Reprinted from Consortium News
Sen. Bernie Sanders's landslide victories in Washington State, Alaska and Hawaii on Saturday coincided with a long-awaited signal that he may finally be ready to challenge former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the "Commander-in-Chief" question, which has been regarded as one of her key strengths.
In what may be the most striking campaign commercial of the presidential race, the Sanders campaign released an ad, entitled "The Cost of War" and featuring Hawaii's Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran who endorsed Sanders not just as her preference for President but as Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. military.
"Bernie Sanders voted against the Iraq War," Gabbard says. "He understands the cost of war, that that cost is continued when our veterans come home. Bernie Sanders will defend our country and take the trillions of dollars that are spent on these interventionist, regime change, unnecessary wars and invest it here at home."
Gabbard also counters another strong point of the Clinton campaign, its contention that Clinton's plans for incremental change are more realistic than Sanders's calls for sweeping reforms -- or a "political revolution" -- to reverse the nation's steady drift toward a country of lavishly rewarded haves and increasingly desperate have-nots.
"The American people are not looking to settle for inches; they are looking for real change," Gabbard says. But perhaps her most important statement comes at the end of the 90-second commercial when she says: "My name is Tulsi Gabbard and I support Bernie Sanders to be our next President and Commander-in-Chief."
The phrase "Commander-in-Chief" is one that Sanders has largely sidestepped in the early phases of the Democratic presidential race, conceding Clinton's superior qualifications on foreign policy though questioning her judgment when she voted for the Iraq War in 2002. Yet, what the Gabbard ad seems to recognize is that Sanders's campaign could rally a substantial part of the Democratic "base" and win over many "regular" Democrats by challenging Clinton on her hawkish proclivity for "regime change" wars.
Though many political analysts argue that it is too late for Sanders to overcome Clinton's substantial delegate lead -- bolstered by the unelected "super-delegates" drawn from party politicians -- Sanders's recent string of landslide victories suggest that many Democrats are uncomfortable with or opposed to Clinton, whose "negatives" are among the highest of national political leaders (in a race to the bottom with Donald Trump).
Many Democrats have a deep distrust of Clinton who -- though now highlighting her more "progressive" positions -- seems eager to "pivot to the center" once she nails down the nomination, a hunger that was reflected in her pandering speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee convention last week.
A Neocon Favorite
Many neoconservatives and "liberal interventionists" now see Clinton as the vessel carrying their hopes for more "regime change" wars.
In 2002, Clinton famously supported President George W. Bush's invasion and occupation of Iraq, which -- beyond costing more than $1 trillion and killing hundreds of thousands of people (including nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers) -- destabilized the Middle East and gave rise to "Al Qaeda in Iraq," which has since morphed into the Islamic State.
Apparently having learned no lessons from the Iraq War, Clinton consistently took hawkish and interventionist positions as President Barack Obama's first Secretary of State.
In 2009, Clinton backed a coup in Honduras that removed democratically elected (and progressive) President Manuel Zelaya and reaffirmed control by the Central American country's oligarchy. Since then, Honduras's human rights situation has worsened, driving thousands of children to flee northward seeking safety and leaving environmental and political activists at the mercy of death squads.
Also, in 2009, Clinton joined with Bush-holdover Defense Secretary Robert Gates and neocon-favorite Gen. David Petraeus in pushing Obama into a major escalation of the Afghan War, a counter-insurgency "surge" that sent another 1,000 American troops to their deaths -- and many more Afghans -- but has since been abandoned as a failure.