Sanders Urges Clinton to Speak Out on Trade Deal

Sanders Urges Clinton to Speak Out on Trade Deal
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There are lots of reasons Sen. Bernie Sanders is attracting crowds for his long-shot presidential bid as an ultra-progressive.

He’s steeped in the struggles of stressed-out, fed-up, marginalized middle-class and lower-income families, calling his ideas about paid leave and free college his “family values agenda.” He delights in stump-style candor presumed to be suicidal in national politics. Would he raise taxes on all Americans to pay for his vision of publicly supported universal health care? “Yes,” he told a roomful of Washington, D.C., journalists Thursday.

And rejecting political assumptions about the merits of negative campaigning, the Vermont lawmaker said he prefers fiery dissections of “issues” as opposed to clever eviscerations of competitors, including Hillary Clinton, the leading Democrat he said he likes, respects, and disagrees with.

The toughest rebuke Sanders leveled at Clinton Thursday during an hour-long question-and-answer breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor was to urge the former secretary of state to end her studied silence about a trade deal he and other left-leaning Democrats oppose.

Sanders, speaking about the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership along with fast-track trade authority, which the Senate passed before sending it to the House for a possible vote Friday, said the trade accord would hurt American workers and wages.

“If she’s against this, we need her to speak out right now,” he said, expressing skepticism that she was still studying the pact (as she maintains) and “did not have an opinion.”

The independent-turned-Democrat denied that his bid for the White House is focused on yanking Clinton and fellow Democrats to the left. “This is not an education campaign,” he said. “I am in this election to win and that’s what I intend to do.”

Campaigning with a shoe-string budget, slender national name recognition, and a digital campaign team that numbers one person, Sanders argued that victory is possible. “We have momentum,” he said. In New Hampshire, where his Vermont-based political experience and accessible campaign persona have appeal, “we’re just bulking up right now in terms of our campaign staff,” Sanders added.

Fundraising remains a concern, he continued, and is one of the reasons he hesitated before leaping into the field. “We’re going to be outspent,” the senator conceded, noting that he has attracted about 180,000 contributors whose donations have averaged $40.  Raising $40 million to $50 million through Iowa and New Hampshire “is a goal I think we can achieve,” he said.

Clinton’s campaign fundraising goal, including a super PAC of the type eschewed by billionaire-basher Sanders, is about $100 million to win the nomination in a field with three other Democrats. She outpaces the senator, her nearest rival, by 47.5 percentage points, according to the RealClearPolitics average of recent polls. The other two primary contenders are former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, a Republican-turned-independent-turned Democrat.

Asked what he would do, if elected president, about the battle to drive the Islamic State out of Iraq, Sanders called it a “difficult situation,” but conceded that if he knew the answer he would have conveyed his thoughts to President Obama by now. Sanders opposed invading Iraq during the George W. Bush administration, and said he now believes countries in the region, such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey, need to be more involved in combating ISIL, also called ISIS.

To tackle divided government and to enact the progressive domestic policy agenda he envisions, Sanders said as president he would turn to like-minded Americans and the power of the grassroots to counter the influence of Wall Street and “big money” in Washington. Rather than engage in sit-down negotiations with GOP congressional leaders to forge compromises, Sanders said he would rally the American people to create momentum to drive change. He faulted Obama for seizing momentum to get elected, and then abandoning supporters to seek alliances with Republicans John Boehner and Mitch McConnell.

“I will not make this mistake,” he vowed.

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com.  Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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