We Need to Talk About Joe

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Bernie Sanders’s insurgent campaign against the Democratic establishment and massive corporate power is in the fight of its life. This week on Intercepted: With Michigan and other states voting in primaries today, the justice movements backing the Sanders campaign are making the case that nominating Joe Biden to take on Donald Trump is a grave risk. Poet Aja Monet and organizer Astra Taylor discuss the mini-manifesto from a multi-generational, multi-racial coalition of feminists: “Rising for a Global Feminist Future with the Movement to Elect Bernie Sanders.” As Biden’s campaign seeks to keep him away from open microphones and limit his public appearances, serious questions are being asked about Biden’s mental health and his decades of right-wing positions and policies. Nathan Robinson, editor-in-chief of Current Affairs, discusses Biden’s record on criminal justice, the climate crisis, women’s reproductive rights, war, and trade. Robinson accurately predicted Trump would defeat Hillary Clinton and he argues it will all happen again if Biden is the candidate in November. His latest article is titled, “Democrats, You Really Do Not Want To Nominate Joe Biden.”

 

Joe Biden: I want to set the record straight on a couple of things.

[Cheering.]

JB: Corn Pop was a bad dude and he ran a bunch of bad boys. Not a joke. Remember the straight race, bang him on the curve, get him rusty, put him in a rain barrel, get ‘em rusty. And I looked at him. I said, “You may cut me, man but I’m gonna wrap this chain around your head.” He said, “OK, close your straight razor.” My heart began to beat again.

[Cheering.]

[Music interlude.]

Jeremy Scahill: This is Intercepted.

[Music interlude.]

JS: I’m Jeremy Scahill, coming to you from the offices of The Intercept in New York City. And this is episode 120 of Intercepted. 

Hillary Clinton: I will support the nominee of the Democratic Party.

Fareed Zakaria: But, will you campaign for him?

HC: I don’t know if he would ask me to campaign for him, Fareed.

JS: There has been a pernicious lie told about Bernie Sanders since 2016 that he is somehow responsible for Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump. Now set aside the fact that Clinton actually won the popular vote. Set aside the fact that Sanders did 39 rallies for Clinton in the last 90 days of the campaign. Set aside the fact that Hillary Clinton did not do any campaign events in Wisconsin. Set aside all of the obvious facts that make that statement laughable and consider this: Hillary Clinton ran as the epitome of an establishment Democrat against one of the most terrible people this country has ever produced, Donald Trump. And she lost.

HC: I am incredibly honored and grateful to have had this chance to represent all of you in this consequential election. May God bless you and may God bless the United States of America.

[Cheering.]

JS: There were quite a few people in this country who warned the Democratic Party that this would happen. And it wasn’t based on hatred for Hillary Clinton. It was based on sound reasoning and historical context. It was based on the knowledge that Hubert Humphrey never became president, that Michael Dukakis never became president, that Hillary Clinton failed to defeat Barack Obama in the primary in 2008.

And back in 2017, Hillary Clinton wrote in her memoir that Sanders “attacks caused lasting damage, making it harder to unify progressives in the general election.” Now, I’m sorry, this analysis perfectly captures the attitude that corporate Democrats have toward so many voters, that they owe it to the corporate party to unify behind them even if those very voters have been harmed by the policies of the Democratic establishment. It is hostage-taking politics. And it is a bankrupt analysis. 

The idea that Sanders’s accurate warnings about the risks of a Clinton candidacy because of her corporate ties, disastrous trade policies, right-wing foreign policy, that that was somehow the defining factor in the 2016 general election is pure fantasy. And any “damage” that it may have done was far outweighed by the fact that Sanders’ critique of Hilary Clinton was in fact, factually based. The policies and records were the damage. Bill Clinton’s legacy was also part of the damage.

And also, just as an aside, if we want to talk about nasty business in Democratic primaries, go back and look at the vicious operations that the Clinton campaign ran against Barack Obama in 2008 attempting to portray him as a scary Muslim and a Black nationalist. Sweet Jesus, some of it would make Donald Trump blush with envy.

Now, here we are in 2020, and once again, we are being told that the only hope we have in this election is to go with the establishment Democrat. And one after another, after another former Democratic candidate is lining up to sell that line to the American people. These include Kamala Harris, who not too long ago said this about Joe Biden.

Kamala Harris: I’m going to now direct this at Vice President Biden. I do not believe you are a racist and I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground. But I also believe and it is personal, I was actually — It was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country. And it was not only that but you also worked with them to oppose bussing.

JS: These people also include Beto O’Rourke who said this:

Willie Geist: So is Joe Biden a return to the past:

Beto O’Rourke: He is and that cannot be who we are going forward. We’ve got to be bigger. We’ve got to be bolder. We have to set a much higher mark and be relentless in pursuing that.

JS: And the list goes on and on. On Sunday, Hillary Clinton spoke with Fareed Zakaria on CNN. And with no apparent sense of irony, Clinton proudly noted that Joe Biden is running a Clinton 2016 type campaign.

HC: What Joe’s victories on Super Tuesday showed is that he is building the kind of coalition that I had basically. It’s a broad-based coalition. I finished, you know, most of the work I needed to do for the nomination on Super Tuesday, and then it kind of lingered on. And I think Joe is on track to doing exactly the same thing.

JS: In 2016, Donald Trump was incredibly able to attack Clinton sort of, from the left, going through her disastrous foreign policy record, positions on trade, financial ties, while attacking Washington as corrupt. Joe Biden is going to face this exact line of attack and we are going to hear nonstop about Hunter Biden, Burisma, Ukraine, corruption, nepotism. 

Donald J. Trump: That would be a major issue on the campaign. I will bring that up all the time because I don’t see any way out. I don’t see any way out for them. I don’t see how they could answer those questions. Or maybe they can. I hope they can. I’d actually prefer it that they can but I don’t believe they’ll be able to answer those questions. That was purely corrupt.

JS: The other factor in all of this is that Joe Biden is nowhere near as articulate and sharp as Hillary Clinton. And Biden has his own horrendous record on women’s issues and inappropriate actions toward women. In fact, there are a lot of reasons that Biden’s campaign is so desperately trying to keep him away from open mics and no one should be pretending like this is not a serious problem. Voters are going to see Joe Biden in what I think can only be called mental decline and they are going to wonder if he should be in charge of the nuclear arsenal. And the fact that Trump is also in clear mental decline, that’s not exactly reassuring. 

Just listen to what Biden’s own current supporters said about him not that long ago as they campaigned for the nomination. Here is Cory Booker:

Cory Booker: I think that we are at a tough point right now because there’s a lot of people who are concerned about Joe Biden’s ability to carry the ball all the way across the end line without fumbling.

JS: And then there was this exchange at a debate with Julian Castro.

JB: They do not have to buy-in.

Julian Castro: You just said that. You just said that two minutes ago. You just said two minutes ago that they would have to buy-in. You said they would have to buy-in.

[Crosstalk.]

JC: Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago? Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago?

JS: Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan openly said that Joe Biden’s mental health was being discussed in Democratic establishment circles.

Tim Ryan: It is a concern you’re hearing from a lot of people in the country. I’m just saying that it’s unclear sometimes when he is articulating positions there’s a lack of clarity and I’ll leave it at that.

JS: These are Democrats talking about Joe Biden. Overwhelmingly they are Democrats who are now endorsing Biden. Now imagine what Donald Trump is going to do. Pretending like there is not something obviously wrong here, it’s just plain stupid.

Nathan Robinson, Editor-in-chief of Current Affairs, Discusses Biden’s Record on Criminal Justice, the Climate Crisis, Women’s Reproductive Rights, War, and Trade

Well, one of the first progressive political analysts to predict that Hillary Clinton would lose to Donald Trump was Nathan Robinson, the editor in chief of the magazine Current Affairs. Robinson is now predicting that if the Democrats run Joe Biden he too will lose to Donald Trump.

