couldn’t help but bring economics into the mix. Instead of letting his Ron Paul-plus antiwar KO speak for itself, he had to also complain that Kissinger helped Nixon open up diplomatic relations with communist China and that invariably let to the decline of U.S. manufacturing as corporations moved abroad. Stop while you have her and her old war criminal on the ropes, Bernie.