Bernie Sanders : The Commander in Chief Who Wouldn’t Fight

join or dieGet this. When it came time to serve the country in uniform when there was a war going on and almost 60,000 Americans would lose their lives, mostly the young ones who were conscripted, there were others who for their own reasons, some legitimate and others not so legitimate, did not serve. I never blamed any of them since, as Jim Webb said last night in the debate, as long as you complied with the law and did not serve following the law then you had the right not to get your butt shot off in the rice fields of Vietnam.

I had been a Marine officer and had gotten out before the Vietnam really started heating up. I had done my three years, went into the inactive reserves, and back to school. If I wanted to I’m sure I could have gone back in but seeing the way we were losing people over there and having started a family that was the last thing that I was interested in doing. Even though friends of mine were over in Vietnam and some being killed I followed the law and avoided going back in. I had I been called back in  then obviously I would have had no choice.

Bernie Sanders was obligated to go. But he said he was a conscientious objector. He really was not one if you listened to him in the debate last night. He pulled a con job. He objected to him having to go get his butt blown to bits in Vietnam. He did not object to others having to do it. Nor, as he told us last night, did he object to other wars (when he was not going to be called up to fight) like the fighting in Kosovo or the initial attack in Afghanistan to get Osama and al Qaeda.

A conscientious objector is supposed to be opposed to all wars, not just those that might catch him up in them. Here is the definition of conscientious objector: “A firm, fixed, and sincere objection to participation in war in any form or the bearing of arms, by reason of religious training and/or belief.”

As interpreted this means: “that you must be opposed to all real war at this point in time. Those who object to a particular war would be called “selective conscientious objectors” and they do not qualify as conscientious objectors under current US law.”

So Bernie gamed the system while others went off to fight and some to die. Now he wants us to vote for him as Commander-in-Chief of our Armed Forces. He has the gall to say that he will have no problem sending others off to do the fighting as our president but when it came to himself he ran and hid. How is it going to feel as a young guy knowing the guy in charge did not step up to the plate when it was his time to serve but now he expects you to do it? As the old saying goes: “his actions spoke so loud we could hardly hear what he is saying.”

If you saw the debate you saw Bernie leap to the defense of Hillary Clinton when she was being grilled about her use of emails saying those things (things of the past that reflect on a person’s character) don’t matter – we have to look forward and discuss how we are going to change things. That’s because Bernie wants us to forget he weaseled his way out of serving the nation; it’s also because he wants to grovel to the Clintons.

Also, Bernie doesn’t want you to remember he was national secretary of the SDS – the Students for a Democratic Society – whose founding document “The Port Huron Statement” which called for “Universal controlled disarmament must replace deterrence and arms control as the national defense goal.”

How would you feel today if that had happened with all those peace-loving radical Muslim terrorists roaming around and Putin running amok if we had disarmed?



  1. Afterthought and off the point, I know, but I’m still steaming about Catherine Greig. I can’t believe that Fred Wyshak and his little friends are still pursuing this case — to the great detriment of a woman who’s already serving eight years in prison.

  2. I am sorry to see Mr. Connolly taken in by the Commander in Chief meme. We are both old enough to remember when the President was called the President. This whole Commander in Chief stuff as the primary identification of the President began with the guy who went AWOL from the champagne unit of the Texas Air National Guard and made it clear that he wanted to be a War President. The United States is in the process of destroying itself, not to mention destroying the Middle East, because of this Commander in Chief fixation. War is almost never the answer, unless you’re a military contractor wanting to make scads of money or a President intent on looting the Treasury to enrich his buddies. Would that the so-called Culture of Life(TM) actually meant caring about the lives of those who have already been born and aren’t lucky enough to be rich, straight, white American men. The United States will be far richer and a far better place to live if we can ever shake off our dependence on war for our self-identification. So will the rest of the world.

    • CK: Let’s not forget that the president as commander in chief is the foundation of civilian rule in the U.S. So it plays a really important institutional role in a democracy. As for the rest of it, I’m not so crazy myself about either war or W.

  3. Matt: I agree, mostly. I think two cheers for capitalism sums it up. I also think comparing small , homogeneous European democracies to the sprawling, multi-racial, multi – ethnic US doesn’t get you very far. At the same time, I think the US should be doing a much better job of providing for its people vis a vis what’s happening as a whole in Western-style democracies with advanced economies.