Robinson’s latest piece for Current Affairs is Democrats, You Really Do Not Want To Nominate Joe Biden. And Nathan Robinson joins me now. Nathan welcome back to Intercepted. 

Nathan Robinson: Thanks, nice to be with you.

JS: So sort of just lay out the concept that you begin with in your piece.

NR: Since Super Tuesday, there has been a narrative taking hold and you hear this argument sort of more and more and you notice people starting to say it, Joe Biden’s not fantastic but he’s the safe choice.

Chris Matthews: 53 percent of call Biden safe. Others say he’s gonna win. He’s the best bet right now against Trump.

NR: His whole pitch is we need to get rid of Donald Trump. That’s the priority. So it doesn’t matter really whether you like Joe Biden or not. It doesn’t really matter whether his record is good or not because there’s only one question on the ballot, which is, can he beat Trump and in fact, even his wife, Jill Biden said, well, you may like another candidate more but —

Jill Biden: You know, your candidate might be better on, I don’t know, health care, than Joe is, but you’ve got to look at who’s gonna win this election. And maybe you have to swallow a little bit and say, OK, I sort of personally like so and so better but your bottom line has to be that we have to beat Trump.

NR: And I think it’s a very powerful and persuasive argument. That’s why you hear it so much. People are very, very taken in by it. So that’s why I think it is important to empathize with it to the extent that you know, you try to understand how it works and why people believe it, because I ultimately think it’s such a dangerous and wrong argument. This whole image of him as this real nice, honest guy, kind of crumbles when you start to look at him closely. And in fact, it’s often said of Joe Biden that he doesn’t do well under scrutiny. And there’s a reason for that because Joe Biden survives on his smile. But when you actually start to ask, well, is this guy honest? You know, Joe Biden’s whole appeal is he says, you know, character is on the ballot, you say, well, what is his character? You find that the entire thing that is his pitch and his brand doesn’t hold up, it collapses, and I think it’s gonna collapse, you know, towards November too.

JS: Nathan, explain the history of Joe Biden, and civil rights and Joe Biden and criminal justice issues.

NR: In the 1970s Joe Biden, when he was elected, he said, I’m a liberal on civil liberties, but basically not on anything else. I’m kind of a social conservative, and indeed, one of the Joe Biden was sort of a demagogue on the issue of busing and integration. There was that famous clash with Kamala Harris

KH: Do you agree today that you were wrong to oppose busing in America then? Do you agree?

JB: I did not oppose busing in America. What I opposed is busing ordered by the Department of Education. That’s what I opposed.

KH: Well there was a failure of states to integrate —

NR: But what actually happened was Joe Biden realized that white liberal voters were uncomfortable with racial integration. And so he took a very strong stand against federal efforts to integrate the school system.

JB: There are those of we social planners who think somehow that if we just subrogate man’s individual characteristics and traits by making sure that presently a heterogeneous society becomes a totally homogeneous society, that somehow we are going to solve our social ills. And quite to the contrary, I think the concept of busing which implicit in that concept is the question you just asked or the statement within the question you just ask that we are going to integrate people so that they all have the same access and they learn to grow up with one another and all the rest is a rejection of the whole movement of black pride is a rejection of the entire black awareness concept where black is beautiful. Black culture should be studied, and a cultural awareness of the importance of their own identity, their own individuality. And I think that’s a healthy, solid proposal.

NR: It was basically his attempt to pander to the racists and in fact, he partnered with people like Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms who were his close friends and collaborators and who he really kind of excused the racism of, as you say, the criminal justice thing, which, you know, he partnered with Strom Thurmond on some of the, you know, tough on crime is an understatement.

JB: Tens of thousands of them born out of wedlock, without parents, without supervision, without any structure, without any conscience developing because they literally have not been socialized. They literally have not had an opportunity. We should focus on them now. If we don’t, they will or a portion of them will become the predators 15 years from now. And Madam President, we have predators on our streets that society has, in fact, in part because of neglect created. They are beyond the pale many of those people. 

There’s 100,000 real bad apples out there. 100,000 of them warrant exceptionally, exceptionally tough treatment.

NR: I mean, Joe Biden really was one of the key people in turning the Democrats into this tough on crime party.

JB: And we are looking forward, as Pat said, as Senator Leahy said to joining hands with the Republicans because I think 90 percent of what we’re proposing in this major democratic initiative could be a Republican initiative. It should be a bipartisan initiative. Let me get down here a compendium of the things that are in the bill. It provides 53 death penalty offenses, weak as can be, you know. We do everything but hang people for jaywalking in this bill. That’s weak stuff.

NR: And in fact, there’s been good reporting in The Intercept about the way that he pushed Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush to be harsher on crime.

JB: In a nutshell, the president’s plan doesn’t include enough police officers to catch the violent thugs, not enough prosecutors to convict them, not enough judges to sentence them and not enough prison cells to put them away for a long time.

NR: I mean, he was really on the hard right of the Democratic Party when it came to criminal punishment issues.

JS: I think it’s worth just pausing for a moment to talk about Joe Biden’s relationship with Strom Thurmond. And let’s be clear here, Strom Thurmond is one of the most vile racists ever to serve in the United States Congress, and there are a lot of them. But Strom Thurmond is one of the absolute worst and in 1988, according to Joe Biden, he received strong Thurman’s blessing for his presidential campaign. And I’m quoting from Joe Biden here, Joe Biden said, “Strom told me he said, Joe, if there has to be a Democrat as President, I hope it won’t happen. It might as well be you.” Talk about Joe Biden’s relationship with this notorious white supremacist segregationist senator, Strom Thurmond.

NR: Well, you know, at Strom Thurmond’s funeral, it was noted in the press that there weren’t many people from the liberal wing of American politics at that funeral, which was understandable, but there was one person who was Joe Biden.

JB: James Strom Thurmond, Fritzy was one complex guy.

NR: Who gave a warm eulogy for the man who had consistently been the Senate’s sort of leading opponent of civil rights. What Biden did was not only collaborate with Thurmond on legislation that had really terrible consequences for African Americans in the United States and Biden always said, “Oh, well, I disagreed with them, but I got along with them.”

JB: I came to the United States Senate, a 29-year-old fellow out of the civil rights movement, a public defender, and turns out one of my closest friends, ends up being Strom Thurmond. He said “Joe, if there has to be a Democratic president, and I hope it won’t happen. He said it might as well be you.” And after I dropped out of the race, he came and he said, don’t worry about it. He said you got a good 30 years left to try.

NR: But the real point is that what he did was he misstated who these men were and what they stood for. And he portrayed them as nice men when they’re actually men who were really strongly invested their whole lives in maintaining the racial hierarchy of the United States.

JS: In this election year, one of the I think great motivators of people who want Donald Trump out of office and there are many of them is the issue of women’s reproductive health. Of course, the Supreme Court has before it now a case that could dramatically impact the status of Roe vs. Wade and access to a safe and healthy processes for getting, obtaining an abortion. Let’s go back and start with Joe Biden’s position on Roe vs. Wade. And what he said about it, Nathan.

NR: Biden said openly in the 1970s that he had, he was opposed to Roe vs. Wade, didn’t think a woman had the sole right to say what happened to her body. He voted in the 1980s to let states overturn Roe vs. Wade. And even in 2006, he was describing himself —

JB: I do not view abortion as a choice and a right. I think it’s always a tragedy. You see, I’m a little bit of an odd man out in my party. I do not vote for funding for abortion. I voted against partial birth abortion, to limit it and I vote for no restrictions on a woman’s right to be able to have an abortion under Roe v. Wade.

