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Do Tell: A Talk With the Senate's Lone Socialist

The Sleuth chatted this week with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the newest (OK, the ONLY) Socialist in the Senate.

Sanders, not surprisingly, railed against the mainstream media, lamented the Iraq war, condemned the Bush presidency and daydreamed about a "reality" not dominated by news of Paris Hilton's battle with the law, Britney Spears's razor-and-rehab episodes or the Anna Nicole Smith saga. He also praised The Sleuth for recognizing a prized portrait on his office wall -- of Eugene Debs, the icon of the American Socialist movement.

Sanders, a wild-eyed, permanently wind-blown curmudgeon, said one of the biggest adjustments since moving from the House (where he served eight terms) to the Senate is the need to be so cordial all the time.

Below is a video excerpt of our interview; a text write-up appears below the video box:

VIDEO | Sen. Sanders: New Kid on the Block (Video by Mary Ann Akers; edited by Francine Uenuma)

Interview transcript:

Sleuth: How does it feel being in the Senate where there's forced, almost insistent, collegiality after coming from Tom DeLay's House?

Sanders: That is certainly one of the differences. Everybody is very, very nice to everybody. Isn't that something? Everybody loves everybody over here. Everybody is a good friend and honorable gentleperson and all of that stuff.

I'll tell you a story...I was walking down the hall and I saw somebody whose face I recognized as a senior senator, somebody who had been here many years, but his name didn't come to my mind. And I said, 'Hello, senator, how are you?' And he said, 'Hi, how are you?'

And I got a note from this senator, Republican senator, apologizing for not having known my name and being friendlier...That just struck me as, strange.

Sleuth: And who was the senator?

Sanders: Can't tell you that. That's the point about the collegiality. If I embarrass this guy -- that's the whole point! I can't tell you anything!

Sleuth: In the House you would have dropped a dime on him.

Sanders: In the House I would have held four press conferences attacking him!

In the Senate...if one ruffles the feathers of somebody else at a personal level, above and beyond your views, you may pay a price for that. So I think people try not to cause more problems for themselves than would otherwise be the case. For me all of that is pretty difficult because my views are different from 99 other senators.

Sleuth: Is that because you're a Socialist?

Sanders: Yeah, yeah, I'm a Democratic Socialist, not to be confused with a Communist. I am an independent, I come from a different political perspective than virtually all of the other members. My job is to do what every other senator here does, and that is to do the very best for your state. In addition to that, I think a special assignment is to try to raise issues that other people don't raise, raise issues that the corporate media doesn't raise, and try to move this country in a very different direction that it currently is going.

Sleuth: Corporate-ization of the media is one of your big issues, right?

Sanders: It's a very big issue. The real fight is not just for national health care, not just to protect good-paying American jobs, not just to lower the level of poverty or close the gap between rich and poor. You know what the real fight is? The real fight is the definition of what is reality.

What the media does is decide every single morning -- a bunch of people, not very many of them -- who sit down at the New York Times and The Washington Post and CBS and NBC and they say:

'America, this is reality today. And Paris Hilton has [been] fighting vigorously to stay out of jail and we're going to cover that extensively. Oh, you lost your job and it's going to China? Not so interesting.

'We are the only country in the industrialized world that does not have a national health care program and you probably don't know that and you don't know that we spend twice as much per person compared to any other nation on earth.

'But...Britney Spears. Now I want to ask you a question. Do you think this comeback is going to work or not? Because I've been really worried about Britney Spears's comeback. But thank God, we have solved the problem of Anna Nicole Smith's paternity problem.'

I'm being a little bit facetious here.

Sleuth: Do you feel like you can still have a sense of humor in the Senate?

Sanders: (Laughter) Sometimes you can, sometimes you can't. I mean, ultimately what happens here in Washington is fairly depressing because we are a great nation in which I think a lot of bad things are happening. We are living, in my view, very sadly with the worst administration in the modern history of the United States of America, doing irreparable harm to this country. That's not a laughing matter.

Sleuth: In the House, you had one-minute speeches. Are you having a tough time talking for more than a minute here in the Senate?

Sanders: No, that has not been one of my problems. (Laughter). Nope, not one of my problems...There are so many important issues. There's a part of me that wants to be on the floor of the Senate talking every other day. On the other hand, I don't want to be like some of these guys who are down there all the time.

Sleuth: A lot of people would not associate you with Senator Norm Coleman (R-Minn.). But tell me about your connection?

Sanders: Well, Senator Coleman, Senator [Chuck] Schumer and I all attended James Madison High School in Brooklyn. We grew up in the same neighborhood, which means, that...for the first time in forever or something we have three United States Senators who were educated, or some may think mis-educated, in the same high school.

