Tag Archives: Syria

Where’s Your Football, Lucy?

President Trump’s order to withdraw American troops who created a buffer zone between Turkey and Kurdish-controlled areas of Iraq was a controversial movie seen as a betrayal of a long-time American ally. But there’s a long history of US forces making extravagant promises to local forces, then withdrawing and leaving them to the wolves.

Trump’s Foreign Policy: Hated by Pundits But Popular with Voters

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President Trump keeps coming under attack for his foreign policy, predictably by Democrats but also by legacy Republican leaders.

“I’m very concerned,” Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said about Trump’s plans to bring troops home from the Middle East.

“It makes it abundantly clear that we are headed towards a series of grave policy errors which will endanger our nation, damage our alliances and empower our adversaries,” said Marco Rubio.

Trump’s late-2018 announcement that he planned to withdraw 2000 US troops from the meatgrinder of Syria’s brutal civil war prompted bipartisan dismay. Next the new Doha peace framework to end US involvement in Afghanistan had   establishment politicos and pundits reviving their hoary, false canard that America’s “abandonment” of Afghanistan after the Soviets withdrew in 1989 led to 9/11. Now he’s getting attacked for trying to reach a nuclear disarmament deal with North Korea (possible bonus: a formal end to the Korean War).

Deescalation? Why, that could cause peace! What could be a more dangerous threat to American interests?

Meanwhile, Trump is still in Syria. He’s expanded Obama’s drone assassinations. He wants to spend even more on defense. The pro-war wise men of the media have zero problem with hawkishness, no matter how stupid or immoral.

Conventional wisdom holds that this criticism will cost Trump. I disagree. While the president’s America First foreign policy has no constituency within the leadership caste of either party, it has one he cares about more: the voters.

Interestingly, a high percentage of Americans (65%) disapprove of Trump’s handling of international affairs generically. No doubt they’ve been influenced by “Trump is a child on foreign stuff” coverage.

Yet when it comes to specifics, Americans mostly approve of his moves to deescalate tensions overseas and reduce foreign entanglements.

77% of Americans approved of the first summit between Trump and Kim. 54% thought it went well. That’s significantly more than the portion of Americans who approved of his presidency in general, indicating that on this issue he enjoyed support from many Democrats.

Support for withdrawing troops from Syria is close to 50-50, not stellar yet significantly better than his overall mid-40s approval rating.

Afghanistan is a no-brainer for the president. Most Americans want immediate withdrawal and a whopping 70% say that we never should have invaded in the first place.

Trump’s disentanglement policies are popular. The reason that his overall numbers on international matters run low has more to do with the tone and image he projects than the policies he has promulgated. People like what he’s doing but not how he looks and sounds as he does it.

Trump got elected in large part by ignoring GOP dogma and selling his ideas directly to the American people. Voters were tired of an immigration crisis created and prolonged by both parties and they were angry about deindustrialization and vicious “free trade.” Trump’s proposed solutions—the Wall and a trade war—might not be intelligent or effective. But he addressed both issues when others, especially Hillary Clinton, would not. Voters prefer a president who does something stupid to fix a problem to one who pretends it doesn’t exist.

With foreign policy, Trump is trying to pull off a similar trick as he did with domestic issues in 2016: addressing the “endless war” problem that spun out of control under Bush. If not for Trump neither major party would have touched a Pentagon with so many bases abroad it can’t give you an exact number. The question for 2020 is whether voters — who traditionally decide how to vote based on the state of the economy — will give Trump credit for nibbling at the edges of America’s militaristic bloat.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Media Never, Ever Gives Peace a Chance

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At this writing, President Trump is considering “the possibility of retaliation in Syria in response to a suspected chemical attack on young children and families in the Syrian city of Douma,” reported CBS News. “If it’s the Russians, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together, we’ll figure it out,” Trump said. “Nothing’s off the table,” including a military attack by the United States.