NR: He had to be pressured for his entire career to support the basics of women’s reproductive rights.

JS: You know, the topic that has come up more often than any others in this campaign has been the fact that Joe Biden not only voted for the war in Iraq, but when he was chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in late 2002, as the war in Iraq was being debated, he actively aided and abetted the case and the drive for war, for an invasion and occupation of Iraq in two primary ways. One, he promoted the lie that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

JB: Saddam Hussein’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, in my view is one, of those clear dangers, even if the right response to his pursuit is not so crystal clear. One thing is clear. These weapons must be dislodged from Saddam Hussein or Saddam Hussein must be dislodged from power. I am of the school that suggests that the President need not — when this, if this amendment, if the underlying amendment passes — have to show there’s an imminent threat. He is enforcing a peace agreement in effect. 

Contrary to what some in my party might think, Iraq was a problem that had to be dealt with sooner rather than later. 

I voted to go into Iraq, and I’d vote to do it again.

JS: And then, on the other hand, he prevented any dissenting, true dissenting voices from appearing before the Senate in what was advertised as a debate about what the United States should do in Iraq. But there’s a range of issues that are very concerning about Joe Biden in foreign policy but let’s start with Iraq, Nathan.

NR: Joe Biden years before was talking about the possible need for the United States to go in alone in removing Saddam Hussein.

JB: That the only way, the only way we’re going to get rid of Saddam Hussein is we’re going to end up having to start it alone. Start it alone and it’s going to require guys like you in uniform to be back on foot, in the desert taking Saddam down. You know it and I know it.

NR: One of the things that Joe Biden does now that is so outrageous is distort the record. He was one of the most powerful and useful Democratic allies that lent this sort of bipartisan imprimatur to this foreign policy catastrophe. And then he says, you know, he portrayed himself and he was called out by fact-checkers for this as someone who had opposed the war from the moment it started.

JB: I did make a bad judgment trusting the president saying he was only doing this to get inspectors in and get the U.N. to agree to put inspectors in from the moment shock and awe started, from that moment, I was opposed to the effort and I was outspoken.

JS: It’s interesting, too, because Joe Biden very clearly wants to run on the fact that for eight years, he was Barack Obama’s Vice President. But if he wants to sort of use that as one of his like, you know, trump cards, so to speak in this election, we should also then have to talk about the Biden-Obama record on war. And the fact is that it was under Obama and Biden that the Saudi genocidal war in Yemen began. It was when the Joint Special Operations Command of the military and the CIA, were let off the leash to start ratcheting up drone strikes around the world. It was under the Obama-Biden administration that they ran an extrajudicial secret court system where people would be tried, convicted, sentenced to death in a secretive process, including American citizens for death by drone strike with no oversight whatsoever, and yet, we don’t hear questions about that Nathan at all in the debates about Joe Biden and Saudi Arabia, Joe Biden and drone strikes, Joe Biden and assassinating U.S. citizens who had not actually been charged with crimes of terrorism.

NR: Yeah, one of the reasons that it’s possible for Joe Biden to speak proudly of his record on foreign policy serving under Obama is that for many liberals and Democrats, they’ve failed to interrogate Obama’s foreign policy. It’s the same with immigration, right, where it’s something that if we confront it, honestly, we realize that actually having been involved in the Obama administration’s policies on immigration is something that you should have to be held to account for. Because it’s so wrong, because advocates, people that actually understood the issue and were acquainted with its human costs and consequences were saying this at the time. It’s just that no one was listening to them.

JS: You know, Joe Biden, for as much as he has said throughout his career that you know, he’s a liberal on civil liberties, he has bragged a number of times that the USA Patriot Act which only one U.S. Senator voted against, that was Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, but that the USA Patriot Act was rooted in, based on a bill that Biden himself had written before 9/11 and Biden said that the former Attorney General under George W. Bush, John Ashcroft, that he told Joe Biden that the Patriot Act “Joe, I’m introducing the act basically as you wrote it in 1994.” Explain what we are talking about here when you have Bush’s Attorney General John Ashcroft crediting Biden with being the legislative inspiration for the Patriot Act.

NR: I mean, it’s a crazy story, really, but Biden, yeah, has said, repeatedly, I wrote the Patriot Act, basically, you know, I tried to push through the Patriot Act in the mid-90s, as part of the war on drugs because I wanted to escalate. And I think in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, and you know, he wanted to increase the government’s power to wiretap, reduce accountability for law enforcement, just give the state much greater unaccountable surveillance powers. That was something Joe Biden had been pushing for a long time. It’s quite strange that the Patriot Act which is, you know, one of the most dangerous expanses of government power in our time is something that instead of seeing it as a major mistake he sees as a point of pride on his resume.

JS: So Nathan in Michigan, which is holding its primary today, Bernie Sanders has been really hammering away on two very large themes there. What is the difference between Sanders’ position and Biden’s position on trade and on social security?

NR: Their positions couldn’t really be further apart. I mean, Joe Biden, when Ronald Reagan came into power, said, you know, Ronald Reagan was sort of more in tune with the budgetary priorities of a guy like Biden, because he’s always been a deficit hawk, you know, guy talking about the urgent need to cut spending. And that has led him to say consistently that he believes, you know, everything should be on the table.

JB: When I argued that we should freeze federal spending, I meant social security as well. I meant Medicare and Medicaid. I meant veterans but I meant every single solitary thing in the government. And I not only tried it once, I tried it twice. I tried it a third time. And I tried it a fourth time. 

I tried with Senator Grassley back in the 80s to freeze all government spending, including social security, including everything. 

Social Security is not the hard one to solve. Medicare, that is the gorilla in the room, and you’ve got to put all of it on the table, everything, everything you’ve got to.

NR: I mean, they’ve been direct clashes between Sanders and the Obama administration and Biden over social security. And trade is quite similar, you know, Biden voted for NAFTA and Bernie has always made an issue of opposing free trade agreements because of job loss, especially in places like the Midwest. And the important point to note there, of course, is that one of Trump’s signature campaign issues, it’s one of the things he hammered over and over and over against Hillary Clinton and we can anticipate that he will do the same thing if he runs against Joe Biden.

JS: Recently, Joe Biden’s account tweeted if we give Donald Trump four more years in the White House, our planet may never recover. I want to ask you about Biden and the climate crisis. His campaign, Joe Biden’s is just packed to the gills with fossil fuel executives and others. His climate advisor is a former board member of natural gas company Cheniere Energy. One of Biden’s fundraisers co-founded another natural gas company. You have the pro-Biden super PAC with gas lobbyists on its board. National campaign co-chair Cedric Richmond, according to your piece has “one of the most pro-industry voting records on fossil fuel issues among all congressional Democrats.” Talk about Biden and climate.

NR: So we could ask, you know, how likely is he to do anything right when he’s surrounded by all these people whose industries basically their continued existence is predicated on continuing to catastrophically harm the climate? And so it’s very difficult when all of those people are working for you, and they’re your friends, and they’re around you, for you to do what is necessary which is going to involve taking on and challenging those industries. So I mean, if you remember the exchanges that he’s had with voters, where he says, go vote for someone else, where he’s had a couple of those. 

Unidentified person: But what are we gonna do about climate change? Now, you say you’re against pipelines but then you want to replace these gas lines. That’s not gonna work. We got to stop building and replacing pipelines.

JB: Go vote for someone else.

Unidentified person: Alright, thank you so much.

JB: If you’re not going to vote for me in the primary —

Unidentified person: I’m going to vote for you in the general —

NR: Both of those videos are him clashing with people who are trying to bring up environmental concerns with him. They’re trying to bring up pipelines and fracking. And he says to them, he says to those voters, I’m not even gonna try. This is not, I’m not even to try to persuade you. I basically exclude you from the people that I think of myself as needing to win over.