Sleuth: Have any of your new colleagues in the Senate been intellectually curious about your being a Socialist? Has anybody talked to you about it, asked you questions?

Sanders: There have been a few jokes about it. I would not say serious discussion about it.

Sleuth: What kind of jokes?

Sanders: You know, 'Well how do you feel about this capitalist enterprise here' or something...

This issue of Democratic Socialism is an issue that not only I will not run away from, I'm going to bring out on the table. I have a hard time dealing with folks who talk about family values, and moral values when we have somewhere around 20 percent of our children living in poverty. And if you got countries like Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the number of children living in poverty is virtually nonexistent.

Sleuth: What are the biggest surprises so far for you in the Senate?

Sanders: This office is huge. Takes me a half hour to walk from one end of the office to the other. You can understand why members of the Senate begin to perceive themselves as being in the House of Lords. You walk into the Senate and you have two young pages open the doors for you. It's literally like royalty. And you have your own elevators and that stuff. I think that, plus the six-year term, puts you in the dangerous territory of really forgetting reality, as my wife reminds me every day when she forces me to take the garbage out, do the mundane things of going grocery shopping and everything else.

Sleuth: Any favorite new friends here in the Senate?

Sanders: To be very honest with you, and I would not say this if it wasn't true, the group of people I came in with - I like them very much. And I include Sen. Bob Corker [R-Tenn.].

Sleuth: And Vermont seceding from the Union? What's going on there?

Sanders: I think we're going to have 50 states for some years to come. Actually, what most people don't know, when Vermont first joined the union...there was a big debate about whether to affiliate with Canada or the United States. Some of the leaders of Vermont at that time thought they should have gone with Canada. And I know there are probably people...who are saying, 'Damnit, they made the wrong decision, wouldn't it have been better for America if Vermont went to Canada.' But I think it is fair to say that most people in Vermont want to stay a part of the United States.

Sleuth: The latest poll this week shows Congress's approval rating is lower than President George W Bush's. How do you feel about being lumped in that category?

Sanders: I feel very badly. And in fact I raised that issue at the last Democratic Caucus meeting. The bottom line is, it's something that the Democratic leadership has to wake up to and address. I think after all is said and done, there is anger that we have not gotten out of Iraq yet, anger over the war, and a wish that the Democrats could have done more. And a lot of people don't know that it takes 60 votes around here to make something happen, and [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid doesn't have 60 votes.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  May 18, 2007; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Do Tell...  
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Comments

Fascinating column, Mary Ann. I never realized that there was such a strictly enforced cultural dichotomy between the House and the Senate. Sounds like Bernie's keeping pretty sharp despite his age although the Senate seems to be overflowing with Those Who Age Well. A lot of good genes are present in that assembly.

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | May 18, 2007 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Personnelly I like it when our leaders treat each other with respect. All these people represent 100's, if not millions of people, and not treating respectfully in the Senate (or the House) is just sad. That doesn't mean, that every Senator shouldn't blow holes in Senator Lotts crazy arguments, but they should do it with respect.

Posted by: Muddy | May 18, 2007 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Sanders is very interesting.

Posted by: Great interview | May 18, 2007 10:14 AM | Report abuse

How refreshing to hear a realist! This country seems so focused on "reality" as defined by reality-TV shows, and the level of hypocrisy throughout our country's leadership is downright scary. Rock on Senator, and hopefully you'll be contagious!

Posted by: Common Sense Party | May 18, 2007 10:30 AM | Report abuse

It is good to see that the Sen. Sanders apparently understands the intent of the founders for Senators to represent the interests of their respective states.

As to the anger over the Iraq War I wonder if the politically partisan understand that there is anger by those against the war and want congress to act to end it and anger by those who think we should see it through to a successful conclusion and want congress to provide the necessary support to accomplish that without strings. About 70% of us were so angry after 9/11 that we were willing to support any strike against anyone to send a message reflecting that we would not tolerate such attacks. The military victory against a conventional army was the easy part. Now that people have seen the results of not planning for and dealing with heavily armed populations that have deep cultural and religious differences and longstanding animosity towards one another, many (most?) of us have become disenchanted. The people's anger supported an inept Administration that failed to adequately consider the long term consequences of our actions. This has led to low ratings for a president who probably honestly believed he was taking the right action to protect the country. It has also led to low ratings for a congress whose angry constituents influenced many of them to go against their personal inclinations and support the administration.

