As the Iowa caucuses near, Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have released TV ads that together echo a popular theme in the mainstream media. Clinton’s ad depicts the job of the presidency as tough and change as hard. You need someone experienced who can face down foreign adversaries and stand up to reactionary Republicans. Sanders’s ad—with Simon and Garfunkel’s “America” stirring memories—offers the romance of the United States coming together. Many of the pundits agree—this is a choice between head and heart. If Democrats think with their heads, they will go with Hillary; with their hearts, with Bernie.
But this conventional wisdom clashes with the reality that this country has suffered serial devastations from choices supported by the establishment’s “responsible” candidates. On fundamental issue after issue, it is the candidate “of the heart” who is in fact grounded in common sense. It wasn’t Sanders’s emotional appeal, but his clearsightedness that led The Nation magazine, which I edit, to make only its third presidential endorsement in a primary in its 150-year history.
For example, foreign policy is considered Clinton’s strength. When terrorism hits the headlines, she gains in the polls. Yet the worst calamity in US foreign policy since Vietnam surely was George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Clinton voted for that war; Sanders got it right and voted against. Clinton has since admitted her vote was a “mistake” but seems to have learned little from that grievous misjudgment. As secretary of state, she championed regime change in Libya that left behind another failed state rapidly becoming a backup base for the Islamic State. She pushed for toppling Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war and lobbied for arming the Syrian opposition, a program that ended up supplying more weapons to the Islamic State than to anyone else. Now she touts a “no fly zone” in Syria, an idea that has been dismissed by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as requiring some 70,000 troops to enforce, and by President Obama as well. People thinking with their heads rather than their hearts might well prefer Sanders’s skepticism about regime change to Clinton’s hawkishness.
Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.