SocraticGadfly: Bernie and Sandernistas vs Madcow Maddow: Gun control gets caught in the bow wash of twosiderism; Ignored: Bernie as Just.Another.Politician.™ on gunz

July 12, 2019

Bernie and Sandernistas vs Madcow Maddow:
Gun control gets caught in the bow wash of twosiderism;
Ignored: Bernie as Just.Another.Politician.™ on gunz

Arguably, one of the losers of the first pair of Democratic debates, at least in part, IMO, was Bernie Sanders for his answer on gun control when nailed by Madcow Maddow.

Gunz is generally NOT an issue to flub in a Democratic presidential debate:
And, he got whacked over that immediately.

And, the secondary issues behind that are that Bernie appears inflexible, and that like other Just.Another.Politician.™ folks, he has trouble admitting he was wrong. It is also problematic in that this was semi-softball for being a "gotcha" question, it's a gotcha question that should have been anticipated and ...

Bernie was even dumb enough to brag about getting a D-minus rating from the Nazi Redneck Assholes. Anybody with a brain knows that if the NRA doesn't give you an F rating, there's something wrong.

And, there is something wrong. Guns, even from a Democratic POV, let alone a non-duopoly one, is Bernie's weakest domestic policy issue. He's gotten better, but still not gotten good.

So, I quote-tweeted that with some snark:
Sirota finally responded to the issue on Twitter almost a full day after the debate, retweeting this:
He's still, 48 hours after the debate, yet to direct tweet anything himself.

And, while some Berners admitted he had problems, let's see how much Bernie conspiracy theorists pop further out of, or into, the woodwork.

Or, let's let Politifact try to turd-polish Bernie, claiming that he was "mostly true" on his response to Madcow Maddow.

Oh, no he wasn't. That claim itself is at best mostly true and maybe half true.

Worse, the citation of a Seven Days in Vermont interview in support of this — the full interview, from which Madcow partially quoted — is at best half true and worst, mostly false.

Kit Norton, the Politifacter, also doesn't disclose that he works for Seven Days rival VT Digger. Nor does she note, which I and others who have been critical of Bernie on guns know, and which Seven Days mentions, that he supported giving gun makers immunity from lawsuits. That happened in key votes in 2005, in between his two best NRA ratings on that list above. No coincidence that.

Looking at Norton's Twitter bio, I suspect he has good self-motivated political reasons for turd-polishing. I also don't like that Politifact doesn't have tagline disclosures at the bottom of posts about who their 'facters" are. There's also the "we listened to audio" comment in the Politifact, which came off as semi-pretentious after I did the same. The audio isn't that long, and doesn't have any big "reveal"; that's part of the pretentiousness. and the royal "we" is itself pretentious.

Also "interesting" is that this is Politifact Vermont, not "Politifact National." And, Politifact Vermont is run in partnership with???

VTDigger, where Norton first posted this alleged fact-checking as a piece for VTDigger THEN got it run w/Politifact 17 minutes later.

And the partnership contains nobody else. No Seven Days. No Burlington Free Press. Nobody else. The partnership just started last October, so I don't know if Bernie would have gotten worse than a "Half true" in history. The national Politifact, though, has dinged him from time to time

There's the related issue that, while both VT Digger and Seven Days have been tough on Bernie at times, Seven Days has been more consistently tough, and has also often had a higher degree of toughness, especially on about anything and everything that Jane Sanders has had her fingers on. (Norton does link to Seven Days on both websites' pieces, perhaps to appear more neutral.)

I first saw the Politifact claims via Aaron Maté:
And, I honestly wonder, to get to the end of the header, if he's not engaging in twosiderism because of Madcow Maddow peddling Russiagate.

I tweeted back to him and the quote-tweeted Faiz Shakir asking if either had read the Seven Days piece. I also asked if either knew of Norton's editorial background vis-a-vis Seven Days. 

And, since Faiz is Bernie's campaign manager, this was also tweeted back to them:

I've seen shitloads of twosiderism and whataboutism from left-liberals and leftists on Twitter in just the past two months.

So, let's do what Aaron, Faiz and Kit wouldn't do — actually look at the Seven Days piece, with text.

