President Barack Obama said in his recent speech at the memorial service in Tucson, "It's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we're talking with each other in a way that that heals, not in a way that wounds."
President Obama was right.
Vermont Rep. Peter Welch, in commenting on the Tucson tragedy, said that Vermonters do not engage in political hate speech, that their political civility can serve as a model to the nation.
Representative Welch was wrong.
In the wake of the Tucson tragedies where six people were killed and 13 wounded, Sen. Bernie Sanders used those deaths and those injuries to raise money for his 2012 Senate campaign. Sanders sent out a letter to his supporters on January 11, 2011. In the first paragraph of his letter, he mentioned the "tragedy in Arizona", thanked supporters for contributing to his 2012 campaign, and provided a link for more contributions.
In the third paragraph of his letter, Sanders wrote that the tragedy was "not some kind of strange aberration". Then he listed incidents of threats against Rep Gabrielle Giffords and other Democratic politicians. Never mind that all politicians, including Republicans, routinely receive threats of violence against them. Sanders sought to paint a picture that Republicans are violent and dangerous. He even used an example of a Tea Party fundraiser where people were invited to shoot guns, to falsely infer that the event was used to "remove Rep. Giffords from office." He concluded in his letter that "right wing reactionaries through threats and acts of violence Intimidate people with different points of view from expressing their political positions."
Who are "right wing reactionaries" who use violence to subvert our democracy, according to Sanders? All Republicans.
Fifteen years ago, Sanders wrote a political memoir called "Outsider in the House". In it he had little to say about his specific agenda or his accomplishments. He had a great deal to say about his opponents. Sanders called Republicans "crazy", "wacko" (p. 25), "berserk" (p. 143) the "lunatic fringe" (p. 99). He called their policies "irrational" (p. 35, p. 127, p. 131, p. 175) "ugly" (p. 35, p. 133) "garbage" (p. 40) "perverse" (p. 123). According to Sanders, Republicans are "selfish, cruel and immoral" (p. 141), "racist, sexist, homophobes, anti immigrant" (p. 127). He wrote Republicans engage in "lies" "distortions" "bullshit" (p. 98), that their philosophy is a "sham" (p. 128).
Sanders used war metaphors when talking about Republicans. He said Republicans "wage war" against the poor: (p. 154) they "assault" and "beat up on" low income people (p. 137, 139). He called congressional Republicans elected in the landslide of 1994 "the most reactionary,[and] extremist" ...in the modern history of America" (p. 49, p. 165)
In his 244 page memoir, Sanders did not say one good thing about the millions of people who call themselves Republicans.
Sanders' opinion of ordinary Americans, whether Republican, Democrat, or Independent, is no better. He explained in his memoir why heinous Republicans win elections, by claiming that ordinary citizens are "ignorant" prone to "fear"; that they are "prejudiced” and engage in "racial bigotry". He claimed that Republicans pit different races and classes against each other to get themselves elected.
Sanders also maligned American soldiers in his memoir. Sanders' core assumptions about the American military are revealed when he wrote, concerning the liberation of Kuwait in 1992, that "No photos of American atrocities would reach the evening news". According to Sanders' world view, then, not only do American soldiers commit atrocities, but the American government covers up those atrocities. Then he demeaned veterans by writing, "as a result of their wartime experience, [they] will be unemployed and end up sleeping in the streets". ( p. 143).
Sanders has an obsessive hatred against the "rich" and "wealthy" and their "corporate allies". In his memoir, Sanders poured scorn on them with the same virulence he attacked Republicans. The antipathy is puzzling because unlike "working Vermonters" he claims he represents, during the first seventeen years he lived in Vermont, Sanders never earned a living. According to his memoir and his online biography (since taken down), even though Sanders has four children, during those years he merely dabbled in politics and filmmaking. Only the wealthy can afford such a luxury.
This, unfortunately, is how Sanders thinks and how he has always campaigned: He vilifies his opponents, slanders American capitalism, and demeans the American people. His views have remained rigidly unchanged since his college days nearly a half century ago. Vermonters are wonderful people; they are people who have chosen a life that is simple, less frantic, and more humane than that of their big city and suburban cousins. They are generous, tolerant, educated--and liberal, in the best sense of that word.
Vermonters do not deserve such a malevolent and reactionary Senator.