Friday, November 16 , 2018, 1:18 pm | Fair 69º


Letter to the Editor: Bernie Sanders’ Misguided Gift

In the first Democratic Party debate, aspirant Bernie Sanders turned to Hillary Clinton and said, "Enough about your damned emails. The media in this country should concentrate on the real issues!"

Delighted, Ms. Clinton extended her hand to him for a shake.

I don't share the delight.

I'm not a Republican; I'm not a Democrat; I'm an Independent who was convinced long ago that both political parties are corrupted by political contribution.

I marched in the streets to support impeachment of Richard Nixon and traveled to Washington, D.C, to march with opponents of the Vietnam War and the Iraq War. I've written extensively here about the corruption of Governor Jerry Brown whose cozy relations with oil/gas conglomerates has made a mockery of any just or effective environmental regulation of those industries.

I've worked in the presidential campaigns of George McGovern, Eugene McCarthy, John Anderson and Ralph Nader. And by "worked," I mean not in an office but in the streets, with folding table and chair. For John Anderson I turned in more signatures to put his name on the California ballot than any other person in the state: 3, 030.

In 2008, for the first time in years I voted for a major party candidate, Barack Obama, an act I came profoundly to regret. Breaking almost every campaign promise, he launched spying on every citizen via Internet and telephone transmission; prosecuted whistleblowers who had revealed US human rights violations, threatened journalists with similar prosecutions, withheld as long as possible government documents revealing US torture of prisoners; murdered US and other citizens via drone strike, denied prisoners a right to trial and continued rather than ending war.

Along comes Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who stands for almost everything I believe in and who has refused to accept PAC campaign contributions and who has tapped into an immense reserve of US citizens who'd like our government to represent fair treatment and fair taxation for all of us.

In my view, judgement and character are legitimate considerations when deciding whether to support a candidate for public office.

In my view, Hillary Clinton has repeatedly failed to achieve respect when examined on those grounds.

As senator, Ms.Clinton voted to support a war against Iraq, a country that posed no imminent threat to the US: Senator Sanders reviewed the same government "justifications," did not believe them and showed his judgement by opposing that phony war with its disastrous consequences.

When Secretary of State, for reasons not yet fully understood, Ms. Clinton chose to do her digital communications via email stored, not on government servers, but on a private server located in her home in Chappaqua, NY. This immediately put at risk the discovery of that material by a foreign government or entity via hack-attack. Though eventually a private firm installed protective software on that system, for three months no such protection existed. The Associated Press has revealed at least five hack-attacks on that server including those from China, South Korea and Germany. And a systems-security professional told the AP no private security system can match the sophisticated cyber security attacks of governments.

So Ms. Clinton had violated government security policy by using private email for public purposes. When leaving office, she violated government policy not immediately returning all work-related communication to government control and protection.

This is the nature of judgement that can be expected from her.

Since public disclosure of her use and disposition of email for work-related communication, she has repeatedly given false and misleading statements as to her reasons for the practice and as to her reasons for returning the material to government protection. (See the non-partisan for complete coverage of this matter.)

Does anyone dispute that repeated false and misleading statements about significant matters tell us who a person is?

Now candidate Clinton is at it again. During the Democratic Party debate, asked for her opinion of Edward Snowden, she said, "He broke the laws of the United States. He could have been a whistleblower. He could have gotten all of the protections of being a whistleblower. He could have raised all the issues that he has raised. And I think there would have been a positive response to that.” She repeated this claim later in New Hampshire.

But the New Yorker magazine, "fact-checking Clinton’s claim this week, concluded that 'the protections of being a whistleblower' do not exist in the real world and did not apply to Snowden. A 1989 whistleblower law, for example, does not apply to intelligence community employees. A separate law for would-be intelligence whistleblowers has been deemed a trap because it has led not to protections but to prosecutions.

"The second US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled in May that the dragnet phone metadata collection program exposed by Snowden was indeed illegal." (, Oct. 16, 2015)

Does each of her false, misleading and/or evasive proclamations require several paragraphs to explain and uncover the truth? Yes, yes and yes. But this is a minor inconvenience, isn't it? Democrats and Republicans alike want to know the truth, don't they?

So, Senator Sanders, I surely regret that, in a hotly debated political contest, you so easily proffered to your opponent such a magnanimous gift. I hope you were not pandering to polls that show Democrats don't want the email issues raised.

But I disagree with the implication of your gift. I believe a candidate's character and judgement should be subject to thorough - and fair - examination. And I believe something better than a "D"  is required for a voter's approval.

And Edward Snowden, during a televised talk to Bard College on Friday, said In response to Ms. Clinton, “There is, I think, in many ways a lack of political courage in the established class that we expect to champion [our rights].”

No kidding!

William Smithers
​Santa Barbara

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