JS: You know, the huge — it’s not just an elephant in the room. It’s like, you know, a herd of elephants in the room is what is going on with Joe Biden’s brain.

JB: I want to be clear, I’m not going nuts. I’m not sure whether it’s in medical school or where the hell I spoke. 

Out of a trillion six hundred billion worth, a trillion four hundred billion worth, out of a billion, four hundred million. Excuse me, a trillion four hundred billion dollars. It’s hard to even say it. It’s so much. 

I took on Putin in terms of Iraq. I mean, excuse me in terms of what was going on in Ukraine. 

I’m among many qualified people on the best-qualified people, person for this job. 

We can do it and it’s going to take billions of dollars to do it. And we can afford to do it. We can afford it — We can’t afford not to do it. 

He’s saying that it was the president, my boss, it was his fault. 

Donald Trump does pose an existential threat to this — It’s not hypothetical. 

This is my little sister Valerie and I’m Jill’s husband. Oh, no, Valerie you switched on me. This is my wife. This is my sister. They switched on me. 

We hold these truths to be self-evident. All men and women are created by oh, you know the, you know the thing. 

My name is Joe Biden. I’m a Democratic candidate for the United States Senate. Look me over. If you like what you see, help out. If not vote for the other Biden, give me a look though, OK.

JS: You know, I mean, people say, oh, this is cruel, or they try to say, oh, he does that because he has a stutter. No, no, no, no, no, no. Yeah, Joe Biden has always been somewhat of a calamity when it comes to off the cuff speaking. But a stutter issue doesn’t make you lie about being arrested in apartheid South Africa, a stutter issue doesn’t make you lie about participating in sit-ins. A stutter issue doesn’t make you lie about your position on the Iraq war. We need to be clear here. Joe Biden is a borderline pathological liar who also seems to at times not realize who he is, what he’s running for, or the powers of the presidency. I’m sorry, we have to talk about this. 

We have a totally unstable fascist, narcissistic, loony in the White House right now. And we’re going to run against him someone who doesn’t seem to know what room he’s in, who is his sister, and who is his wife, the fact that he can’t name people to the U.S. Senate. I mean, this is absolutely a valid issue to talk about, and I don’t care how much trolling I get for talking about it. This is frightening that this is the man that the Democratic establishment thinks is going to be the solution to Donald Trump.

NR: Yeah, so I think there are two things here. The first thing is the pathological lying. I mean we really do need to remember the fact it is not a small issue that Joe Biden’s first presidential campaign in 1988 ended in disaster because he turned out to be a pathological liar.

Newscaster: Democratic presidential candidate Joseph Biden today faces a controversy. Three weeks ago at a debate at the Iowa State Fair, he used phrases identical to those delivered by British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock.

Newscaster: Biden seemed to be claiming Kinnock’s vision and life as his own.

JB: My ancestors who worked in the coal mines in northeast Pennsylvania would come up after 12 hours and play football.

Neil Kinnock: Eight hours underground, and then come up and play football.

JB: It’s because they didn’t have a platform upon which to stand.

NK: There was no platform upon which they could stand.

Newscaster: The problem here is that Senator Biden told his audience he just been thinking about these things, and he failed to give any credit at all to his famous British speechwriter.

JB: I should have said to paraphrase Neil Kinnock. It’s the only time I didn’t. In all the times I’ve used it.

Newscaster: But CBS News found a tape of a second instance.

Newscaster: Biden had appropriated a famous litany from the late Robert Kennedy about what the gross national product cannot measure.

JB: It cannot measure the health of our children.

Robert Kennedy: The health of our children.

JB: The quality of our education.

RK: The quality of their education.

JB: The joy of their play.

RK: Or the joy of their play.

Newscaster: Joseph Biden admitted today that he committed plagiarism when he was in law school. He said it was a mistake, but that it was unintentional.

Newscaster: He quoted five pages of someone else’s work without proper citation.

JB: I’ve done some dumb things and I’ll do dumb things again.

Newscaster: Senator Joseph Biden may have more explaining to do.

JB: Well, I went to law school on a full academic scholarship. The only one in my class to have a full academic scholarship, went back to law school, and in fact, ended up in the top half of my class. I was the outstanding student in the political science department at the end of my year. I graduated with three degrees from undergraduate school and 165 credits, only needed 123 credits.

Newscaster: Biden now concedes he did not graduate in the top half of his law school class, that he does not have three degrees from college, and that he was not named outstanding political science student in college.

Newscaster: Newsweek says Biden actually went to school on a half scholarship ended up near the bottom of his class and won only one degree, not three.

NR: And when all of this came out what a faker and a plagiarist he was, he had to leave the race because it was so embarrassing, and he is doing this even now. And Donald Trump is going to point it out. And this is one of the things I emphasize over and over and over in the piece is, you know, a lot of people aren’t gonna be persuaded by a lot of the stuff that you and I talked about, but if all you care about is electability, this is a guy who has massive liabilities for having said all these untrue things that are all going to be in ads, and that Donald Trump is going to point out every single one of them and he’s already doing it. So the lies issue should already disqualify him.

But the second thing as you say is the mental fitness issue. Now, you know, as you say, you know, we don’t want to diagnose him with anything, but go and look at all of the clips of him speaking in recent years, think about this going up against Donald Trump. What Democrats often don’t appreciate is that Donald Trump is such a skilled and formidable bully. He’s so good at finding people’s weak spots, and just mercilessly exposing them and talking about them over and over and over. So all this stuff in his record, Donald Trump’s going to talk about it. He’s going to talk about the criminal punishment stuff. He’s already running criminal justice reform ads talking about, you know, how he’s been better for black people than Democrats.

He’s gonna talk about all the mental stuff. There are clips of Donald Trump where he’s talking about, oh, well, every time I watch Joe Biden, I’m just so curious as to what he’s gonna say next, and how wrong it’s gonna be and I feel so bad for poor Joe because he doesn’t even seem to understand where he is or what office he’s running for. And it’s going to be very difficult to respond to that because it’s correct, because it is true that Joe Biden seems incredibly unreliable and the sort of guy who was really not in a fit state to run for any office, let alone president.

JS: Finally, Nathan, I want to ask you because you back in 2016, you said very early on that Hillary Clinton was going to lose to Donald Trump and what we have seen and we certainly see it at now in Hillary’s hagiography on Hulu is this blaming of Bernie Sanders, blaming of the left, blaming of Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for Hillary’s loss in the 2016 election.

Hillary Clinton: Honestly, Bernie just drove me crazy. He was in Congress for years, years. He had one senator support him, nobody likes him. Nobody wants to work with him. He got nothing done. He was a career politician. He did not work till he was like 41 and then he got elected to something. It was all just baloney. And I feel so bad that you know, everybody got sucked into it.

JS: Do you think that same scenario is going to play out if Joe Biden is the nominee runs against Donald Trump and loses? Is it going to all be, well, it’s going to be Bernie Sanders and the left’s fault that this happened?

NR: Yeah, you know, it’s funny after 2016, you might have thought some lessons would have been learned. I mean, we, you know, people like me and Michael Moore, were calling it out at the time and we were saying, you’re going to lose, you don’t understand what Trump’s appeal is. And you don’t understand, like, how effective his attacks on the Democratic establishment are. Hillary Clinton lost. And there was no introspection. In fact, if anything, they’re running this kind of almost parody of the same playbook, right? Now you have Joe Biden, the guy who, if anything embodies even more of the failures of the Democratic Party of the past 40 years, even more lies, even more pathologically, and so you’re gonna make it even worse.

