Did Sanders Just Come Out Against Syria Strikes? | Off Message

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Friday, September 13, 2013

Bernie Sanders
Did Sanders Just Come Out Against Syria Strikes?

Sanders comes out against Syrian strikes — after the fact.

Posted By on Fri, Sep 13, 2013 at 12:38 PM

click to enlarge sanders.westerncorridor.jpg

Yes, I know. You're all tired of reading about the Vermont congressional delegation's tortured positions on potential Syrian air strikes, which — at least for now — aren't gonna happen.

Believe me. I'm tired of writing about them.

Buuuuuuuut... Sen. Bernie Sanders' regular "Bernie Buzz" e-newsletter crossed the transom earlier today and something about it struck me as a little odd. Here's the lede:

In the midst of widespread public opposition to military strikes against Syria, which Bernie shares, President Obama seized the opportunity to explore a proposal for international monitors to take over Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons. Bernie welcomed the president’s new approach.

Sanders "shares" "widespread public opposition" to the strikes?

From what I recollect, Sanders never actually came out in opposition to Obama's proposed air strikes. Sure, he talked Ed Schultz's ear off on a near-daily basis on MSNBC about his reservations. He said time and again that he was hesitant to get "involved in a bloody and complicated civil war in Syria." 

But every time I asked him or his staff whether he'd decided to vote against the strikes, they brushed off the question.

Outside a press conference last Thursday at Burlington's Union Station, I said to Sanders, given his public statements, "It sounds to me like you're a 'no' — or at least leaning heavily in that direction?" 

As he walked down Lake Street flanked by two staffers, Sanders responded, "Well, it sounds to me that I have to see the resolution when I vote on it before I can make a determination as to how I'm going to vote."

Okay. Fair enough! 

A few days later, when his office sent out a Sunday news release with the subject line, "Sen. Sanders Airs Concerns on Syria," I asked the question again — this time by email.

"Sen. Sanders sure sounds like a 'no,' but he doesn't seem willing to explicitly say it," I wrote. "Is he a no? If not, why isn't he willing to just say it?"

His occasionally gruff but generally affable — and always clever — spokesman, Michael Briggs, countered: "I have thought about it but can't come up with anything that would satisfy you."

Again, fair enough!

Then that whole John Kerry/Vladimir Putin thing happened this week and — voila! — Obama called off the vote. And every member of Congress yet to take a side — including Vermont's own Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) — breathed a huge sigh of relief. For the moment, at least, they wouldn't have to choose between their president and their constituents.

Then today, all of a sudden, Sanders was sharing "widespread public opposition to military strikes against Syria."

What gives? Again, I went to Briggs — noting that I hadn't ever seen Sanders "officially come out against the strikes."

"'Officially,' like a vote? No," Briggs responded. "But the questions he raised throughout the week were rightly read by you and most others as doubting the wisdom of military intervention in a bloody and complicated civil war."

"I guess it's the word 'opposition' with which I'm struggling," I replied. "Did he ever announce his opposition to the proposal?"

"I suppose you could say that loyal Bernie Buzz readers got the news," Briggs wrote.


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About The Author

Paul Heintz

Paul Heintz

Paul Heintz was part of the Seven Days news team from 2012 to 2020. He served as political editor and wrote the "Fair Game" political column before becoming a staff writer.

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