When political partisans on either side learn to develop and express views and take action based on intellectual analyses as opposed to emotional bias we may actually have a government that will receive positive ratings. Unfortunately politicians and their partisans lie, spin and obfuscate in the pursuit of maintaining power so don't hold your breath.

Posted by: r man | May 18, 2007 10:42 AM | Report abuse

It's good to know in a changing world that some people stick to their principles in spite of, you know, reality. If Bernie Sanders took a closer look at those nice white social democracies of Scandinavia, he might find some troubling, growing problems behind the starry-eyed political tourism facade. Those countries have few social problems because of their cultural and ethnic homogenaity; their socialism is an effect, not a cause.

Posted by: Mark R | May 18, 2007 11:03 AM | Report abuse

It's good to know in a changing world that some people stick to their principles in spite of, you know, reality. If Bernie Sanders took a closer look at those nice white social democracies of Scandinavia, he might find some troubling, growing problems behind the starry-eyed political tourism facade. Those countries have few social problems because of their cultural and ethnic homogenaity; their socialism is an effect, not a cause.

Posted by: Mark R | May 18, 2007 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Sanders is indeed a very nice guy, and as for being the lone Socialist in the Senate, why don't we just say he's the only honest Democrat?

Posted by: Silent Cal | May 18, 2007 11:11 AM | Report abuse

While I reside in Ohio, I have come to the conclusion that my senator is Bernie Sanders.

Posted by: Jim Richard | May 18, 2007 11:20 AM | Report abuse

While I reside in Ohio, I have come to the conclusion that my senator is Bernie Sanders.

Posted by: Jim Richard | May 18, 2007 11:20 AM | Report abuse

That is not my name, just an identification. I grew up in Waterbury Center, VT, during the depression, recovery and ultimately until I volunteered with most of the eligible Vermonters to join the military for WW II. Upon returning in 1946 I was shocked to see the infiltraton of draft dodgers, macrame weavers, garbage throwers and avoiders of community work. Then came Bernie Saunders and Pat Leahy to ruin the state forever. I can not abide the few hours it take to make an annual pilgrimmage to the cemetery where ancestors rest not knowing how the state has been re-created and decimated by self serving, ego centric aholes.

Posted by: Waterbury | May 18, 2007 11:23 AM | Report abuse

After reading this interview, I'm thinking life in Vermont would be much better than anywhere else. Those folks are probably the only ones in the USA that have the "pelotas" to speak out loud and say "Impeach Bush and Cheney!"

Posted by: Considering a Move | May 18, 2007 11:26 AM | Report abuse

I hear Bernie Sanders on the Thom Hartmann radio show on Air America every Friday morning at 9AM Pacific time...he is great and would not miss it...in fact have to run as its just about 9AM Friday May 18..have a good day everyone and tune in if you get a chance.
Patsy glaser

Posted by: Patsy Glaser/Fircrest, WA | May 18, 2007 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Great interview Mary Ann! He's on Air America right now. What serendipity.
I did some work for Bernie's mayoral campaigns in Burlington, Vt, and consider myself fortunate for having known him. With the possible exception of the Mets winning the World Series in 1969, his ten vote victory to become mayor was the most exciting moment of my life.
He is the most steadfast friend the working men and women in America have. BTW, he's not a curmudgeon, he just doesn't suffer fools gladly.
I no longer live in Vermont, but I'm proud of the great politicians they have given to America. Sanders, Patrick Leahy, Howard Dean, and even the Republicans like Jim Jeffords are all honorable men. God Bless Vermont!

Posted by: Sonofabastard | May 18, 2007 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Waterbury, sorry you're so miserable. Why doesn't having a noble, hard working Republican administration running America cheer you up?

Posted by: Sonofabastard | May 18, 2007 12:35 PM | Report abuse

From my blog today: "As an antidote to seeing Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and all those solemn, hangdog faces spouting nonsense on the network news every night, Sanders comes as a fresh breeze.

Millions will be watching the others tonight, but one of the best things about the Web is that anyone who is not captivated by the usual suspects can get a different point of view here (link to your column)."
http://ajliebling.blogspot.com/

Posted by: Robert Stein | May 18, 2007 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Watch them Republicon's Senator Sanders. That knife in your back will be them.

Posted by: JDeter | May 18, 2007 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Watch them Republicons Senator Sanders. That knife in your back will be them.

Posted by: JDeter | May 18, 2007 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Thank god--and the majority of Vermont voters--for Sen. Sanders.
Like others, he was wasted in the House.
I hope he can affect the Democratic caucus
and get more of the members to be concerned
about the welfare of the country instead of
their own re-election.