I mean, I compare Joe Biden to Don Quixote because I was reading Don Quixote the other day.  And a guy pointed out he said, “That’s a very topical book” and I said, “Why is it topical?” He said, well, because Don Quixote is the guy who lives in a fantasy of the past and doesn’t understand that the world has changed and when he fights against the windmills thinking their giants and then you know, gets, you know, lifted up by the windmills, he doesn’t then think, oh, I was wrong these are actually windmills. He just comes up with an explanation of how oh, no, they were still actually giants, but it must have been a wizard that turned them into it,” right?

You know, so that’s what the Democratic Party are doing instead of looking at 2016 and introspecting, and saying, “Oh, this is why we got it wrong. We need to fix these very severe problems.” It’s, oh, well, you know, Putin put Trump in the White House. So we can do the same thing again, and it’s not our fault. We don’t have to adapt. We don’t have to change. And I think that ultimately, that’s going to be a catastrophe for the Democratic Party. We’ve been saying over and over, you need to run someone like Bernie Sanders, someone who has an authentic populist message, someone who has something that can inspire people, people can get behind and who can counter a lot of Donald Trump’s criticisms of the Democratic Party because they share those criticisms.

It’s very difficult to predict what would happen with the Biden nomination mainly because of the virus, like I don’t know how the virus is going to throw this kind of X-factor into this election. But if it were not for that, it would be very, very clear that running this like incoherent lying, totally uninspiring, Democratic conman is not a pragmatic electoral strategy. But the crazy, crazy thing is that it is being presented as the electable option, the pragmatic and sound and sensible choice and I just feel and you probably feel, I just feel crazy every day because I watch them stumbling towards what seems like a nightmare, and I’m really dreading watching Joe Biden for months go up against this sort of bulldozer Donald Trump, but if that’s the choice they make, it’s the choice they make.

JS: You’ve checked out the record of Joe Biden and if you like it help out and if not vote for the other Biden.

NR: Oh my gosh, there’s so many clips.

JS: We’re gonna leave it there though. Nathan Robinson, thank you so much for being with us.

NR: Thanks, Jeremy. Always a pleasure.

JS: Nathan Robinson is editor in chief of Current Affairs. His latest piece is Democrats, You Really Do Not Want To Nominate Joe Biden. His latest book is “Why You Should be a Socialist.”

[Music interlude.]

JS: When it comes to the major questions of U.S. economic, social, political and foreign policy, Bernie Sanders has been an outsider for his entire career in politics. He has always caucused with the Democrats in the House and Senate, but he has made clear that he distinguishes himself from the capital P party. People like to focus on the fact that Sanders calls himself a Democratic Socialist, but the designation next to his name is an I for independent. That’s how most people in this country view themselves.

Yes, Bernie Sanders is running for the Democratic nomination for president. And the establishment in both 2016 and 2020 have reacted to him like a foreign virus that has invaded its body. 

JB: And if the Democrats want a nominee who’s a Democrat, a life-long Democrat, a proud Democrat, an Obama-Biden Democrat, join us.

JS: This refrain from Joe Biden which gets applause at Democratic Party rallies is really an embarrassing own-goal on his part when we look toward a general election. What makes Sanders so appealing to millions of voters in this country is that he is not just a partisan lemming, that he challenges established orthodoxy. Sanders clearly shares more in common with the Democratic Party than he does with the Republicans and in our current system, which is overwhelmingly controlled by billionaires and corporations and special interests, running for the Democratic nomination is the most responsible and logical move for Bernie Sanders and for the movements that are powering his run for president. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: I want to talk a little bit because in 1984 Reverend Jackson delivered a speech. Now listen to this, this was his analysis back then in 1984 that “Reagan won not by genius, he won while we were asleep. He won by the margin of despair. He won by the fracture of our coalition, by the margin of racial division. He won by default. Does that sound familiar, Michigan?

JS: When Joe Biden goes into his stump refrain celebrating the partisan identity of being a corporate Democrat, how does that sound to workers who were harmed by the Democrats trade policies or criminal justice policies or war policies? People are not clamoring for a world run by partisan Democratic operatives. Many are clamoring for an end to Donald Trump and the election of a serious administration that actually prioritizes changing people’s lives and the world for the better. And whether we like it or not, there are an enormous number of voters in this country who will be deciding between the Democratic nominee and Donald Trump without any real consideration whatsoever of what party they technically represent. The issue will be: Who is better for me and my family?

JB: During the Obama-Biden administration, as the vice president of the United States, I worked with a man who in fact, we worked very hard. President turned to me and said Joe, get our combat troops out of Iraq.

JS: Joe Biden’s partisan pandering and mentioning constantly his links to Obama, alongside the skewed media coverage and massive amounts of money being spent to attack Sanders, may well be enough to win Joe Biden the Democratic nomination, but it’s a dangerous message to run on in the general election, particularly against Donald Trump. Let’s be honest, who has been the most partisan Democrat is a terrible platform if you want to get the most votes in places like Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania.

Bernie Sanders: If we are going to defeat Trump in Michigan, in Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, it will be very hard for a candidate who voted for these disastrous trade agreements.

JS: In Michigan, Bernie Sanders stepped up his on the ground organizing efforts in the month leading up to the primary. Many people view it as a kind of make or break moment in this campaign for Bernie Sanders. They opened field offices in Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Dearborn, Flint, Detroit. Joe Biden, on the other hand, is largely running what you might call a virtual campaign and he is severely limiting his public appearances.

JB: The Bernie bros are here, let them go. Folks. 

That’s what’s wrong, that’s what’s wrong with American politics.

JS: Ahead of Tuesday’s primaries, Bernie Sanders spent the weekend in Michigan, holding rallies in Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, and Dearborn. 

BS: You know, I am, I get inspired. Sometimes people say Bernie, you’re 33 years of age. How do you keep going? And I get inspired because I talk to groups like this. I look around this room. I see people coming from so many different backgrounds. It is beautiful. This is what America looks like at its best.

JS: Joe Biden has done almost nothing to get out the vote other than I guess, being Joe Biden. Now maybe that along with the massive spending and free publicity in the corporate media is going to be enough to win a primary, but it doesn’t do much to beat Donald Trump and win over non-Democrats.

What’s remarkable is that — even with the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on attacking Bernie Sanders, the unrestrained Super PACS going after him, even with the entire Hillary Clinton apparatus smearing Sanders for 5 years and now on-demand on HULU, even with the Wall Street and corporate power structures aligned against him — Sanders is winning millions of votes in the Democratic Party’s primary. And he is, as of this moment, within striking range of Joe Biden. Who was, for eight years, the vice president of an administration that was extremely popular with Democratic voters and the party establishment and which also is the number one object of scorn in the world of Trump supporters.

DJT: Now sleepy Joe would say the unemployment rate in the great state of Ohio. No, no, you’re in South Carolina. Joe, Joe, you’re in South — They come up. You ever see the guy with the notes? No, no, no, it’s South Carolina. It’s not Ohio. OK.

JS: What we are really seeing is a candidate in Joe Biden, whose very long record represents so much of what is wrong about the Democratic Party, fighting off a very serious challenge from an insurgent movement that is backing a candidate who has stood against the bipartisan consensus on some of the most vital issues to our country and our world. But that is not the story being told in corporate media and it’s certainly isn’t the story being told by the Biden campaign.

Rachel Maddow: What is going wrong with your campaign when it comes to competing in the South and competing specifically for black voters?

BS: Well, let me just give you the other side of the story is that in California, if my memory is correct, we received 39 percent of the votes of people of color which were Latinos, Asian Americans, and African Americans.

JS: The dominant corporate and partisan narrative pretends that this is just a fair fight and the voters are deciding the fate of this primary. It erases the entire role of dark money. It erases the powerful corporate interests and backroom maneuvering. 