    • Dan:

      There is no doubt the U.S. should be doing a better job at stopping the growth in the disparity between the filthy rich and the middle class. There is also it seems to me a basic right to medical care. That does not mean it must be free; but it must be affordable so that no more than a certain percentage of a person’s liquid assets would be expended in any medical crises. I would have the government accept the responsibility for catastrophic events that would send the average person to the poor house. I would also have a method to require those on medicare who could afford to pay more of the costs of their insurance to do so. Being among those who benefit from the program, I know others who seem to go to the doctor for every little thing. If they had to pay even just a little for the treatment which they could easily do then that would save substantial amounts of money. I’d also have the government do a better job controlling the cost of medications which apparently it agreed to take a hands off approach to with the Obamacare deal. Bottom line there are both good and bad things in the socialist countries and we should try to emulate those good things that would work here.

    • See Germany’s social market economy. The govt. provides cost free higher education and has a universal healthcare system and is one of the richest countries in the world.

  4. Bernie Sanders is the only candidate without a SuperPac and the only candidate who has not been corrupted by money. He’s held the same political positions for over 30 years. He said he would use war as a last resort, not as an immediate option. How long can we live in fear of Islamic extremists? I think that we cannot continue to live in perpetual fear of Islamic extremists like we do. It is a political scare tactic designed to take more and more liberty away from us. The Patriot Act, the NSA mass surveillance program, and a CIA assassination program all exist in the name of fighting Islamic extremists. While all of our focus has been on being scared of third world extremists, wages stagnate, wealth accumulates with the already vastly wealthy few, and we have corporations and billionaires flooding our political process with $$$, putting the candidates THEY want up for the electorate to choose from. I was in 11th grade when 9/11 happened, I remember it vividly, just like someone who was alive during the JFK assassination can tell you exactly where they were. I am not pushing aside how awful a tragedy that was. But is all the homeland security/defense apparatus we put in place really necessary or even effective? I’d say all of our tactics have done nothing to stem the growth of Islamic extremism, and I’d go as far to say its made it worse. I’d like a President who is ready to invest in the middle class again, and be ready to focus on our pressing issues on the domestic front.

    • Dave:

      Nice post with good thoughts. I agree with much of what you say although I would suggest that Bernie Sanders has held close to the same positions he now sets forth for fifty or so years, that is if he is a good socialist as he tell us he is. Well he says he is a Democrat Socialist which I suppose he had to do because he is running in a Democratic primary. The last socialist who ran for president as I recall was Eugene Debs and back in 1912 I believe he received almost 10% of the vote but the next time around not even half of that.

      It’s hard to say we overreacted to 9/11 in most of the things we have done. We seem to be more secure at home with the procedures that have been put into place. We don’t know if that would be the case had they not been done. There are problems with the Patriot Act as there would be with any legislation enacted during a perceived crises; yet it does not appear that there has been any widespread deprivation of rights because of that. The so-call gathering of all the phone information by NSA was exagerrated.

      It is easy for us to criticize those in power for overreacting but they are in a different situation than we. IF something really bad happens on their watch it is they who will be attacked and not us so they tend to go the extra mile in ensuring nothing bad happens.Bernie says he wants to do something about the gross amount of money in politics but it is there now not because of any president but because of the Supreme Court decisions which a president cannot change.

      You are right that our approach to Islamic terrorism has made the problem worse; we look back with fondness upon the days when the Middle East was realtively stable and most of us did not know of the Sunni/Shia split in the Islamic world; nor did we seem to understand that by putting the Iraq Shia in power were empowering our enemy Iran which was helping our other foe Assad. The problem with Bernie’s ideas is first that they will never get through any Congress.

      The reason for that is socialism is alien to a huge country like America. It can succeed a bit in a small homogeneous country like those in Scandanavia but it would never fit in America which has become what it is by being capitalistic which Bernie is against. Capitalism is not great but it seems to me better than any other system; it has allowed America to be the place where most people in the poorer countries of the world would like to live becasue they can see the chance for success here.