Posted by: edward hanrahan | May 18, 2007 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Thank god--and the majority of Vermont voters--for Sen. Sanders.
Like others, he was wasted in the House.
I hope he can affect the Democratic caucus
and get more of the members to be concerned
about the welfare of the country instead of
their own re-election.

Posted by: edward hanrahan | May 18, 2007 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Thank god--and the majority of Vermont voters--for Sen. Sanders.
Like others, he was wasted in the House.
I hope he can affect the Democratic caucus
and get more of the members to be concerned
about the welfare of the country instead of
their own re-election.

Posted by: edward hanrahan | May 18, 2007 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Bernie Sanders has the substance of our original Founding Fathers. I hope the next generation of Americans is as fearless and honest as he.

Posted by: RSwett | May 18, 2007 1:36 PM | Report abuse

I've been saying to myself "Where the hell is Diogenes, when you really need him?", and along comes Bernie Sanders. I wish we had more of the same.
JKerwin

Posted by: Jerry Kerwin | May 18, 2007 2:00 PM | Report abuse

As a lifelong Democrat (I'm 80), I find it hard to accept that there is no one in Congress representing me. I can't recall it ever happening before. I hope Sanders fills that void.

Posted by: Les Winick | May 18, 2007 2:06 PM | Report abuse

The writer from Waterbury does'nt seem to like out-of- staters, or anyone else very much. Rather intolerant for a native Vermonter.

I remember when a hippy bakery burnt down in Warren in 1969 or '70 at the height of the Vietnam bebacle. Vermont was a "red" state then, but the good people of the Sugarbush Valley had a barn-raising that winter to rebuild the hippy bakery one weekend. Good folk. Good bread.

Bernie is that sort of guy-- tolerant, anti-war, a builder, true to Vermont virtues.

Posted by: Clinton Vickers | May 18, 2007 3:19 PM | Report abuse

This is a great interview. Sen. Sanders is far from a "freshman" on the hill, checkout his website - http://sanders.senate.gov

Posted by: Jack | May 18, 2007 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, but I lived in Burlington, VT during the mid-1980s when Sanders was mayor. He turned city government into a chaotic mess. He and his friends were so busy "building socialism," that basic services deteriorated and the city actually became a magnet for people from other places hoping to live on handouts. The "real Vermonters" hated it. The only way he could get elected wais by registering college kids to vote. Vermont is a lovely place, but it has just grown more peculiar by the year. Bernie is a result of that.

Posted by: KVinson | May 18, 2007 3:32 PM | Report abuse

I also lived in Burlington VT in the 80s. I disagree with your assumptions and your conclusion. Sanders was successful in many efforts, and not successful in others. Social services to the poor is on the "success" side of the balance sheet, as is revitalizing downtown. Magnet for transients? With six month winters? Unpopular with "real Vermonters"? Defined how? Sources, please.

Posted by: UpTheAsymptote | May 18, 2007 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the great interview!

Posted by: Valena | May 18, 2007 4:30 PM | Report abuse

If it were up to me, there would be a few more gentlemanly socialists in the Senate -- and House for that matter.

Posted by: Southern Girl | May 18, 2007 4:35 PM | Report abuse

KVinson, You and Waterbury are miserable whiners. Fix yourselves a big bowl of Ben & Jerry's and you'll feel better.

Posted by: Sonofabastard | May 18, 2007 7:02 PM | Report abuse

KVinson, Let's see here, Sanders replaced a intrenched, corrupt mayor. When he moved on to become a congressman, Church Street, had been revitalized. City services got funded with a rooms and meals tax. He got a better deal for the city from Montpelier. He got better cable T.V. service and lower phone rates. He attracted a downtown movie theater, and a successful minor league baseball team. Voter participation skyrocketed. He lowered property taxes. During his terms in office, Burlington became a cultural mecca with some of the best music in the country. Phish was one of these.
That's how I remember it. What exactly are you whining about? You don't like Flatlanders or something?

Posted by: Sonofabastard | May 18, 2007 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Really refreshing to see that not everyone in Washington is the same as everyone else, as is too often the case with more "mainstream" politicians.

However, I'm not sure I agree with his thesis that the US can be compared with other industrialized countries in terms of social services, jobs, health care, poverty rates, etc. simply because the US is far more ethnically, culturally and religiously diverse than most other nations. After all, when the motto of the Statue of Liberty is an invitation to the world to "give us your tired, your poor, etc." then you would expect us to have more of the world's poor than other countries. That certainly doesn't mean we can't be better than we are, but we should be careful about comparing apples to oranges. Just because Sweden has no poverty doesn't mean that we can eliminate it here, especially not if Sweden's poor keep coming here. :)

Posted by: jhg487 | May 18, 2007 7:29 PM | Report abuse

Really refreshing to see that not everyone in Washington is the same as everyone else, as is too often the case with more "mainstream" politicians.