BS: And there’s not been a campaign I think that has been having to deal with the kind of venom we’re seeing from some in the corporate media. This campaign has been compared to the coronavirus on television. We have been described as the Nazi army marching across France, etcetera, etcetera.

JS: Much of the coverage of this primary campaign erases the existence of the smear machinery against Bernie Sanders and dismisses the avalanche of hostile corporate media coverage of his campaign and just says oh, this is just about the voters. At the same time, this same apparatus seeks to erase the decades of atrocious policies and positions and statements from Joe Biden.

John Harwood: Bobby Rush, member of Congress said the other day, I’m ashamed that I voted for the ’94 crime bill. You ashamed of that bill?

JB: Not at all. In fact, I drafted the bill, if you remember.

JH: I know that.

JS: While Biden’s campaign wants to focus on the risk of nominating Bernie Sanders to take on Donald Trump, the social and political movements backing Sanders put it differently: What are the risks to the country and planet if we do not nominate Sanders to defeat Donald Trump?

Michael Moore: If we don’t fix climate change, like now, we don’t have four years. We’re done. We’re done. We’re done. And so what they love about Bernie is that he’s fighting for their future and he will not relent. They know he can’t be bought, he will not give in. And it’s not his future he’s fighting for it. He won’t be around to see what’s going to happen to this planet.

JS: As the media obsession with snake emojis and so-called Bernie Bros continues to dominate large sectors of the media and political discourse on cable news and social media, it’s important to note that Bernie Sanders has won the endorsements of labor unions, environmental groups, nurses, teachers and of a very diverse cross-section of voters in this country. 

You may not have seen it on the news but a group of more than 100 Black academics, scholars and writers released a statement endorsing Bernie Sanders on the eve of the South Carolina Primary. That letter reads in part, “the powerful policy changes he has outlined, if elected, would make the most far-reaching and positive impact on the lives and condition of Black people, and all people in the United States.” On Monday, the Working Families Party endorsed Sanders, as did civil rights icon Jesse Jackson on Sunday.

Jesse Jackson: I stand with Bernie Sanders today because he stood with me. I stand with him because he’s never lost his taste for justice for the people. I stand with him because he stands with you.

Poet Aja Monet and Organizer Astra Taylor Discuss the Mini-manifesto From a Multi-generational, Multi-racial Coalition of Feminists: “Rising for a Global Feminist Future With the Movement to Elect Bernie Sanders”

JS: This weekend, a multi-generational, multi-racial coalition of feminists released a statement making the case for supporting Bernie Sanders. It is titled, “Rising for a Global Feminist Future with the Movement to Elect Bernie Sanders.” Joining me now are two of the authors of this statement. Aja Monet is a Brooklyn-born Cuban-Jamaican poet and activist. Her latest book is called “My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter.” And, we are joined by Filmmaker, author, and organizer Astra Taylor. After organizing with the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011, Taylor co-founded the Debt Collective, an organization that has developed some very effective tools to help people dispute and challenge their debt. Her latest book is “Democracy May Not Exist, but We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone.” Aja Monet, Astra Taylor, I want to welcome both of you back to Intercepted.

Astra Taylor: Thanks for having me.

Aja Monet: Thank you, glad to be here.

JS: Aja, I want to start with you, just give an overview of the statement that you all released with the title “Rising for a Global Feminist Future with the Movement to Elect Bernie Sanders.” Explain what the statement is about how it came to be and why you’re behind it.

AM: We’re seeing that a lot of the policies that Bernie Sanders is putting forth are policies that address the issues that many of us have been fighting for a very long time. Being in this moment, we see that there has been this divisiveness that has happened between, “progressive people.” And when that happened, there was a lot of conversation around the Bernie bros and what Bernie and the Bernie Sanders campaign means for the broader conversation around patriarchy and feminism and where do women stand and what we saw from someone as amazing as Linda Sarsour and Barbara Smith and Keeanga Taylor and Nina Turner and I mean, the list goes on and on that there have been many women who have been critical to moving and developing and pushing the campaign for the political revolution that we currently know to be behind Bernie Sanders. And in that there has been an I believe, an attempt from the media to kind of erase the voices of women and particularly women of color who have been behind that movement.

And so standing in solidarity with Linda and all these other incredible women, I had a conversation with Eve Ensler and I knew Naomi Klein was going through the same sort of frustration. And when we had this discussion, I was like, let’s all get on a call to talk about how we could actually build a demonstration of solidarity. So folks can really see that this is not just a campaign for white male, poor, middle-class folks, but that it’s actually a movement that’s going to transform drastically the lives for women and women of color, poor women and women of color across the country, but also the globe. And so that’s how this all came to be. In that conversation, we started thinking about and strategizing what can we do to shift the narrative? What can we do to come together? And this statement was what came of that.

JS: Astra, in the statement, you’re calling it a rising for a global feminist future with the movement to elect Bernie Sanders. Take some of that apart and explain what all of you are talking about.

AT: This isn’t about putting all of our hope in one person. This is about the fact that there is a broader movement and alliance forming that has a feminist agenda and seeing Sanders and a potential Sanders presidency as a crucial part of that. I mean, the other word that’s in there is global, that this isn’t just about women in the United States of America, that a Sanders presidency would improve the global situation. And we can think about that in terms of his foreign policy. He’s the most anti-war candidate in terms of his climate justice policy, global warming is a global issue. You know, one thing we’re trying to get out there, and I think it’s so important for all of us, who are feminists to do this is to say these are feminist issues. Global warming is a feminist issue. You know, healthcare is a feminist issue, war is an intersectional feminist issue because people are disabled by war, right, black and brown people are disproportionately maimed and killed by war. These are all feminist issues. And that’s the kind of deep intersectionality that this movement is about.

And I think, at this moment, we have to work on articulating that. I think one of the powerful things about the Sanders campaign is that, you know, it talks in the language of universality, Medicare for All, free college for all, that’s great, and powerful. But there’s also a very, very explicit feminist case for these policies that we can lift up at this moment when we’re talking about patriarchy and discrimination against women. So you know, Medicare for All, what does that do if you’re a woman? If you’re facing sexism in the workplace, and you have universal health care, you can tell your boss to eat it, right? If you are facing domestic abuse in the home, but you’re dependent on your husband’s employer-provided health care, you can tell him that, you know, you don’t want to be in a relationship anymore because you’re not going to be worried about the fact that you’re going to not be able to access the medical care you need. There’s a racial justice, gender justice component to all of these universal policies that are really critical. And I think we need to work extra hard to articulate those right now and this letter as part of that in my mind.

JS: Aja, you know, I feel like we’re all being gaslit by big corporate media institutions, by the elite of the Democratic Party, this narrative that oh, you know, Joe Biden, now backed by Black America is just trouncing Bernie Sanders.

CNN: Just how important the African American vote is, now that Joe Biden has succeeded so tremendously with the African American vote in South Carolina,

Joy Reid: Black voters said, you know what, that’s nice. You want to revolution? The answer? No.

Karen Finney: So everybody knows that Obama is an important factor in terms of the Black vote. But Biden can own that legacy in a way that Sanders just can’t.

JS: That is really kind of the dominant narrative that is being pushed right now. And I’m curious how you’ve been watching and seeing the emergence of this as the big line about Bernie Sanders.

AM: Well, I think black America is not a monolith. You know, like people talk about black people just like they talk about women, just like they talk about Latinos, every demographic people like to paint a broad brush as if everybody has been in agreement and going in one direction for forever. And that’s just not the case. I think another conversation that gets left out in terms of talking about the black vote is voter suppression. People are not talking about the ways in which black people have been kept from the polls and not just black people, poor people. I don’t think it’s just black people when people bring up the black vote, it’s ironic they don’t bring up the white vote. They don’t bring up white women’s vote. We’re not talking about how many white women voted for Trump. No one’s talking about how many white women didn’t show up in all different ways politically in the past several election cycles.

