January 21, 2016

A LEFTY’S ANALYSIS: The Trouble With Bernie: A Moralizing Scold, But For The Left. Well, that’s where one finds moralizing scolds these days. Still:

Here’s my problem with Bernie Sanders. With few exceptions, I agree with his positions on issues. But I don’t like him or his political temperament. He’d be an awful president.

I followed him carefully when I was editor of the Burlington Free Press in Vermont. Sanders was the state’s sole congressman, lived in Burlington, and would periodically visit with the newspaper’s editors and publisher.

Considering that the Free Press’ editorial positions were very liberal, reflecting the nature of a very liberal Vermont community, one might think that meetings with Sanders were cordial, even celebratory.

They weren’t. Sanders was always full of himself: pious, self-righteous and utterly humorless. . . .

After discussing his favorite issues — corporations, government reform, health care and the like, I asked about his unwillingness to endorse his fellow progressives. He said it wasn’t his role. I suggested voters might expect him to weigh in. He disagreed, clearly annoyed at the persistent questioning. Finally I suggested that he had a larger moral responsibility to the progressive movement.

At which point he jumped out of his seat, told me to go f*** myself and stormed out of the edit board meeting. OK, maybe my persistence bordered on hectoring. But I felt he ought to provide an honest answer. My suspicion was that he resented others for assuming his mantle of progressive leadership and wouldn’t acknowledge them.

He returned to the meeting about five minutes after the outburst and we continued to discuss issues of the day.

The candidate you see on television working crowds, shaking hands and even smiling has undergone a presidential campaign conversion. And there is no doubt that Sanders is a smart, deft politician riding a popular, populist wave. But what is real?

I’m not alone in my opinions about Sanders. Chris Graf, long-time Associated Press bureau chief in Vermont, in an article published Sept. 30 in Theweek.com, had this to say about the senator.

“Bernie has no social skills, no sense of humor, and he’s quick to boil over. He’s the most unpolitical person in politics I’ve ever come across,” Graf said. Others who have covered Sanders agree.

Seven Days, the lively alternative weekly in Burlington, is offering extensive coverage of the Sanders campaign, reporting framed by decades of coverage. A recent article by Paul Heintz titled “Anger Management” featured current and former staff who have experienced the dark side of Sanders.

“They characterize the senator as rude, short-tempered and, occasionally, downright hostile. Though Sanders has spent much of his life fighting for working Vermonters, they say he mistreats the people working for him,” Heintz wrote. Among those he cited was Steve Rosenfeld, Sanders’ press secretary during his 1990 House campaign, and author of “In Making History in Vermont.”

“At his best, Sanders is a skilled reader and manipulator of people and events,” Rosenfeld wrote in his account of the campaign. “At his worst, he falls prey to his own emotions, is unable to practice what he preaches (though he would believe otherwise) and exudes a contempt for those he derides, including his staff.”

Well, that certainly fits the type.

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