However, I'm not sure I agree with his thesis that the US can be compared with other industrialized countries in terms of social services, jobs, health care, poverty rates, etc. simply because the US is far more ethnically, culturally and religiously diverse than most other nations. After all, when the motto of the Statue of Liberty is an invitation to the world to "give us your tired, your poor, etc." then you would expect us to have more of the world's poor than other countries. That certainly doesn't mean we can't be better than we are, but we should be careful about comparing apples to oranges. Just because Sweden has no poverty doesn't mean that we can eliminate it here, especially not if Sweden's poor keep coming here. :)

Posted by: jhg487 | May 18, 2007 7:29 PM | Report abuse

How could the folks in Vermont in the 1780s and 1780s choose between US and Canada when Canada did not become a country until July 1, 1867?

Posted by: Paul Rosenberg | May 18, 2007 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Being not all that far from McCarthyism and in the present climate, it may be hard to look at some of Mr. Sander's concepts.
But perhaps we should. We should remember that none of the three forms of government have really worked, Communism, Socialism, or Democracy. A hybrid system or at least the recognition of the pros and cons of each should be evaluated.
The best system is the one that serves the people best. We truly can't say that is what we have in the U.S. today, can we.

Posted by: sinderdj | May 18, 2007 8:55 PM | Report abuse

Sanders / Tweezerman '08

Posted by: Anonymous | May 18, 2007 9:21 PM | Report abuse

I like Bernie Sanders. He is the one Senator that I feel like is in there looking out for us "common folks" and not the "monied interests". He is in a small enough state that the voters have a good chance of knowing him well enough to make it impossible to tar him and his ethics. We need more Bernie Sanders.

Posted by: Mark Hayden | May 18, 2007 9:31 PM | Report abuse

As a Canadian it is wonderful to see this great interview and refreshing to see an American politician that has a solid grasp of reality and who has not lost touch with what is important to the common folk. Bernie's views of the World and American foreign policy are bang on. Most of the comments on the blog are also refreshing althought there are a few sour voices. The existence of Bernie Saunders is not well known even in the United States but the US and the World needs more voices like his, especially in the corridors of power in Washington, D.C.

Posted by: Ed Corrigan | May 18, 2007 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Paul Rosenberg,

Unified modern Canada didn't come into existence, as you say, until 1867. But British Canada ("British North America") certainly existed in 1780, under a different form of government than that later adopted. The British Government, which controlled everything in Canada in 1780, would have been delighted to receive back the territory of Vermont, which it had just lost in the Revolutionary War.

Posted by: norriehohyt | May 18, 2007 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Bernie is my Senator, and he is a good one. He has been a hard-working and effective Representative as well. Our Congress needs a lot more with his common sense and work ethic. I also appreciate his stand against the corporatization of our media. Thanks, Bernie!

Posted by: H5N1 | May 18, 2007 9:40 PM | Report abuse

I voted for Bernie Sanders for Senator in 2006.

Bernie loves to call himself a "Socialist" or a "Democratic Socialist" (whatever that is) but he's really just a liberal Democrat. There are many Democrats in our Vermont Legislature who are more progressive and enlightened than he is.

Think Bernie's a Socialist?

Ask him if he wants to nationalize the means of production.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines "socialism" as:
"...systems of social organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods are owned collectively or by a centralized government..."

Want the federal government to own Vermont Transit and Dan & Whit's general store in Norwich, Bernie?

The Vermont and national press give Bernie a free pass on his self-promoting Socialist designation and never ask him what that means to him.

Come on Bernie. Call yourself what you really are: a moderately liberal Democrat. And nothing more.

Posted by: norriehoyt | May 18, 2007 9:58 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to think it says something good about our system of government to have someone like Bernie Sanders participating in it. Parliamentary systems may have more obvious mavericks, but they always seem to get bogged down by having a thousand parties. I always respect a U.S. state that elects someone different, even if I don't agree with their politics. It's great have people like Bernie in our government, especially with what he has to say about modern media.

Posted by: McGlothlin | May 18, 2007 11:21 PM | Report abuse

Contrary to what you may believe, norriehoyt, you do NOT actually know it all. What you describe is pure socialism, as envisioned by Marx. Pure socialism has never been successful as a system of government.

