The moment Bernie Sanders lost the chance of my support. Or, how I learned to stop worrying and embrace Hillary Clinton


Going into Thursday’s Democratic debate I was undecided on who I was planning to vote for. I know a lot of people on both sides think it’s pretty cut and dried, but I’ve never seen it as a particularly simple decision. There are things I like about both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and there are things I dislike about both of them, and the decision about who to support involves weighing all the factors. I’ll support whoever ends up with the nomination in the end because either one of them is a better option than any of the Republican field, but for now I’m backing Hillary.

I’m glad Bernie is in the race. I thought all along that he should run because we needed somebody in the race who was running to the left of Clinton. I like the idea of Bernie Sanders, socialist. This first head to head debate made it clear though to me that he’s not the best option this go round. 

Foreign policy is important to me. The world is a complicated place and I want somebody who’s president who knows what they’re talking about. There’s much I can say about how Bernie’s brand of socialism in domestic policy reminds me of a college freshman in a 100 level class who hasn’t yet learned enough to know how complicated everything is, but that’s nothing compared to his lack of basic global political knowledge. There’s a lot more to foreign policy than voting against the Iraq war, or opposing the Trans Pacific Partnership, and Bernie just doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The following exchange is where he lost me.

TODD: Alright, as Commander in Chief, Senator Sanders, you’ve got to prioritize potential threats to the United States. Three countries, North Korea, Iran, Russia. How would you rank them in order of their threat to America’s security right now…


TODD: … Starting with the biggest threat.

SANDERS: ISIS, you forgot one…

TODD: … I didn’t say that…

SANDERS: … No, no…

TODD: … No…

SANDERS: … ISIS would be …

TODD: … We already had that. I’m talking about these three countries. How would you orient our national security, our national defense posture.

SANDERS: Clearly North Korea is a very strange situation because it is such an isolated country run by a handful of dictators, or maybe just one, who seems to be somewhat paranoid. And, who had nuclear weapons.

And, our goal there, in my view, is to work and lean strongly on China to put as much pressure. China is one of the few major countries in the world that has significant support for North Korea, and I think we got to do everything we can to put pressure on China. I worry very much about an isolated, paranoid country with atomic bombs.

I think, clearly, we got to work closely with China to resolve the serious problems we have, and I worry about Putin and his military adventurism in the Crimea and the Ukraine.

–Source: NBC News, emphasis mine.

Now, aside from the fact that “put pressure on China” is Donald Trump’s North Korea policy, this whole exchange, from trying to change the subject to the one he’d studied up on–ISIS, to winging it on the answer itself, sounds like an unprepared college freshman trying to BS his way through the answer. Especially that bit about North Korea, being, “run by a handful of dictators, or maybe just one.”

This isn’t high level foreign affairs shit, it’s basic knowledge that anybody should have just from paying occasional attention to the news. But Bernie tries to cover his bases by bringing up both the possibility of a “handful of dictators” (which doesn’t even make sense, I believe the word he’s looking for is “oligarchy,” his favorite word to refer to Wall Street–which makes me question if he even knows what “oligarchy” means either) or “just one,” like a kid going for partial credit on an exam. Then, for good measure, just to try and eke out all the points he can get, he throws a quick mention of Putin in at the end, again, very much like a college kid who doesn’t know what he’s talking about trying to BS his way through a test.

There is, of course, also the question of whether he’s actually correct in naming North Korea as the most dangerous potential threat to the United States, and I’d argue that Russia is because of their potential to destabilize the entire region and create a continent-wide conflict. That’s an area of analysis where I’m willing to disagree though, and certainly wouldn’t be a foreign policy deal breaker. Not knowing what he’s talking about on the most basic level of whether North Korea is a dictatorship or an oligarchy, even when he knew the debate was going to cover foreign policy and should have been able to guess that North Korea would be on the table, is a whole other matter. I don’t expect him to be a foreign policy expert, but I do expect him to at least know the basics.

That’s not going into his comparison earlier in the debate between normalizing relations with Iran and normalizing relations with Cuba, as if they’re remotely comparable, or any of the other foreign policy areas where his understanding of the situation seemed entirely lacking for someone who has spent as many years in Congress has he has. I recognize that I spent time on the faculty at a diplomatic university abroad, so I’ve got a bit more foreign policy knowledge than many, but hedging your answer in the event that you’re wrong about who runs North Korea is pretty bad.

Even revolutionary states have to deal with the rest of the world, and if Bernie Sanders can’t be bothered to take the time to brush up on bare bones geopolitical knowledge before asking us to elect him president, he’s not behaving like a serious candidate. I don’t know how he’s supposed to ask us to take him seriously as a viable candidate when he’s not willing to take a huge part of governing seriously.

Maybe things will change and he’ll get to work figuring out how the rest of the planet works, but until then I’m not going to back him in the primary.