It’s been over a week since Bernie Sanders — in an interview with the New York Daily News — made arguably the most defamatory factual error of campaign 2016 by drastically inflating Gazan casualties in the 2014 Hamas-Israel war with a figure of “over 10,000 innocent people” allegedly killed by Israel. That number dwarfed those reported by the UN and even (amazingly) Hamas itself. Here’s the transcript:
Sanders: Look, why don’t I support a million things in the world? I’m just telling you that I happen to believe…anybody help me out here, because I don’t remember the figures, but my recollection is over 10,000 innocent people were killed in Gaza. Does that sound right?
Daily News: I think it’s probably high, but we can look at that.
Sanders: I don’t have it in my number…but I think it’s over 10,000. My understanding is that a whole lot of apartment houses were leveled. Hospitals, I think, were bombed. So yeah, I do believe and I don’t think I’m alone in believing that Israel’s force was more indiscriminate than it should have been.
Indiscriminate? Actually it was Hamas and Islamic Jihad that were indiscriminate by purposefully targeting Israeli civilians with their missiles, launched frequently from schools and hospitals in order to encourage reciprocal civilian deaths of their own people for propaganda purposes. And then there are the tunnels under Israel that Hamas and co. are still building to attack Israelis in their homes. All this after Israel withdrew voluntarily from Gaza.
Is it a coincidence that Sanders has chosen Simone Zimmerman, a BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel) sympathizer, to do his “outreach” to the Jewish community?
Such boycotts have been shown to hurt the Palestinians far more than they help them, but never mind. What interest me here is why Bernie Sanders — a U.S. senator and the first Jewish presidential candidate — would assert anything as absurd as the Israelis killed 10,000 innocent Gazan civilians. Why wouldn’t he have the basic knowledge — readily available to everyone as it is — to know how far off his numbers were? Didn’t he care?
Well, no. And there’s a reason.
That reason is moral narcissism, the underlying motivation behind what Andrew McCarthy so accurately calls “willful blindness.” Bernie is willfully blind about Israel, even though he spent time on a kibbutz and still has relatives in the country.
This moral narcissism that grips Bernie — unlike the traditional narcissism of Narcissus admiring his handsome reflection — is a narcissism of ideas and opinions. The views that make you feel good about yourself, that make others praise you and make you part of the “club,” are what is most important to you and your self-image. They literally define you. Whether those views are based in fact or whether the results of those views are the least bit salutary is immaterial.
The moral narcissist, therefore, is almost always blind to reality, indeed disinterested in it. It’s the pronouncements that count and are real. Moral narcissism leads inexorably to politically correctness. It is, in fact, the mother’s milk of political correctness.
Lovable though he may appear, Bernie Sanders is a moral narcissist par excellence and a particularly dangerous one. He thinks he knows best about practically everything — therefore he could “blue sky” a figure of 10,000 casualties out of thin air, even if, especially if, it made Israel look bad and imperialistic. That’s the morally narcissistic position of the bien pensant in our culture in the media, entertainment, and, especially, the academy.
In this rare instance, because his claim was so outrageous, Bernie got caught, walked back his “estimate,” and feigned innocence, though he was far from innocent. He was dishonest to others because he was and is fundamentally dishonest to himself. He believes his nonsense.
And it is not just regarding Israel that Sanders “blue skies.” He does this in practically everything. Moral narcissism is what allows him to make economic proposals that don’t remotely add up on any possible spreadsheet. That the proposals are a “good idea” — that his intentions are good — is all that is important.
I have watched Bernie preach this intellectual hogwash to an Iowa audience of several thousand mostly young people, few of whom had the educational background to evaluate what he was saying. They just believed. It was like watching moral narcissism as a communicable disease.
This is why, as I wrote above, Bernie Sanders is a dangerous man, all the more so since his views are infecting the corrupt Hillary Clinton, who will do anything to win. Republicans who flirt with the idea of voting against a Ted or a Donald in the general election should take note.
Roger L. Simon is a prize-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media. His next book — I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t Already — will be published by Encounter Books in June 2016.