The Swedish system, on the other hand, is democratic socialism which allows private property, albeit with an extremely high tax rate... but the Swedish have some of the best medicine and public education in the world, and it's ALL FREE TO CITIZENS. Other nations, including Canada, have adopted some elements of this approach successfully.

Of course, there are TOTALITARIAN socialist states in existence as well, just as there are states which rely entirely on the market for the distribution of goods. (such as Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.) However, I believe that Bernie's definition of "Democratic Socialist" would be a lot closer to Sweden's... you know, that country you NEVER read about in the news because its citizens are relatively happy with their lives?

Posted by: Bokonon | May 19, 2007 12:38 AM | Report abuse

Vermont was a Republic from 1777 to 1791. Although he would know more than I, it seems to me that while they were trying to decide Canada or US, the issue was really should Vermont be an independent Republic or become another State (Province). The tipping point as I recall was they became a State to counter Kentucky, which allowed slavery. Interesting discussion with the Senator nevertheless. Refreshing to see a public servant actually working in the Senate. Although I suppose he's beholding to Ben and Jerry's! Personally I'd love to be lobbied by them.

Posted by: Dem in Iraq | May 19, 2007 2:54 AM | Report abuse

The man who was mainly responsible for helping the Democrats win in every state on the federal, state and local levels on Election Day this past November, Howard Dean, is also from Vermont.

Posted by: KEVIN SCHMIDT, STERLING VA | May 19, 2007 10:39 AM | Report abuse

The man primarily responsible for helping the Democrats win in every state on the federal, state and local levels on Election Day this past November, HOWARD DEAN, also comes from Vermont.

Posted by: KEVIN SCHMIDT, STERLING VA | May 19, 2007 10:44 AM | Report abuse

I have been after Bernie since 1990 regarding the ill conceived drug war to no obvious avail. We continue to lose family farms (hemp for our farmers), our teens are getting rx drugs online and dying (no action on HR 2652 since June 26, 2003) and we continue to lock up non-violent marijuana offenders (700 out of state prisons already). Bernie does not represent or acknowledge the vast need to end this senseless drug war. He cannot be considered solidly anti-war...at least he isn't here in Vermont.

Posted by: sandy ward | May 19, 2007 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Thankk god for Bernie...if only we had 99 more of him...we would have a government by and for the people.

Posted by: patrick | May 19, 2007 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Bokonon,

I've been a great fan of Sweden's social democratic system for 50 years, though I gather that some of the former benefits have been cut back in recent years.

Sweden has in many ways ruined its own country by allowing overly generous immigration. See Henning Mankell's great mystery novels.

But Sweden is not socialist in any way, shape or form. If it were, the Swedish Government would own Volvo and all the other means of production.

Bernie's "Democratic Socialism" is also in no way socialism.

Take it from me, I've known Bernie for 30+ years (since he testified in our Ways and Commitee and sneered at everyone; his manners have improved since then) and, Bernie, you're no Socialist (though I like most of your congressional votes).

Posted by: Norrie Hoyt | May 19, 2007 3:08 PM | Report abuse

"From each according to his ability; to each according to his need."

By that logic, most of the Bush administration is sh*t out of luck.

Posted by: truer words were never spoken | May 19, 2007 4:53 PM | Report abuse

RSwett "Bernie Sanders has the substance of our original Founding Fathers. I hope the next generation of Americans is as fearless and honest as he."

If you are saying he has the intellectual substance of the founders you MAY be right. However the founders would have been dead set against any form of rule that gave inordinate power to the government. The Constitution was written to protect the individual from excessive governmental power. That's what the Bill of Rights is all about. It was also designed to allow the states to govern the people within their environs with the Consitution providing overall protection to citizens. Many of the founders and their ancestors in America had fled from government tyranny. They did not want a government with that kind of power over the people. This cannot be said of Socialists regardless of whatever good intentions they may have.

Posted by: r man | May 21, 2007 7:13 AM | Report abuse

SANDERS SEEMS TO BE A LAWMAKER WHO IS DEFT AT HELPING CONSTITUENTS WITH THEIR PROBLEMS WITH VARIOUS FED GOV'T AGENCIES..BUT DOES HE REALLY THRIVE IN A SITUATION (I.E.,, THE U.S. CONGRESS) IN WHICH IN ORDER TO PASS MAJOR LEGISLATION, YOU HAVE TO BUILD CONSTITUENCIES AMONG YOUR COLLEAGUES, COMPROMISE, AND HAVE THE TENACITY OF PURPOSE TO GET THE LEGISLATION PASSED? TO ME, HE SEEMS LIKE A LONE WOLF, PRINCIPLED, BUT WHOSE EFFECTIVENESS IS MARGINAL....DUE TO HIS TEMPERAMENT.