      • You are right, hindsight is 20/20 but we are supposed to have the best military and intelligence minds in the world, surely we should have been aware of the differences between the Sunni and Shia, they teach you that in World History II. We should have also realized a Shia led Iraq would want to align itself with Iran. Now the Iraqis want the Russians to start bombing in ISIS held territories within their borders. Think about that. Our invasion of Iraq, and subsequent propping up of a Shia led government, has led to essentially a trifecta of Mid East countries, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, coming together with aligning interests, (which are against our national interests) and all seeking or currently receiving military support from Russia.

        I think there is a significant distinction from socialism and democratic socialism. Outright socialism places the means of production and its output in the hands of everyone. The Nordic model economy still has free market capitalistic principles, but with safeguards in place to protect the public from the sometimes predatory nature of capitalism run amok. I have never heard Sanders say he wants to do away with capitalism altogether, only to reign in those who gamble with the rest of the country’s finances and future.

        However, I think Bernie is making a mistake by only including countries like Denmark, Sweden and Norway in his argument. That leaves the door open for his opponents to make the remarks that these are small countries and homogeneous. I think he needs to throw in Germany also. Germany has a highly functioning economy, and has a larger and more diverse population than the Nordic countries, approx 80 million people, with approximately 20% of the population being immigrants, with over 1 million from Turkey alone. Germany has a social market economy, which promotes capitalism but puts in place regulations to prevent the little guy from being swallowed up. Think of all the massive corporations that come out of Germany like BMW and Volkswagen, they seem to operate OK within the confines of that economic theory. Also, while not exactly following the same framework as the Nordic Model, they offer free public higher education and a universal healthcare system.

        Also, socialism is not as alien as you may think to the U.S. We have social security, medicare, and medicaid, and have had them for some time now. We have had unemployment insurance for a number of years. We have had labor unions for a long time. They are on the down slide for a variety of reasons, but mainly losing the political battles in states like Wisconsin or other places that enact “Right to Work” legislation (typically GOP controlled states). The lack of a collective bargaining process hurts workers ability to negotiate pay and benefits and leaves the negotiating power in the hands of the employer. Also, if you look back to 50’s and 60’s, the time frame when we really began to establish our economic dominance, our tax rates were much higher, with the top marginal tax rates approaching 90% on the richest Americans. That looks like a plan for wealth redistribution to me.

        • Dave:

          I have thought about what you set out so well in your first paragraph. That is why I changed my mind on the deal with Iran, I could see this coming. Just like our foreign policy gurus did not seem to understand the Sunni/Shia hatreds so also does it seem they had no idea they were creating a monster once they lifted the sanctions on Iran.

          As to the rest of your comment I find little to disagree with and thank you for your fine exposition.

          Unfortunately I will never be one to accept a socialists even though we have socialistic programs in the United States as you correctly noted. You have to remember it was the socialist parties in the United States that quickly jumped on the Bolshevik platform after the 1917 Revolution and in 1919 most of them joined the Communist Party and the Communist Labor Party that were funded and controlled by Russia and had the intent to overthrow the capitalistic system. The I.W.W. union made that explicit in its founding documents and over the years was involved in some pretty horrible “action by deeds.”

          True, the unions were strongest during the 1950s and 1960s. It was because of their strength that the middle class saw itself being advance greatly. The collective bargaining power of the unions and their demand for decent wages and living conditions forced most of American corporations to provide similar benefits to its workers. To paraphrase JFK – “the rising wages of union members raised all wages.” The unions back at those times were in the private sector and represented about 30 to 35% of the work force; since that time they have been beaten down to represent only 5%. The figure 11% union membership in the country includes public unions which are not really unions since the traditional worker/management opposition of interests does not exist.

          The tax rates have come down significantly. The progressive tax rate was quite fair but since then it has been whittled down to where today the rich are paying a small bit more in percentage than the middle class and the poor are paying nothing (in fact getting tax money) which seems a lousy way to run a country since all should participate in it. The worst part of all of this is that we always increased taxes to pay for our wars but lately we have not done that. Remember George Bush said the American people were sacrificing because they were standing in longer lines at the airport. Our country has gone from the JFK idea of asking what you can do for the country to the Bernie Sanders idea of asking what you can get out of the country.

          Thanks for your wisdom.