Whether that possibility involves a cruise missile strike, drone attacks or conventional bombing raids by fighter jets, this is deadly serious business. People, mostly innocent civilians and Syrian grunts who had nothing to do with the “suspected” chemical attack, will die. People will be injured. Survivors will be traumatized. An attack could escalate and expand the current conflict, leading to more death and destruction.

The stakes are high, but U.S. policymakers are as glibly insouciant as if they were choosing between Hulu and Netflix. This is not new or Trumpian. It’s always been like this. American leaders don’t take these life-and-death decisions seriously.

If the United States were a sane country populated by rational, civically-engaged citizens, Americans would pour derision and ridicule on anyone who seriously considered raining bombs over a “suspected” anything. And the skepticism in this case ought to be exponentially greater considering that this is Syria.

We’ve already been down this “Syria’s Assad regime used chemical weapons against their own people so we should bomb his forces” road. It happened under Obama. What is certain here is uncertainty: maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not. As legendary investigative journalist Seymour Hersh pointed out in 2014, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) believed that at least one major faction of the Syrian opposition, the al-Nusra Front, possessed significant manufacturing facilities and stockpiles of sarin nerve agent and other proscribed toxic chemicals.

Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? Since when is “maybe they did it, maybe they didn’t, oh well” sufficient?

American political culture has devolved from the Vietnam era, when pacifists were marginalized, to a kneejerk bellicosity in which they don’t exist as part of the debate.

To its credit, The New York Times — still with blood on its hands from its unwholesome publishing of Judith Miller’s pro-Iraq War screeds — has printed statements by those who oppose rushing into war with Syria. “We would prefer to start with a proper investigation,” the newspaper quoted Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations. It also ran letters to the editor that expressed doubts about Syria’s motivations and Trump’s trustworthiness.

Nowhere to be found was a pacifist: someone who opposes war, all war, no matter what. Nor were there any anti-interventionists: people who say Syria is not our business and should be left to sort out its own affairs.

It’s the same at The Washington Post. Some writers there wonder aloud whether Trump’s sabre-rattling is more “Wag the Dog” than “Doctor Strangelove”: if he bombs Syria, will it be to take our minds off the Russia stuff? Also, weirdly, this headline: “Something for Trump to keep in mind on Syria: His strikes last year were pretty popular.” How does Amber Phillips sleep at night? Again: no pacifists. No anti-interventionists.

It’s not like they’re not out there in Real America. The nativist America Firsters who formed the core of Team Trump in 2016 included a lot of isolationists — and Trump ran on a no-more-nation-building platform. They’re disgusted more by the cost of the bombs we drop on Muslim countries than the lives they destroy; if there’s any nation-building to be done, they ask quite reasonably, why not start with America’s own rusted-out, broken-down infrastructure?

Getting the paper out every day is a miracle. Editors can be forgiven for sometimes forgetting to cover all the bases by offering a wide spectrum of solutions to the problems covered by their news stories and debated in their opinion sections. The same goes for the producers laboring through cable news’ 24-7 news cycle. At a certain point, however, they ought to take a step back and consider the effect of their editorial decisions. They’ve created a relentless culture of ultraviolence, a debate without diversity between those who want bombs and those who want even more wars, to the point that not going to war isn’t even something we get to consider as a legitimate option.

(Ted Rall, the editorial cartoonist and columnist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.”)

 

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Hate Trump AND Clinton? There Are Better Alternatives

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Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the least popular presidential candidates of all time. So why vote for either one?

You wouldn’t know it to watch or read the news, but living in a duopoly doesn’t require you to hold your nose as you vote for someone you hate – merely because you hate the other candidate even more, or you’re deathly afraid of them. There are alternatives. And they don’t require you to compromise your ethics or vote against your own interests.

We’ve all heard it so often that we take it for granted: if you don’t vote, you’re apathetic. If you’re apathetic, you don’t have any right to complain when someone you don’t like wins and messes up the country.

That might be true when at least one of the candidates is palatable. But the argument falls apart at times like this, when most Americans agree that both are awful.