Posted by: steve g | May 21, 2007 11:21 AM | Report abuse

TO ME, HE SEEMS LIKE A LONE WOLF, PRINCIPLED, BUT WHOSE EFFECTIVENESS IS MARGINAL....DUE TO HIS TEMPERAMENT.

Posted by: steve g | May 21, 2007 11:21 AM
`
Steve g, You have a good point, although, lower case letters would have been better. I think Sanders will be a more effective Senator than Representative for the very reasons you cited. Analysis and prioritizing are his strengths, winning friends and influencing people, not as much. The working class of America absolutely needs Sanders in the Senate, with about fifty-nine others like him.

Posted by: Sonofabastard | May 21, 2007 1:38 PM | Report abuse

I've always felt Vermont was the finest State in the Union. And now it has the two finest Senators - Leahy and Sanders. And there's something nice about a little Socialism! Go Bernie! Now if only Gov. Dean was our President.

Posted by: Patricia Morgan | May 21, 2007 5:00 PM | Report abuse

I've always felt Vermont was the finest State in the Union. And now it has the two finest Senators - Leahy and Sanders. And there's something nice about a little Socialism! Go Bernie! Now if only Gov. Dean was our President.

Posted by: Patricia Morgan | May 21, 2007 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Any politician who has a picture of Eugene
Debs hanging in his office, is my kind of
politician. Why? Because Eugene Debs ran for President several times, even from jail, and garnered thousands of votes. Now, there's a politician with a message. Long live the memory of Eugene Debs.

Posted by: BillyJ | May 22, 2007 3:44 AM | Report abuse

To all the idiots who find Bernie Sanders appealing: He was voted as being in the 10% LEAST effective Representatives. Then stupid Vermont puts him in as a Senator. He's a jerk; wants to redistribute wealth. Loves to play the role of 'just your regular guy' but he has become a millionaire being in politics; and he doesn't even function! Only Vermonter could love this guy. Bad for America.

Posted by: arlene price | May 22, 2007 7:31 AM | Report abuse

I voted for Bernie to go to the senate to change it, not to be collegial. Collegiality has us mired in a war in Iraq where tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people have died. Please be different, Bernie. Yours was the one vote I was proud of.

Posted by: Rowvee | May 22, 2007 8:33 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the interview, Sleuth.

And, while I am in agreement with the good Senator on many issues...

Re: Vermont's secession from the U.S. - Senator Sanders might be interested to know that, according to the latest UVM Center for Rural Studies poll, Vermonters' support for nonviolent secession from the United States has jumped from 8% to 13% in just one year. More at http://www.vermontrepublic.org

Maybe secession, not socialism, is the answer to what ails the U.S. Empire?

And we've just launched a new town meeting initiative at http://www.freevermont.net - over the next few years, we'll see, perhaps, how serious Vermonters are about nonviolent secession and independence.

From the Green Mountains,

Rob Williams
Editor, Vermont Commons
http://www.vtcommons.org

Posted by: Rob Williams | May 23, 2007 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Call me a Flatlander, but I love Vermont and think it has the finest Congressional delegation, in total, of any state; plus, as some here have observed, we gave the Democratic Party the Chair it needed to start winning again: Governor Howard Dean. I'm not a hippie or any of those other unlovely things. I'm a priest, fer cryin' out loud. I've lived in about 15 states, but Vermont tops them all, from scenery to politics. Bernie is very special. Ineffective in the House? Depends how you look at it. We look around and see all the local health clinics he got funded, the aid for dairy farmers . . . and the first time I saw Burlington, in the 1960s, it was a dump. Post-Bernie, it's probably America's most livable small city; it just hit the top ten as a food destination, would you believe!
Somebody suggested we should go for impeachment rather than secession: 40 towns actually voted for it this March, and the State Senate passed the resolution; it got 60 votes in the House, despite the Speaker's opposition.
But hey -- knock it off with the "curmudgeon" stuff. Bernie is younger than I am!

Posted by: Linda in VT | May 23, 2007 10:43 PM | Report abuse

Bernie is staying true...I am glad. Two movies come to mind, The Seduction of Mimi and Putney Swope.

