I was watching Charlie Rose on Wednesday night during the GOP confab, when Senator Orrin Hatch appeared and took this recurring shot used by the Republican attack dogs: “In all honesty the two Democrats are very fine people but they both are extremely left. They are both to the left of Bernie Sanders, who is the socialist from Vermont, if that doesn’t tell you something I don’t know what does. If you use the term liberal it really means something here.”
What does it mean exactly Orrin? Nothing like a little tried and true red-baiting to distract attention from the issues and distort people’s records. This isn’t the first time the line has been used either – it’s been used by Pat Buchanan, Bill Bennett, Haley Barbour and Candidate McCainhimself.
I had a conversation last week with Senator Bernie Sanders – the only true Independent in the Senate (in contrast to Joe Lieberman whose “independence” is a matter of political expedience) – about what he makes of this tactic, his own political values, and how the 2008 campaign is playing out.
Q: So, tell me what you think about this GOP line of attack, you know, that ‘Obama and Biden are to the left of the socialist from Vermont’?
A: Well, that started a couple months ago with McCain himself, and then it’s picked up a number of front people, and that’s what it is – it’s what the Republicans do very well. It’s dishonesty, it’s part of their fearmongering, and it’s directly part of a red-baiting effort. Obviously, I should say that as somebody who is strongly supporting Obama and Biden – both of them are good friends of mine, I like them both very much… But the truth of the matter is, for better or worse – whatever the word “liberal” might mean, I don’t exactly know what that word means – they are not more liberal than I am.
And as you know, where all of this comes from, is it comes from a tally by National Journal which tabulated some votes and reached their conclusion. Interestingly enough, do you recall who the most liberal Senator was four years ago? It was John Kerry. I think just on the surface most people would not have believed that four years ago Kerry was the most liberal person in the Senate, and I don’t think anybody really believes that Obama is in the Senate today. Generally speaking, people would think that Kennedy, Boxer, Feingold, Brown, Harkin, myself… on almost all the issues would be far more progressive than Obama or Biden.