Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on May 13, 2015. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site was scheduled to go dark on or about July 10, 2016. I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders stumps for support in Charlottesville
White House hopeful Bernie Sanders spoke to an enthusiastic audience in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Monday, May 11, laying out his policy vision and contrasting it directly with that of the Republican Congress and indirectly to that of his opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The event, which was billed as a town hall meeting on the federal budget, had been announced in April, before Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont who caucuses with Democrats on Capitol Hill, had declared his intention to seek the Democratic party's nomination for president.
In what is likely to become his standard stump speech, self-defined Socialist Sanders addressed a range of issues that were only related to the budget in the sense that they are items the government spends money on, such as free college tuition for students in public institutions and a multi-trillion dollar program to improve transportation infrastructure. He decried the Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United case and proposed public financing for federal election campaigns.
Health care and free trade
Sanders proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour and creating a single-payer health care insurance program to replace the Affordable Care Act (so-called Obamacare), or what he called “universal Medicare.”
Sanders also took aim at the Obama administration's support for free trade agreements in the Pacific Rim, pointing out that the minimum wage in Vietnam is about 50 cents an hour.
“All of us, I know, want to see poor people around the world do better. We all do, but there are ways that we can do that without engaging in a race to the bottom in this country,” he said. “Our job is to uplift the poor people around the world, not sink the working people of this country.”
Sanders said he voted against NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement), and permanent normal trade relations with China, “because these were all trade agreements that were pushed by corporate America, the big monied interest, and I intend to play an active role in defeating the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”
Asked later by the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner whether he supports renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which expires in September 2015, Sanders offered no position, saying: “You know what? To be very honest, I've been focusing more on the TPP than that.”
In a question and answer session following his prepared remarks, Sanders contrasted himself most explicitly with Clinton (without ever mentioning her name) in his discussion of foreign policy.
On foreign policy, he noted that when he was first elected to Congress back in 1991, one of his first votes was against the first Gulf War. His wife predicted that vote would earn him a short congressional career, a remark met with laughter from the audience.
With regard to the war in Iraq that started in 2003, “I had serious doubts about what [President George W.] Bush and [Vice President Dick] Cheney were saying and I had serious concerns about the kind of destabilization that would take place and, sadly, much of what I feared has in fact taken place. I not only voted against that war, I helped lead the opposition to it and, unfortunately, we were not successful.” (Hillary Clinton, then a senator from New York, voted in favor of the Iraq War.)
“Where we are right now is in a very difficult world and I wish I could tell you otherwise but as all of you know, there are terrorists out there who want to do us harm,” he said, adding “we've got to be vigilant in protecting this country against them.”
Sanders continued: “What I would also tell you is that, while some of my colleagues apparently have no idea of what the war in Afghanistan has meant, what the war in Iraq has meant. Some of these guys seem to be itching for another war. I fear very much that, if we don't stand up, we could be in perpetual warfare in the Middle East.”
Referring to the so-called Islamic State (sometimes called ISIS or ISIL), the Vermont senator said that group should be opposed. “Here, I think, is the main point: the United States and Western countries should be very, very supportive but at the end of the day, the only way, in my view, that the war against ISIS is won, is when the Muslim countries stand up themselves and lead that fight.”
Senator Sanders' budget town hall in Charlottesville was the third and last in a series. The other two took place in Maryland and Washington, D.C.
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Original URL: http://www.examiner.com/article/presidential-candidate-bernie-sanders-stumps-for-support-charlottesville