First unmentioned by Kit, from the Seven Days piece, is:
More damaging still could be the perception that, when it comes to guns, Sanders is not the paragon of principle he's reputed to be. His inconsistency on the issue suggests that his position has been driven by the politics of the moment — an uncharacteristic aberration for Sanders.
That’s reflected in his 1990 Congressional campaign against incumbent Peter Smith:
Then he took one last swing at Sanders. "In closing, I would say: Bernie, in the Free Press in 1988, you said gun control was a local issue," Smith said. "This is a federal issue. I'm delighted to see that you've come along..."
His press secretary in 1990, Steven Rosenfeld, follows, from a book he later wrote:
Later that day, Rosenfeld wrote in his book, Sanders called him to express unease about the role of firearms in the campaign. "It's an issue I do not feel comfortable about," he confided to his press secretary. "We want Mr. Philbin to do our dirty work for us."
Sounds like Just.Another.Politician.™ territory.

Then, there’s Bernie being plain old tone-deaf:
On October 25, 1991, a 30-year-old engineer named Elizabeth Teague brought a semiautomatic handgun to work at the Eveready Battery factory in Bennington, where she fatally shot 47-year-old plant manager Jonathan Perryman and wounded three other coworkers. Before fleeing the building, she set off several crude explosive devices consisting of gunpowder and gasoline. 
When Sanders traveled to Bennington two days later to address a labor forum, he couldn't escape questions about his vote earlier that year against the so-called Brady Bill, which required a seven-day waiting period for all handgun purchases, enabling states and localities to perform criminal background checks in the interim. In an interview following the forum, the first-term House member called the bloodshed in Bennington "tragic" — but he argued that the legislation would have done nothing to prevent it. The solution, he said, was to lift people out of poverty.
Really? So only poor people are gun nuts?

Meanwhile, when Bernie DID back a bill that the NRA opposed, it had plenty of pro-police gravy in it, all of which Bernie supported:
The following May, Sanders finally backed a bill the NRA opposed: an assault weapons ban similar to the one that had been his predecessor's undoing. The measure was later folded into a comprehensive crime bill that instituted a three-strikes policy for violent criminals, expanded use of the death penalty, and funded the hiring of new police officers and the building of new prisons. Sanders backed that, too.
Maybe he, like Hillary Clinton, was worried about superpredators.

Finally, his vote to support immunizing gun makers from lawsuits directly conflicts with his anti-corporate message:
The votes that would cause him the most political grief would be those, in 2003and 2005, for the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which prohibited lawsuits against gun manufacturers and retailers for the unlawful misuse of firearms.
And, at first, he didn’t even cite his “protect small local gun makers” angle that he later did. Rather, it was he didn’t think gun makers should be held liable, period.

Whether they should or not is one issue. Taking shifting, politically expedient explainers when you realize your original stance might be a problem is another.

The reality? Bernie's long-held "Vermont is a gun state" panders to the NRA, and did so across 20 years even as it moved the Overton Window rightward. There's nothing incompatible with being a "gun state" and proper regulation of guns.

I really encourage reading the whole piece.

I also encourage you to trust Politifact less and not just on Bernie.

In multiple other state verticals, I noticed, Politifact partners with just one newspaper. And Wisconsin, North Carolina, Florida and New York are all much bigger. Weirder yet, it works with an online-only for the Pennsylvania version, and one that appears to be about arts events first.

Of course, Politifact comes from the Poynter / Tampa Bay St. Petersburg Times combo. The real problem is that there seems to be no rhyme or reason for why Politifact has partnered with particular papers, and with just single newspapers in all these states. In other states on its list, it has partnered with public broadcast media in a couple of cases, a university in one, and a good-government type nonprofit in another.


Beyond that, though he's writing about the Washington Post's fact checkers, and about them versus Sanders as being too radical, Jeet Heer's cautions can be extended beyond that. Politically weaponizing fact checking is a dangerous proposition. In this particular case, he says it can give Trump an opening to questioning the whole enterprise.

Tis true both ways, Jeet. Spin-doctoring fact checking in Bernie's favor, as I have just pointed out, does the same thing.

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