Posted by: sara leggett | May 24, 2007 7:30 AM | Report abuse

He is just one of the socialist that has the balls to admit he really is a socialist. Pelosi, Kennedy, Shumer, Reid are just to name a few more socialist. They are the main reason our country is in the turmoil that strangle's our government in the insane trouble we see it in. They from behind the sene's are why this country has been divded in it's struggle to defend itself in the first place . Their aganda is to turn our country into a socialist Republic. Help fix America vote out any liberal running for office in you state, county, city, and town. Be they a Republican or be they a Democ-RAT. Quote from Quinn "LIBERALS GENERAT THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF THEIR STATED INTENT" Liberals stand for every immoral issue that affect's or sovererity. Liberals are the major issue from the Islamist that want to distroy our country as well.

Posted by: Ron | May 24, 2007 10:15 AM | Report abuse

You can only milk the teat of humankindness for so long before it develops mastitis.
Or so I'm told.
Start thinking about where you get your grain and milk and gas from.
Listen to Bernie.

Posted by: vudukungfu | May 24, 2007 10:26 PM | Report abuse

It seems that whenever that word "socialism" is uttered anywhere, a bunch of right-wing apologists appears to furiously declare the evils of universal health care and the virtues of corporate greed. Maybe if their children were hungry, or if they were dying for a lack of medical care, they would change their minds. Have you ever noticed that such people talk about freedom yet don't say that much about the Patriot Act or Guantanamo? In contrast, their indignation over taxes and welfare would be funny if it weren't sick. To all such libertarians and capitalists--your "right" to hoard unlimited wealth is outweighed by the right of millions of people around the world (including right here in America) not to DIE of starvation or pollution or a lack of easily affordable medical care. Democratic socialism is a proven solution to such problems, while all capitalists can do is argue that someday the market will make it all better. I'm proud as I can be to call myself a democratic socialist.

Posted by: David W. | May 24, 2007 11:08 PM | Report abuse

David W., if you are proud to be a democratic socialist then you are proud to be either a) uneducated, b)ignorant c) stupid or d) any combination of a thru c. It is pretty well established that a government that properly regulates a capitalist financial system will produce the greatest wealth for the greatest number of citizens. Such a government will also provide systems to assist those who make bad choices thru lack of education (usually the result of bad choices) or lack of intelligience. It will do this without overburdening the capitalists and entrepreneurs who provide the wealth in the first place. Governments (especially socialist governments)do not create wealth, they reduce or destroy it. Capitalism, when properly regulated, creates a competitive environment that increases living standards and the health and well being of citizens as a whole as new and better products and solutions to problems are developed. Socialist governments do not produce environments that are as favorable to positive societal evolutionary development. They may do more to protect the weak, but they also tend to increase the numbers of the weak to the detriment of society as a whole.

Posted by: r man | May 25, 2007 10:44 AM | Report abuse

it doesnt matter what bernie or others describe themselves as. that detracts from their real arguments: That the government NEEDS to provide adequate health care, housing, food/water, education and other NECESSATIES for all. That's the crux of Bernie's postion. He does not think that government or workers should be in control of all private enterpises, but that there are some basic areas of life that ALL PEOPLE deserve to have provided for them because most people are not privy to the same opportunities as others.

So to the fellow bloggers who feel uneasy about the word socialism, you should acknowledge that this word as well as liberal has been falsely labeled and its definitons have come to take on new meanings. This country has a long history of using the police and the media to chastise people who feel that we need to treat ALL HUMAN BEINGS with respect in terms of living conditions.

Posted by: jondom | May 27, 2007 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Bernie Sanders may not be a true textbook socialist but who among the many politicians, is a true "anything"? Most politicians have forgotten their core beliefs if indeed they ever had any and have willingly parked their convictions elsewhere while they get on with the business of making money. Why do you think we call the Senate the "Millionaires Club" and why do you think we have ever growing numbers of millionaires in the House of Representatives and being led by millionaire Pelosi? Does anyone really think that a millionaire represents the people?
Bernie Sanders is indeed a breath of fresh air in the Senate and he's dead wrong to go along with the archaic politesse that is so much a part of the boring dialogue of those priviledged windbags. What the Senate needs and by extension the rest of the country, is a good dose of ill-mannered and truthful people who are willing to risk being ostracized by the "Right Honorable Senator from wherever".
We've had our fill of these phony "last Hurrah" bastards who have forgotten what their real purpose in the Senate should be.

I'm originally from Maine but I've supported Bernie even after moving to California. He's one of the good guys and we have damn few. Rejoice that we have at least one voice for the people in that Millionaire's Club.

Posted by: Doubtom | May 31, 2007 12:34 PM | Report abuse

America would do fine with people like Bernie. It unfortunate wild cats all over the place.

Posted by: Herbert-Jean Awuor | June 7, 2007 5:01 AM | Report abuse

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