How the ‘New York Times’ Sandbagged Bernie Sanders
The New York Times ran a piece about Bernie Sanders Monday, a sort of left-handed compliment of a legislative profile. It was called “Bernie Sanders Scored Victories for Years Via Legislative Side Doors.”
I took notice of the piece by Jennifer Steinhauer because I wrote essentially the same article nearly 11 years ago. Mine, called “Four Amendments and a Funeral,” was a Rolling Stone feature. Sanders back then was anxious that people know how Congress worked, and also how it didn’t work, so he invited me to tag along for weeks to follow the process of a series of amendments he tried (and mostly succeeded) to pass in the House.
I came to the same conclusions that Steinhauer did initially: that Sanders was skilled at the amendment process and also had a unique ability to reach across the aisle to make deals.
“Sanders is the amendment king of the current House of Representative. Since the Republicans took over Congress in 1995, no other lawmaker… has passed more roll-call amendments (amendments that actually went to a vote on the floor) than Bernie Sanders. He accomplishes this on the one hand by being relentlessly active, and on the other by using his status as an Independent to form left-right coalitions.”
Steinhauer the other day wrote very nearly the same thing. She described how Bernie managed to get a $1.5 billion youth jobs amendment tacked onto an immigration bill through “wheeling and dealing, shaming and cajoling.”
The amendment, she wrote, was “classic Bernie Sanders,” a man she described as having “spent a quarter-century in Congress working the side door, tacking on amendments to larger bills that scratch his particular policy itches, generally focused on working-class Americans, income inequality and the environment.”
Now, Steinhauer’s piece wasn’t all flattering. This is, after all, the New York Times, which has practically been an official mouthpiece for the Clinton campaign this election season.
Though we both operated on the same set of facts — i.e., that Sanders had an extensive history of building coalitions to pass amendments — Steinhauer implied that Sanders often acted as a kind of lefty obstructionist, using Republicans to thwart more centrist initiatives. “Mr. Sanders is not unlike Tea Party Republicans in his tactics, except his are a decaf version,” she wrote.
She added, “While he is unlikely to turn against his party on important votes, he is most proud of the things he has tried, unsuccessfully, to block.” She listed the Iraq War, the Wall Street bailout and the Patriot Act as some of those things.
Still, Steinhauer was reluctant to describe Sanders as a mere spoilsport, not someone who “gets things done,” as is often said of Hillary Clinton.
“But in spite of persistent carping that Mr. Sanders is nothing but a quixotic crusader,” Steinhauer wrote, “he has often been an effective, albeit modest, legislator.”
Given how tough the Times has been on Sanders this election season (in October, the paper even sank to writing an article about his failure to kiss enough babies), the Steinhauer piece was actually sort of flattering. Sanders himself linked to the article. Maybe the paper was coming around?
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