You and me, we may or may not agree on policy. But we probably agree on this: Wednesday morning, someone terrible will be president-elect. My lesser of two evils would be Hillary Clinton. But voting for her would tell the world that invading Iraq was OK. It would tell working-class people that NAFTA another free trade deals are OK. It would endorse the things that she endorses: bombing Libya and Syria, arming jihadis, Guantánamo, influence peddling, corruption on a scale that would make Nixon blush. None of that stuff is OK.

We must vote for Clinton in order to keep Trump out. That’s what they tell us. Trump, after all, is racist. But so is Clinton! What could be more racist than her obscene “war on terror”? All her victims are Muslim and brown – which is why white America doesn’t care. And don’t get me started on her and her husband’s “criminal justice reform” of the 1990s against “superpredators.”

With a “choice” like that, you have to look outside the box:

Voter Boycott

Citizens of countries with repressive and unresponsive ruling regimes often resort to the honorable strategy of the voter boycott. By denying the tyrants their votes, they rob their oppressors of legitimacy.

Never doubt that governments need their citizens to vote. For example, you might wonder why Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein bothered to hold his 2002 reelection campaign, in which he was the only candidate. The 11.4 million Iraqis who gave him his 100.00% victory (up from 99.96% in his previous “race”) allowed him, just before the U.S. invasion, to tell the world that he enjoyed his people’s popular support.

The “No Land! No House! No Vote!” movement, which began in 2004, calls for the poor and dispossessed to boycott South Africa’s electoral political system on the ground that the bourgeois political parties don’t care about their interests. In the 2011 election, 42% of registered voters respected the boycott. Concerned that the movement hurts its reputation internationally — and it has — the ruling African National Congress party has subjected the movement to torture and beatings.

It isn’t hard to imagine that a substantial decline in America’s already low voter participation rate would have some interesting effects. It would deny the United States its current holier-than-thou attitude toward other countries. And it would certainly inspire Americans outside the two-party system to consider the creation of a new political movement or third party as a more viable.

“If a huge number of people joined [in an election boycott] it would make an important statement,” Noam Chomsky has said.

Leave the Presidential Box Blank

“I will vote for Republicans up and down the ballot,” says Ari Fleischer, press secretary for George W. Bush. “But when it comes to the presidency, I’m going to leave my ballot blank.” Some Latino Republicans say they’ll do the same. So do some Bernie Sanders Democrats.

As with a voter boycott, the idea is to let the system know that you are civically engaged, not apathetic. Nevertheless, you’re displeased with the candidates on offer.

In counties and states that tally blank (also called “spoilt”) votes, this approach registers as a “none of the above” protest vote. The problem is, most municipalities do not count them — so they can’t send a message to the powers that be, the media, or to prospective third-party candidates.

Third Party

            The appeal of voting third party is obvious: it’s a protest vote and it allows you to direct your vote to someone whom you might really want to see win in an ideal world. The problem is, the fact that it isn’t an ideal world is the reason that you’re voting going outside the duopoly in the first place.

I’m voting for Jill Stein. My reason is simple: I would be happy to see her elected president. I agree with her on the vast majority of important issues. I can’t say that about anyone else on the ballot. (Not sure if that’s true for you? I strongly recommend that you take this test to determine which candidate is closest to you on policy.)

There’s only one reasonable argument against voting for a candidate who, like Stein, won’t win but with whom you agree: the lesser of two evils. In my case, by voting for Stein instead of Clinton, I’m effectively helping Trump. (Let’s forget for a moment that I live in New York, which will certainly go to Hillary.)

Theoretically, that’s a powerful argument. Trump is a fascist. I’m terrified of what he would do as president. I hate Hillary – but she’s not quite as obviously dangerous. Fortunately, this lesser-of-two-evils argument dies on the hill of mathematics.