There’s a narrative that people are pushing in the media, it’s a divisive tactic. It’s making the black community actually have more arguments and more internal conflict within themselves than they really need to be when in actuality, the campaign for Bernie Sanders the movement for Bernie Sanders, is actually a movement that will drastically shift the conditions for all black people, rich, poor middle class. We have so many ways that we can illustrate and break down every single policy and demonstrate what the benefits are. 

And no one’s talking about the fact that Biden has not done any work. Biden is leaning on his relationship to Obama, as if that’s a demonstration of his values. And as if that makes him an example, a leading light and example of why he can lead the country now. And so it’s like, I have my one black friend that he’s just trolling around everywhere. That’s actually quite deceptive, and making the community have really difficult conversations about what do we stand for? And how do we show up?

JS: You know, Astra, on that point, 53 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump. Democrats say, oh, Bernie Sanders is not going to be able to win suburban white women. And that is now becoming a talking point that Joe Biden is going to be able to win, you know, suburban women.

AT: And it might be true. When Aja was saying black voters aren’t a monolith, women voters aren’t a monolith. It’s absolutely true. We are in a moment of reckoning for the Sanders campaign. I mean, I think what it’s done is absolutely remarkable. I mean, we have a Democratic socialist who has come this far, who’s taking on the establishment, the establishment is a real thing, who is taking on corporate interest, incredibly powerful, deep-pocketed interests. And so the fact that this constituency has been built, he’s gotten this far, that he’s neck and neck in terms of delegates with Biden, I’m actually astonished in a way but we are in a moment where we need more voters. We need to build the movement.

And so I’m thinking about this conversation in terms of the strategy moving forward. How do we reach some people who are entertaining the prospect of voting for Biden? I have my criticisms, deep criticisms of going in that direction. But right now, we have to build the base and get those people and so I think emphasizing things like that Sanders’s policies are fundamentally about care, right, about building a society where people are supported to do the care work. They’re about giving women and poor people and black people more power. I think we do have to figure out how to make the case that this is a program that will work for those voters who, you know, are going in a direction we don’t want them to right now. That’s the challenge we have to face in this moment.

JS: Aja, what do you see as the biggest risks of a Biden versus Trump general election?

AM: He’s not going to win. I don’t think people really understand how divided we are right now. [Sighs.]  It’s just at this point, I think I’m really depressed and very frustrated by this moment because it seems to me that the wealthy, the elite, the corporate interests are all unified on one front. And when it comes to the oppressed, when it comes to poor people, everybody’s just don’t got nothing to say. Nobody really wants to take a stand. And so what we’re seeing right now is that I am exhibiting and I am trying to stay in the fight and I’m trying to continue every day to keep hope when we continually see the establishment steal from the people, steal the people’s voice, steal the people’s well being, steal the people’s sense of self and identity in this country. I mean, it’s just, it’s discouraging.

And I think Biden is an example of a time that I don’t want to return to, you know. I want our future generation to be able to look back and say, “Wow, they really fought for us, and they made sure that we had the basic human decency in this country.” And Biden’s not concerned with that. He doesn’t want people to have universal health care. He doesn’t care about the fact that the criminal legal system has demonized young black and brown people on the streets, and enabled and empowered the deaths of black people at the hands of the police. I’m not trying to fight for Biden right now. And I’m not trying to fight for Trump at all in any way, shape, or form. But a vote for Biden is a vote for Trump in my eyes right now.

AT: And Biden is incredibly weak on so many issues, I mean, even if he was able to give a coherent speech, right. I mean, if you look at his record in terms of his stance on trade agreements, his stance on foreign intervention, his stance on criminal justice. I mean, his record’s terrible. The fact that he is only now in this campaign season flip-flopping on the Hyde Amendment right of saying abortion should be, yes, considered medical coverage and covered by federal funds. It’s unconscionable, you know, I think for people to get behind him when you have an alternative, Bernie Sanders, who has been, you know, standing for these principles and unwavering in them. And so we have to turn up the heat and go hard and the record, Biden’s record speaks for itself. And we are also in a moment not only should we abhor that record as people on the left, but those are all things that Trump is going to go after him for too.

JS: Aja, because you also in your work and in your personal life, have focused on the rights of the Palestinian people. I just want to read part of this statement, and then ask you about Sanders and the position that he is taking daily in his speeches on Palestine. But from your statement, it says “We stand with the abolitionists, healers and storytellers who pursue a world where we are brave enough to consider one another and fight for each other. We envision a world where discrimination, war and white terrorism are laughed out of the room and become a thing of our past. Where we honor the dignity, respect and self-determination of the Palestinian people, where the people of Puerto Rico are free of colonial debt and domination.”

AM: It applies to all of our foreign policy. I think the biggest and starkest difference in Sanders’s rhetoric and in his policy and in his actions and his debate, you know, debate stage moments is that he makes a clear distinction on his understanding of how we have as America have engaged the folks who we are in agreement with and the folks we are in disagreement with. Sanders has a humanistic, like, basic justice approach to how we talk about the dignity and the self-determination of all people, that all children matter, that all women matter that all working people matter in this country, but also in this globe.

And so when we talk about Palestine, one of the biggest things doing the work in the past few years, that’s incredibly encouraging, but also, just a demonstration of the work we’ve been doing is to go from five years ago when you couldn’t really say the word Palestine on a national network without being terrified of being called anti-semitic. You know, and here we have a presidential candidate who’s brought up the dignity of Palestinian people on a debate stage — a national debate stage.

BS: What our foreign policy in the Mideast should be about is absolutely protecting the independence and security of Israel. But you cannot ignore the suffering of the Palestinian people. We have got to have a policy that reaches out to the Palestinians and the Americans and an answer to your question that will come within the context of bringing nations together in the Mideast.

AM: And that happened because of the people on the ground, that happened because of the shifting of the culture. All of the things that Sanders is running on is from us. It’s from the movement. It’s from the people. It’s from the folks who have been organizing. He could not run on this platform if it wasn’t for all the millions and millions of people who have been shifting and pushing and organizing and knocking on doors and sitting through meetings and fighting and protesting for years so that this is now normalized so that now we can have a conversation about the hard difficult realities of American foreign policy. 

And bigger than that, you know, Puerto Rico, something that Trump has made of buffoonery in one of the most desperate times of the Puerto Rican people, we still have not had a full conversation about what colonial American project has done to Puerto Rico. 

And so there’s a lot to be said for our foreign policy that has made it so that we’ve spent too much on the military budget, and not enough on our domestic needs, and so if we have better relationships with our comrades across the globe, then we wouldn’t need to be spending so much money, defending ourselves and putting families at risk in other places that they don’t need to be.

JS: And Astra, at the same time, Sanders has totally transformed the conversation in this country and is never given credit for it by the establishment Democrats who are now parroting some of his talking points because they realize that history is not on their side, and that this moment is not on their side on those core issues.

AT: Absolutely. I mean, two things. One, I did see an article in The New York Times recently, it was like Bernie Sanders has won the war of ideas and was sort of like you’ve won go home now. So maybe they’ll give him credit if they think it will shoo him away. But it’s absolutely true. I actually was in a conversation with friends collecting examples of what concrete policies came from the grassroots: home guarantee, student debt cancellation, medical debt cancellation. Sanders has been working with some of the best disability activists and most radical disability activists I know and this question like, well, what is feminism to me? That is a feminist mode is to listen to the grassroots and incorporate their missions into your platform, right? I mean, we saw this the other night when, you know, Sanders did his event in Flint and shared the stage with other activists and speakers.

