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Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press
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There is no other way to say it, but I am writing this with an incredibly heavy heart.
To say that I could well have my heart broken is no understatement.
For any who thinks my feelings are too melodramatic or over-the-top, consider how the one-time fans of Pete Rose must have felt upon his fall from grace. Or, perhaps, more accurately, the feelings of those Clinton true believers who stood with him as stalwart as could be when he declared, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky,” only, of course, to be let down.
I’m speaking of my long-time political hero, really the figure who I have considered the conscience of the nation, Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The reason for my sudden dismay?
Sanders’ performance during a CNN town hall. Specifically, what Sanders had to say for himself when asked about releasing his tax returns as a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.
He knew better. Or at least should have known better. This isn’t the senator from Vermont’s first presidential run. Sanders is the candidate who consistently is supposed to be putting political power back into the hands of average Americans. That begins with voters expecting full disclosure from their candidates.
Say what you will about Hillary Clinton as a flawed candidate, but she released tax returns like there was no tomorrow.
So the word “disappointment” doesn’t begin to describe it when, instead of forthright disclosure, the senator from Vermont began speaking like a garden-variety double-talking politician, mumbling something about us seeing his tax returns “soon.”
“We have to do just a few more little things,” he said.
I’m forced to agree with conservative Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin when she asks, “Do what things?”
And Rubin is right by saying: “The excuse that he and his wife don’t have a fleet of accountants doesn’t make any sense when we are talking about 10 years of prior years’ returns. Presumably, those were completed long ago. “
Despite the personal anguish it may cause we Sanders supporters, Rubin is also absolutely and unerringly right to headline her column on the subject, “Are Democrats Going To Let Sanders Get Away With This?”
Because, of course, the only intellectually honest answer is, “No.”
We can’t harangue Donald Trump for years over his refusal to disclose his tax returns–to the point that a congressional committee is preparing to drag Trump’s returns into the light of day–but then somehow give Bernie a pass.
Let Republicans be the hypocrites. Democrats have no business going down that road.
What would possibly cause a 70-something man who spent most of his life of modest means–and only came into anything close to wealth in just the past few years–to have tax issues?
But that’s the point: we won’t know until Sanders releases the returns.
I can’t describe how difficult it is to write this. My love for Bernie Sanders predates his 2016 presidential run by decades. I grew up not far from where he was mayor of Burlington, Vt. And I remember eagerly reading the interviews with him published in the Socialist Workers Party newspaper I received as a kid. (Yes, I know, I was either odd or precocious, depending on your point of view.)
But now it’s time for Bernie to walk the walk. He’s spoken often about the need for our political leaders to be better. Well, it’s time to match word with deed.
The Bernie Sanders campaign should either begin releasing his tax returns or withdraw his candidacy for the nomination.
We know what Trump and the Republicans stand for. It is up to Democrats to be something else, to be the shining beacons of ethics that the nation needs.
There can be no mush or muddle, not even for someone as distinguished as Sen. Bernie Sanders.