Unless you are in Chicago, where you can make the dead vote, the only vote you control is your own: one. Statisticians have found that the odds of one vote changing the outcome of the presidential election is 1-in-10 million — and that’s only if you live in a swing state. For most people, the odds are more like 1-in-60 million. As one wag calculated, you have the same odds of changing the outcome of a major election as dying in a car accident while driving to the voting station.

The odds of your vote “going to waste” are significantly less than being struck by lightning twice during your life.

So live a little. Vote, or don’t vote, however you feel like.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. Support independent political cartooning and writing — support Ted on Patreon.)

 

 

SYNDICATED COLUMN: 7 Reasons I Won’t Vote for Hillary Clinton

http://constitutioncenter.org/images/uploads/callout/MainExhibit_Highlight_VotBoothAlt.png            To my many friends and readers who plan to vote for Hillary Clinton: please stop bullying me.

Also please lay off other people, progressives and liberals and traditional Democrats and socialists and communists, citizens who identify with the political left, who plan to vote for Dr. Jill Stein or stay home.

I’m not going to vote for Donald Trump. I agree with the mainstream liberal consensus that he should never hold political power, much less control over nuclear launch codes. He’s dangerous and scary. But that doesn’t mean I have to vote for Hillary Clinton.

So I won’t.

  1. The main reason that I’m not going to vote for Hillary Clinton is the same exact main reason that I’m not going to vote for Donald Trump: I don’t vote Republican. Being age 53, Nixon was the first president I remember. Hillary Clinton’s politics (and her paranoia and insularity) remind me of Richard Nixon’s. I can’t bring myself to think of a Democrat as someone who solicits millions of dollars from Wall Street or votes with crazy Republicans (like George W. Bush, whose stupid wars she aggressively supported) to invade foreign countries just for fun. She plays a Democrat on TV, but we know the truth: she’s a Republican.
  2. I’m anti-political dynasty. There should be a constitutional amendment banning anyone related by blood or marriage to a former president from running for the presidency.
  3. There’s a big difference between an impressive resume and a list of accomplishments. Hillary has the former, not the latter. I hold her resume against her: she has held tremendous power, yet has never reached out to grab the brass ring. As senator, her record was undistinguished. As Secretary of State, she barely lifted a finger on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, contributed to the expansion of the Syrian civil war, and is more responsible than almost anyone else for destroying Libya. What she did well she did small; when she went big she performed badly.
  4. #MuslimLivesMatter. More than a million people died in Iraq. She voted for that. So she isn’t, as the current Clinton campaign meme goes, merely a “flawed” candidate. Voting for the violent deaths of over a million people, and the maiming of God knows how many more — when there was no reason whatsoever to think Iraq had WMDs — is not an “oops, my bad” screw-up. Those were real people, real human beings, and they’re dead because of her. You don’t get to soak your hands in that much blood and just walk away, much less into the White House.
  5. She still hasn’t made an affirmative case for herself. By clinging to President Obama, she’s running as his third term. The standard way to pull this off is to present yourself as new and improved: the old product was great, the new one will be even better. Her campaign boils down to “I’m not Donald Trump.” No matter how bad he is, and he is awful, that’s not enough. Watching her in the first presidential debate, at the beginning when Trump was besting her over trade, I kept asking myself: why doesn’t she admit that the recovery is good but has left too many Americans behind? Why hasn’t she proposed a welfare and retraining program for people who lose their jobs to globalization? A week later, the only answer I can come up with is that she has no imagination, no vision thing.
  6. She has made no significant concessions to the political left. Frankly, this makes me wonder about her intelligence. Current polling shows that the biggest threat to her candidacy is losing millennial, working class, and Bernie Sanders supporters to the Green Party’s Jill Stein and Libertarian Gary Johnson. She would not have this problem if she’d picked Sanders as her vice presidential running mate. Even now, she could bag the millennial vote by promising the Vermont senator a cabinet post. Why doesn’t she? For the same reason that she won’t embrace the $15-an-hour minimum wage (she gets $225,000 for an hour-long speech but wants you to settle for $12) — she’s a creature of the corporations and therefore the political right. She’s not one of us. She doesn’t care about us.
  7. My vote is worth no less than the vote of someone who supports a major party nominee. So what if the polls say that Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will be elected president? Why, based on those polls, should I strategically vote for someone whose politics and personality I deplore? By that logic, why shouldn’t they change their votes to conform to mine? I have my vote, you have your vote, let Diebold add them up.