Nayyirah Shariff: The obstructions to our liberation and our recovery. So what can you do for us, for Flint?

BS: OK, I’m gonna answer that. I’m gonna ask you a question. Am I correct in remembering and I may be wrong on this, but not only have you had a water crisis in terms of poisoning your water, but you’re also paying outrageously high water rates, is that the case?

NS: Yes and they could even double again this year?

AT: There’s something very permeable about the campaign and that’s, you know, really powerful for me as someone who’s been in the fight for student debt cancellation. Nothing could be starker than the contrast between Sanders and Biden. 

What is Biden’s higher education platform? It’s essentially I’m gonna undo what I did in 2005, right. A core piece of the Biden higher education student debt campaign is to say, oh, I will put back bankruptcy protections. Well, guess what Biden’s famous for? Eliminating bankruptcy protections for student debtors because he was a Delaware senator and you know, was paying attention to lobbyists, not the people. He wasn’t paying attention to Elizabeth Warren at the time, who said, hey, this is a really bad move, and actually will impact women, most of all. So, you know, you’ve got Sanders who’s saying, Let’s wipe the slate clean. In fact, it’s something he can do in the first hundred days without going to Congress. You know, this is something that is a material benefit that people would get from a Sanders administration versus in Biden, who’s basically like, oops, let me hit the undo button on a mistake I made very recently.

JS: You know, I hesitate to delve into this issue, but I feel like it’s an important one to take head-on and I’m curious your thoughts. I mean, clearly we have two older white men who both have had health struggles in this election. On the one hand, you have Bernie Sanders who did have a heart attack, and he is up there in age. Though we’ve seen the letters that have come out from his doctors. And then on the other hand, you have Joe Biden, and Biden is saying things like he’s looking forward to appointing the first African American woman to the Senate. He often seems to not know what state he is in.

If you watch video of Joe Biden over the years, he consistently has been a problematic, let’s say, public speaker, but there’s something very different going on here. And it’s part of why people are calling him Joe Hidin’ now is because they really are trying to limit his public appearances. But because you are all firmly saying now that the movement to elect Sanders needs to happen and you’re encouraging friends and comrades and colleagues from across the spectrum to join you in this, what do you say to people who say “Well, I’m nervous about Bernie Sanders. He’s an old man and he’s had a heart attack?”

AM: The root and the basic fundamental thing of any organizer is building relationships. It is always important to understand the power and the transformational need of building relationships with people. Bernie understands that. When you look at the base, when you look at the range of people who are in his campaign, who support the movement, who are part of organizations that have endorsed the movement, folks who have been a part of pushing the policies, Bernie has grown. Even his stance on Palestine is a stance that has grown. You could not talk about a Bernie stance on Palestine now without talking about Linda Sarsour. But it’s through the conversations and through the listening, which is so funny people make it seem like Sanders is this crazy old white man who’s just a radical and you know, doesn’t know how to listen or anything. He actually is someone that is very introspective and very insightful about the people that are that he’s representing, about being a public servant. He’s not here for a personal agenda. He’s here to be in service to the people.

You know, years ago that I would expect myself to be endorsing or supporting an older white man for president. You know, rhetorically, that sounds crazy, right? But in actuality, identity is an entry point. It is not the end. It is the way by which we are informed of how the world and power dynamics affect our daily lives. What makes someone a true comrade, what makes someone who’s willing to be in solidarity with you as someone that understands the interrelations of power, how power changes and transforms based on the people that you are in conversation and movement with. And I think Sanders has built a coalition of people who are constantly in struggle with one another to understand the different power dynamics, to understand our relationship to white supremacy, to understand our relationship to patriarchy, to understand our relationship to capitalism, etc. And we’re breaking those things down, day to day, person by person.

And this is where I’ll end. Sanders has one of the most leader-full movements that I have ever seen in an electoral campaign. If tomorrow Sanders dies, the movement will not die with him and that is very clear. Sanders has created the conditions by which folks are ready to take on whatever is ahead. And I think I am so inspired by all the young people. I see Isra [Hirsi]. I see Kenidra [Woods]. I see AOC. I see there’s so many young people who have been a part of this moment, and we need to stop focusing on Sanders and focus on the people who are behind him. Sanders is not prescriptive, he is the diagnosis. He is the person that is telling us what is the issue. It’s up to us to be the solution. It’s up to us to solve these issues. And he continues to say that the people keep making it about him.

JS: As we wrap up Astra, it clearly is going to be a brutal battle. It’s gonna probably get much uglier going forward, do you remain hopeful that Sanders can actually pull off a victory here, given all of the forces that you guys have been describing aligned against him?

AT: I don’t know if hopeful is the right word, but I remain dedicated. We have to keep trying and Aja is exactly right. You know, we try to get Sanders elected. And that means that we remember relationships are key and we reach out to people in good faith and try to expand the movement. But also, again, there’s this bigger movement, this extra electoral movement, that’s not going anywhere. And we also want to welcome people into that and so you know, I want to seize this moment. OK, everyone wants to talk about feminism. Let’s talk about feminism. What do we mean by it, right? It’s not just about a few women at the top of a society shaped like a pyramid where there are a bunch of poor people at the bottom. No, feminism is fighting for all of these transformative social policies, right? It’s taking care of everybody and sharing the burden of work and care and pleasure and opportunity. Let’s have those conversations. Let’s keep the bigger picture in mind, and remember that in fact, we have come a tremendous way. Let’s not get cynical. Let’s not act like losing is preordained. The battle is still going.

JS: Aja, last question, your thoughts now going forward, given the forces aligned against this movement from Wall Street, corporate PAC money all the way to elite figures in both the Democratic and Republican parties.

AM: The people will always have the power. And so I’m inspired by every single person who has taken a stand in this moment. I don’t need friends. I need comrades. I need sisters. I need brothers. We need people who are going to stand with each other whether we agree or not for what’s right. Capitalism exists in the effort to demoralize and dehumanize people and so we need to do what is necessary to heal and to rectify any differences that have been used to divide our people and divide this country and we have to start to think about what a revolution looks like rooted in love and righteous anger and legitimize this movement because what’s happening here is going to inspire generations to come. 

The young people have it, they got it. They don’t need any proof to say, look outside, the sea levels are rising. Look beyond you, look at the news, people are dying. They can see everything. They don’t need a bunch of rhetoric and a bunch of talking points. And so I am very inspired by this moment. I see young people really, really taking charge. Whether Sanders wins this election, he already won. He won the hearts of millions of people. And he actually shifted the culture of this country and the narrative and so I’m ready to take whatever comes of this and to move forward.

JS: Aja Monet, thank you very much for being with us.

AM: Thank you. Thank you all.

JS: Astra Taylor, thank you as well.

AT: Thanks.

JS: Aja Monet is a Brooklyn-born Cuban-Jamaican poet and activist. Her latest book is called “My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter.” Astra Taylor co-founded the organization the Debt Collective. Her latest book is “Democracy May Not Exist, but We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone.” The statement they both signed onto is called “Rising for a Global Feminist Future with the Movement to Elect Bernie Sanders.” We will put a link to that on our episode page.

[Music interlude.]

JS: And that does it for this week’s show. You can follow us on Twitter @intercepted and Instagram @InterceptedPodcast. If you like what we do on this program, you can support our show by going to TheIntercept.com/join to become a sustaining member. Intercepted is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept. Our lead producer is Jack D’Isidoro, our producer is Laura Flynn. Elise Swain is our associate producer and graphic designer. Betsy Reed is editor in chief of The Intercept. Rick Kwan mixed the show. Transcription for this program is done by Nuria Marquez Martinez. Our music, as always, was composed by DJ Spooky. Until next week, I’m Jeremy Scahill.

 

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