          • Thank you Matt! My only response would be again, Sander’s isn’t aligning himself with pure socialism, i.e. the method of production directly controlled by the people/government. I’m no economist/civics expert by any means, all my info comes from Google. But from what I understand, “social democracy” refers to a set of policies for promoting economic security and opportunity within the framework of capitalism rather than a system to replace capitalism. But I fear that distinction is lost on many people.

          • As a public sector labor attorney, I can tell you the traditional worker/employer opposition of interests is alive and well…haha!

            • Dave:

              That’s good to know but when I worked in the public sector I sensed a difference when it came to money. It was easier for people to give away money that did not come out of their pocket, that is taxpayer money. In the private sector the guys who owned the industries were reluctant to give out anything. I’m glad though you are working for the workers.

  5. Matt: I agree that wearing the uniform is a way of achieving full citizenship. The draft would have to be equitable, drawing from rich and poor, black and white alike. Rejects would have to serve two years in a full – time jobs in some form of needed government service. Yup, two years of mandatory national service for all young Americans.

  6. GOP is going down and will cease to exist in the very near future Rubio hasn’t a chance he is wasting his breath

    • Sky,

      I do not think highly of Matthew Yglesias. But he makes a good point in this column: the GOP dominates American politics at the local level. Assuming Mr. Yglesias has his facts right (not to be taken for granted with Mr. Yglesias), the GOP has unified control of 25 states (governor and state legislature) while the Democratic Party has unified control of only 7 states. A basic Wikipedia entry tells me that there are 31 GOP governors and only 18 Democratic governors. So gerrymandering might explain why the GOP dominates the house, but these boundaries are set at the state level, and by and large the GOP dominates politics at the state level.

      That said, the GOP only wins the presidency if Rubio is the nominee. Trump or Carson will get trounced in a general election.

  7. Shortly after getting out of the Army in 1968, I can recall lying on a beach on Cape Cod. Nearby, two guys on a blanket were casually discussing how they had bribed their way into a National Guard unit to avoid service in Vietnam. (It didn’t always work out that way, but it usually did.) Dick Cheney received five draft deferments — a number that suggests to me that he worked pretty hard not to serve — though that didn’t stop him from helping to send many others who did serve to war. Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani, two tough-talking, Vietnam-era politicians, didn’t serve because of rather vague physical injuries. What underpins this conversation is the fundamental unfairness of the whole system.

    • Dan:

      Absolutely. There were some who worked the system to keep out of the military. There were others, like myself, who didn’t know that was possible. I though if I was healthy I’d have to serve. Had I known I could fake my way out of it I really cannot say what I would have done but I tend to think I would still have gone in but I can’t be absolutely positive of that. All I do know is that my time in the service was invaluable and fortunately I got out in one piece. However, I do think that people who avoided serving should be the last people who are so anxious to send our youth into war but now it seems most of the politicians have no idea what it is to wear the uniform which makes America a lesser country. Doing away with the draft has been a major blunder; it has created more than the monetary discrepancies a divided America.

  8. What is the difference between Bernie Sanders and Barak Obama ?

  9. Matt:

    Is it possible that he was against all wars in his youth, and that his viewpoint evolved later in life?

    • John:

      Absolutely. That could be the case. But I still don’t give him a pass when his mind change comes about when he is no longer in danger.

  10. Thanks for the post Matt. I’m not much a fan of Bernie Sanders but for other reasons, and I did not know about this history (especially the SDS).

    However, I hope he does win the Dem nomination (longshot), because then it’s a guaranteed win for the man I’ll be voting for: Marco Rubio 🙂

    • Jon:

      I’m afraid he won’t win; never had a chance and it isn’t because he was a dodger when he was called. Hillary has had it wrapped up since she lost to Obama so it is hers for the taking. The others are auditioning for a second spot; Bernie especially with his obsequiousness.

      • Don’t be so sure Matt. So long as he doesn’t slip up somehow, Rubio has it all: young, good-looking, polished, articulate, great family, from a battleground state, Hispanic and bilingual, a compelling life story, a sense of humor about himself, and most important an excellent command of policy. If the right can’t figure that out, they deserve their increasingly marginalized status. He is the future. Hillary has a whole ton of baggage, though I don’t deny that she and the Clinton machine makes her a formidable candidate.