I don’t have a problem with you if you plan to vote for Hillary. This year is the best argument ever for lesser evilism. But the fact that we are selecting between two equally unpopular major party presidential standardbearers indicates that the two-party system is in crisis, if not broken. We need and deserve more and better options. The only way to get them is to start building viable third parties — voting for them, contributing money to them. What better time to start than now?

Anyway, there’s absolutely no way that my refusal to vote for Hillary will put Donald Trump into the White House.

How do I know? Arithmetic. The closest state margin in an American presidential election was four, in Maryland in 1832. Like you, I only get one vote. Whatever I do can’t and won’t change the result.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form.)

Why Doesn’t She Change?

Supporters of Hillary Clinton tell the progressive supporters of Bernie Sanders that they have to change their politics, or compromise them, or ignore them, in order to join them in their fight to defeat the dangerous Donald Trump. But no one seems to ask: if Hillary Clinton wants our votes, why doesn’t she change her politics to suit us? Isn’t that what politicians do? Instead of pandering to the people, she panders to corporations.

First They Came for the Chairs

The media went crazy over false reports that Bernie Sanders supporters threw some chairs at a Democratic convention in Nevada. They deplored the burning of Make America Great Again hats at a Trump rally. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton personally destroyed several Middle East nations…yet the media doesn’t have anything to say about that.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Why I am #NeverHillary

Hillary Clinton’s coronation at the Democratic national convention is likely but not a foregone conclusion. Since the superdelegates won’t vote until July, and neither she nor Bernie Sanders will arrive in Cleveland with the requisite number of pledged delegates to clich the nomination, there is still the possibility that the party bosses will see sense, internalize the polls that show she’s weaker than him against Trump, and push the superdelegates to support the populist senator from Vermont.

But sense is in short supply in American politics, especially this year. So I’m preparing for the worst: Hillary versus Trump.

It’s one hell of a choice. The more I delve into Donald Trump and his past (to research my biography, which comes out in June), the more scared I get. Nevertheless, there is no way I’ll vote for Hillary. I won’t vote for her if she stops shaking down rich right-wing Republicans for donations. I won’t vote for her if she adopts Bernie’s platform. I won’t vote for her if she names Bernie her vice president. I won’t even vote for her if Bernie invites me to spend the summer with him and Jane in Vermont.

#NeverHillary. That’s me.

There are millions of us.

Many progressives are baffled by this stance. Trump is a threat to democracy, decency, peace and the economy. He acts and talks like a nut. Why not suck it up and vote for Hillary? She’s experienced, steady and presentable. Unlike Trump, she understands the issues. Plus: first woman president! That’s 225 years overdue!

Here is my reasoning.

First, a vote is an endorsement. A vote tells a candidate: “I mostly agree with what you have done.”

I agree with nothing she has done. Most egregiously, she voted to invade Iraq. At the time, everyone knew there were no WMDs. She knew. More than a million Iraqis are dead because of that war of choice, a war no one but especially no Democrat should have supported. I will not, cannot, betray those dead. Casting a vote for Hillary says: “I love that a million Iraqis got murdered.” Or, at minimum it says: “I’m cool with it.” Well, I’m not.

For me, that’s enough. What she did was monstrous. She should be in prison for life.

Do you need more? Really?

  1. Here’s more:

Running a close second behind Iraq are Hillary’s vote to invade Afghanistan (another mistake, unjustified, illegal fiasco that left hundreds of thousands of innocents maimed or dead), and encouraging Obama, as secretary of state, to arm and fund crazy Islamist insurgencies in Libya and Syria, reducing two modern countries to failed states. I can’t let those go.

Voting for a politician also tells them: “I agree with what you promise to do.” There is no indication — none, zero, nada — that Hillary wouldn’t continue her every-war-a-good-war philosophy were she to become president. Unlike Trump, she has never questioned the usefulness, legality or ethics of use of force as America’s go-to approach to foreign policy.

I refuse to throw good blood after bad.

She’s sleazy — a cheater and a liar. I can’t forget how she willfully misrepresented her own take on the minimum wage: she wants $12/hour, but since Bernie’s $15/hour is more popular, she claimed she wanted $15/hour too, but it would be up to the states and cities. Pressed, she conceded she’d “like” $15/hour, but wouldn’t lift a finger to make it happen federally. Incredibly, she still does this.

Then there’s her lie about the auto bailout. Factcheckers call her claim that Bernie voted against it untrue; he voted against bailouts for Wall Street, some of which was attached to aid for automobile companies. Despite being called on this whopper, she still uses it on the campaign trail.

The primary fight against Bernie saw Hillary deploy tactics that went way beyond political hardball. Her allies in the Democratic National Committee schemed to deny Bernie media coverage or a decent debate schedule. They rigged the superdelegate process. They made sure votes and caucusgoers weren’t counted and that voter registrations in Bernie strongholds mysteriously disappeared. Can’t let that go.

I am highly sympathetic with the argument that we need, and that women and girls deserve, to see a woman in the White House. We do; they do. If Hillary Clinton were merely a flawed candidate, the woman thing would be enough for me.

But Hillary is not flawed. She is a monster. A mass murderer. A warmonger.

The fact that she wears bright-colored Doctor Evil suits and has a silly laugh and twinkly eyes and is kinda smart can’t change the fact she has never voted against a war, or apologized for voting for one, or promised not to start any new ones. Her resume can’t cover up for her record: zero sponsorships or votes for a major anti-poverty proposal, and only one vote against a job-killing free trade agreement.

I don’t vote for monsters.

Let Hillary or Trump destroy the world without the endorsement that would be my vote.

(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. His next book, the graphic biography “Trump,” comes out July 19th.)

Violence Has No Place in Politics

Following violence at Donald Trump’s raucous rallies, Hillary Clinton says that violence has no place in politics. But what about the violence in hers?

SYNDICATED COLUMN: My Critique of Bernie Sanders’ Campaign

Full disclosure: If New York’s primary were held today — not that it typically has a significant electoral impact, since it’s relatively late on the calendar — I’d vote for Bernie Sanders.

Why Bernie? Because he’s the best this system has to offer: a flawed candidate whose overall message is important enough, and his record free enough of corruption and evildoing, that I can overlook the things I don’t like about his record and fill in the bubble next to his name on the ballot without feeling like a terrible person.

Hillary Clinton is nowhere close to acceptable. She has no message, other than the dead end of liberal identity-politics tokenism: sure would be neat (for her) if there were a first woman president. Her corruption is spectacular: served on the board of Wal-Mart, where she signed off on union-busting, was paid by Goldman Sachs, ran a charitable foundation like a money laundry. Voted for both of Bush’s wars, which killed hundreds of thousands of people, then destroyed Libya and Syria.

A vote for Hillary is a vote against working people, for the plutocrats, and for genocide.

However, just because I plan to vote for Bernie — even though I wrote the book on him— doesn’t mean I can’t see ideological and tactical flaws in his campaign. With that in mind, here’s my report card on the insurgent from Vermont’s bid to date.

The Good

            Paris and San Bernadino aside, any political scientist will tell you that pocketbook issues — voters’ feelings about the economy, whether or not they’re prosperous, and how they perceive their future career prospects — usually determine the outcome of American presidential elections. Assuming there isn’t another 9/11-scale national security threat, the 2016 race will be about Americans’ sense that they’re working harder while earning less, and their anger that they’re still digging out of the 2008-09 financial crisis while the banks who created it are making bigger profits than ever.

No other candidate, left or right, can touch Bernie’s credibility on the economy. For decades, while no one paid attention, he shouted that the American economy was rigged in favor of the billionaire class at the expense of everyone else. Now most people agree.

Bernie owns the number one issue in the campaign.

That, as Donald Trump would say, is yuuuuge. Neither The Donald’s newfound openness to tax people like himself, nor Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s awkward attempt to co-opt Sandersism with words instead of policies, stands a chance at denting the Bern on the number. One. Issue.

The other major metric for voters is character. Love him or hate him, everyone knows Sanders has integrity, which is why the Clinton camp’s cut-and-paste attempts to portray him as an NRA shill are falling flat. “Sanders may be a dreamer, but he’s not dishonorable. Trying to sully him in this way only sullies her,” columnist Charles Blow of The New York Times observes.

For an American politician, being widely perceived as honorable is virtually unheard of. It’s worth a billion dollars in attack ads.

The Bad

            The biggest danger to Sanders’ campaign isn’t failing to get enough black votes in Southern states. (If he wins Iowa and New Hampshire, voters down South who haven’t paid much attention to the race yet will check him out — and he’ll do fine.)

Sanders’ third rail is being perceived as a Johnny One Note candidate obsessed with economic justice at the expense of everything else.

I’ve read everything written about and by Bernie Sanders. But his foreign policy prescriptions are as thin on the ground as U.S. troops in ISIS-controlled Iraq. Whether he’s disinterested in foreign affairs or simply cares more about all matters domestic, he doesn’t talk much about America’s role in the world. Big mistake. Voters expect a robust foreign policy agenda from their president.

As far as I can tell, a Sanders Doctrine is neither militaristic nor isolationist, deploying ground troops and aerial attacks more sparingly than either George W. Bush or Barack Obama. He told me he’d even continue Bush-Obama’s drone assassination program, which is illegal since it has never been authorized by Congress.

If I were running his campaign, I’d spin Sanders’ views as “real pragmatism” to take some air out of Hillary’s hawkish tough-broad sails. But I long for something more.

By 2016 measures Bernie’s foreign and domestic policy agendas are inconsistent. A self-described Scandinavian-style “democratic socialist” doesn’t usually favor wars of choice like Afghanistan (which Sanders supported) or drone killings. Voters assume he’s a pacifist or wish he were — why not become one? I wish he’d align his laudable desire for justice and equality at home for Americans with a push for freedom and self-determination abroad for citizens of other nations. Like: we don’t attack any other countries unless they go after us first.

Sanders is hobbled by some major communications problems. Hillary has exploited his failure to fully explain his healthcare plan by accusing him of wanting to increase taxes, outright lying. “If I save you $10,000 in private health insurance and you pay a little bit more in taxes in total, there are huge savings in what your family is spending,” Bernie tried to rebut at the fourth debate. Not clear enough.

Here, let me help: “Under my plan, your health insurance will be free. Free! The average American will save $10,000 a year. Your taxes will go up, but that tiny increase will be so much less than you’ll save. It’s the same deal almost every other country has, people all around the world love it, and you’ll love it too.”

The Ugly

            Capitalism is less popular than most pundits know; socialism and communism are more popular too. In a general election campaign, however, it is true that Republican SuperPACs will air so many anti-Bernie attack ads featuring hammers and sickles you’ll think you’re at an old May Day parade in Moscow.

Bernie has to do more than explain his “democratic socialism.” Post-Hillary, he has to own it. And sell it to the American people.

“[Democratic socialism] builds on the success of many other countries around the world that have done a far better job than we have in protecting the needs of their working families, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor,” Bernie said in November. Nice start, but can he erase a century of anti-communist propaganda in 10 months?

To me, the term is political self-mutilation. Sanders isn’t a socialist. He’s a old-school liberal Democrat, like George McGovern was in 1972. It’s ridiculous to have to defend something that you said about yourself when it isn’t true.

Next week, I critique Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “Bernie” is being released today.)